Who Wants to Be the Millionth Bird!?…

Dawn greeting of thousands of blackbirds, grackles, and robins in the longshore flight.  March 16, 2015.
Dawn greeting of thousands of blackbirds, grackles, and robins in the longshore flight. March 16, 2015.  Click to enlarge.

…that could have been the question of the day!  After a sluggish week start, the longshore flight for Monday, March 16 could only be described as remarkable.  Perhaps for the counters, exhausting!  Dawn arrived at 6:59am local time and within minutes the first streams of blackbirds and robins filled the warm 54 degree air.  It didn’t take long to become apparent that the passerine longshore flight was going to occur primarily right over the beach.  Though many birds would also pass to the south, some 90% of the flight traveled right over the melting shelf ice.  Thousands of birds every fifteen minutes would nearly overwhelm everyone trying to keep tabs on the movement.  The day would end with a mind numbing 40,132 birds!  This is the second highest longshore flight ever recorded!

Sample sky shot during first two hours of longshore flight.  March 16, 2015.
Sample sky shot during first two hours of longshore flight. March 16, 2015.  Click to enlarge.
Congratulations Mr. Robin for being our 1,000,000th visitor to the longshore flight since it's inception in 2012!  March 16, 2015.
Congratulations Mr. Robin for being our 1,000,000th visitor to the longshore flight since it’s inception in 2012! March 16, 2015.

With two counters doing passerines, the writer assisted this morning by logging birds to the south, as well as any waterfowl movement over the lake.  Fortunately, the waterfowl movement was light, with exception of a good Ring-billed Gull migration.  By 9:20am, the robins were waning, but not before producing a probable state record 15, 753 American Robins.  These “Sultans of Spring” more than doubled the previous longshore flight, as well as any single count in the state before today.  So it is only expected that a careful count of the first 2,000 birds would reveal that an American Robin would be the 1,000,000th bird to fly past the tower in our four years of counting!  He or she was in a quick flock of 100 other robins that went by in the first 30 minutes of counting.  We’ll see who guessed robin and award the contest winner tomorrow!

Other notables for the day included, 2 Snow Geese, 1 Long-tailed Duck, 1 “happy to eat passerines” Merlin, 3,528 Sandhill Cranes (another lakeshore top ten count), 135 Killdeer, 2 Tree Swallows, Fox Sparrow, and Purple Finch.  67 species were logged for the day.  With 40,132 new birds, our season total now stands at 63,175 for the year.

Perched Purple Finch in front of the longshore counters today.  MArch 16, 2015.
Perched Purple Finch in front of the longshore counters today. March 16, 2015.

North winds are expected to overtake the region by midnight, so we’ll have a night of rest before evaluating the forecast for the next wind shift and our next wave of birds into the dunes.

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