Spring’s Return

IMG_3484After a four day absence, the longshore flight from the Indiana Dunes State Park returned this  morning, Tuesday, March 22.  Officially, the first count of meteorological spring, today brought the arrival of many birds of such season.  Overall today’s flight was mediocre in quantity, but made up for in quality.  Early morning overcast finally cleared way to a sunny and warmer day.  The counters worked a little overtime today to log the season’s real first semi-decent hawkflight, as over 100 raptors were logged.  The day ended with 5,061 birds from 59 species.

An unusual blackbird flight last Friday brought 17,000 blackbirds.  But also the season’s first and only Lesser Black-backed Gull.  So today saw some excitement in guessing what the season’s 100th species would be.  As it would turn out it was the day’s first of 3 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.  Also new for the morning would be a pair of Golden-crowned Kinglets, a singing Field Sparrow, and a very early Caspian Tern.  The Caspian Tern was quite unique in that after leaving the gulf coast, these heavy billed terns tend to arrive at Lake Michigan before being sighted at traditional inland Indiana sites where they can be found.  We tend to log the first of the state here.  But, if you look at the recent eBird map, we also seemed to have beat out the rest of the entire inland eastern United States!  Today’s tern was the earliest in the five years of longshore flights, but not quite the state’s earliest (March 17, 2007).

cate records
Caspian Tern sightings this year through March 22, 2016.  Taken from eBird.com.

As mentioned above, today was the first good hawk flight of the season.  111 raptors were logged today. 29 Sharpies and 19 Red-tailed made up the notables.  Oddly however, no eagles were seen at all.  Did many eagles stay farther north this winter?  Mid-winter eagle counts done in the state this year seem to point to a large number that were here, so perhaps they moved north in late February and missed being counted.

To read today’s full report, visit here.  We now sit at 105 species for the  year.  Counters assisting today included Adam Sell, Brad Bumgardner, John DeVaney, Ken Brock, John Cassady, Lynn Vernon, Kristin Stratton, and John Kendall.  Tomorrow looks promising for an early flight and south winds as long as the rain predicted holds off a few hours.

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