April greeted the dunes to a few days of spring weather this past weekend. The southerly winds extended into today (Monday) to allow for two countable days of longshore flights. Though Saturday had the sunny skies, the south winds failed to shift to the south until nightfall, thus the count was much lower than it could have been. Sunday was a stiff southeast wind, which brought not only a decent songbird flight, but even raptors under a generally overcast sky. Monday saw continued southeast winds, but more cloudy conditions. So how did the three days compare?
Saturday, April 1 (north winds) had 59 species, but only 881 individual birds.
Sunday, April 2 (southeast winds) had 61 species, including 6,904 individual birds.
Monday, April 3 (southeast winds) had 67 species, including 20,490 individual birds.
Each day offered new arrivals this past extended weekend. April 1 included the survey’s first Hairy Woodpecker, a early Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and 4 Vesper Sparrows for the year. New arrivals for April 2 included an early Northern Rough-winged Swallow. April 3, as you might guess, offered the more new arrivals, including Brown Thrasher (2) and Pied-billed Grebe. Another early Northern Rough-winged Swallow made an appearance.
Of note the last few days has been a stream of loons moving through the southern Great Lakes. On Sunday, a combined 79 loons were seen migrating past the tower. These were split nearly even with Common Loons just edging out Red-throated Loons. More Commons were spotted flying directly due north from above the tower, while Red-throateds were more likely to be on the lake moving east or west. Nearly all Common Loons are in breeding plumage by now, while Red-throated Loons will not transition until late May and early June and are very rarely seen in breeding plumage in Indiana. Monday continued the loon movement, with 31 Red-throated Loons being seen on the water from the tower site. However, only 3 Common Loons were seen today. A comparison of two loons on the water from today is below, taken digiscoped with an iPhone. Hover over to identify each loon.
Raptor diversity has also been the specialty the last few days, with both falcons and buteos putting in some mileage over the longshore tower. Sunday’s southeast winds pushed some 269 hawks, falcons, and vultures over. the usual flight paths were not followed and birds seemed to move in many directions. Falcons put on a good show, with a few Merlins even buzzing the tower and stopping to eat cowbird fodder, which the tower feeders have in ample supply right now. 29 kestrels Sunday, and 4 more Monday rounded out the falcon show.
Rounding out the odds and ends in notables…. Sunday produced the best Northern Flicker flight of the season with nearly three hundred birds (285 to be exact). A weaker, yet still significant 122 went by on Monday. Rusty Blackbirds increasted ten fold, from 102 seen Sunday to 1,479 seen on Monday among the icterid flocks.
Duck diversity had been waning, but did well on Monday, as late waterfowl finish their migration through the dunes. 15 species passed by, with most dabblers being seen, and a few divers, including Lesser Scaup and White-winged Scoter.
Lastly, several counters Monday got a late morning treat of a Short-eared Owl flying east along the beach. The beautiful dune prairie, behind the tower, may have had some allure, as it turned and began working circles over the parking lot, and then towards the tower, as it inspected the prairie and then decided to continue it’s eastward movement. It was last seen putting down somewhere near the prairie dune that sits next to Mt. Tom. Migrating Short-eared Owls are a more common fall sight than in the spring.
For the three days of April, we welcomed 28,275 birds through the dunes, comprising 88 unique species. Our season total as of today stands at 116 species. You can view the year’s total species count and accumulated checklists here.
North winds visit again, and include the chance for snow this week, but if the forecast holds out, we should be in store for a nice bank of south winds by the weekend and into next week. April is a prime time for new arrivals and rarities, so anything is possible!