Tag Archives: Northern Harrier

Migration V.5

Monday, April 11 found warmer temperatures than the weekend previous.  It also found west winds, as opposed to the forecasted north winds that were supposed to be here at dawn.  With this little reprieve before the winds actually shifted, a weak migration occurred, totaling just 17 birds shy of 1,000 counted today.  More promising however, were the divers 67 species logged. It was the most diverse count of the season.

Little to report however, as no single bird really dominated the count.  Worth mentioning in the footnotes were a Red-throated Loon diving in the waters a mere feet from the shoreline, 18 Great Egrets in migration, 32 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers undulating by, 2 Merlin, 17 early Barn Swallows, and the counts first Brown Thrasher and Swamp Sparrow of the season.  On the “we don’t want to see” side, were the most abundant bird today… 255 Brown-headed Cowbirds.  😦

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Cooper’s Hawk on nest, 4/11/16.

Among other raptors, 8 Northern Harriers flew past today.  Several going by fairly close to the tower and available for some short video clips, seen below.  Farther in the park we also had the first Lousiana Waterthrush of the season.  This species, while nesting in the park, is a rare bird to see going by the tower, as it’s Northern cousin.  A video of it singing is also in the video below.  Also farther in the park are a pair of local Cooper’s Hawks who birders Kristin Stratton and Kim Ehn found building a nest.  If you want to see it, visit the state park camp store parking lot and simply look about 100 feet south and across the street.  The nest is easy to spot right now since the leaves have not come out yet.  By early May it may be a little harder. Also intesting is the fact that the female is still in usual immature plumage with yellow eye, while the male is sporting the usual adult plumage.

Today’s list is here.  The video referenced should be below.

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Super Hawk Flight 2013

On April 15, 2012, an excellent hawk flight was enjoyed by many lakefront birders.  Partly due to an unexpected Broad-winged Hawk flight, as well as a new state record Merlin flight, this high count set forward a new era and renewed effort in hawk watches at the Indiana Dunes State Park.  An even more impressive May 1 flight brought in 336 raptors of 13 species.  The season ended with 1,837 diurnal birds of prey being counted.  It was the best hawk watching season here since 1992.  The hawk watch was reborn!

1 of 21 record breaking Osprey to migrate over the old green tower site today.  Photo by Pete Grube.
1 of 21 record breaking Osprey to migrate over the old green tower site today. Photo by Pete Grube.

Nearly one year from last year’s great hawk start, today, April 14, 2013, would usher in another great hawk watching season.  692 birds of prey of 13 species would be counted soaring over the dune in numbers not seen in decades if ever!  While official records are tentative, today’s counters found a combined total of 21 Osprey (new state record party count),  9 Bald Eagles (dunes area second highest count), 93 Northern Harriers (new state record count), 214 Sharp-shinned Hawks (state’s third highest count), 7 Merlin (fourth highest state count), and 222 Red-tailed Hawks (possible fourth highest state count!).  Red-tailed Hawks didn’t end there.  With a multitude of hawks going by it was inevitable that a diverse group of Red-tails would be seen.  No less than 7 dark morph Red-tails and a single intermediate/rufous Western Red-tail would be included in this high count.

Rufous Western Red-tailed Hawk flying over the high dunes today.  Photo courtesy Pete Grube.  4/14/13
Rufous Western Red-tailed Hawk flying over the high dunes today. Photo courtesy Pete Grube. 4/14/13

Hawks were not the only flavor of the day.  There was not a big influx of new arrivals today, but several notable birds were logged throughout the day, and did include just a couple season firsts.  3 Long-tailed Ducks would add serious numbers to their season total. White-winged Scoters continue to be present.  Another Pacific Loon was logged, but quickly disappeared before most visitors could see it.  9 Broad-winged Hawks added to the hawk count and were also new for the season.  86 Flickers brings their season total to nearly 1,000.  30 more Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers show that their migration is far from done.  The first Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was seen today.  The season’s best Yellow-rumped Warbler flight watched over 75 birds go by.  Still no other warblers though.

The season's first Broad-winged Hawk was a welcome sight.  Photo by photographer extraordinaire Pete Grube.  4/14/13
The season’s first Broad-winged Hawk was a welcome sight. Photo by photographer extraordinaire Pete Grube. 4/14/13

The day ended with 3,450 individual birds; the highest in about a week.  The day was also the longest official hawk watch ever done at the dunes, with 9.5 hours logged watching hawks.  Winds were easterly, shifting more southerly as the day went on.  With strong south winds overnight, we expect a good push tomorrow morning, particularly in the new season arrival department.  We may greet our first warbler diversity, gnatcatchers, kingbirds, swallows, and more tomorrow.

Here are today’s unedited total highlights:
Blue-winged Teal 8
Green-winged Teal 4
White-winged Scoter 8
Long-tailed Duck 3

Red-throated Loon 25
Pacific Loon 1
Common Loon 5
Great Egret 7
Turkey Vulture 49
Osprey 21
Northern Harrier 93
Sharp-shinned Hawk 214
Cooper’s Hawk 19
Bald Eagle 9
Red-shouldered Hawk 15
Broad-winged Hawk 9
Red-tailed Hawk 222
Rough-legged Hawk 1
Sandhill Crane 334
Bonaparte’s Gull 40
Caspian Tern 220
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 30
Northern Flicker 86
American Kestrel 28
Merlin 7
Peregrine Falcon 5
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 16
Purple Martin 4
Brown Creeper 5
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 11
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 5
Eastern Bluebird 13
American Robin 280
Lapland Longspur 23
Yellow-rumped Warbler 78
Chipping Sparrow 11
Vesper Sparrow 2
Fox Sparrow 1
Red-winged Blackbird 420
Eastern Meadowlark 3
Pine Siskin 3

Longshore Flight birding crew today including always welcome assistance from the SAS Audubon Chapter birders led by Jim and Susan Hengeveld.  4/14/13
Longshore Flight birding crew today including always welcome assistance from the SAS Audubon Chapter birders led by Jim and Susan Hengeveld. 4/14/13

Lake Erie birders… eat our dust!

1/4 Million Birds!

Longshore bird counting is a frustrating balance of birding expertise and humility.  Whether a mile out over Lake Michigan or a speeding bullet 20 feet above your head, you must be ready for a good number of birds to go by un-identified.  With experience, the spectators watch in wonder as birds are identified that might normally go unknown to others.  Even the experts are stumped occasionally.

The most frustrating aspect of missing a bird ID happens right now with the countless warblers migrating by.  Warbler flights after dawn are a strange oddity in themselves.  Why, two, three, four hours after dawn are warblers still going strong?  Logic says nocturnal migrants land at dawn, and diurnal migrants take off at dawn.  A quick anthropomorphism reminds me of heading through Michigan on vacation, and Dad saying, “just another 30 minutes and theirs a better rest stop ahead.”  But, what could be better than the dunes, so why not stop here?  40 species of warblers have been identified in the dunes area.  With many similar color patterns and plumages, identifying them on the wing can be a real challenge, whereas your typical woodland birding may yield higher diversity counts.  Thus, when ten or more species are found at the Green Tower site, it was a good day.

Yellow Warbler in Dunes State Park May 3, 2012. Yellows are one of the easier to identify longshore migrants.

Thursday, May 3 was another good day.  No show stopper rarity stole the show today, but several birds of note made the day pleasant, and warm (hottest count day of the season).  The total count for the day was 7,321 individuals.  Only seven less than yesterday.  However, total species diversity went from yesterday’s 101 to 87 species.  A major milestone was reached today with the passing of 1/4 million birds for the season!

Northern Harrier flying over Lake Michigan, May 3, 2012.

With visiting veteran birder, Ed Hopkins, in co-pilot this morning, several great counts were made, and a new state record was achieved.  The best highlights were: 9 American White Pelicans (rare on the lakefront), 25 migrating Red-headed Woodpeckers, 127 Eastern Kingbirds (nearly a dunes top 10 count), 2,515 Blue Jays (possible 9th largest state count), 32 Cliff Swallows, 248 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers (new Indiana state record, doubles yesterdays breaking of the state record), 574 Cedar Waxwings, 454 Yellow-rumped Warblers, 178 Palm Warblers (state’s 5th largest count), 140 Indigo Buntings, 115 Baltimore Orioles, and 1,718 American Goldfinch.

Baltimore Oriole stopping for a brief second for a few songs before migrating past, May 3, 2012.

It’s worth mentioning that Pine Siskins made a surprise resurgence today.  40 of the zippy winter finches were heard and seen flying over the tower site.

As mentioned above, warblers can be a difficult ID, and it can be easy to get complacent in calling each one a Yellow-rumped or Palm, when such high numbers are passing by.  Today’s counters did log 13 warbler species, including 13 Cape May Warblers, 1 Blackburnian Warbler, 1 Blackpoll Warbler, 1 Prothonotary Warbler (only second Green Tower record?), and 1 Ovenbird.  Today’s Yellow-rumps passed a milestone 2,000 for the year too!

We look forward to one more morning of south wind, then north winds kick in for the weekend.