Tag Archives: Broad-winged Hawk

A Good Friday Count!

Singing Brown Thrasher by tower today.

Today, Friday April 14 saw the return of another moderate flight of birds over the dunes.  Though winds were east overnight, they quickly turned southeast after dawn, which served to facilitate some migration today.  The icterid flight was lower than has been seen in recent weeks, but when combined with the overall diversity of birds, it was a fine day for a longshore flight.  Early cloud cover kept the tower site cool through 9am, but once the sun starting peeking, the temperatures ramped up to 70 degrees, and a moderate hawk flight began, including the season’s first Broad-winged Hawks!  The day’s final tally was 73 species, comprised from 5,648 individual birds.

Red-breasted Nuthatch next to the tower today.

New for the season were Red-breasted Nuthatch, Broad-winged Hawk, Lark Sparrow, Solitary Sandpiper, and Chimney Swift.  It was a day for birds to put on full song.  Many species hung around the tower and posed for photos as well during the morning hours.   The Lark Sparrow came flying in past the tower low, and eventually would hang around the feeder area off and on for several hours today.  The nuthatch, to the right also flew directly overhead and landed in the cottonwoods next to the tower and played it’s tin horn a few times before moving west.

The hawkflight began in earnest, with a few sharpies and kestrels on the move. Once things began to warm up, the buteos showed up.  First with a single Red-tailed Hawk here and Red-shouldered there.  For the day 215 raptors were logged, with Sharp-shinned leading the pack with 55.  43 Red-tailed Hawks were logged, as well as 23 Broad-wings.  164 Sandhill Cranes also joined in the thermal guide today, likely emptying out what leftover birds remained in the Kankakee River area.

Poor but identifiable photo of Lark Sparrow at feeders today.
Pine Warbler in nearby Jack Pines today.  

Other notables for the day included a parade of Purple Finches.  Small flocks of 10-20 moved by overhead, totaling nearly 100 for the morning.  The 31 flickers was down significantly from the past few days, but still notable.  Finally, 13 Gnatcatchers was the season’s best showing, alongside 104 Yellow-rumped Warbler (and one Pine Warbler).

Today’s complete list is here.  Tomorrow looks to be an even better day with several new arrivals.  The Dunes Longshore count sits at 132 species for the year.  For those in the dunes area tomorrow, the park will be hosting a special Woodcock Walk.  We’ll be carpooling from the main entrance parking lot to see the special sky dance of this amazing bird.  The program is free and begins at 7:30pm (CDT).

Eastern Bluebird hanging out on the tower ramp today.




Bonanza of New Arrivals

With real south winds overnight, not those pesudo southeast imposters, a good movement of bird arrived in the dunes.  With dawn before 6am, and a beautiful spring dune scene unfolding, new songs could be heard all around.  As expected, the longshore flight benefited with by producing the highest species total for the season.    The morning ended with 82 species seen.  Bluejays, goldfinch, and blackbirds helped carry the individual total to 4,730 birds counted today.  The season now stands at 153.

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Lark Sparrow singing near tower today.  4/25/16.

New birds were plenty.  Within the first hour the first Yellow Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Lark Sparrow, Indigo Bunting, Baltimore Oriole, and Orchard Oriole all flew past.  Later in the morning, a even rarer (for the dunes) Blue Grosbeak visited the tower site.  The recent fire next to the tower has been a benefit to bug eating birds who come down to check it out.  In addition to sparrows, an abundance of Palm Warblers have been using it.  Today, 75 Palms were counted.  Yellow-rumps also deserve a mention, since a decent 177 went by as well.

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One of 68 Pine Siskins today, 4/25/16.

The Blue Jay flight improved dramatically from yesterday’s start.  It was the first 1,000+ Blue Jay day.  The near constant stream of dozens at a time went by, all going east.  With them, smaller American Goldfinches also posted their first 1,000+ day too.  1,049 little undulating wild canaries were logged.  Mixed in were more siskins.  Pine Siskins, in recent years, have put on an incredible late spring push through the dunes.  It’s not rare to see large groups moving past the tower in May.  Today, 68 more went past.

Not to be outdone, the hawkflight was stellar today. What lacked today in Red-tailed Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk counts was easily made up for with the Broad-winged Hawk number.  206 individual Broad-winged Hawks kettled past the tower.  It is the highest total we’ve had since officially starting the longshore flight in 2012, and sits in the top 10 count of highest BWHA records.  Also noteworthy was the season’s first Rough-legged Hawk.  Earlier April weather had prevented any hawk watch, and we were afraid the season could have finished without having logged one.

Rounding out the notables was a good swallow movement, with all species being logged.  Orange-crowned Warbler was seen again today.  A single Rusty Blackbird joined some Red-winged Blackbirds.  Lastly, a singing Purple Finch serenaded the observers today.

All in all, a good day.  See today’s complete list of all 82 species here.

P.s.  a Rose-breasted Grosbeak at the writer’s house this afternoon in Valpo, but not official on the tower list this year… yet!

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Rose-breasted Grosbeak in Valpo today.  

Aerial Flyers Only!

After a turbulent night, the longshore flight for Friday, April 10 was restricted to a select few.  Despite hoping for a more fruitful flight, this morning was greeted to strong, gusting west winds.  The skies were clouded and it looked almost gloomy.  The overnight brought howling winds, damaging storms, and even tornadoes to the west of the park in Illinois.  The early morning gloom  however would fade away to beautiful sunshine, despite the breezy conditions.

As alluded to above, there was hope for a good flight, but only 862 birds could be mustered.  Waterfowl made another little push over the lake, and some of the more aerial raptors took wing.  Most notable was an excellent push of Merlins.  Today’s 10 birds ties the state’s second highest count.  The previous 10 count and current state record single day count of 13 also belong to the longshore tower site.

Also expected, swallows put on a good movement today too.  Two new first of the year birds were logged. The first being a late and outgoing Thayer’s Gull, and the second was the season’s first Broad-winged Hawk.

Many park visitors are also getting treated to other animals besides birds.  The resident fox now makes near daily trips past the tower and is being seen more and more by park visitors, now that spring is bringing more people out.  The photo below was just taken yesterday in the campgrounds!

Red Fox at the campground entrance.  April 9, 2015.
Red Fox at the campground entrance. April 9, 2015.

The full list follows:

Canada Goose 1
Wood Duck 4
Gadwall 11
Mallard 6
Blue-winged Teal 7
Northern Shoveler 7
Green-winged Teal 4
Redhead 20
Lesser Scaup 27
White-winged Scoter 1
Bufflehead 12
Hooded Merganser 1
Red-breasted Merganser 27
Red-throated Loon 7
Common Loon 7
Horned Grebe 7
Double-crested Cormorant 20
Great Blue Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 10
Osprey 3
Northern Harrier 6
Sharp-shinned Hawk 5
Cooper’s Hawk 4
Broad-winged Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 14
Sandhill Crane 2
Ring-billed Gull 335
Herring Gull 116
Thayer’s Gull 1 imm.
Glaucous Gull 1
Great Black-backed Gull 5
Caspian Tern 9
Mourning Dove 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 4
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 11
Merlin 10 All birds flying west.
Eastern Phoebe 2
Blue Jay 1
American Crow 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 4
Tree Swallow 89
Barn Swallow 17
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Carolina Wren 1
Eastern Bluebird 2
Brown Thrasher 1
European Starling 8
Eastern Towhee 1
American Tree Sparrow 2
Field Sparrow 3
Song Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 6
Red-winged Blackbird 2
Common Grackle 1
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Pine Siskin 7
American Goldfinch 1
House Sparrow 1

A Hawk Advisory!

Today is Sunday, April 15.  Had it not been for the weekend it’d be Tax Day.  Despite it being two days away, the Green Tower counters were treated to a full refund of many birds being held back (some for what has seemed like years!).  Put simply, it was a spectacular day to be observing the longshore flight from every direction.  6,497 individual birds, comprising 76 different species were logged today in the Indiana Dunes State Park.  For those keeping score, the Grube Magnitude Index was 28.72, the 20th best on record.  The list included both record and near record counts, rare and unusual birds, and a return of a real hawk watch, a phenomenon more often talked about then actually witnessed here.  The  stories had become intricately woven tales from another time… until today!

The morning started gloomy.  The rain had cleared, but a large storm with lightning sheered just to the south of the tower.  Though the counters stayed dry, bird migration (and overhead airplanes) were obviously compensating for the storm cell.  Winds were already in the 10-15mph range, with gusts to 20mph at dawn, and built to gusts in excess of 30mph by the early afternoon.  By mid morning, the cloudy and breezy conditions allowed migration to continue in earnest, with loons, cormorants, swallows, and blackbirds being the real notables.

As if the good birding wasn’t enough, real show stoppers appeared every once in a while that proved why migration is so amazing in the Indiana Dunes.  Before noon had hit, the morning’s highlights included: 1 White-winged Scoter50 Red-throated Loons (state single site record), 2 American Golden-Plover, both Greater and Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 WHITE-WINGED DOVE, 11 Yellow-belled Sapsuckers, 2,369 Tree Swallows (dunes area record count), 22 Cliff Swallows, 1 Smith’s Longspur, 21 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and 1 Common Redpoll.

Counter Brendan Grube chasing after 2 American Golden-Plovers migrating along the beach.

Long before 9am, the first of many Merlin flew past the counter site.  Given the high winds and cloudy skies, and the fact that no early Sharp-shined Hawks had been seen, the notion of a hawk watch was not on anyone’s mind.  By the 5th, then 6th Merlin to fly past, it became apparent that something special was going to happen and that the count should continue.  Suddenly Osprey began appearing from the east and slowly tilt-gliding their way westward, over the high dunes.  More Merlin, Kestrels, and Harriers began to appear as well.

1 of 15 Osprey seen flying over the Green Tower on 4/15/12. This ties the dunes area record count.

Squinting high into the sky, the mythical hawk watch took flight when the first kettle of Broad-winged Hawks could be seen riding high against the dark clouds.  These hawks had chosen to withstand nearly gale force winds to migrate.  Surely any thermal built from the sun would have been sheered by the high winds.  By 1pm, the kettles of Broad-winged Hawks went from five and six birds, to groups in excess of 20 birds!  All while, Red-tailed, Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s, Kestrels, and a lone Peregrine made their way between swallow flocks.  Before it was done 96 Broad-winged Hawks were counted.  The record grabber of the morning was a new state record 13 Merlins.  The hawk watch total combined for 208 birds (including Turkey Vultures).

Tomorrow promises one more good push of south winds before north winds put a hamper to Tuesday’s count.  From there, winds will flip flop nearly daily.  The full list of 76 species seen from the Bird Capital of the World Green Tower follows.

Canada Goose 3
Wood Duck 7
Mallard 2
Blue-winged Teal 10
White-winged Scoter 1 
Red-breasted Merganser 87
Red-throated Loon 50 
Common Loon 12
Horned Grebe 4
Double-crested Cormorant 248
Great Blue Heron 13
Great Egret 2
Turkey Vulture 27
Osprey (American) 15
Northern Harrier 7
Sharp-shinned Hawk 9
Cooper’s Hawk 4
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Broad-winged Hawk 96 
Red-tailed Hawk 14
American Kestrel 19
Merlin 13 
Peregrine Falcon 1
American Golden-Plover 2
Killdeer 8
Solitary Sandpiper 2
Greater Yellowlegs 3
Lesser Yellowlegs 2
Pectoral Sandpiper 5
Ring-billed Gull 436
Herring Gull 26
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1 
Great Black-backed Gull 1
Caspian Tern 24
Rock Pigeon 2
Mourning Dove 81
Chimney Swift 37
Belted Kingfisher 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 3
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 11
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 5
Pileated Woodpecker 1
Blue Jay 13
American Crow 2
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 101
Purple Martin 25
Tree Swallow 2369
Bank Swallow 8
Barn Swallow 201
Cliff Swallow 22
Tufted Titmouse 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 21
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Eastern Bluebird 7
American Robin 108
Brown Thrasher 1
European Starling 51
Cedar Waxwing 30
Smith’s Longspur 1 
Pine Warbler 3
Yellow-rumped Warbler 10
Eastern Towhee 1
Chipping Sparrow 19
Field Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 3
Northern Cardinal 2
Red-winged Blackbird 1914
Rusty Blackbird 1
Common Grackle 66
Brown-headed Cowbird 30
House Finch 5
Common Redpoll 1 
American Goldfinch 182
House Sparrow 2