Siskin Records Shattered

Panoramic of morning flight crew on May 4, 2015.
Panoramic of morning flight crew on May 4, 2015.

The morning flight for May 4 was going to be a good one.  With rain showers throughout the area, one wouldn’t have predicted it to be “that” good though!  In fact, predawn rain soaked the dunes and led to widely scattered storm cells at sunrise.  Larger storms were building to the west and as if perfectly aligned, they only buzzed the southern tip of the lake, and brought only a brief spell of drizzle, while the rest of NW Indiana got a soaker.  Once the rain moved through, a latent flight pushed past the lake and kept the counters busy well into the late morning.  In fact it took five today to do the recording that our one expert counter meticulously manages, as he was home with a sick child.  It was decided he’s getting a raise next year!

Pine Siskin
Pine Siskin

The day ended with the highest season total yet, with 98 species, made up from 6,727 birds.  Several species put on big movements, while others that were so numerous just the day before became scarce.  Of course the big talk of the day were the tiny, yellow wing striped elephants in the room.  Right away the zipping of Pine Siskins could be heard.  Soon finch flocks were being seen over the beach that were discovered to be siskins too.  In each location that migrant flight lines occur near the tower, flocks of Pine Siskins were staging a major exodus from Indiana.  Where were these birds all winter?  At one point, several flocks charged past at eye level of the tower and forcing counters to duck and dodge to avoid being hit by them.  Groups averaged 40 birds, with some over 100.  When it was all said and done, the previous record of 2,000 birds was shattered.  3,922 siskins flew past the dunes today; marking a new state record.  It is also the highest spring count in the Great Lakes, and possibly the second highest Great Lakes count ever (ebird.org).

Other birds posing big movements today included 29 Red-bellied Woodpecker (Indiana’s 10th largest count), 227 Baltimore Orioles (Indiana’s 8th largest count), 51 gnatcatchers, 85 Yellow-rumped Warblers, and 31 Indigo Buntings.

Other notables included 2 late Red-throated Loons that appeared to be in breeding plumage.  They were distant, but showed now white throats that they wear in the winter.  A few shorebirds went past, including both yellowlegs, Solitary, and Short-billed Dowitcher.  A Sedge Wren was singing not far from the tower today.  Finally, the counters had a great look at a flyby Golden-winged Warbler at eye level.

Four good days have produced nearly 20,000 birds.  We have a single day of north winds, before shifting back to more migration inducing weather.  What the next four days holds (with the bird festival coming!) is anyone’s guess.  We’ll keep our eyes to the sky watching…

Full list follows: 

Canada Goose 6
Wood Duck 2
Mallard 4
Red-breasted Merganser 8
Red-throated Loon 2
Common Loon 4
Double-crested Cormorant 39
Great Blue Heron 4
Great Egret 1
Green Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 10
Northern Harrier 1
Cooper’s Hawk 2
Broad-winged Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 3
Sandhill Crane 2
Killdeer 1
Solitary Sandpiper 5
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 24
Short-billed Dowitcher 1
Ring-billed Gull 30
Herring Gull 3
Caspian Tern 9
Forster’s Tern 3
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 2
Mourning Dove 19
Chimney Swift 73
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 11
Red-headed Woodpecker 18
Red-bellied Woodpecker 29
Downy Woodpecker 3
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 2
American Kestrel 1
Merlin 1
Least Flycatcher 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
Great Crested Flycatcher 1
Eastern Kingbird 42
Yellow-throated Vireo 1
Warbling Vireo 4
Blue Jay 453
American Crow 4
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 28
Purple Martin 3
Tree Swallow 51
Bank Swallow 5
Barn Swallow 119
Cliff Swallow 6
Black-capped Chickadee 2
Tufted Titmouse 2
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
House Wren 2
Sedge Wren 1
Carolina Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 51
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 5
Eastern Bluebird 9
American Robin 26
Gray Catbird 2
Brown Thrasher 1
European Starling 16
American Pipit 2
Cedar Waxwing 9
Golden-winged Warbler 1
Nashville Warbler 3
Common Yellowthroat 1
Blackburnian Warbler 1
Yellow Warbler 7
Palm Warbler 7
Pine Warbler 3
Yellow-rumped Warbler 85
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Eastern Towhee 2
Chipping Sparrow 4
Field Sparrow 2
Savannah Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 2
Swamp Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 2
White-crowned Sparrow 3
Dark-eyed Junco 1
Scarlet Tanager 2
Northern Cardinal 3
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 12
Indigo Bunting 31
Dickcissel 1
Red-winged Blackbird 480
Eastern Meadowlark 2
Common Grackle 48
Brown-headed Cowbird 22
Orchard Oriole 4
Baltimore Oriole 227 t.
House Finch 2
Pine Siskin 3922
American Goldfinch 667
House Sparrow 2

Jeff McCoy watches the sky for the next rare bird.
Jeff McCoy watches the sky for the next rare bird.
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