Tag Archives: north winds

Quick May Update


Our apologies for the delayed postings.  With the Dunes Birding Festival and general spring bird craziness, we’ve not had a chance to give an update recently.  As most know, the north winds have set up a block and really slowed down migration here in the dunes.  Many neo-tropical migrants have been delayed up to a week.  The state park’s first Cerulean Warbler of the year didn’t arrive until May 8 (the day after the festival!), when they typically arrive in the first days of May. Today, the park’s first Acadian Flycatcher finally arrived, days behind when we usually get the first one.

Diversity is still climbing however.  In the last three days, 12 new species have been logged flying by at the tower site.  This is WITHOUT south winds!  They include: Ovenbird, Tennessee Warbler, American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Least Flycatcher, Swainson’s Thrush, Wood Thrush, Cape May Warbler, Warbling Vireo, Summer Tanager, and  Blue Grosbeak.

Clay-colored Sparrow at IDSP Tower Feeders.

Of note in recent days has been a Clay-colored Sparrow visiting the feeders.  It was present on May 9 and is still there today, May 11.

Despite the winds, the tower stands at 184 species for the year.  Wednesday’s most recent count list is here.


false start- 5 yard penalty

After a stellar pre season start with early migrating birds in February, March has brought some weather pretty anti-conducive to migration.  In fact, we’ve only done official longshore flight counts on March 5, March 6, March 8, and March 12 since the lions of March entered.

The current forecast does not look to stellar for migration going forward for the next week.  When conditions are ideal (i.e. south winds) rain is in the forecast.  So for now, sit tight.  We won’t blog as much when birds aren’t moving.

You can still visit the Dunes State Park Nature Center and enjoy the Fox Sparrows that arrived a week ago and have been stuck here waiting on more ideal winds to migrate north on !

fosp 4
Fox Sparrow at the state park nature center this month.

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.

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.

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.  🙂

Flames Up… Temperature Down…

Northeast winds today in the dunes.

Today, April 19, brought a stark contrast to the previous few days.  Clouds rolled in overnight, and morning lows generally failed to warm along the lakeshore, but as seen by the accompanying wind map, the angle and direction is everything.  Just farther south, winds being carried over land warmed areas south of here.  The mid-day temperature in Valparaiso was 73 degrees. The mid-day temperature in the state park was 48 degrees.  A northeast wind prevailed all day, putting the squash on any significant longshore flight.

Despite this, we still logged two new species for the year.  As often happens ahead of a cold front, a few shorebirds moved by.  The most notable was a pair of Dunlin that spent the better part of the entire morning directly in front of the tower site on the beach.  Farther west, our first Spotted Sandpiper made an appearance too.

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Dunlin on the beach this morning, 4/19/16.  Note the slight hint of black developing on it’s undersides.

Other notables in today’s small 23 species list included 3 tardy Common Mergansers, an excellent count of 30 Common Loons, and a lone Merlin.

In addition to weather, site conditions were a little different to start the day.  A pre-dawn fire in the old house that has sat for many years at the park’s border with the national park was involved in a fire today.  By dawn, the building was torched, with a good acre of marram grass up in flames near the tower. Fortunately, a planned fire line for an upcoming prescribed fire stopped it’s advance on the north wind.  But no doubt it would have been a big disappointment to see the tower site go up in flames had we had the usual west winds.

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Burned out area immediately west of the longshore tower.

Today’s full list is here.  Below is some video of today’s Dunlins.

Migration Forecast Promising

Still waiting for the promised migration to occur here in the Indiana Dunes. We have not had a good flight in a week, but it’s not as bad as we had a few years back when a 17 day streak of bad winds bird blocked us during the latter half of April. Fortunately, it looks like our patience may get rewarded with a bumper crop of southerly winds later this week. Migration should be back in order soon enough and we’ll likely catch up on some average arrival dates that seem to be lagging, after a stellar March start.

Tree Swallow
Tree swallow passing the longshore tower.

Thus far we’ve logged approximately 118 species of bird from the tower this year.  Surprisingly, the longshore tower site is still on top in terms of total species among the major hotspots in the state.  Even with 118, there are several species in which should have arrived this week that aren’t on the list.  On major group that has been few and far between have been swallows.  We calculated the date at which all six swallows were finally seen at the tower, those being Tree, N Rough-winged, Barn, Bank, Cliff Swallow, and Purple Martin.  The arrival for all six comes by:

2012: April 13
2013: April 18
2014: April 12
2015: April 15

The dates to log all six species would be this upcoming week, so it would seem we’re not too far behind the last four year average.  We still have half to go, and the rest, aside from Tree Swallow, have all been just single birds.

Here’s why we’re excited though.  The upcoming forecast for from days 3-10 all look promising for an influx of birds. This cold and wet weekend will stand in clear contrast to the warmer temperatures and more southerly flow that will usher a burst of moderate bird movement into and across the dunes area by late week. Of particular interest to the counters would simply be the end of morning temperatures below freezing!

Weekly dunes area forecast with increasing warmth and more prevalent southerly winds.  

With this pulse of migrants, we should catch up on some dozen new arrivals we’re expecting, in addition to some mixed bag rarities, that our southern relatives have been enjoying lately.  With that, we present our longshore tower top 20 wish list for the week of April 11-17. We’ll check back after the 17th and see how many got officially added to the list.

  1. Green Heron
  2. Little Blue Heron
  3. Broad-winged Hawk
  4. American Golden Plover
  5. Solitary Sandpiper
  6. Pectoral Sandpiper

    henslows sparrow kendall
    Henslow’s Sparrow, Dunes State Park Green Tower Count, 4/15/13.  Photo by John Kendall.
  7. Short-eared Owl
  8. Chimney Swift
  9. Brown Thrasher
  10. Cliff Swallow
  11. Bank Swallow
  12. House Wren
  13. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  14. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  15. Pine Warbler
  16. LeConte’s Sparrow
  17. Henslow’s Sparrow
  18. White-throated Sparrow
  19. Savannah Sparrow
  20. Swamp Sparrow


C’mon Clipper!

If you’ve haven’t read a good update from us in a while, there’s good reason.  We’re certainly not slacking on the reporting.  Unfortunately, we have nothing to report.  While birders scouring the dunes area may find some newly arriving birds trickling in, without south winds, the longshore flights are pretty much dead.  When good mornings produce 10,000 birds, north winds bring 100.  Recording 1% or less from normal isn’t much fun, especially when it’s cold.

Our last count was only an abbreviated count on April 3.   During this day, a chilly start warmed with good sunshine.  No passerine flight took shape, but about 50 hawks migrated past in four hours, including 4 Bald Eagles, an Osprey, and 2 Merlin.

Osprey past the longshore tower.

The scientific discussion of weather going forward still shows below normal highs lasting until at least next Friday, April 15.  Expect little counts to happen for the next week.  The exception may happen this upcoming Sunday, when we will have a brief period of south winds lasting until midnight. Unfortunately this south wind push is also bringing with it some solid rainfall predictions.  The chances are lower than recently at dawn, increasing through the day.  If you’re looking to see some longshore counts the next few days, Sunday will likely be your best bet.

Rarities like the Say’s Phoebe tend to be found at the tower in late April.  Photo from Wikipedia.

If you’re not at the tower, we’re entering a special period right now.  Many species will be entering the area come April 15.  Kinglets, Gnatcatchers, Kingbirds, and even early warblers like Pine, Yellow-throated, and Black-and-white Warblers should all be arriving.  Raptor migration features Broad-winged Hawks starting to enter the scene.  This is also the special period for rarities.  Say’s Phoebe, Upland Sandpiper, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, White-winged Dove are all late April birds to look for here.

The take home story is birds are still arriving and get out there and find them!

It’s on!

Just a quick update for everyone!

The north winds that have persisted since April 20 are about to finally depart.  We have nearly a week of straight south winds coming that will seriously amplify the bird migration in the dunes.  While other sites to our south have enjoyed a trickling of good birds, particularly south of Indy, the dunes area has been practically starved.  The current push of south winds coming after mid-night tonight and into next week should bring dozens of new arrivals each day.  Expect thousands of Blue Jays, joining a good longshore flight of orioles, warblers, flycatchers and more.  We expect Saturday to be good, but Sunday should be excellent!

Below are the wind maps forecasted for the early morning, Saturday-Monday.

Saturday morning.
Saturday morning.
Sunday morning.
Sunday morning.
Monday morning.
Monday morning.

A weak north wind still persisted this morning, but we got a small count in.  Most major new arrival was White-eyed Vireo.  Also two hummingbirds have been battling it out at the state park nature center feeders this morning.  A late American Tree Sparrow was also noteworthy, but given the winds, not too surprising.

Here’s today’s brief count:

Canada Goose 2
Mute Swan 2
Wood Duck 2
Mallard 1
Red-breasted Merganser 10
Common Loon 1
Horned Grebe 1
Double-crested Cormorant 6
Great Blue Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 12
Cooper’s Hawk 4
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Sandhill Crane 3
Killdeer 1
Ring-billed Gull 14
Herring Gull 20
Great Black-backed Gull 5
Caspian Tern 8
Mourning Dove 1
Chimney Swift 3
Red-bellied Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker 1
American Kestrel 1
Merlin 1
White-eyed Vireo 1 FOY.
Blue Jay 12
American Crow 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 2
Tree Swallow 6
Bank Swallow 2
Barn Swallow 7
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Tufted Titmouse 1
House Wren 2
Carolina Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
American Robin 1
Gray Catbird 1
Brown Thrasher 2
European Starling 3
Pine Warbler 2
Eastern Towhee 3
American Tree Sparrow 1
Chipping Sparrow 3
Field Sparrow 6
Vesper Sparrow 2
Lark Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 1
Swamp Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 4
Northern Cardinal 2
Red-winged Blackbird 20
Common Grackle 3
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
House Finch 1
American Goldfinch 3
House Sparrow 1