For March, the longshore forecast doesn’t get any better than what was experienced today. A perfect blend of south winds, with occasional gusts and a high of 72 degrees officially on the beach. One can simply look at the RADAR last night to see what a massive movement of birds that was occurring just to the south of the dunes area. This movement translated to a fantastic longshore flight count today, with all the expected species this time of year moving in good numbers.
The totals today include a whopping 27,633 birds, from 59 species. As can be figured, a few species were new for the season. Most notably the first Eastern Phoebe (4) and Tree Swallow (1). The day’s total was the result of an extended 8.5 hour survey to capture mid-afternoon cranes and migrating hawks. The day’s total individual count was the 7th highest single day total since counts began in 2012. The highest single day total exceeds 40,000 birds.
Once again waterfowl showed good diversity, but not high numbers. Blue-winged Teal were new to the scene. Red-throated Loons continue to build, as 10 loons doubled yesterday’s total. 22 raptors, including a Bald Eagle showed that the birds of prey haven’t shown much migration yet.
The biggest excitement of the day was the massive Sandhill Crane flight that occurred. Their sheer numbers nearly matched 1:1 with the streams of blackbirds that preceeded them at dawn. By 9:30am, the first flights of spinning thermal birds circled the high dunes heading west. Many were far to the south, but within easy scope views as they lifted higher and higher to what would no doubt be just specks over the busy Chicago skyline an hour later. The loud city noise no doubt drowning out their magnificent bugles. This morning’s push was heavy and record breaking. It was like all the cranes followed a single leader and decided to push off of the corn fields and river bottoms to the south at the same time. When all was said and done, 8,893 cranes were logged today. This constitutes the largest morning crane flight not only for the tower, but the entire dunes area. While Jasper-Pulaski hogs the majority of the peak fall counts, the spring counts are a little more contested. As you can see from the eBird data below, the highest spring counts have all occurred in just the last few years. The highest longshore count is #20, 6,644 birds seen on 3/10/2012. Today’s count is the 11th highest spring count in the state. One might also argue that the other records were mere estimates, whereas ours is a direct and exact count!
To read about the other 19,000 or so birds, visit today’s eBird checklist. It would be nice to say we’re in for the same tomorrow, but rain chances start to build in tomorrow’s count, with a strong shift to north winds by Thursday. Counts likely will not happen Thursday. After that, the next good count could occur Saturday, before rain enters the picture again on Sunday.