Tag Archives: indiana dunes state park

FISH CROW!

After a weekend of north winds, the longshore survey at Indiana Dunes State Park has been ready for action again.  Monday brought virtually no flight, as winds remained north overnight, just shifting to east and then southeast during the day.  Which led today and tomorrow and the best chance for some major influx of birds before the next round of rain arrives.  The basic predictions were for a build up of birds to begin today with the larger total count occurring tomorrow.  We’ll see how it pans out, but for today, total number of birds was down, but diversity was good.  the 74 species (73 + 1 future split) was the highest yet this season.  2,081 birds were counted today.

Let’s start with the basics.  2 Loons and a single Red-breasted Merganser show that the waterbird flight is winding down.  Now the attention turns towards the beach where an assortment of shorebirds are now starting to move through the area.  On any given day, who know’s what may be seen.  Today, a Semipalmated Plover and 3 Spotted Sandpipers joined 6 Solitary Sandpipers in the air.

Today’s hawkflight was modest, as it has been throughout the season.  121 birds constitutes a hawkflight, but not by much.  Sharpies were most numerous, with 36 birds, followed by 34 Red-tailed Hawks.  Another Merlin flew past today, making the 31st bird of the season.  Or a single one has flown past 31 times!  We figure the former…

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Blue Jay over the tower site.

the Blue Jay movement continues to ramp up.  Counts the last week have been: 63, 71, 164, 456, and today’s 477.  We predict counts over 1,000 by tomorrow.

The obvious elephant in the checklist room is today’s FISH CROW.  The bird was heard calling from the far side of the West Lot, in front of the tower.  A quick dash located the smaller size crow, sealing in the 273rd eBird species for the longshore tower hotspot.  It is also only the second record of Fish Crow for the state, north of Indy.  The first being a small group that hung out at the Three Oaks Landfill in Berrien Co, MI a few years ago that would come across the Indiana line to roost and was logged by a few birders at the time.

Rounding out the highlights for the day was a rare “Audubons” Yellow-rumped Warbler.  This is only the second record for the site.  If future splits do occur, this could make species 274 for the tower list.  At the feeders a Clay-colored Sparrow joined a lingering Dark-eyed Junco.  The Clay-colored sang throughout the morning.

See today’s diverse list here.

Butter Butt Influx

Happy Easter.  No longshore flight officially is taking place today due to the holiday. However, Saturday, April 15th brought a very warm day to the dunes and is worth reporting.  Overnight spotty storms and south winds created a warm wind at dawn that increased through the day.  Like a good Saturday does, a contingent of bird enthusiasts joined our counter at the tower for an excellent morning of longshore flight.  By noon, temperatures were in the low 80s.  The group of birders logged 6,942 birds from 74 species.  Here are the highlights:

Little movement occurred over the lake, as the majority of waterfowl appear to have moved through.  Loons however, are still present.  3 Common Loons were seen on the water, but more significant was a good flock of 18 Red-throated Loons that took off from the water as a fishing charter boat went by past the park.

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Pine Warbler from Friday’s count.

New for the season were House Wren, Palm Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, and White-throated Sparrow all right on time for the year!  The early wave of neo-tropical migrants was evident today, as the first rounds of typical early season warblers passed in full force Saturday.  37 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers was a significant early season movement of the the little buzzers.  The butter butts, aka Yellow-rumped Warblers, made a significant flight in front of the counters, often moving at eye level throught the nearby dune oak canopy, and landing briefly before pushing on towards Chicago and eventually Canada.  348 butter butts went by.  It wasn’t a state top 10 count, but still quite good.  In addition to the previously mentioned Palm Warbler, Pine Warblers moved through in excellent numbers too.  The day’s 23 Pine Warblers is the highest Pine Warbler total in the five years of official longshore surveys, and likely the state’s second highest single day count.

Likely due to the stronger wind speeds, the thermal development suffered and the day’s hawkflight failed to really materialize.  Only 49 raptors went by the tower.  Osprey and 5 Broad-winged Hawks were the highlights for the birds of prey.

Saturday’s full count can be found on ebird here.  The weather outlook looks good for some upcoming counts, so expect the birds to keep coming!  The season total species count so far is 137 species.

A Good Friday Count!

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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.

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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.

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Poor but identifiable photo of Lark Sparrow at feeders today.
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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).

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Eastern Bluebird hanging out on the tower ramp today.

 

 

Pine Siskins never end!

With heavy heat and humidity, things are far different than when things started in March.  However, in March we were happy to see Pine Siskins migrating.  Some three months later, they’re still moving.  99 seen yesterday!  As we enter into Memorial Day Weekend, remember… bird migration is still happening!  Here is yesterday’s complete list of 67 species.

Canada Goose  33
Mallard  4
Double-crested Cormorant  20
Great Egret  3
Green Heron  3
Turkey Vulture  1
Killdeer  1
Ring-billed Gull  10
Caspian Tern  5
Mourning Dove  5
Black-billed Cuckoo  1
Chimney Swift  30
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  4
Red-headed Woodpecker  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  7
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  1
Merlin  1
Eastern Wood-Pewee  13
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher  1
Alder Flycatcher  1
Great Crested Flycatcher  2
Eastern Kingbird  18
Warbling Vireo  1
Red-eyed Vireo  2
Blue Jay  146
American Crow  1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  4
Purple Martin  19
Bank Swallow  8
Barn Swallow  4
Cliff Swallow  12
House Wren  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Eastern Bluebird  1
American Robin  2
Gray Catbird  1
European Starling  3
Cedar Waxwing  2218
Mourning Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  1
American Redstart  1
Cape May Warbler  1
Magnolia Warbler  1
Pine Warbler  1
Canada Warbler  1
Chipping Sparrow  1
Field Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  1
Eastern Towhee  2
Summer Tanager  1
Scarlet Tanager  1
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  1
Blue Grosbeak  1     Female.
Indigo Bunting  35
Dickcissel  9
Bobolink  3
Red-winged Blackbird  41
Eastern Meadowlark  2
Common Grackle  35
Brown-headed Cowbird  2
Orchard Oriole  1
Baltimore Oriole  12
House Finch  5
Pine Siskin  99
American Goldfinch  18
House Sparrow  2

Migration Waning

Greetings to those joining us.  It’s been a while since we posted an update.  This tends to happen each year around this time.  Things get crazy at the park. Between getting ready for summer visitors, the bird festival, birdathons, and other activities, the blog sometimes takes a hit.  Despite this the birds have been coming.  Migration is still going on, albeit the waves of Robins, Blackbirds, and Grackles are now just a thing of the past.  Even the abundant Yellow-rumped Warbler has all but moved on.  It’s neat to watch the influx of new migrants, then to see them leave, only to be replaced with the next wave, almost perfectly timed.

Counts have been done in recent days with the last of the May migration waves.  These being Cedar Waxwings, Eastern Kingbirds, and flycatchers.  Each day right now still holds promise of new species, though not the 5-6 per day we were seeing in early May.  The Longshore Tower count now stands at 209 species!

The biggest rarity the last few days was a Pacific Loon off shore on May 22.  New arrivals include your typical host of late May species.  They’ve included Mourning Warbler on May 23, Wilson’s and Blackburnian Warbler on May 24, Alder and Acadian Flycatcher at the tower on May 24, and just today, Philadelphia Vireo and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.  The flycatcher sightings are significant, as most flybys would not get ID’d.  These birds take a moment to land nearby and give a call or song to help identify them.  Also singing nearby has been a Black-billed Cuckoo along the park’s western boundary, near the old Johnson hill area.  It was first heard on May 20, and was found again today. This is likely a territorial bird… .always difficult to find in the state.

Speaking of territorial birds, the Blackburnian Warbler, a dunes area specialty nesting bird is back on territory.  If you want to find one, visit the South State Park Road (the old abandoned road bed east of the park entrance) and walk down towards a set of spruce trees.  It is back again this year and one of the few if not only spot in the state you can find one nesting!

Rain has entered with these sounds winds, so counts may be spotty as we finish migration.  It’s been great to count the birds for a fifth year in a row.  We look forward to counting up the entire season total of birds and also doing some more in depth analysis for a possible research project now that we have a good chunk of data to work with.  So thanks for reading with us, following along, and expect a little more here before migration wraps up.

For the last two days counts, visit May 24 here and May 25 here.

 

Stand Still- rarities coming!

Well it’s been a quiet week at Lake Michigan, Indiana, our hometown, out on the edge of the migration.  Things got a little colder here this last week.  While Sunday and Monday brought a mini heat wave and the pulse of migrants, a strong north wind clipper quickly shut off that valve Tuesday morning.  Fortunately the birds arrived Monday night and found no place to go, so we benefited and continue to do so if you’re bundled up enough to find them in the gloomy weather since then.  No more bluebird blue skies, but more phoebe gray perhaps.  The locals are practicing their silhouette birding skills, and warming up their warbler necks in anticipation of the next wave to come.  It drives you out to bird, just knowing there is something here that’s new to see.  Some new vireo in the treetops that has yet gone unseen this year.  New shorebirds are possible in the wet puddle, pond, or fuddle along some county road.  Maybe it’s the bright orange of an oriole at your feeder on a dreary morning, proving that spring is in fact coming, or more accurately  we’ll go from winter right to summer as is usually expected anymore.

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The local Prothonotary Warbler is back at the Wilson boardwalk, Indiana Dunes State Park.

With those early Tuesday arrivals, was a pair of Prothonotary Warblers at the Dunes State Park board walk near the Wilson Shelter.  A single male typically heralds the season of golden yellow on the boardwalk, but apparently two males this past week found the wetland full of buttonbush and spatterdock to their liking.  The early bugs hugging the relatively warmer waters brought N Waterthrushes, Yellow-rumps, Palms, Orange-crowed Warblers all to feed near the surface at eye level.  All the while two bright yellow Prothonotaries dart around, each trying to sing louder then the other, and then to suddenly be pounced by the second bird, only to dart around and do it all again, all oblivious to the surrounding animals watching their hormone driven antics. Much like school boys swooning over a new belle in the school yard. a showmanship of one up man’s ship took place for many to see Tuesday morning.

From inside the Nature Center, plans are buzzing, people are moving now at a feverish pace as we prepare for the second annual Indiana Dunes Birding Festival.  If you’re wishing to attend, and haven’t registered, well things may be a bit late.  You know what they say about the early bird… Nonetheless there are activities abound for folks, whether registered or not.  Final preparations are being made, banners being hung, signs being made, merchandise and giveaways secured and counted.  With that comes prayers and hopes for good weather.  Of course, it’s more than birds were interested in too.  No doubt you, like other birders, enjoy the foxes, moles, rabbits, deer, and other wildlife that will be around for one of a kind glimpses.  We’ve done much for conservation in NW Indiana and no doubt you’ll see something special, no matter the weather.  A mink bounds along even a ditch, seeking out frogs, crayfish, or a thirsty vole.  The new Reynold’s Creek GHA, east of Chesterton offers a peek of nature coming back.  How quickly to things show up when given the chance, and solitude reserved for them.  A Great-horned Owl reclaims the territory first given to him by the Creator.  He slow glides over newly freed meadows and prairies on the edge of the forestland in search of young pheasants.  Baby pheasants, the delicacy of predators, found only where nature has been allowed to flourish.

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Rare Snowy Egrets found in the dunes area today.  Photo by Kristin Stratton.

To find these amazing sights, seek out on your own.  Forge new paths, travel down un-ventured roads.  If you’re ready to chase, use our Indiana Dunes Rare Bird Alert.  You’ll join nearly 1,700 people who get rare birds in the dunes sent to their phone or email.  With any hope we’ll have plenty of alerts to send out and plenty of birds to come in the next few days as we wait this current cold system out.  East to northeasterly surface flow will continue for the next several days.  This will keep the current selection of migrants here for plenty to see.  Over a dozen species of warblers have already been logged in the dunes just this week.  Butter-butts remain the abundant warbler.  Temperatures do look to be on a slow warming trend early next week…with mainly dry weather expected.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed this plays out and new birds arrive in time for the bird fest.

That’s the news from Indiana Dunes, where all the Blue Jays are strong, all the sparrows are good looking, and all our fledgling colts are above average.  🙂

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.