Tag Archives: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Butter Butt Influx

Happy Easter.  No longshore flight officially is taking place today due to the holiday. However, Saturday, April 15th brought a very warm day to the dunes and is worth reporting.  Overnight spotty storms and south winds created a warm wind at dawn that increased through the day.  Like a good Saturday does, a contingent of bird enthusiasts joined our counter at the tower for an excellent morning of longshore flight.  By noon, temperatures were in the low 80s.  The group of birders logged 6,942 birds from 74 species.  Here are the highlights:

Little movement occurred over the lake, as the majority of waterfowl appear to have moved through.  Loons however, are still present.  3 Common Loons were seen on the water, but more significant was a good flock of 18 Red-throated Loons that took off from the water as a fishing charter boat went by past the park.

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Pine Warbler from Friday’s count.

New for the season were House Wren, Palm Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, and White-throated Sparrow all right on time for the year!  The early wave of neo-tropical migrants was evident today, as the first rounds of typical early season warblers passed in full force Saturday.  37 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers was a significant early season movement of the the little buzzers.  The butter butts, aka Yellow-rumped Warblers, made a significant flight in front of the counters, often moving at eye level throught the nearby dune oak canopy, and landing briefly before pushing on towards Chicago and eventually Canada.  348 butter butts went by.  It wasn’t a state top 10 count, but still quite good.  In addition to the previously mentioned Palm Warbler, Pine Warblers moved through in excellent numbers too.  The day’s 23 Pine Warblers is the highest Pine Warbler total in the five years of official longshore surveys, and likely the state’s second highest single day count.

Likely due to the stronger wind speeds, the thermal development suffered and the day’s hawkflight failed to really materialize.  Only 49 raptors went by the tower.  Osprey and 5 Broad-winged Hawks were the highlights for the birds of prey.

Saturday’s full count can be found on ebird here.  The weather outlook looks good for some upcoming counts, so expect the birds to keep coming!  The season total species count so far is 137 species.

South Winds Flanked

As predicted, southern winds began to waft in early Wednesday morning.  The day started cold, well below freezing, but soon warmed to the upper 50s.  Similarly, today, Thursday ,April 14 also began chilly (35 degrees) and also warmed with slightly stronger winds.  The winds the last few days have been unusually oriented from the east, rather than west.  A strong system near Greenland is cycling wind our way with what they call an Omega blocking pattern stopping fronts from pushing east.

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One of several Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers the last few days.

Today’s report is a two day summary for both Wednesday and Thursday.  As predicted, the pulse of warm air has brought new migrants in, with each Thursday out doing Wednesday.  Hopefully Friday will out perform Thursday!  For Wednesday, we logged 78 species, comprising 2,758 individual birds.  On Thursday we tempered the species count to 71, but amassed 4,539 total birds for two day total of 7,297 birds.

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Brown Thrasher singing in the morning haze Wednesday.

Highlights on Wednesday were 85 raptors, 4 Bonapartes Gulls, nearly every woodpecker (except Hairy), a singing Brown Thrasher, the season’s first Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, both kinglets, the seasons’ first Pine Warbler, and good influx of Chipping Sparrows.

Highlights for Thursday included 7 late White-winged Scoters, a Ruddy Duck, 35 late Sandhill Cranes, a significant Northern Flicker movement totaling 196 birds, Cliff Swallow, two gnatcatchers, an early Palm Warbler, and a decent blackbird movement with many Rusty Blackbirds still moving through (243 today).

The last two days have added 6 new species to bring the tower list to 126 species for the year.  How’d we do with our wish list of 20 species to be added before Monday?  Birds checked off are in bold.  6 down, 14 to go!

Green Heron
Little Blue Heron
Broad-winged Hawk
American Golden Plover
Solitary Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Henslow’s Sparrow
Short-eared Owl
Chimney Swift
Brown Thrasher
Cliff Swallow
Bank Swallow
House Wren
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Pine Warbler
LeConte’s Sparrow
Henslow’s Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow

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Radar Wednesday night around 1:00am

An interesting phenomenon with the recent easterly winds can be seen by watching the radar at night.  With the winds the last two nights, there has been evident bird migration occurring on the radar at night.  The standard overnight radar in migration is the classic donut shape, showing thousands of birds in the air at the moment.  See to the right.  To learn more about reading radar for birds, visit this link. The image seen here was taken overnight Wednesday around 1:00am.

If you visit a good radar archive site such as here, you can see time lapse and regional reflectivity to watch the radar from several locations.  The image below was captured just after sunset Wednesday  night.  You can see the exodus of birds along the eastern side of the lake, from the Indiana Dunes north… exactly where the easterly winds were likely pushing birds against the last few days.

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Radar Wednesday night at dusk.

Winds should continue a southern trend, with more south than east as the next few days progress.  We should knock off a few new species Friday-Sunday.  You can read the full Wednesday list and Thursday list for all the species seen.

 

Warbler Waves

As predicted, the longshore flight for Sunday, May 3 nearly doubled that of Saturday.  A good full night of south winds allowed for even more nocturnal migrant and perfect conditions allowed for a strong morning flight.  It was a fabulous flight for Blue Jays, gnatcatchers, Palm Warblers, and Yellow-rumped Warblers.  94 species, made up of 7,495 birds went past this morning.

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One of over 600 Yellow-rumped Warblers seen today.
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One of over 200 Palm Warblers logged today.

 

By dawn, warm and muggy conditions allowed for an early start for the first major Yellow-rumped Warbler wave.  A continual stream of chips would go by all morning, with nearly a third of them being Palm Warblers.  The 653 that went by goes down in the state’s top 10 list.  The same goes for the 211 Palm Warblers that wagged their tails past the tower today.  Both were also represented in the banding nets below the tower this morning.

Blue Jays also posted higher counts, from yesterday.  Today’s 2,911 more than doubled yesterday’s good flight.  Also notable was a nice, nearly 100 count of Baltimore Orioles, as well as over 200 Pine Siskins that flew past today.

Annuals this morning included Green Heron, Solitary Sandpiper, Great-crested Flycatcher, Wood Thrush, Cape May Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Bobolink, and a flock of 4 rare Smith’s Longspurs.  We’ve now logged 159 species for the season, and surpassed our 200,000 bird for the season today.

The weather brings in some needed rain tomorrow, but south winds will still prevail so some more flight may get logged between rain drops.  Stay tuned…

Full List, Sunday, May 3, 2015:

Canada Goose 1
Wood Duck 2
Red-breasted Merganser 18
Common Loon 1
Double-crested Cormorant 57
Great Blue Heron 1
Green Heron 1 FOY.
Turkey Vulture 8
Osprey 4
Northern Harrier 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk 4
Cooper’s Hawk 2
Bald Eagle 1
Broad-winged Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 5
Sandhill Crane 2
Killdeer 2
Solitary Sandpiper 1 FOY.
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Ring-billed Gull 38
Herring Gull 2
Caspian Tern 7
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 3
Mourning Dove 24
Chimney Swift 106
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 2
Belted Kingfisher 1
Red-headed Woodpecker 19
Red-bellied Woodpecker 23
Downy Woodpecker 1
Hairy Woodpecker 2
Pileated Woodpecker 1
American Kestrel 2
Merlin 1
Empidonax sp. 1 Yellowish and similar shape of a Traill’s.
Eastern Phoebe 1
Great Crested Flycatcher 1 FOY.
Eastern Kingbird 27
Yellow-throated Vireo 2
Warbling Vireo 4
Blue Jay 2913
American Crow 1
Horned Lark 2
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 12
Purple Martin 1
Tree Swallow 12
Bank Swallow 6
Barn Swallow 42
Cliff Swallow 19
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Tufted Titmouse 2
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
House Wren 2
Carolina Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 168 Flying west.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2
Eastern Bluebird 11
Wood Thrush 1 FOY.
American Robin 25
Gray Catbird 1
Brown Thrasher 1
European Starling 56
American Pipit 5
Smith’s Longspur 4
Nashville Warbler 2
Common Yellowthroat 1 FOY.
Cape May Warbler 3 FOY.
Yellow Warbler 1
Palm Warbler 211 .
Pine Warbler 4
Yellow-rumped Warbler 653
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Eastern Towhee 1
Chipping Sparrow 23
Field Sparrow 2
Savannah Sparrow 4
Song Sparrow 1
Swamp Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 3
White-crowned Sparrow 6
Scarlet Tanager 1 FOY.
Northern Cardinal 1
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 3
Indigo Bunting 8
Bobolink 6 FOY.
Red-winged Blackbird 1588
Common Grackle 56
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Orchard Oriole 5
Baltimore Oriole 91
House Finch 1
Purple Finch 9
Pine Siskin 218
American Goldfinch 912
House Sparrow 3

Little Bits of Blue

With lingering fog burning off and high humidity, today looked to be a much different weather day in the dunes.  Highs hit 70 degrees and a light southerly breeze made it actually feel hot by mid day.  It was hot enough that among first season birds, the beach filled with the first bikinis and sunbathers.  Swimming in the lake was another story (water is 39 degrees currently!).

Northern Mockingbird at Longshore Platform this spring.  They are becoming more common in the area.
Northern Mockingbird at Longshore Platform this spring. They are becoming more common in the area.

A good mix, including 76 species, traversed the high dunes today for counters.  Total count consisted of 3,288 individual birds (season total now over 350,000 birds!).  Even while the count was going on, other birders were making their way along the park’s trails, boardwalks, and at the Nature Center.  We talked to a couple birders from out of state, looking to scratch their birding itch while traveling cross country.  Many yellow-rumps are still dominating the area.  The longshore dune only received a couple new species.  With the current wing map, conditions look prime for the best neotropic invasion of the season so far on Tuesday and likely Wednesday.

Wind map from Monday evening, April 29,2013.  Image from http://hint.fm/wind/
Wind map from Monday evening, April 29,2013. Image from http://hint.fm/wind/

Today began the first significant flight of Blue Jays.  Most folks don’t think of Blue Jays as migratory birds, but massive flocks move over the dunes typically around May 1 and lasts two weeks.  Peak flights will measure 3,000-5,000 birds.  Today, 902 Blue Jays flew over. It was also a big movement of tiny Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.  39 gnatcatchers migrated past today, accounting for a new spot on the dunes area top 10 count for gnatcatchers.  Rounding out the blue colored birds, 3 Great-blue Herons, 1 Indigo Bunting, and 4 Eastern Bluebirds went past.

Red-bellied Woodpecker (female) at the Dunes State Park feeders today.  4/29/13
Red-bellied Woodpecker (female) at the Dunes State Park feeders today. 4/29/13

An interesting movement occurred today with Red-bellied Woodpeckers.  Usually, the red-bellied woodpecker is not considered a migratory bird. Due of the recent expansion of their breeding range, many Red-bellied are showing more migratory behavior during the coldest months of the year, moving south to the milder locations within their breeding territory over the winter.  Researchers speculate this behavior is linked to climate change and the abundance of food available from bird feeders.  Today, 16 went by, nearly doubling the season’s total.

Today’s other highlights are below.  Don’t forget to visit the birding dune or Nature Center for your free Brock’s Birds of Indiana Dunes book.

Blue-winged Teal 4
Red-breasted Merganser 97
Red-throated Loon 12 (still migrating!)
Common Loon 4
Osprey 1
Northern Harrier 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 3
Broad-winged Hawk 5
Wilson’s Snipe 4
Red-bellied Woodpecker 16
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Eastern Kingbird 2
Warbling Vireo 1
Blue Jay 902
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
House Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 39
Brown Thrasher 5 (one loud migratory group)
Yellow-rumped Warbler 11
Lark Sparrow 1 (season’s fifth bird!)
White-throated Sparrow 4
Dark-eyed Junco 9
Pine Siskin 2