Still Slow Going

March 12 marked the sixth day of counting in the 2015 longshore flight season.  As has been the case this week, things have been slow going with little push of the major passerines we have been expecting.  While slow, it’s not the slowest start yet.  Last year’s count began even slower, with the bone chilling cold March.  Things really have only warmed recently, so perhaps we’ re expecting too much too soon.

Slow going from the bird observation platform in 2015.
Slow going from the bird observation platform in 2015.

The most recent flight logged 3,696 birds.  For the season we’re at 9,197 birds.  So another 16,000 to go before we hit the 1 million bird milestone.  There have been many great guesses on the Dunes Birding Festival Facebook page post.

Highlights for the day’s count included: a small hawkflight (32 birds of prey), the first of the approaching waves of Sandhill Cranes, the first 100+ blackbird count, and a rare spring high count of 64 Snow Buntings.

65 species have been counted thus far.  In our first week here are the top 10 species by count:
10. American Crow-149
9. Red-winged Blackbird- 293
8. Horned Lark- 306
7. American Robin- 466
6. Lesser Scaup- 510
5. Ring-billed Gull- 584
4. Herring Gull-703
3. Canada Goose-887
2. European Starling-1,071
1. Red-breasted Merganser- 3,161

Another topic brought up recently was when to visit the tower.  Not so much weather wise, but when in the season is best.  Obviously, the later you wait into the season, the larger the species counts are.  By May, daily counts of 100 species is not out of reach.  However, in rare cases will the daily bird count exceed 10,000 birds.  When they do, no doubt Blue Jays or Cedar Waxwings were involved.  In March, the big flights of blackbirds, grackles, and robins can give counters a run for their money in counting all of them passing.  It’s also in March when the unexpected birds can arrive early.  So despite the diversity, March can be a rewarding time at the tower.  Just looking at the highest count totals exceeding 25,000 birds in a day the last few years and here is a little snapshot:  March 10, March 11, March 14, March 24, March 27, March 28, March 30, March 31, April 3, and April 4.  The take home…. if you want to see a lot of birds in one day, visit now through the end of the month.

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