A Lucky Count

St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, brought about another stiff wind.  This time, from the west, after a night of WSW wind.  By mid morning, hints of a northwesterly flow was already starting, and unfortunately it looks like we’ll be dealing with this north wind for the next weekend, meaning no significant longshore flights will occur.  But, while we had this last good day, a nice assortment of birds were counted, including a few notables that we’ll reveal now.

For the day, 3,432 birds were counted, comprising 55 species.  The morning flight was heavy at first, but waned much quicker than normal.  Though blackbirds and grackles did put on a flight, the robins trumped them.  A large early movement of robins could be seen both in front of and behind the tower.  Some even flew right through the tower, and within feet of the counters today.  818 American Robins were logged today.

Compared to recently, the off shore waterfowl movement was weak.  Red-breasted Mergansers dominated, with 98 seen.  Both expected loon species were seen (Red-throated and Common).  Late morning gulls were the most interesting observation.  Over 900 Ring-billed Gulls streamed by in the wind.  A few Herring and 4 Great-blacked Backed Gulls also went past (see video).

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Long-eared Owl in the nearby pines today, March 17, 2016.

The major highlights of the day were 4 Common Redpolls.  These birds called feverishly as they flew directly overhead early this morning.  Shortly after, the season’s first Great Egret went by to the south.  This beats the old longshore tower record by 10 days and is within 3 days of the earliest ever in the dunes.  After the birds puttered out, we were able to scout the nearby pines that are scattered around the tower site.  In one of the higher white pines was a well camouflaged migrating Long-eared Owl roosting from a  night’s migration.  No doubt it will be gone by tomorrow.  We’ve been pretty successful at logging both Long-eared and Short-eared from the tower each spring.

Not so lucky was the photo taken below.  This unfortunate woodcock met it’s demise flying the guantlet of it’s greatest enemy… Chicago.  For the little woodcock, average migration altitude is something near 17 feet.  Many birds struggle to migrate through these large cities.  On the plus side, the dunes area woodcocks seem to be doing well.  In fact, we’ll offer up some trivia and prizes, as well as a special trip to see them tomorrow night at Birds and Brews: March.  It all takes place at the Craft House at 6pm (CDT).

Unfortunate American Woodcock mortality this morning in downtown Chicago.  Photo courtesy Lisa Ramsey.

A few other goodies were captured in a little video today.  Feel free to watch it below.  We’ve now surpassed over 110,000 birds thus far this season.  It’s not a bad start so far. Today’s addition of the owl and egret bring the season total also to 98 species.  What will species number 100 be!?   For today’s full list, click here.


3 thoughts on “A Lucky Count

  1. Been enjoying following this season’s count.

    I’m a birder with a hawkwatching/migration counting problem from near the IL/WI line. My fall days are spent count at Fort Sheridan Hawk Watch or the Illinois Beach State Park Hawkwatch.

    Hoping I can get away Tuesday to join ya’ll up there on the tower at dawn. I have an itch to count, so I hope to help!

    Adam Sell

      1. I’ll be there at sunrise.

        If a hawk flight (maybe shoulders) picks up, I’ll stay as long as I can to help with a raptor flight.

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