Tag Archives: East Winds

East Wind Hawkflight

If large totals have seemed lacking this spring, you’re not alone in that observation.  The season’s longshore flight has been noticably absent of 20,000 or 30,000 bird mornings.  The biggest culprit likely lies with the lack of south winds.  After a super warm February, March has been averaging 6 degrees cooler than last March.  The graphs below show our local weather station in March 2016, and March of this year.  Of note, look at the winds.  Last year we had several days of sustained south winds, before a new front would come in.  This year, the south winds are almost immediately accompanied with a front and precipitation.

In 2012, we conducted 21 longshore flight counts in the month of March.  In 2016, last year, we had 16 counts done.  This March has only seen 13 days with longshore flights.  Many of those weren’t south winds.  Obviously, south winds are the best for measuring migration.  Followed by westerly winds, and then finally east winds.  North winds are the worst.  Wind speed can also affect this.  When the weather’s not conducive to migration, anything other than a north wind will be measured, as was the case today, March 29.

With east winds blowing, a typical songbird flight will not happen in any significant quantity, but if the sun is shining, a few migrating thermal riding birds may push off and be forced against the lakeshore, when you’re east of Miller beach.  This produced the best Sandhill Crane count since March 5, with 2,376 going by.

With no passerine distractions, raptors put on their best migration of the season at the dunes longshore tower today.  307 raptors went by, with Red-tailed Hawks (154) being the most abundant.  The full list of raptors counted was:

Turkey Vulture banking near the longshore tower.

91 Turkey Vultures
4 Northern Harrier
42 Sharp-shinned Hawk 

1 Cooper’s Hawk 
1 Bald Eagle 
13 Red-shouldered Hawk 
154 Red-tailed Hawk Including 4 dark morphs.
1 American Kestrel

Unfortunately, the next 7 day forecast doesn’t look good still for south winds.  NOAA’s 8-14 day outlook shows above average temperatures, and below average precipitation.  This may bring the needed south winds to kickstart the dunes bird migration.  Until then, we’re enjoying just a small trickle of the dunes potential.

Today’s’ full count is here.


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

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.

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.


Miserable yet Memorable

After a day off, the 21st longshore flight count of the season was attempted today, April 10, 2013.  Conditions called for early east winds shifting to the south after dawn.  With recent south winds to our south, we were hopeful that a few new birds would filter through and a moderate longshore flight would develop late.  After a brief wait for early rain to clear, the morning remained calm as east winds continued to push in.

East winds, in reality, are the second least favorable wind for a longshore flight.  South and west winds can see significant movement.  East winds, counter to what you’d think, given our position just past the southern tip of the lake, tend to not produce large bird flights.  East winds, however, can be good for hawk flights further north in Michigan.  By the end of the day, winds were still blowing from the east.  The longshore flight was a dud.

Dud or not, today’s flight produced 1,253 birds.  Just enough to push the season total to 300,115!  We’ve surpassed 300k!  If anyone knows of similar longshore flight counts to compare with, we’d love to see it.

Merlin this morning in the West Lot.  Taken through an iPhone and Zeiss spotting scope.  4/10/13.
Merlin this morning in the West Lot. Taken through an iPhone and Zeiss spotting scope. 4/10/13.

Even though the flight wasn’t impressive, a few birds were notable today.  We continue to get White-winged Scoters.  Today’s single bird continues that record going.   Once again, Wild Turkeys streaked their way through the West Lot.  It’s still an odd site to see so close to the lake.   9 Northern Harriers under dreary conditions seemed unexpected.  Many of them were males.  A couple Merlins hunted the dunes, with one perching just long enough in the West Lot.  The above picture was digiscoped with an iPhone this morning.  Lastly, a late morning Brewer’s Blackbird would provide the day’s only new season bird.

Caspian Tern over Lake Michigan from 2012.
Caspian Tern over Lake Michigan from 2012.

The largest highlight of the morning was the season’s best Caspian Tern movement.  All birds were actively hunting and moving eastward.  Single birds and loose flocks of 7 or 8 would stream by all morning, culminating in 236 birds.  The count is impressive, but doesn’t even crack the top 10 counts for the lakeshore.

After 300,000 birds, the season has proven memorable thus far.  As mid April enters, we’re excited that many of the best birds of the season are still to come.    On top of the season totals, here are some individual species totals we have accumulated thus far:

Season Total Highlights:
White-winged Scoters- 357
Red-throated Loon- 377
Bald Eagle- 12
Merlin- 11 (only 4 at this point last year)
Sandhill Crane- 10,197
Tree Swallow- 1,010
YB Sapsucker- 392
N Flicker- 828
American Crow- 648
E Phoebe- 140
Eastern Bluebird- 422
Am Robin- 34,317
Dark-eyed Junco- 399
Red-winged Blackbird- 164,863
Eastern Meadowlark- 284
Common Grackle- 48,495
Common Redpoll- 155