It’s 4PM on a beautiful April Sunday afternoon. What am I doing? Cussing a poor, innocent COOPER’S HAWK flying by. And what has it done to receive my wrath? It’s because I’m a mile from the Marion County Line, I’ve been birding since 5:15AM, and I want to go home. But the Cooper’s Hawk is #98 and as soon as I lift my binoculars I will see the ROCK PIGEONS that live at the intersection of I65 and Main in Greenwood. One of those unlucky souls is #99 and I can’t quit on #99. Only a mile from the county line means I really don’t have much of an option for #100 except for a long drive across teh county to an eagle’s nest. I’d rather quit at #99 than drive. So what to do?
Prelude – 10 Days Ago
About 10 days ago I started thinking about a Big Day for Johnson County. Living here for 3+ years I pretty well know the bird’s locations. I used to run Big Days periodically when I lived in Illinois. I thought then and I still do that planning for Big Days make one a better birder.
Having to plan for a Big Day makes you:
- On a regular basis bird different spots to know exactly where the birds are located, which is good for long-term trend analysis. If you eBird.
- Get out of a rut by birding those areas instead of visiting the same old “productive” spots.
- Search for new areas. I’m still looking for a marsh in Johnson County with rails. Or an owl/hawk nest to cut down on the chance of missing them on a Big Day. Also for more shorebirds sites in this rural agriculture county.
With the IAS Big May Day on May 14 that left the weekend of May 7-8 or later. When I lived in Illinois I used to go to Southern Illinois and participate in a fund-raising Big Day the last weekend of April. So I decided I’d run a Big Day the last weekend in April to compare the totals.
Prelude – 29 Hours Previous
Having decided to run a Big Day on May 1 I headed out at 7AM on Saturday, April 30, to do some scouting with Mike. The weather was not very cooperative but we had a good morning with several species seen for the first time this year. Right off the bat we had a late staying NORTHERN SHOVELER at Franklin HS pond where we also flushed a WILSON’S SNIPE. Then a PIED-BILLED GREBE at the Walmart/Lowes Pond which isn’t easy to find this time of year. Later we saw a DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT at Driftwood, which is a tough county bird.
We located areas that if the birds continued overnight would be good spots on Sunday.
Like the regular flooded area which held BLUE-WINGED TEAL along with GREATER YELLOWLEGS.
The “Purple Martin” road had numerous warblers plus this ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK.
The “River Road” in Atterbury had one spot with a calling SCARLET TANAGER and YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO.
Mike heard a BLUE-WINGED WARBLER calling as we drove through Atterbury. It posed for photos in the rain.
Not an uncommon bird but a photo of a singing EASTERN MEADOWLARK during a break in the rain.
Would these birds be there the next day? Would I find #100.
I’ll finish the story soon.