Tag Archives: flicker


As predicted, the weekend brought forth the predicted south winds needed badly for a good old fashioned longshore flight along the southern shores of Lake Michigan.  Also, as predicted, a cooler start and lighter winds brought a lighter flight on Saturday, with more hawks, and a stronger overall flight Sunday, with winds causing thermal sheer and lowering overall hawks, most notably buteos.

Temperature wise, you couldn’t have asked for a better two days.  With upper 60s on Saturday, and mid 70s on Sunday, it was very May like.  Unfortunately, the May birds are still quite a bit away from the dunes.  The only downside to the weekend’s flight was the total increase in new arrivals.  Four new arrivals made it to the dunes.  Those being American White Pelican, Purple Martin, Barn Swallow, and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.  

Saturday’s major highlights include the 135 raptors that went by.  Leading the pack were 41 Turkey Vultures and 32 Red-tailed Hawks (including one dark morph).  Over 5,000 grackles streamed by, with an excellent 990 Rusty Blackbirds also mixing in. Some flocks were pure Rusties.


Sunday brought even warmer temperatures, with starting temperatures in the mid 50s.  But winds were much stronger. Enough to keep the counters down below the tower for much of the day.  The dawn flight brought a much larger icterid movement.  Some 10,000 grackles, blackbirds, and cowbirds moved in great streams overhead.  The main flight path was nearly directly over the beach, making for great visual counting.  The grackles nearly doubled the previous day, an Rusty Blackbirds exceeded the day before with 1,378 birds.

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Enlarge to see sample grackle flight at dawn over the tower site.  Those specks aren’t your dirty screen.

The major highlight of the morning was the strong flicker flight and excellent sapsucker count.  An even 300 Northern Flickers undulated past the beach.  Their sounds could be heard in each of the nearby woodlands.  More silent and stealthy, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers staged a huge movement in not just the dunes, but many reported stations throughout Indiana.  By the end of the day, 55 of them were counted.  This is the fourth highest state count ever.  In case you’re wondering, the dunes area holds the next three higher records as well.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at the old Green Tower site.

In contrast to the raptor flight of Saturday, only 92 raptors were seen.  Though many early Sharp-shinned Hawks were seen early, giving promise to more later.  The much awaited Broad-winged Hawks did not arrive today.  The other notable today was a very good 74 Yellow-rumped Warblers for this date in early April.  Most high counts occur in late April, with the state record being 2,823 of them in a single day counted from this very spot.

Saturday’s list is here and includes 9,047 birds coming from 68 species.

Sunday’s list is here and includes 16,009 birds divided among 78 species.

The current forecast shows promise for a Monday flight, but begins to waiver, particularly for Wednesday.  But another warming trend is not far behind for the next wave of migrants.  We’re hoping for some more of neo-tropical variety!



Wind Swept – Longshore Flight 3/24/17

Friday, March 24 produced the best longshore flight of the season.  Without final Grube Magnitude Index numbers, the total diversity and abundance alone is enough for us to be fairly confident in today’s flight.  This time the weatherman was right on.  Warm temperatures overnight brought a decent nocturnal flight, and the same continued southerly gusts kick started a good morning flight.  The gusty south winds were too much for the counters to be elevated on the platform, but with the winds keeping many birds close to shore, the nearby staircase worked well today to count nearly 12,000 birds (11,743 to be exact).  Today’s 70 species was also the highest of the season.

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Predawn blackbird counting, 3/24/17

The radar loop from 1am to 7am showed a good nighttime movement, despite early rain that fell shortly after dusk.  April and May radar signatures will develop higher dB values later in the season. Counters were on scene before dawn today to get an early sense of how the morning flight would flesh out.  With sunrise not even upon us, fast moving flocks of blackbirds, mainly grackles, were already utilizing the pre dawn light to begin an exodus north.  Many flocks riding the strong winds like a buoy floating over waves in the lake.

Blackbird and robins flocks were literally using every flyway we observe near the tower.  Some were traveling high and fast both east and west.  Many west bound flocks were trying the low route that would take them dipping through the west lot, and then swiftly rising at near eye level to the counters.  Another pathway brought birds just south of the tower site in similar streams.

As arrival dates go, today was pretty darn good.  Overall, over a dozen new birds for the season were logged today.  The list of new arrivals helps identify many of the species throwing blips on last night’s radar.  Today’s new arrivals included:  Blue-winged Teal, Double-crested Cormorant, Pectoral Sandpiper ,Wilson’s Snipe, Bonaparte’s Gull, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker,Winter Wren, American Pipit 
 Yellow-rumped Warbler,Savannah Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow , and Eastern Towhee.

Waterfowl numbers were generally low, but the 14 species diversity was good.  A late push of 600+ gulls seems to indicate that Ring-billed Gulls are still migrating.  However, many local birds have returned, so this can be hard to ascertain.

Flickers were the surprise this morning, as they started their longshore appearance with a bang.  Usual flicker flights don’t occur until April, with exception of a March 20-28 flight in 2012 during the hot spring and summer.  So it shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise to see them ready to go, given the warm February we received last month.  201 Flickers flew past through the morning hours.

Other notables for the day included 362 Tree Swallows, 850 American Robins, and eight species of sparrow.  A Fox Sparrow was singing near the tower site, but not as impressive as the 80 reported today at the Hammond Bird Sanctuary by Michael Topp.  This count likely represents a new state record count.

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Longshore board after today’s count.

Today’s complete list of all 70 species is here.  We’re at 99 species for the season now.  What will number 100 be!?

The upcoming storm systems will make counting hard the next few days.  Some south winds will reappear for Sunday, but rain is still inthe forecast.  The week will hold fickle weather with shifting winds nearly daily, before the long range shows some strong south winds Thursday into Friday, with tight gradients, which would mean gusty conditions again before shifting back to the north for next weekend and start of April.  Looks like the same month that came in like a lion intends to go out the same way!




Moving the Sails of Migration

South winds roared once again overnight to provide yet another movement of birds today, March 16.  Late night storms rolled through and aside from a quick downpour, the skies were clear of precipitation.  By dawn gusts of 25 mph were being felt as the winds pointed more westerly than southerly. This morning’s counters took shelter on the old viewing deck of the staircase, rather than risk having scopes go flying off the tower.  Despite the winds, birds were booking it across the sky and were of course… counted.

As can be viewed in the photo above, the morning view was glorious.  Nature’s paintbrush was evident as layers of clouds stacked on each other, providing occasional peeks of sunlight.  When the sun did blaze, dabblers of all kinds were being identified on the lake at large distances. Shovelor green heads were shining brighter than any leprechauns outfit.  Dabblers no doubt, as it was a great morning for puddle ducks to migrate.  Streams of shovelors, teal, wigeons, and gadwalls went by, going east to west.  24 species of waterfowl were logged today (including cormorant).  Highlights, aside from dabblers was a single stunning male Long-tailed Duck who came in from the east and plopped down right in front of the counters.  It’s tail streamers were obvious as it landed.  Just before a picture could be taken, it took off again and moved west.  30 minutes later, a Red-necked Grebe did the same thing!

Passerines did move, but were much lighter from yesterday.  Blackbirds, Grackles, and Robins dominated most of the birds.  But of note was a hint of the upcoming flicker flights.  8 Northern Flickers flew past.  They’re usual peak flights happen around April 2, but in 2012, we had great numbers between March 17-23. Will we see an early flight again this year?

For the day just over 2,500 birds, from 53 species flew past.  Click the ebird checklist to see the complete list.

Dodging Rain Drops

Early morning calm between the rain storms.  April 12, 2015.
Early morning calm between the rain storms. April 12, 2015.

A warm and humid Monday greeted the dunes today, April 12.  The radar overnight indicated some major bird movement, but when rain enters the radar, it’s always difficult to gauge how many of the birds will actually reach the lakeshore for the morning flight.  Equally as difficult can be deciding when to roll out of bed to catch the morning flight when you hear thunder and lightning outside your bedroom.  Arriving at the longshore tower at the start of a rain storm leads to waterlogged counters, wet data sheets, and disgruntled spirits.  Waves came though this morning and both the counter and the blog writer got a little wet trying to time the arrival between these waves.  But, soon enough, the biggest wave passed and what remained of the morning flight took off and the morning’s count wasn’t too bad.

Poor photo of two Vesper Sparrows.  Taken through iPhone at 100 yards away.  4/12/15.
Poor shot of two Vesper Sparrows taken through iPhone at 100 yards away. 4/12/15.

For Monday, April 12, 3,892 birds, comprising 73 species flew past the tower.  Little bits of everything expected by this date could describe it best.  A handful of ducks made it past in the off lighting.  A handful of non-thermal kettling hawks went by.  Mixed passerines came by in small groups.  Perhaps most interestingly was a a flock of 4 Vesper Sparrows that came down the beach and landed in a small cottonwood together for an extended period.

Swooping Yellow-bellied Sapsucker from the big cottonwood by the tower.  4/12/15.
Swooping Yellow-bellied Sapsucker from the big cottonwood by the tower. 4/12/15.

Flickers and sapsuckers continued their undulating march northward.  With 60 flickers and 20 sapsuckers, they are close to approaching 1,000 and 100 for the season respectively.  Watching sapsuckers go by every few minutes, with their white stripes on their wings is always a neat seasonal occurrence, if not for just a week or two on the tower.

Annuals for the morning would include a flyby Greater Yellowlegs, a singing House Wren, and two White-throated Sparrows at the tower feeders.  The feeders have now hosted 9 sparrow feeders thus far this season, not including House Sparrows (weaver finches).


By afternoon the north winds had set in, so it looks like a break until Thursday.  Today’s full list follows.  Don’t forget that any blog photo can be clicked on for a larger version.

Canada Goose 17
Wood Duck 6
Mallard 2
Blue-winged Teal 7
Northern Shoveler 1
Red-breasted Merganser 33
Common Loon 4
Horned Grebe 2
Double-crested Cormorant 45
Great Blue Heron 4
Great Egret 2
Turkey Vulture 2
Northern Harrier 3
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Bald Eagle 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Sandhill Crane 1
Killdeer 2
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Bonaparte’s Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 95
Herring Gull 1
Great Black-backed Gull 8 5 imm. and 3 adults.
Caspian Tern 14
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 2
Mourning Dove 64
Belted Kingfisher 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 20
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 60
American Kestrel 2
Merlin 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Eastern Phoebe 2
Blue Jay 1
American Crow 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 1
Tree Swallow 53
Barn Swallow 3
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Tufted Titmouse 2
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
House Wren 1
Carolina Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 6
Eastern Bluebird 4
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 47
Brown Thrasher 5
European Starling 6
Yellow-rumped Warbler 20
Eastern Towhee 3
American Tree Sparrow 1
Chipping Sparrow 4
Field Sparrow 4
Vesper Sparrow 4
Song Sparrow 2
Swamp Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 2
Dark-eyed Junco 8
Northern Cardinal 2
Red-winged Blackbird 1266
Eastern Meadowlark 6
Rusty Blackbird 2
Common Grackle 1935
Brown-headed Cowbird 21
House Finch 4
Purple Finch 59
Pine Siskin 5
American Goldfinch 2
House Sparrow 1

Long-tailed Madness

It’s hard to believe the longshore flight took 5 day break this week.  Winds have not been conducive, or rain was in the area.  Either way, it’s good to back counting.  Having waited this long, it made sense that a handful of annuals would grace the Bird Observation Platform this morning.  As well as a few birders itching for some spring birds.  In fact, it was the best species morning of the year for total diversity.  Over 80 species would be counted today.

A beautiful morning at the Bird Platform, April 6, 2014.
A beautiful morning at the Bird Platform.  Check out the magnet QR codes that link to this blog, provided free by John Lindsey.  April 6, 2014.

The day began sunny with a gentle south breeze.  A good blackbird and robin flight was underway immediately after the sun rose.  A small sampling of waterfowl streamed past to keep the observers watching in all directions.  The first of the season birds to pass by this morning included: Great Egret, Osprey, N Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, and Yellow-rumped Warbler.

First Great Egret of the season.  April 6, 2014.
First Great Egret of the season. April 6, 2014.

By late morning, and with the main passerine flight waning, a late morning offshore surge began to bring waterfowl into view.  A coincidental lake breeze set up to cool the dune at the same time.  This waterfowl surge was different however.  Loons began to appear on the lake.  Conditions provided for decent viewing of both Common and Red-throated Loons.  Though neither in notably high numbers.  More impressive was the Long-tailed Duck tally.  Throughout the viewable area from the Indiana Dunes State Park, Oldsquaw rafts could be seen at every distance.  Adding the early birds, and a sweeping view of the lake, a grand total of 428 Long-tailed Ducks would be recorded today.  Today’s count would place 8th in total single day counts in the state, and the new highest in nearly 60 years.  There’s no doubt that the Great Lakes ice cover is forcing these birds into the lower Great Lakes.  The closest watch up there to compare with ours is the Whitefish Point owl/waterfowl/hawk blogs.  Their most recent post doesn’t even make mention of waterfowl (and few hawks at that either).  Things are clearly snowy and locked in still up there.

Hiding in the "Flicker Tree."  April 6, 2014.
Hiding in the “Flicker Tree.” April 6, 2014.

Other birds that deserve some mention were 17 White-winged Scoters, the season’s third highest count, 2 Red-necked Grebes, which included one that flew near the shoreline, providing excellent views.  1,254 cranes were a surprise, considering we thought that most of the major flight was done.  Even more surprising since no real hawk flight materialized.  The mid-April Northern Flicker flight is about to begin.  74 today was the first hint of more to come.  Finally, a single Purple Finch came by.  All winter finches have been rare this flight season.

Assisting the counter today was John DeVaney, Brad Bumgardner, Kim Ehn, Matthew Beatty, Madison Gallegos, Lee Sterrenburg, Jeff McCoy and John Kendall.  Total highlights, from 82 species, and nearly 10,000 birds today:

White-winged Scoter 17
Long-tailed Duck 428
Red-throated Loon 31
Common Loon 16
Red-necked Grebe 2
Great Egret 7
Osprey 1
Bald Eagle 2
Rough-legged Hawk 1
Sandhill Crane 1254
American Woodcock 1
Great Black-backed Gull 7
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 2
Northern Flicker 74
Pileated Woodpecker 2
American Kestrel 4
Merlin 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 1
Tree Swallow 102
Barn Swallow 5
American Robin 523
Lapland Longspur 3
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
Eastern Towhee 1
Fox Sparrow 7
Red-winged Blackbird 3173
Rusty Blackbird 37
Common Grackle 2553
Purple Finch 1

Lastly, congratulations today to Ken Brock for being awarded the ABA Ludlow Griscom Award in regional ornithology.  The Nature Center at the state park was packed with over 100 people.

Piper helping to watch for hawks.  She isn't very good at it yet.  April 6, 2014.
Piper helping to watch for hawks. She isn’t very good at it yet. April 6, 2014.