Tag Archives: indiana dunes state park

First official count day of the season.

It was a pretty decent day to start the season off.  It was clear and cold, much of the morning was below freezing, and the wind was coming from the East-Southeast.  There was a movement of Sandhill Cranes totaling 2,052.  Raptors included Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered & Red-tailed Hawks, & American Kestrel.  A flock of 35 Greater White-fronted Geese passed by over Lake Michigan.  Eastern Bluebirds are moving along; 70 of them were counted today.  Eastern Meadowlarks are back in the area, today 6 were seen including 2 that decided to stop and perch right next to the tower like this one…

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This is just the beginning though.  It should be interesting to find out what’s in store for this spring.

Here this the complete list via eBird… https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S43375153

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Spring Training

The 2018 Longshore Flight Survey is set to begin soon!  This year marks the 6th year of counting atop the old “Green Tower” site at Indiana Dunes State Park.  Thus far we have identified 1.2 million birds as they migrate north and out of Indiana.

Kyle Wiktor primaryFor the first five years we were lucky to have Brendan Grube as our point counter.  But as season’s change, so must our counters.  We’re happy to announce that Chicago area birder, Kyle Witkor will be taking the helm of the point count this year.  The season officially starts on March 4, and will run through May.  Feel free to visit the tower site any morning on a south wind to see what’s moving.  The earlier the better!

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Greater White-fronted Geese flying over tower site this week.

With the current warm spell in place, we’ve been visiting the tower site to prepare for the upcoming season.  Feeders are being filled, benches dusted off, and counting skills sharpened.  In fact, we’ve had two good mornings with some flights going on already that we want to get on the books and recorded as to capture the entire spring migration.  Most counts can be accessed on the eBird hotspot for the tower.  In a couple days of pre-season counting, we’ve logged many new arrivals, more typical of March, such as Snow Geese, Wood Ducks, Killdeer, Longspurs, and nearly 1,000 cranes.  Common Redpolls have been seen the last few days, hinting at a good March movement still to come.  The last few days have also brought over 100 bluebirds over the tower site.  Flocks of 10-15 are being seen.  For recent checklists, see here, here, and here.

You can also subscribe to get notifications whenever count updates are given here on the blog. It’s your best way to keep up to date on the migration over the dunes!

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Looking south over the newly completed ADA ramp.

 

 

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.