Tag Archives: Purple Finch

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.




Never Trust Your Meteorolgist!

Today, Monday, March 20 saw the first good songbird flight of the 2017 longshore flight season.  It was a day that wasn’t supposed to have a longshore flight.  As has been the case this past two weeks, any south winds have been accompanied by good rains that have essentially shut down any migration.  For the first day of spring, mother nature showed two sides.  The pre-dawn radar looked dismal.  Strong rains covered the south, giving little sign that any nocturnal migration was occurring.  The forecast was for rain all morning and into the afternoon.  The continued rain would also put a damper on songbirds, leaving wet counters hoping for a few ducks to go by.  Compare the radar image with 2 hours later as the sun rose.

Radar images this morning at 5am and then 7am local time.

How quickly the rain moved away, and this new first spring day brought a true spring migration of birds flooding in.  All three of our common March migrants, grackles, red-wings, and robins rode in on the south winds in decent numbers.  The blackbird movement this morning was strong, yet tame compared to where it could be at this point. Grackles were a large percentage of the flocks streaming by.  Robins were mixing in heavily, and using both the east and west pathways versus the more westerly path that most of the blackbirds were traveling.  For the day, 11,835 birds were counted, comprising a season high 58 species.

Waterfowl were on the low side, as has been the case this early part of the season.  Only 11 species were seen, with a few wigeon, a few pintail, and 9 Red-throated Loons being the most notable.

Birds of prey failed to materialize into any flight, as the promise of sun mid morning quickly closed back up to cloudy conditions, preventing any thermal development.  So it’s not surprising that the 34 that were counted were falcon heavy.  All three falcons were logged, including 9 American Kestrels. 2 Harriers were also making use of the strong winds today.

American Robin
American Robins migrating against the wind.

The robin count for the day was just under 2,500 birds.  Though not a record, or top 10 count, it was still a pretty strong flight, likely the state’s 13th or 14th highest spring count.

New for the season were 8 Tree Swallows and a single Purple Finch flyby.  The season total is now at 84 species.  For today’s complete list of birds, visit here.

Group Effort

The longshore flight continued again for the fourth consecutive morning of climbing temperatures.  Today winds finally shifted a little more southerly than easterly allowing for 80 degree temperatures and a little better longshore flight compared to yesterday.  For the day, 4,607 birds flew past the tower site today, comprising 78 species, a tie with our previous highest species count this season.

There was a good contingent of birders assisting today with the promise that the overnight winds brought some new species in.  While the flight was fair to good for the day, no new species were seen today.  But, some good highlights included White-winged Scoter, 9 Great Egrets, 3 Wilson’s Snipe, 264 Northern Flickers, 9 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, 27 Yellow-rumped Warblers, 3 Vesper Sparrows, 1,826 Red-winged Blackbirds, 1,663 Common Grackles, and five each of Purple Finches and Pine Siskins.

It was the best day thus far for Northern Flickers this week.  Even cooler was the complete sweep of all possible woodpeckers today.  This included a single Red-headed Woodpecker, Pileated, and 2 Hairy Woodpeckers.

Turkey Vultures over the Green Tower site.

Unfortunately, a raptor flight once again failed to materialize. All four days of east winds have not produced a single hawkflight worth mentioning.  Today 38 raptors were all that moved, and the majority were Turkey Vultures.

An interesting aside is that fact that few sites on the Great Lakes make note of similar longshore flights.  Let alone, log them.  There is no doubt that similar movements of birds are taking place on each of the Great Lakes under certain conditions, wind directions, etc… So it’s nice to read of any place on the Great Lakes that gets a chance to witness this phenomenon and record something similar to what we see here.  Take this Lake Superior  count that occurred today half way between Duluth and the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin.  Their 9,000 birds  is no doubt just a taste of some larger counts they could log if the blackbirds and grackles had really been moving.

Today’s full list is here.  We stand at 127 species for the year, and still have the highest hotspot count for the state this year.

Who Wants to Be the Millionth Bird!?…

Dawn greeting of thousands of blackbirds, grackles, and robins in the longshore flight.  March 16, 2015.
Dawn greeting of thousands of blackbirds, grackles, and robins in the longshore flight. March 16, 2015.  Click to enlarge.

…that could have been the question of the day!  After a sluggish week start, the longshore flight for Monday, March 16 could only be described as remarkable.  Perhaps for the counters, exhausting!  Dawn arrived at 6:59am local time and within minutes the first streams of blackbirds and robins filled the warm 54 degree air.  It didn’t take long to become apparent that the passerine longshore flight was going to occur primarily right over the beach.  Though many birds would also pass to the south, some 90% of the flight traveled right over the melting shelf ice.  Thousands of birds every fifteen minutes would nearly overwhelm everyone trying to keep tabs on the movement.  The day would end with a mind numbing 40,132 birds!  This is the second highest longshore flight ever recorded!

Sample sky shot during first two hours of longshore flight.  March 16, 2015.
Sample sky shot during first two hours of longshore flight. March 16, 2015.  Click to enlarge.
Congratulations Mr. Robin for being our 1,000,000th visitor to the longshore flight since it's inception in 2012!  March 16, 2015.
Congratulations Mr. Robin for being our 1,000,000th visitor to the longshore flight since it’s inception in 2012! March 16, 2015.

With two counters doing passerines, the writer assisted this morning by logging birds to the south, as well as any waterfowl movement over the lake.  Fortunately, the waterfowl movement was light, with exception of a good Ring-billed Gull migration.  By 9:20am, the robins were waning, but not before producing a probable state record 15, 753 American Robins.  These “Sultans of Spring” more than doubled the previous longshore flight, as well as any single count in the state before today.  So it is only expected that a careful count of the first 2,000 birds would reveal that an American Robin would be the 1,000,000th bird to fly past the tower in our four years of counting!  He or she was in a quick flock of 100 other robins that went by in the first 30 minutes of counting.  We’ll see who guessed robin and award the contest winner tomorrow!

Other notables for the day included, 2 Snow Geese, 1 Long-tailed Duck, 1 “happy to eat passerines” Merlin, 3,528 Sandhill Cranes (another lakeshore top ten count), 135 Killdeer, 2 Tree Swallows, Fox Sparrow, and Purple Finch.  67 species were logged for the day.  With 40,132 new birds, our season total now stands at 63,175 for the year.

Perched Purple Finch in front of the longshore counters today.  MArch 16, 2015.
Perched Purple Finch in front of the longshore counters today. March 16, 2015.

North winds are expected to overtake the region by midnight, so we’ll have a night of rest before evaluating the forecast for the next wind shift and our next wave of birds into the dunes.

Diversity Knocking on the Door

The Longshore flight count for Monday, April 21 finally gave hint at the greater spring migration that’s been hidden just south of us all spring.  It was the warmest start, and warmest day of the season.  Dawn was absolutely gorgeous and the southerly breeze felt good to the face at 60 degrees.  Though generally cloudy, the morning had little bursts of sunlight that would pour over the landscape, lighting up migrating birds as they zipped by.

Yellow-rumped Warbler in the Cottonwood Tree.
Yellow-rumped Warbler in the Cottonwood Tree.

Today brought the largest species total (i.e. diversity) for the year, with 73 species being counted from the BOP area.  Total numbers for the day were 3,587 birds.  For the second day in a row, duck numbers have taken a nose dive, with exception for a few cormorants and loons.  Blackbirds are starting to throttle back.  Many females are dominating the migrating groups.  All of this isn’t bad, as it allows more time to watch for the ones and twos of new species getting by.  With that, a few sparrows and warblers joined the scene today.  With warm winds pumping in all night, first of season birds included Eastern Kingbird, Pine Warbler, Yellow Warbler, LeConte’s Sparrow, and Lark Sparrow.  One new bird that doesn’t seem so strange was our first Barred Owl of the season.  Despite the fact that they are common in the backdune forests and swamps nearby, they are a very rare longshore tower bird.  This morning’s bird was the first in several years.

Other birds influxing into the area with good counts included 38 Yellow-rumped Warblers and 42 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.  The latter was Indiana’s 19th highest single party daily total.  To date, 63 Purple Finches have been counted this spring.  Surprising given the poor fall flight they gave last year.  A few landed and showed off briefly before migrating today.

Not surprisingly, with increasing clouds, only 49 birds of prey would be logged today.

Volunteering at the site today included Brad Bumgardner, Ken Brock, and Stephanie and Margaret Danyi.  Highlights follow:

Red-throated Loon 3
Common Loon 2
Double-crested Cormorant 96
Osprey 3
Broad-winged Hawk 16
Solitary Sandpiper 3
Great Black-backed Gull 1
Forster’s Tern 2
Barred Owl 1
Pileated Woodpecker 5
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 42
Yellow Warbler 2
Pine Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 38
Vesper Sparrow 2
Lark Sparrow 1
Le Conte’s Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 3
Rusty Blackbird 71
Purple Finch 13