Tag Archives: Lark Sparrow

A Good Friday Count!

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.

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.

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

Eastern Bluebird hanging out on the tower ramp today.




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.  

Little Bits of Blue

With lingering fog burning off and high humidity, today looked to be a much different weather day in the dunes.  Highs hit 70 degrees and a light southerly breeze made it actually feel hot by mid day.  It was hot enough that among first season birds, the beach filled with the first bikinis and sunbathers.  Swimming in the lake was another story (water is 39 degrees currently!).

Northern Mockingbird at Longshore Platform this spring.  They are becoming more common in the area.
Northern Mockingbird at Longshore Platform this spring. They are becoming more common in the area.

A good mix, including 76 species, traversed the high dunes today for counters.  Total count consisted of 3,288 individual birds (season total now over 350,000 birds!).  Even while the count was going on, other birders were making their way along the park’s trails, boardwalks, and at the Nature Center.  We talked to a couple birders from out of state, looking to scratch their birding itch while traveling cross country.  Many yellow-rumps are still dominating the area.  The longshore dune only received a couple new species.  With the current wing map, conditions look prime for the best neotropic invasion of the season so far on Tuesday and likely Wednesday.

Wind map from Monday evening, April 29,2013.  Image from http://hint.fm/wind/
Wind map from Monday evening, April 29,2013. Image from http://hint.fm/wind/

Today began the first significant flight of Blue Jays.  Most folks don’t think of Blue Jays as migratory birds, but massive flocks move over the dunes typically around May 1 and lasts two weeks.  Peak flights will measure 3,000-5,000 birds.  Today, 902 Blue Jays flew over. It was also a big movement of tiny Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.  39 gnatcatchers migrated past today, accounting for a new spot on the dunes area top 10 count for gnatcatchers.  Rounding out the blue colored birds, 3 Great-blue Herons, 1 Indigo Bunting, and 4 Eastern Bluebirds went past.

Red-bellied Woodpecker (female) at the Dunes State Park feeders today.  4/29/13
Red-bellied Woodpecker (female) at the Dunes State Park feeders today. 4/29/13

An interesting movement occurred today with Red-bellied Woodpeckers.  Usually, the red-bellied woodpecker is not considered a migratory bird. Due of the recent expansion of their breeding range, many Red-bellied are showing more migratory behavior during the coldest months of the year, moving south to the milder locations within their breeding territory over the winter.  Researchers speculate this behavior is linked to climate change and the abundance of food available from bird feeders.  Today, 16 went by, nearly doubling the season’s total.

Today’s other highlights are below.  Don’t forget to visit the birding dune or Nature Center for your free Brock’s Birds of Indiana Dunes book.

Blue-winged Teal 4
Red-breasted Merganser 97
Red-throated Loon 12 (still migrating!)
Common Loon 4
Osprey 1
Northern Harrier 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 3
Broad-winged Hawk 5
Wilson’s Snipe 4
Red-bellied Woodpecker 16
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Eastern Kingbird 2
Warbling Vireo 1
Blue Jay 902
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
House Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 39
Brown Thrasher 5 (one loud migratory group)
Yellow-rumped Warbler 11
Lark Sparrow 1 (season’s fifth bird!)
White-throated Sparrow 4
Dark-eyed Junco 9
Pine Siskin 2

Longshore Flight, April 21, 2013

Today, April 21, was downright cold at dawn!  With thermometers recording well below 32 degrees, it felt nothing like a late April morning should feel.  Last night’s shift of east winds to southeast never materialized in time. From forecast to actual, there was about a 6-8 hour lag time.  Winds began to drift southeast around 8am.  The full south winds are just now entering the area,  and it does look like we are in store for some prime migrating winds tonight!  Several new arrivals should grace the dunes area tomorrow!

a Yellow-rumped Warbler's spots blends in among the flowering spice bush.  4/21/13
a Yellow-rumped Warbler’s spots blends in among the flowering spice bush. 4/21/13

Since the winds never shifted in time, many of the birds that were here continued to stay today.   In the park, Hermit Thrushes, kinglets, and Yellow-rumped Warblers continue to dominate the park roads and trails.  They’re feeding heavy over the wetlands at the Wilson boardwalk.  A Northern Parula was reported among the butterbutts today.

The longshore flight failed to properly materialize.  Most passerines only flew by in low numbers.  Two new birds were found today.  The first being a long overdue Red-breasted Nuthatch.  Given last fall’s decent flight, we expect many more to move through in May.  Far rarer, and only seen by a few people…  A Lark Sparrow.  A few are recorded from the longshore dune each spring. Hopefully more will be enjoyed soon.

A moderate hawk flight took placed today.  The easterly winds pushed the birds towards the lake and 213 birds of prey were ticked off.  Any hawkflight over 100 is worth reporting.    As usual Red-tailed Hawks (66) and Sharp-shinned Hawks (54) led the day.  34 Broad-winged Hawks were also worth noting.

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Dunes area record early Summer Tanager. 4/21/13. Photo courtesy Sarah Nimetz.

The bird of the day was not found at the longshore platform, but just a few miles from the state park.  The DNR’s beautiful Morraine Nature Preserve has itself hosted notable bird species before.  The current caretakers call it very birdy right now, and for good reason.  The photo above was taken there today, but our Summer Tanager friend has been here since Friday, April 19.  The previous dunes area record early date is April 24, set back in 1992.  A new early record date has been set.  After you’ve birded the dunes, consider visiting Morraine too.

With migration in high gear, especially the next two nights, consider stepping outside and taking advantage of the near full moon.  On good migration nights you can view the migrating birds going by the moon with binoculars, but preferably a spotting scope or telescope.  With a full moon on Thursday and clouds coming later in the week, tonight and tomorrow night may be prime nights to witness the migration going on at night. Check out the video below for an example.

The rest of today’s highlights follow (as well as an extra bonus critter at the Wilson boardwalk today!).

White-winged Scoter 2
Black Scoter 2
Red-throated Loon 56
Common Loon 13
Osprey 6
Northern Harrier 23
Sharp-shinned Hawk 54
Bald Eagle 6
Broad-winged Hawk 34
Red-tailed Hawk 66
Sandhill Crane 193
Merlin 4
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 6
Palm Warbler 7
Pine Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 16
Chipping Sparrow 39
Vesper Sparrow 1
Lark Sparrow 1 
Swamp Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 15
Red-winged Blackbird 2606
Rusty Blackbird 10
Common Redpoll 3
Pine Siskin 1

Muskrat in the park swamp today.  4/21/13
Muskrat in the park swamp today. 4/21/13