The last of the south winds pushed through the area on Thursday. As usual just before the cold front, rain was in the forecast. At dawn the first wave of rain was out of the area and to the east, a nice southern wind was dominating still. However, a light, fine mist was still hanging in the air that failed to show up on any radar signatures. A fog was also present, limiting visibility to about 1/2 mile. Mt Tom was barely visible in the distance, and Lake Michigan was a calm soup with no horizon line to be seen.
Despite the dreary conditions, a few goodies went by, and we were again able to log a few new arrivals to bring the season total up to 144. For the morning, 59 species went by accounting for 1,403 total birds. While one of the season’s lowest, it was a diverse list.
New for the season were 3 Green Herons, a Winter Wren, a good looking Orange-crowned Warbler, and Brewer’s Blackbird. Other notable highlights were a both Wilson’s Snipe and Greater Yellowlegs flybys, two lingering sapsuckers, and some late juncos still hanging out. At one point a singing Rusty Blackbird came within scope distance and hanged out in one of the budding cottonwood trees.
The final highlight was a super fast Merlin who buzzed the top of the tower and swooped up to land on the cottonwood immediately next to the tower. It posed, preened, and dried it’s wet feathers for several minutes to the delight of the tower watchers.
For the complete list for Thursday, April 21, visit here. For the season totals so far, visit here.
As you can see from the photo above, the morning prospect was not very good shortly after dawn today. Thick fog enveloped the lakeshore, extending into Chesterton and the rest of the region. From the creamy soup, a bright ball of light could be seen rising and it didn’t take long to raise the temperatures a few degrees, resulting in a improving viewing conditions. The counters simply birded the immediate grounds around the tower in search of feeding birds, roosting owls, and general nature viewing. From high above you could hear the call notes of migrating blackbirds and grackles. These birds must have found the upper limit of the fog and were enjoying smooth sailing. Winds were light but from a favorable southerly direction.
As the fog lifted, it was possible to begin counting birds. How much went by without seeing is unknown. What is known is 3,445 birds were logged during the longshore flight for today, March 12. It was a season high 60 species for the morning. As has been the case lately, waterfowl were in good variety, but low numbers. White-winged Scoters were back up with 48 being seen. 4 Surf Scoters flew past, including two adult males showing their “skunk-headed coot” features. Another early Blue-winged Teal was on the lake for many to see, and a lone Canvasback rounded out the highlights on the water.
By mid-morning an entire contingent of who’s who of lakefront birding was assisting with the count. Distant raptors, cranes, and blackbirds continued through late morning. Another 1,036 Sandhill Cranes flew past, thus proving that the Kankakee bottomlands aren’t completely empty of cranes. 1,300 blackbirds were the other high counters, but occasional Horned Larks, Lapland Longspurs, and pipits were mixed in.
Other highlights consisted of Tree Swallows and an Eastern Phoebe. Two Pileated Woodpeckers were a nice treat to see fly by at eye level from the tower. For today’s complete list, visit here.
This past weekend wasn’t quite what we expected. Well, half the weekend wasn’t what we had anticipated. Saturday looked to be good. There was a decent overnight flight seen on the radar, but dawn conditions spoke otherwise. Saturday’s flight was nearly dead. Counters waited several hours, anxiously waiting for a late flight to get started. Dawn was promising with the song of multiple migrating Henslow’s Sparrows in the Trail 3 prairie south of the longshore site. A quick Indigo Bunting and Ruby-throated Hummingbird just after dawn also gave promise. By 10am, all counters had thrown in the towel for the day and birded sites south in search of spring migration.
Sunday, however was expected to be quiet. Forecasted north winds would bring colder lake water over the warming dunes, resulting in fog. Fog came as promised. No birds.
Predicting the next couple days will be tricky, but in essence, here’s our forecast. A dense fog advisory is in place for the Lake Michigan coastline through 4am. Winds shift after midnight. This shift will help move the fog back off shore. Monday morning may be interesting in terms of new arriving birds, in addition to existing birds not being able to migrate out overnight. Monday could be both a good day for a longshore flight, as well as birding inland areas of the park. Tuesday should also be very good. With stronger winds, we’ll be watching what kind of hawkwatch also develops. With late April and early May, no matter the wind speeds, lots of birds are migrating!
As is evident from the photo, no birds were seen migrating today. Fog drifted in and out of the counting spot throughout the entire day. However, the territorial Pine Warbler was heard by visiting birders today. North winds look to set in place for the next 48 hours, but we hope to be back counting birds by Tuesday at the latest.