Latest Bonanza of Birds

Greetings from the dunes,

It’s been a week or so since we’ve been able to provide an update.  Having the bloggers out of town during the one week in May when the winds have actually been southerly has been a bummer for both the bloggers and those that enjoy the daily updates.  So with that, we provide an update of the last week in birds.

May 15-20 brought a decent influx of new migrants, as warm south winds blanketed the dunes with migrants, and warmed the sand to over 80 degrees.  A far cry from the upper 40s we had a week earlier.  From May 15-20 we added a whooping 16 new species to the longshore totals.  This included: Northern Parula,  Laughing Gull, Blackburnian Warbler, Canada Warbler,  Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Veery, Connecticut Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Eastern Whip-poor-will (added by Andrew Edwards), Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Hooded Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, 
Common Nighthawk, Willow Flycatcher,  Red-eyed Vireo, Black-and-white Warbler.  We now stand at 205 species for the year, which matches last year’s total, which is the highest species total for any eBird hotspot this year in the state..  The Laughing Gull may be a first site record, not for the state park, but for the actual spring tower count.

Missing from this total was another new species to the tower, seen on May 14.  As told by our counter:

Northern Bobwhite

“Extraordinary sighting for this location. A distinct Bobwhite call note was heard, but I had assumed the resident mockingbird had added to its repertoire. It became apparent that 2 birds were calling and the Bobwhite did not deviate from the 3 note cadence. In hunting the bird down, I sure as sh$t had a Northern Bobwhite fly across the road at eye level. One species I have said I would never get here.”

In other news, Blue Jays are waning, but Cedar Waxwings are beginning their major flights.  4,000+ birds were logged multiple mornings, including May 16 and 17.

Two Blue Grosbeaks were also logged on the 16h, with one female hanging around the feeder station this past week.

The eBird Hotspot for the Observation Tower has this year’s annual totals and the new species for the year.  The last week of counting remains, and hopefully a few more species can be added before we close the chapter on this latest wild and crazy spring.


Quick May Update


Our apologies for the delayed postings.  With the Dunes Birding Festival and general spring bird craziness, we’ve not had a chance to give an update recently.  As most know, the north winds have set up a block and really slowed down migration here in the dunes.  Many neo-tropical migrants have been delayed up to a week.  The state park’s first Cerulean Warbler of the year didn’t arrive until May 8 (the day after the festival!), when they typically arrive in the first days of May. Today, the park’s first Acadian Flycatcher finally arrived, days behind when we usually get the first one.

Diversity is still climbing however.  In the last three days, 12 new species have been logged flying by at the tower site.  This is WITHOUT south winds!  They include: Ovenbird, Tennessee Warbler, American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Least Flycatcher, Swainson’s Thrush, Wood Thrush, Cape May Warbler, Warbling Vireo, Summer Tanager, and  Blue Grosbeak.

Clay-colored Sparrow at IDSP Tower Feeders.

Of note in recent days has been a Clay-colored Sparrow visiting the feeders.  It was present on May 9 and is still there today, May 11.

Despite the winds, the tower stands at 184 species for the year.  Wednesday’s most recent count list is here.

Chimney Swift Chaos

After a brutal cold and rainy weekend, overnight south winds helped push another wave of birds into the dunes late last night and into the morning.  As is such, we were out today to do another longshore flight.  The current forecast the coming week doesn’t look so good for longshore counting, so we were eager to tally what birds were moving and what new arrivals were waiting in the wings.  The day did not disappoint.  For Monday, May 1 we logged 3,466 birds, from a nice tally of 87 species.

New for the season included a myriad list of birds, including Sora, White-eyed Vireo, Sedge Wren, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Blue-winged Warbler, Common Yellow-throat, Yellow Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Orchard Oriole, Dickcissel, and Bobolink!  The new arrivals puts the longshore tower at 169 species for the year, and now ties Goose Pond for the most diverse bird list in the state this year among eBird hotspots.

The biggest noticeable migration of the day was not the expected Blue Jays that only put in a meager 55 birds, but that of the Chimney Swifts. A constant stream of cigars on wings flew past, intermingled with swallows.  This sort of fast action migration is more difficult than the typical robin and blackbird flight, as silhouettes take a few more split seconds of visual to make the correct ID.  A whooping 921 swifts went by today, which is the highest swift total since the longshore count started.  It’s also the state’s second highest spring total.  A combined 568 swallows also accompanied them, with most being Tree and Barn, but a surprising 76 Purple Martins went by, and 98 Cliff Swallows.

Also noteworthy today was both a Sora and Short-eared Owl in the dunes prairie, as well as a flyby Smith’s Longspur.  A single American White Pelican flew past.

We’re working fast now towards the Indiana Dunes Birding Festival, so we’ll leave the rest of the updates for you to find on the eBird checklist here.