Major Crane Movement

Sunday, March 15 was one of those days to regret if you didn’t make it outside to enjoy the dunes.  Fortunately, those that didn’t were in the minority, as thousands of visitors winged over the sandhills along Lake Michigan.  They were joined by thousands of the human kind too.  It didn’t take long before the sounds of Sandhill Cranes became the background noise to spring football passing, melting lakeshore exploring, and forest and wetland hiking.

Sandhill Cranes migrating over the bird tower site.
Sandhill Cranes migrating over the bird tower site.

The longshore flight for March 15 was greeted with a southerly, yet cold wind, still ailing from yesterday’s northerly wind.  By mid-morning, 50s were soaring into the low 60s, and all sign of the early morning frost was gone.  As winds gained, an assortment of new annual birds flew past the tower, as a small contingent of counters helped reach 53 species for the day, comprising 7,513 individual birds.  It was the best day yet of the season.

New birds for the year were Cackling Goose, Great-horned Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Tree Swallow, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and Song Sparrow.  The season total now sits at 79 species of birds.

By 10am, the first of several waves of cranes began moving over the dunes.  The winds, being stronger than Friday, helped push many of the birds directly over the high dunes to the delight of park visitors.  Most turned westward and drifted towards Chicago in their wagon circling kettles.  In the end, 3,264 cranes migrated along the Lake Michigan shoreline for the day.  This puts the count as the 7th largest longshore  crane flight on record.  There’s still a few days to top the 6,644 counted just a few years ago.

Continuous shots are often needed to get a good open wing shot when blackbirds are going by the Green Tower.
One of 2,000+ Red-winged Blackbirds to fly past today.  10,000+ days are coming.

The full list is below, but first it should be pointed out that the 7,513 birds today brings the season total to 23,043 birds.  We’re now a mere 2,316 birds from the elusive 1 millionth bird.  As you may recall from our previous blog, a drawing will occur… likely tomorrow, to the person that guesses which species will be the great one millionth!  You can guess in the blog comments or on the Indiana Dunes Birding Festival Facebook Page.  The winner gets Brock’s Birds of Indiana Dunes, a bird festival magnet, bird festival bucket hat, and an Indiana Dunes State Park sticker.  Hurry, the 1 millionth will be coming fast.

Cackling Goose 1
Canada Goose 220
Mute Swan 2
Gadwall 1
Mallard 8
Northern Pintail 4
Greater Scaup 1
White-winged Scoter 3
Common Merganser 7
Red-breasted Merganser 333
Turkey Vulture 1
Cooper’s Hawk 4
Bald Eagle 4
Red-shouldered Hawk 4
Red-tailed Hawk 3
Sandhill Crane 3264
Killdeer 29
Ring-billed Gull 33
Herring Gull 1
Mourning Dove 2
Great Horned Owl 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Pileated Woodpecker 2
American Kestrel 1
Peregrine Falcon 2
Blue Jay 1
American Crow 38
Horned Lark 7
Tree Swallow 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Tufted Titmouse 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Carolina Wren 1
Eastern Bluebird 2
American Robin 53
European Starling 63
Cedar Waxwing 12
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
American Tree Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 1 FOY
Dark-eyed Junco 3
Northern Cardinal 1
Red-winged Blackbird 2719
Eastern Meadowlark 5
Common Grackle 646
Brown-headed Cowbird 9
House Finch 1
Pine Siskin 7
American Goldfinch 3
House Sparrow 1


3 thoughts on “Major Crane Movement”

  1. Love following the counts each year, thank you for posting.
    I believe the 1 millionth bird will be a Red-Billed Gull

  2. I was standing with my Aunt in Porter when a group came over so I hopped in the car and took them to Beverly Drive. They said they heard it was going to nice here for 2 days..I did not have the heart to tell them about the temp change coming Tuesday

  3. Saw two or three dozen flocks over Northern Johnson county yesterday. I can’t ever remember seeing that many in one day. Makes me even more itchy for spring

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