Tag Archives: Clay-colored Sparrow

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.


Birdathon Time! aka. mom and dad, please send money!

The first week of May and her wild swings of weather fits seems to be settling down a bit and may actually reward us for all we’ve waited for this past two months.  If the forecast is right, some warm southerly winds may envelope us for an extended period, beginning as early as Wednesday.  South winds between May 5-10 can mean 1 million birds/hour entering the dunes area on a good migration night.  It can mean the difference between a quiet drive down your neighborhood at dawn and a full chorus of unknown song types the next morning.  With new arrivals entering daily, any such morning right now is worth getting out to explore your favorite birding patch.

Our spring blog is dedicated to the longshore bird flight that is most impressive when it comes to species diversity and magnitude.  Most birders wanting to visit the dunes will find the interior birding trails, boardwalks, and service roads just as spectacular.  It may be less emphasized, but our many birders that help log hours in at the platform are spending later hours checking the back dunes for other new arrivals that have gone unseen from the high dunes.  We’ll try to emphasize these areas more this month.

The last few days have been a struggle, knowing millions of birds are staging to our south.  Winds have not been ideal.  Today was northeast.  The winds have their bite as it continues to keep the dunes area in a blanket of cooler air.  For birders right now, this also means that bird activity is extended into the afternoon.  You can sleep in and still bird!  Longshore flights were recorded on Saturday, May 3 and today, May 5.  The two days combined gave less than 2,000 birds recorded.  However, we were greeted with several new arrivals, including Least Flycatcher, Nashville Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Grasshopper Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, and Blue-headed Vireo.  Long-tailed Ducks continue to be found daily.  One more was seen today.

1 of 3 Clay-colored Sparrows today at the seed pile.  Photo courtesy Pete Grube.
1 of 3 Clay-colored Sparrows today at the seed pile. Photo courtesy Pete Grube.

At the seed pile, Clay-colored Sparrows continue to impress.  Joining the first bird was a second bird this weekend.  A third bird came to join the first two today.  How many can we get?  The lakefront high count is only six birds.  We’re half way there!

BIRD 4 bucksOur counter, Brendan Grube, has weathered some difficult elements this spring.  Snow and ice continued late.  Sunny, cool, windswept days brought sun burns.  The next day would see soupy fog.  The counter’s life is not a relaxed view of Lake Michigan every day, running down before noon to dip your toes in the water.  This position also has it’s importance in detecting the magnitude of bird life that migrates over the park.  This data has research value as well as birding tourism value.  There are no park positions like this at any other state park in Indiana.  We depend on grants and donations to make this count, this blog, and all of our other birding initiatives come to fruition each year.   A team from NIMBA is set out to count all the birds it can find in a single day, by scouring the dunes, swamps, prairies, and lakefront sites throughout NW Indiana.  Funding helps bird related projects and the Dunes State Park is eligible to apply for these funds.

How can you help!?  The team desperately needs your pledge to help raise funds for birding efforts done in the dunes.  NIMBA has pledged it’s entire fundraising this year to bird activities in the Indiana Dunes. The birdathon is being conducted on Saturday, May 17.  Please consider pledging today (while it’s on your mind!) to help keep this count, our blog, and more birding efforts going on!  You can pledge online here!  You can also print the pdf form Dunes Birdathon 2014.

The Substitute

With a poor weekend forecast and a statewide birding festival, the counters took the weekend off.  This is not to say that migration would be put on hold for us.  Early Saturday morning, the winds shifted for a brief period and a decent 3,000+ flight occurred.  Fortunately for the counters and fortunately for the birds, a longshore counter of equal caliber, as well as holder of several of our site record high counts took over in our place.  For the short migration window offered Saturday, our substitute, Jeff “magic eyes” McCoy did an outstanding job.

3,295 birds flew by the Longshore Dune on Saturday.  Jeff added two new species for our season count.  Red Crossbill and Clay-colored Sparrow.  Check out the entire list from Saturday below, as well as a great recent photo taken in the dunes.

Canada Goose 9
Wood Duck 5
Mallard 6
Blue-winged Teal 1
Red-breasted Merganser 7
Double-crested Cormorant 7
Great Blue Heron 5
Great Egret 1
Turkey Vulture 21
Osprey 2
Northern Harrier 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 14
Cooper’s Hawk 3
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Broad-winged Hawk 7
Red-tailed Hawk 9
American Kestrel 1
Killdeer 9
Solitary Sandpiper 2
Pectoral Sandpiper 140
Ring-billed Gull 180+
Herring Gull 30+
Caspian Tern 29
Forster’s Tern 1
Mourning Dove 14
Chimney Swift 37
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 4
Belted Kingfisher 2
Red-headed Woodpecker 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 3
Downy Woodpecker 1
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 3
Eastern Phoebe 1
Great Crested Flycatcher 1
Eastern Kingbird 12
Blue Jay 640
American Crow 5
Tree Swallow 120
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 17
Bank Swallow 11
Barn Swallow 72
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch 7
House Wren 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 11
Eastern Bluebird 67
American Robin 26
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD 1 (feeding on the seed pile)
Euopean Starling 70+
Yellow Warbler 1
Cape May Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 59
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Blackburnian Warbler 2
Palm Warbler 17
Chipping Sparrow 8
Field Sparrow 4
Savannah Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 4
White-throated Sparrow 7
White-crowned Sparrow 5
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 3
Indigo Bunting 3
Bobolink 7
Red-winged Blackbird 550
Eastern Meadowlark 2
Common Grackle 90
Brown-headed Cowbird 140+
Baltimore Oriole 21
House Finch 4
American Goldfinch 689
House Sparrow 3

Blackpoll Warbler seen recently in the Dunes.  Photo courtesy Pete Grube.
Blackpoll Warbler seen recently in the Dunes. Photo courtesy Pete Grube.