Tag Archives: American Goldfinch

An Old Fashioned Dunes Hawk Watch!

Sunday, April 24, saw the return of another dunes longshore flight count after two days of unpleasant weather.  Winds were late to turn to the south, finally shifting after midnight, resulting in the sunrise temperature being a chilly 49 degrees as the south winds started picking up.  As such, little arrived as far as new arrivals, but the day was a beautiful spring scene for the dunes.  For every bird seen, a park visitor made use of the tower area or nearby beach today.  The first beach swimmers were even spotted, as the lower area near the shore warmed quickly without the direct wind. Folks enjoyed the water, despite it still being around 46 degrees.

By the end of the day’s count 3,396 birds were logged, from 71 species.  One species was officially added today, Eastern Kingbird, but no warblers were new to the scene. Over the lake, it was a slow show, with a single merganser and two flyby loons comprising the majority of the waterbird show.  Blackbirds made a good early morning movement. By now, most are females only, with a few grackles mixed in.

Blue Jay past the tower.  

Blue Jays grouped to stage their first significant migration of the season.  Today’s 188 was a good early movement, and surely a tease of what’s to come.  Many were also utilizing the feeder area nearby.  Goldfinches continued their late April movement, with over 300 flying by.  21 siskins also flew past.  Rounding out the finches were 2 Purple Finches, including one singing individual.

Broad-winged  Hawk over the tower. Photo by Pete Grube. 

As mentioned in the title above, hawks finally moved today!  Though normally only par for a hawkwatch, today’s nearly 150 raptors constituted one of the best days thus far since starting in early March.  After the 41 Turkey Vultures, today’s 35 Broad-winged Hawks was an impressive sight. Several groups circled directly over the tower as they kettled higher and higher and drifted east along the lakefront. Many Red-taileds and Sharpies followed the same line.  Mixed in were also a few Bald Eagles and an Osprey.  Finally, one of three Merlins came by and landed in the nearby cottonwood to destroy some prey it had caught.  It picked and ripped into an unidentified food source for several minutes.

The upcoming weather pattern looks to be blocking again, but Monday should provide a last major movement before May arrives. To read today’s full list, visit here.




Migration Returns!

After a nearly two week hiatus, migration returned in style today.  It’s only fitting that this occurs today, as we write our 200th blog post since we began documenting the longshore morning bird flight over 3 seasons ago.  With warm south winds, conditions were ripe for the first waves to enter the dunes.  Conditions were also ideal for thirsty birders, parched from the dry spell we’ve been facing.  A full contingent tested the space limits on the longshore tower today.

Birders stack up on the longshore tower, May 2, 2015.
Birders stack up on the longshore tower, May 2, 2015.

Before midnight, light north winds gradually shifted east, then southerly allowing for what we hope is a teaser of a couple more powerful flights of birds.  If the bird represents a major baseball team, likely we saw multiples of them!  Bluejays… yup, over 1,000.  Orioles… yup, 30 to be exact.  Loons… ok, yep, we had a few of them too!  It was a morning with annuals galore, as we jumped to a daily total of 4,631 birds, represented by 90 species.

New for the scene this year were American Golden Plover, Eastern Kingbird, Yellow-throated Vireo, Warbling Vireos, Nashville Warbler, Northern Parula, Yellow Warbler, Palm Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, and Orchard Oriole.

Bluejays staged their first big push with 1,311 birds.  Over 1/4 of all birds today were Bluejays!  Goldfinches also put in a good movement with over 500 seen.  Gnatcatchers were not far behind  The 72 seen sits comfortably in the state’s top 10 count.  A few banding nets were also strung today, hoping to catch a few of these birds.  They’ll be up through the Indiana Dunes Birding Festival, and today had a nice pair of Brown Thrashers that a few folks got to see up close.

Brown Thrashers banded from the tower site today.  May 2, 2015.
Brown Thrashers banded from the tower site today. May 2, 2015.

With the most recent north winds, it’s not surprising that we have a few late migrants too.  Most notably some lingering juncos and tree sparrows.  Black-backed Gulls in May are also getting quite late.

Another good day looks in store for Sunday.  Until then, here’s a partial list of the main highlights from today.

Greater Scaup 1 
Red-throated Loon 6
Common Loon 4
American White Pelican 5
American Golden-Plover 10 FOY. Looking to land on the beach.
Great Black-backed Gull 2
Caspian Tern 9
Chimney Swift 158
Eastern Kingbird 7 FOY.
Yellow-throated Vireo 1 FOY.
Warbling Vireo 3 FOY.
Blue Jay 1311
Purple Martin 2
Cliff Swallow 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 72
American Pipit 10
Nashville Warbler 1 FOY.
Northern Parula 1 FOY.
Yellow Warbler 19 FOY.
Palm Warbler 4
Pine Warbler 9
Yellow-rumped Warbler 87
Black-throated Green Warbler 1 FOY.
American Tree Sparrow 1 
Chipping Sparrow 133
Vesper Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 15
White-throated Sparrow 3
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 3 FOY.
Indigo Bunting 8 FOY.
Rusty Blackbird 1
Orchard Oriole 3 FOY.
Baltimore Oriole 30
Purple Finch 3
Pine Siskin 30
American Goldfinch 587

Great Day to Be a Birder!

The longshore flight at Indiana Dunes State Park on May 2, 2012 will be remembered as one of the best flights witnessed by both number of species seen and incredible high counts.  Long before dawn, signs that today would be a good day were already being seen.  The forecast was for stronger south winds in the 10-20mph range, less rain than the last two days, and a predawn radar image that made Chicago look like the eye of a hurricane;  a hurricane of birds winging it northward.  Not only were the birds good, but the list of birders present was also impressive.  So impressive, that their presence on a weekday can only mean sick days were being used or bosses were in the dark.  Thus, today’s list of counters will for the most part remain anonymous.

The local Prairie Warbler was performing again today with beautiful Lake Michigan in the background, 5/2/12.

It’s hard to decide where to begin.  Let’s start by noting that 101 species were seen from the site today.  This included 7,328 individuals (2,517 yesterday).  Monday and Tuesday were great count days, but seemed to have been leading up to today.  The previous best Grube Magnitude Index from the Green Tower site was 67.85.  Today, it was blown away with a very impressive 79.04 per Ken Brock.  This quantification calculates today’s count as the best ever observed!

At dawn the stream had started and the variety and strength of the morning flight would continue for many hours.  By 11am, hawkwatching was distracting, as gnatcatchers, swallows, and orioles still continued to migrate past the old tower site.

Cape May Warbler adding to the day’s diversity, 5/2/12.

Let’s tick off two sets of highlights.  First the rarities, then the high counts.  Major rarity highlights for today included, a single Black-crowned Night-Heron landing in the nearby pines, 2 Bald Eagle, 4 Merlin, 67 American Golden Plovers, 1 American Woodcock, 1 SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER, 1 Tennessee Warlber, 1 Magnolia Warbler, 1 good looking Prairie Warbler, 1 early Summer Tanager, 3 Lark Sparrows, 1 singing! Clay-colored Sparrow, and 8 Pine Siskin.

High counts included, 11 Osprey, 73 Sharp-shined Hawks, 100 Broad-winged Hawks (state’s second highest for the month of May) , 364 Chimney Swifts (state’s 7th highest count), 2,121 Blue Jays (state’s 10th largest count), 19 Cliff Swallows, 124 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers (new state record!), 535 Yellow-rumped Warblers state’s 9th largest count),  109 Palm Warblers, 268 Baltimore Orioles (state’s second highest count) , 139 Indigo Buntings, and 1,579 American Goldfinch.

Flyover Osprey, one of 11 for the day, 5/2/12.
Flyover American Kestrel, one of 15 today, 5/2/12.

Inland, away from the Green Tower, and not on the official list, other warblers were noted, giving a dunes area total of at least 17 warbler species, including the well known Prothonotary Warbler that is back on the Wilson Shelter Boardwalk.  A Golden-winged Warbler was also found today in the nearby IN Dunes NL Heron Rookery unit.

Winds will continue southerly overnight, thus our counters will head to bed early, sore and sunburn, with dreams of what may appear tomorrow morning.

Gale Warning!

What a difference a couple hours can make!  A short longshore flight count occurred today, Friday, April 20.  Temperatures at dawn were a balmy 60 degrees with a gentle south wind.  Within two hours, the wind shift had occurred and the mercury was plumetting on the lakeshore.  What was 60 degrees was now 42 degrees under a northwest gale.  By afternoon, a Gale Warning had been issued for small craft, with waves tonight expected to build to ten feet.

Big Waves on Lake Michigan.

However, the south winds overnight allowed for a few new birds for the season, most notably Gray Catbird and White-eyed Vireo.  A Black-throated Green Warbler was also heard inland, within the state park, but not at the Green Tower site.  Other notables would include a return of migrating ducks (wigeon, shovelor, teal, bufflehead) that have not been seen in a few weeks.  It was another 1,000+ day for American Goldfinch too.

Today’s list included 2,815 birds.  Those birds are listed below:

Gadwall 6
American Wigeon 1
Northern Shoveler 5
Green-winged Teal 29
Lesser Scaup 20
Bufflehead 2
Red-breasted Merganser 33
Common Loon 17
Double-crested Cormorant 114
Killdeer 2
Solitary Sandpiper 1
Ring-billed Gull 114
Herring Gull 5
Caspian Tern 8
Chimney Swift 4
Red-bellied Woodpecker 2
Pileated Woodpecker 1
White-eyed Vireo 1
Horned Lark 1
Purple Martin 1
Tree Swallow 64
Barn Swallow 4
House Wren 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 8
Eastern Bluebird 2
Hermit Thrush 2
American Robin 10
Gray Catbird 1
Brown Thrasher 2
Orange-crowned Warbler 2
Palm Warbler 4
Pine Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 18
Prairie Warbler 1
Eastern Towhee 2
Chipping Sparrow 2
Field Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 1
Swamp Sparrow 3
White-throated Sparrow 4
Northern Cardinal 2
Red-winged Blackbird 604
Common Grackle 43
American Goldfinch 1051
House Sparrow 1

A Little Bump of Yellow Rumps!

The longshore flight for Thursday, April 19 bore close resemblance to yesterdays survey.  While the totals were nearly identical (4,286 birds today vs. 4,231 yesterday), the composition of species and their totals were in stark contrast.  If yesterday was the hawk and blackbird theme day, today, the yellow wonders took stage.

The morning began warm and calm.  Temperatures at 58 degrees under a south wind would fluctuate with shifting lake breezes, that caught a foot hold by 10am, bringing the temperature down five degrees.  Winds never picked up to the predicted 10-20mph, but stayed around 5 mph all morning.

The referred to yellow up above was a good goldfinch and early warbler flight.  American Goldfinches streamed by in flocks of 30-50 today, quickly escalating to an incredible 1,157 birds.  This marks the 8th largest dunes count recorded.  Unfortunately, an overcast sky dulled out the incredible bright yellow sight that it could have been.

Also notable was the first major Yellow-rumped Warbler flight of the season.  In loose flocks and singles, these early migrant warblers were in full force migrating just above the counters’ heads today.  An incredible 435 were counted among migrating Palm and Pine Warblers.   Even with 400+ birds, the Yellow-rumps barely crack the top 10 dunes count, which goes to 2,823 of them April 26, 2011.  There’s still time!

Early Prairie Warbler, Indiana Dunes State Park, 4/19/12.

A single Prairie Warbler was back on territory in the dunes today.  This northern outpost hosts many nesting birds.  Today’s little chap was the dunes’ 3rd earliest record.

Rounding out the highlights for today were, 104 D-C Cormorants, 185 Blue Jays, 1 American Pipit, 1 Orange-crowned Warbler, 7 Pine Warblers, 5 Rusty Blackbirds, 19 Purple Finch, and 4 Pine Siskin

And now the north winds come.