Tag Archives: swainson’s hawk

Those Merlins, gotta look fast, they don’t screw around…

Overnight Radar from 4/26/17.

and the birds were flying today!  As typically does for a late April longshore flight, new birds were entering the scene, and a gusty south winds were bringing in the usual gang of birds from afar.  Today’s longshore flight for Wed, April 26 brought a good influx of birds, though not necessarily at the volume expected.  It was a new high species count of 76 species for the day, lumped into 3,530 individual birds.  The morning began cloudy, as expected, but quickly opened up to mostly sunny by mid morning, and near perfect conditions for a hawkflight that was overall meager, but with some major highlights.

Let’s start with new arrivals.  Both Nashville and Black-throated Green Warblers were new for the season.  As was the Greater Yellowlegs.  The day’s major highlight, the Swainson’s Hawk, was also new of course.  Others that had just arrived the day before showed again, including Baltimore Oriole, Indigo Buntings, and 2 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.  Unfortunately, yesterday’s Clay-colored Sparrow was no where to be found.

Blue Jays at the tower feeders today.

The Blue Jays, as predicted, jettisoned out of the dunes with a stream of migrants that hit 1,255 birds.  A few even stopped to visit the tower feeders briefly for a recharge.

The hawkflight showed early promise, but fizzled in the high winds that picked up sharply at 9:30am as 20 mph wind gusts came in with the sky clearing.  In fact, only 69 birds were logged before today’s count was terminated by 1pm.  In the high winds, counters and spectators tried to catch some of the fast moving sharpies, kestrels, and Merlins that went by.  You had to look fast for some.  The day’s first Red-tailed Hawk turned out to be a dark morph western bird.  The tower site has logged an unusually high number of these this spring.

At approximately 9:30am, a circling raptor could be seen near a Red-tailed Hawk to the south west.  It drifted it’s way north and east towards the tower, and the bird’s longer wings and overall shape were seen immediately.  It wasn’t long for the first counters to exclaim, “SWAINSON’S HAWK,” to which everyone got on the drifting bird and watched it as it moved through the nearby cottonwoods and began circling again over Mt. Tom before drifting east along the lake.  The classic light adult underwing pattern could be seen by everyone watching, while others noted the uniform dark gray/brown back with no white scapular markings.  It was the first Swainson’s Hawk in two years.

Other highlights of note were a complete suite of swallows present today, that were likely undercounted.  85 Chimney Swifts were noteworthy.  As were the 20 Red-bellied Woodpeckers… a species most don’t realize do migrate in and out of the most northern part of their range.

The forecast going forward is iffy the next five days.  Rain is in the forecast so we may be dodging some wetness the next couple days.  After that the next wave of cold air arrives for the weekend, before opening up again for early next week, and into the start of the Indiana Dunes Birding Festival.

View the entire day’s list here.


Weekend Wrap-up

It’s been a difficult week of birding from the longshore platform.  Winds have bounced back and forth and never blown one direction for more than a few hours.  This weekend was a prime example of the entire week.  Saturday began with warm conditions, but by 10am the north winds pushed ashore and shut down any semblence of a longshore migration.  Sunday brought east winds and cloudy conditions.  Certainly not ideal, but just enough to raise some hope and bring birders up to count birds anyway.  If you combine the entire weekend’s effort, 8,500 birds were counted.

The most disappointing aspect of this week (and the week to come) is that there are so many new arrivals staged to arrive any day.  Without south winds, these birds will stage to the south of us and only trickle in.  Their window for record breaking entries and flights will close on us.  Flickers are now weaning, and the next intro of swallows, kingbirds, and Yellow-rumped Warblers will depend on these south winds if they hope to arrive in large numbers (or better yet we hope to see arrive in large numbers).

Brendan logging raptors from the tower site, Sun, April 19, 2015.
Brendan logging raptors from the tower site, Sun, April 19, 2015.


As can be expected during this period, even though there were no major flights this weekend, a handful of new arrivals were logged.  Those included Cliff Swallow, Lark Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, and Henslow’s Sparrow.

419 hawkflightMore exciting were a few rarer birds that flew by this weekend.  The two making most note were close flybys of YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD on Saturday, and a SWAINSON’S HAWK on Sunday.  The Swainson’s accompanied the best hawkflight of the season, as nearly 200 birds of prey flew past the tower, many directly over the beach in the strong east/southeast winds.

The season’s 189,000 birds stands with 130 collective species thus far.  Many more should arrive if we can get a good south wind push.  More birds, means more photos and more blogs!

On a side note, the Indiana Dunes Birding Festival has a openings left if you’d like to attend just the keynote presentation by James Currie on Saturday night, May 9th.  For more information, check the registration page.  


Swainson’s Hawk!

Warm air and humidity spilled into the region today and allowed a few good birds to slip into the area.  Unfortunately, the 5 day forecast doesn’t look too good for any huge influxes of migrating birds.  But, today’s dune daily download will likely keep the area habitats with worthy birds to seek out through the weekend, no matter the temperature.

The day’s count was diverse, but not high.  Only 1,251 birds were seen, but they were represented by 75 species.  New birds at the tower site for the year were only a flock of Pectoral Sandpipers.  Early spring migrants may be making their last hurrah, with a single White-winged Scoter and 11 Long-tailed Ducks still moving by.

The highlight of the day was one of the best hawkwatches of the season.  This season’s hawk numbers have been nothing compared to last year’s banner year, so 135 birds becomes good this year! It only takes one hawk to make a good hawkwatch though.  Early in the hawkwatch period today, a single Swainson’s Hawk passed over the tower site.  Most, but not everyone present got to see it.

Yesterday we teased a few warblers to ID.  Today we’re going to combine that quiz with another.  So to win the Sibley Birding Basics book either ID the 3 warblers in yesterday’s video found here or comment here with the ID of the two hawks below.  We’ll extend the date through the weekend.

Today’s count had the assistance of John Cassady and Ken Brock.  Highlights below:

Blue-winged Teal 7
Lesser Scaup 21
White-winged Scoter 1
Long-tailed Duck 11 
Red-breasted Merganser 7
Red-throated Loon 21
Osprey 4
Sharp-shinned Hawk 30
Broad-winged Hawk 14
Swainson’s Hawk 1
Sandhill Crane 7
Pectoral Sandpiper 10
Great Black-backed Gull 2
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
Pileated Woodpecker 1
Merlin 1
Blue Jay 10
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 4
Pine Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 43
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Yellow-headed Blackbird 1 
Purple Finch 6

Bad Day to be a Songbird…

May Day!  May 1, 2012 provided for another wondrous day of south winds.  An eclectic group of birds were logged that made the day just as spectacular as yesterday, except with a completely different set of birds.  The promise of good birds lured other birders to the old Green Tower site at Indiana Dunes State Park.   Providing assistance were the young birding phenom from the Indiana Young Birders Club, Landon Neumann, and his Costa Rican birding friend, Laramie Aspegren.  On the other end of the spectrum, veteran state birding expert Ken Brock provided his expertise in today’s hawk flight.  Somewhere cookies were reported to have been passed around too.

The sun attempts to break through the thick fog at 7am local time, 5/1/12

The day began by appearing quite dismal.  A heavy fog had set in overnight, and was thick as clam chowder at dawn.  While visibility was poor, birds were clearly singing and when seen… migrating.  Reports farther in the park showed that at least a dozen warblers were in full song, and several new arrivals were on territory.  Slowly the fog burnt away, and birds began to be logged.  By the end of the day, 2,516 individual birds from 93 species were counted.

The amazing highlight of the day was another hawk flight.  This time, under nearly full clouds, with some peeking blue sky, the hawks began to move.  While many species would go by, Sharp-shinned Hawks would dominate the sky.  The bird eating predators would be ticked off minute by minute until 334 would be logged, a new Indiana state record, shattering the old record of 223 set 20 years ago.  Merlin were officially nominated to the Green Tower trash bird list, as counters were forced to watch another two today, totaling 29 for the season.  One of today’s birds stayed quite cooperative, as it tore apart it’s feathered prey within eyesight of the tower counters.

Yet another Merlin near the Green Tower, 5/1/12. The bird was feasting on some unknown bird, the group consensus being Bachman's Warbler.

The obvious raptor highlight was not one spectacular bird, but two!  Indiana’s first May record of a NORTHERN GOSHAWK was logged by hawk watchers today.  Not long after, the state park’s  sixth SWAINSON’S HAWK soared over, providing excellent views.

Swainson's Hawk (light morph) soaring over Dunes State Park, 5/1/12. Photo courtesy Ken Brock.

Rounding out the day’s highlights were 6 Osprey, 585 Blue Jays, 36 Neumann Cookies, 39 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, 1 Cape May Warbler, 1 Lark Sparrow, and an amazing 192 Baltimore Orioles.

South winds, day 3 up next!