A Sparrow and a Thrush

The plan for the day was to search for rails and maybe a bittern at the cattail marsh at Atterbury.  Then meet up with Mike at Laura Hare for another try at migrating Hermit Thrush.

So as with most weekends the adventure started by bushwhacking through some brush.  This time through thorns to get to the marsh.  But no need to waste your time on the outing.  Even though it was a perfect morning to be out, no rails or bitterns were heard or seen.

Atterbury Marsh 041214

Nor were any Woodcocks or Owls and I was out early enough to hear them.  The water was still very high in the marsh so I understood why the rails weren’t there, yet.  I’ll try again next week. The good news is only one leg came out of my boot after getting stuck in the muck. A nice save and I got the leg in the boot before I stepped in the muck!

But I had heard Henslow’s Sparrows on my walk to the marsh.  I heard them last year on the far side of the same field in July and August so I was surprised to hear them this early in the spring on this side. I bet I stared at this thorn bush for 5 minutes listening to the Henslow’s before it finally flicked a wing and I spotted it.

HESP Bush Atterbury 041214

He jumped up and I maneuvered a little to get the following photos.

HESP Atterbury 0412147

HESP Atterbury 0412146

HESP Atterbury 0412145

Notice the olive colored face and short tail.

HESP Atterbury 0412143

HESP Atterbury 0412141

I also saw and heard a species that I will post about later this week.

On to Laura Hare, showing up 15 minutes late, after waiting around for the Henslow’s to pop up.  Just like last week the best birding was 100 meters from the parking lot in the boggy area.  Several species including a Louisiana Waterthrush was calling as was a Pileated Woodpecker.  We then got on a warbler up high that we at first thought was a Yellow-throated but it just didn’t look right.  Yellow on the throat but no white on the sides.  It then sang the song of a Northern Parula, ending that discussion.

On to the forest to search for Hermit Thrush.  We really hadn’t gone far when Mike saw a bird flutter up ahead on the trail.  Turned out to be two Hermit Thrushes.

HETH Laura Hare 0412142

HETH Laura Hare 0412143

HETH Laura Hare 0412141

We ended up with 3 Hermit Thrushes on the day.  Except for the boggy area near the parking lot, it was quiet. (in other words no Winter Wren)

A quick check on the way home at the best wet area I have found in the county only produced Killdeer, Pectoral Sandpipers, and Wilson Snipe.

And I will end with a photo of an Eastern Bluebird I took the other night.

ESBL Franklin HS 040914

 

 

 

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Have you read your Field Guide Cover to Cover?

After writing about the release of Sibley’s second edition last week, I started to write a post about how many birding books someone really needs, and that got me thinking about how I really use a field guide or any book on bird in particular.

This all really started a few months ago with the release of The Warbler Guide Song and Call Companion by Tom Stephenson. The book came out to great reviews and really looked like a great book to get. I was all set to buy when I started thinking, wait, I have numerous field guides that contain sections on warblers and I even own a specialty book on warblers.  What am I going to get out of buying another book on warblers? Well I really don’t know since I haven’t read any of them thoroughly!

That’s right, if I really think about it, I haven’t read and studied any of the books thoroughly. And I bet I am not alone on this.  If others are like me they scan the introduction and then read the parts they need when they need them.  Like when I am getting ready for migration I scan the parts on vireos and warblers, for example.  If I am going on an out of state trip I read about species native to those areas.  But to have sat down and read the book from cover to cover like a good novel? Nope, haven’t done it.

And I bet if I took the time to sit and read and study a field guide from cover-to-cover, and I mean really read and study, and then read Pete Dunne’s Essential Field Book Companion the same way, I think it would answer most of the questions I have about birds and birding.

Do I need the specialty books outside the fact I like to read about birds and birding? Probably if I decide to become a gull addict. But outside of that, probably not need, but still want.

In case you forgot what the cover of The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America looked like, here is a picture of my worn copy.

In case you forgot what the cover of The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America looked like, here is a picture of my worn copy.

So I challenge myself to read my The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America from cover-to-cover. All 431 pages. I will let you know how it goes and what I find out.

How do you read/use a field guide?

 

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April 5-6 – Several FOY & Nemesis Overcome

The theme for this weekend was water, water everywhere.  The rain on Thursday had flooded all the fields and even some roads.

Typical seen this weekend - water in the fields and on the roads - SE of Franklin. 04/05/14

Typical seen this weekend – water in the fields and on the roads – SE of Franklin. 04/05/14

But I still headed out on my bike Saturday heading east of town to look for shorebirds in the flooded fields.  The Red-tailed Hawk was on her nest but I still couldn’t get a good picture. Someone needs to tell me how to take a picture of an object when there are branches in the way.

RTHA on Nest 040514

The first couple of hours consisted of seeing most of the expected species including FOY Chipping Sparrow and Barn Swallows. I finally arrived at the flooded field that had shorebirds last year but none were present today.  Until I started to leave. The noise I made must have disturbed 4 Wilson’s Snipe and they flushed 40-50 feet. Sorry no photos but everything moved quick. The 6 mile ride home into the wind was uneventful except that I am out of shape and about threw-up.

Saturday afternoon I checked the local Great Blue Heron rookery.

Great Blue Heron Rookery. I count 12 nests and 11 Herons.  04/05/14

Great Blue Heron Rookery. I count 12 nests and 11 herons. 04/05/14

GBHE 040514

GBHE on Nest 040514

Now for the unusual part.  I watched a Red-tailed Hawk come in a couple of times and land on the top of a tree – like a Rough-legged Hawk. It then dove down in one of the nests fighting with one of the Herons.  Anyone know why?

Red-tailed Hawk that was harassing Great Blue-Heron on their Nests.  Was the hawk using the nest previously and want them out? Was it after food?  I'm not sure.  04/05/14

Red-tailed Hawk that was harassing Great Blue-Heron on their nests. Was the hawk using the nest previously and wanted them out? Was it after food? I’m not sure. 04/05/14

Mike called and wanted to go out Sunday morning.  We decided Laura Hare Preserve would be the best spot to find migrant Hermit Thrush and the nemesis Winter Wren.

Before sunrise and before the birds would be back-lit I stopped by another wet area on the way. While there a flock of 8 Pectoral Sandpipers flew in and I located a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs.

Sunrise Sunday Morning - SW of Franklin.  If you look close enough you can see 5 Blue-winged Teal and a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs. 04/06/14

Sunrise Sunday Morning – SW of Franklin. I liked the picture even though it really doesn’t show birds.  But if you look close enough you can see 5 Blue-winged Teal on the water and a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs on the waters’s edge. 04/06/14

Immediately arriving at Laura Hare Preserve two Pileated Woodpeckers flew in.  If I would of had the camera out I would have got a great picture instead of the following sad picture.

Pileated Woodpecker fat sunrise.  I just liked the way the sun caught the red.  Laura Hare Preserve. 04/06/14

Pileated Woodpecker at sunrise. I just liked the way the sun caught the red. Laura Hare Preserve. 04/06/14

I don’t know how many times I have looked for Winter Wren since I moved to Johnson County last year.  At least a dozen, probably more.  I never found what I thought would be the right habitat until the Laura Hare Preserve opened up last November.  And with the winter we had I never headed there figuring everything would be frozen.  So with the next couple of weeks being the height of spring migration for Winter Wren, my hopes were high.

Mike and I hadn’t walked 100 yards when we heard the song (warble?) of a Winter Wren.  With a little work Mike was able to locate it in the brush and my current Johnson County nemesis bird had been overcome. That easy, but definitely not anti-climatic. It kept hopping around for a bit but we got a couple of quick looks. But I still want better looks in the future.

We then preceded to the ravine area in hopes of more wrens and maybe a Hermit Thrush.  No luck but we heard and then saw a Louisiana Waterthrush, totaling 3 on the day.  The preserve still looks good for Hooded and Worm-eating Warblers this spring and summer.

We then checked a spot at Atterbury FWA without much activity except for a Barred Owl calling at 11AM.  I did get a picture of a Field Sparrow and a Brown Thrasher at a top of a tree.

FISP Atterbury 040614

BRTH Atterbury 040514A

Another good weekend of birding (there all good if I’m birding) with another Johnson county life bird and 7 FOY’s seen.

So what’s my next Johnson County nemesis?

 

 

 

 

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March 2014 Recap

In one of those odd occurrences I saw the same number of species in Johnson County in March of 2014 as I did in March of 2013 – 85 species.  The difference being 10 different species between the years.  Here are the differences:

2014 2013
Ross’s Goose Mute Swan
Cackling Goose Double-crested Cormorant
Blue-winged Teal Northern Harrier
Northern Pintail Pectoral Sandpiper
Long-tailed Duck Wilson’s Snipe
Common Goldeneye Barred Owl
Northern Bobwhite Hairy Woodpecker
Common Loon Merlin
Herring Gull Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eurasian Collared-Dove Purple Finch

The highlights this March were the Ross’s Geese, Long-tailed Duck, Common Loon, Herring Gull, and Eurasian Collared-Dove.  Misses that might not be seen again in 2014 were Mute Swan (Tom had one on Lamb Lake in late March), Merlin, and Purple Finch. Merlin and Purple Finch are still a possibility in April and again in the fall. Mute Swan is a topic for another day as we have a year-round pair in Johnson County.  But are they countable?

Bufflehead pair that never swam close enough to get in the same picture as the Ross's Geese.  Franklin 03/30/14

Bufflehead pair that never swam close enough to get in the same picture as the Ross’s Geese. Franklin 03/30/14

Par, the number of birds I expected to see for the month, was 75.  I might have set that a little low but the continuing waterfowl bumped up the total species seen.  I will have to evaluate that next year.

March 2014 was still cold with only a few of the weekend days not cold and blustery.  And the continued freeze on the Great Lakes could be seen around the state with Red-necked Grebes and Red-throated Loons being seen inland.

Red-necked Grebe in Shelby County. Never did see one in Johnson County. 03/28/14

Red-necked Grebe in Shelby County. Never did see one in Johnson County. 03/28/14

And it was dry towards the end of the month so shorebird spots were dry. I can also tell I didn’t get out as early on the weekends by missing Barred Owl.

Hours in the field were comparable (5 weekends):

March 2013 – 2210 minutes – 36.8 hours in the field.

March 2014 – 2057 minutes – 34.3 hours in the field.

The big difference were miles driven:

March 2013 – 515 miles

March 2014 – 333 miles

So I saw the same number on 182 less miles (7 gallons of gas in my car).  So that begs the following question.  Would I have seen more species driving more miles or seen even more driving less?  I would never have seen the Eurasian-collared Dove driving and probably missed the Ross’s Geese. But I would never have got to Driftwood to see the Common Loons.  So there is a balance there I will need to explore.

Still not as many miles walked/biked as I would have liked because of the weather. No pounds lost but none gained. Hopefully more miles walked/biked with improved weather in April.

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New Field Guides – Should I Buy Another?

The U.S. birding community is all abuzz after 14 years of the release of his first edition of David Sibley’s 2nd Edition of The Sibley Guide to Birds.  And that has got me thinking about field guides. Do I need another field guide? And if so why?

The Sibley Guide To Birds - Second Edition  Image from Amazon

The Sibley Guide To Birds – Second Edition Image from Amazon

Just how much money do I need to spend on field guides?  I have used Sibley’s smaller Eastern North America Field Guide as my main source since I started birding.  And for certain things I have switched to the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of NA.  I also own the Big Sibley, Western NA Sibley, the bigger NG Complete Birds of NA, and the Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of NA.  Plus field guides to Costa Rica, Australia, and Europe.  And then there are specialty books on sparrows, warblers, etc.

So how many more field guides/books does one person need?  The more I birded the less I used field guides until I’m at the point I no longer carry one in the field. Instead I rely on describing anything I find interesting into my voice recorder and then check the field guides when I get back to the car or home.   And then I basically just use a couple – Sibley’s or Stokes. Sibley’s for his fine drawings and Stokes for their fine photographs.  From the comparison and contrast from those two sources I can usually answer my questions.

So how would buying the new Big Sibley’s benefit me?

First, I am familiar with the taxonomic order in the old version.  Second, there haven’t been that many splits or consolidations that would throw me off.  Third, I never used the range maps in the first edition. I check the NG which are better.  Fourth, I thought the drawings  in the first edition were top-notch.  And lastly, and probably the most important, my book shelf is already full.

My Bird Bookcase - minus a few in my bag that I carry to the car.

My Bird Bookcase – minus a few in my bag that I carry to the car.

So besides just having the new edition of Sibley’s I can’t think of a good reason to update.  For now I will probably keep my money and buy a field guide to South Africa or the Far East so I can dream of birds far away.

But if you have a compelling reason for me to purchase the new Sibley’s I would love to hear it.

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Johnson County – March Big Walking (Biking) Day – Ross’s Geese

I did my third Big Monthly Walking Day today.  I wanted to go Saturday but with the weather I knew it wouldn’t be productive.  So I had to go on Sunday.  The problem was it was my wife’s birthday and my daughter went to work at two.  So I had to cut the morning walk to be home by 10:30 or so.  I then planned to go back out later in the afternoon.

I started the day in a different area, a little farther out in the country.  I figured I would get grassland and country birds.  Wrong choice. I only heard a group of Horned Larks and nothing else that I wouldn’t get in the city.  But I did find a Red-tailed Hawks nest only a half mile from home.  And an Eastern Meadowlark was at the edge of town.

The female flew out of the nest about 5 seconds before I took the image.  Franklin 03/30/13

The female flew out of the nest about 5 seconds before I took the image. Franklin 03/30/13

The morning turned out to be what I expected, no great surprises or misses.

I was hoping the Blue Jays had an owl cornered, but I guess they were just flying around the neighborhood.  Franklin 03/30/14

I was hoping the Blue Jays had an owl cornered, but I guess they were just flying around the neighborhood. Franklin 03/30/14

The only real surprise was a Swamp Sparrow where I didn’t expect one and there was a pair of Eurasian-collared Doves instead the usual one I have been seeing.

Brown Creeper inching up a tree.  Franklin 03/30/13

Brown Creeper inching up a tree. Franklin 03/30/13

I walked a little over 5 miles and ended up with 37 species.

For the afternoon I needed to go to the Lowes pond – 3.3 miles – a little over an hours walk with no where to bird in between.  I decided to forgo the walk but keep it in the spirit of BIGBY, so I rode my bike which only took 20 minutes to cover the distance.  The pond had the usual birds with a changing Horned Grebe the best looking bird.

Took this photo Saturday when the Horned Grebe was closer.  Lowes Pond 03/29/13

Took this photo Saturday when the Horned Grebe was closer. Still not a very good photo.  Lowes Pond 03/29/13

And to think it was frozen only a little while ago?

Just a short time ago the pond was frozen...   Lowes/Walmart Pond - Franklin 03/30/14

Just a short time ago the pond was frozen…
Lowes/Walmart Pond – Franklin 03/30/14

Two guys ice fishing in the light snow.  Lowes/Walmart Pond 02/09/14

Lowes/Walmart Pond 02/09/14

I then rode out to the local high school to pick up the remaining grassland birds.  With that accomplished I was done for the day and started what I thought would be the half hour ride home.

Riding through the industrial area I went by a new building that has a retention pond that is filling up.  I saw some white birds and figured they had put out some fake swans to scare off the geese.  I then got closer and the white geese moved.  They were by some Canada Geese and heading over the edge but from the distance my first thought was Ross’s Geese!

My first thought was that someone had put out fake geese, then they started to move.  Two of the six geese going sown to the pond. Franklin 03/30/14

My first thought was that someone had put out fake geese, then they started to move. Two of the six geese going sown to the pond. Franklin 03/30/14

I then had to ride around the back of the building and and walk through some mud to get a better look.

ROGO Franklin 033014E

By their small size they sure looked like Ross’s.  A closer look showed the small bill with no discernible “grin patch”.  Looked good for Ross’s but since I have seen so few of them or even that many Snow Geese for that matter, and then usually at a distance, it still is a tough call.

ROGO Franklin 033014G

ROGO Franklin 033014F

ROGO Franklin 033014D

ROGO Franklin 033014C

The best picture of the day.

ROGO Franklin 033014A

I then headed home having walked over 5 miles, biked over 11, seeing 54 species on the day, and another county first for me.

Posted in Birding and Exercise, Johnson County | 2 Comments

Johnson County – Common Loons

In my last post I said the goal was to get out and bird more. To add at least one night a week for birding. Last night was the second week in a row I added a mid-week night for birding.

And since my goal is to look for uncommon birds in the local area and since it is the right time for loons and grebes, I thought I would hit a couple of ponds. I no sooner arrived at Driftwood SFA and a Bald Eagle flew over, the first I had seen in the county since Jan. 1. I didn’t even have time to get the camera out.

A look at the water and there was a Common Loon in the distance.

069

In fact there ended up being 2 loons.

072

Commons Loons aren’t that uncommon in Central Indiana but outside Lamb Lake they are to hard find in Johnson County.

One decided to flap it’s wings for me.

048

049

050

051

And then it took a look at me.

056

019

I then headed to another spot and left the loons to themselves.

046

I am now torn between Long-tailed Duck and Common Loon for the coolest looking bird migrating through our area. And I am glad I added the extra birding day.

 

 

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Some FOY Birds

The objective of the last week was to see if I could locate some of the uncommon birds that only migrate through the county for a couple of weeks in the spring and fall.  Mainly Common Loon, Hermit Thrush, and Winter Wren.  So I have been to Driftwood SFA a few times in the last couple of days looking for Common Loon without luck.

I just like the way the late afternoon sun highlighted the white of the wing. Turkey Vulture - Johnson County Park 03/20/14

I just like the way the late afternoon sun highlighted the white of the wing. Turkey Vulture – Johnson County Park 03/20/14

With the temperature near 70F Friday night I took the bike out for a spin, heading out a dead end country road not far from our place.  My body wasn’t feeling good at the end of the easy ride but I came across my first Savanna Sparrows for the year.  I forget how short their tails are.  I also came across a small group of Horned Larks that I hadn’t expected.

The Red-tailed didn't have any interest in the Turkey Vulture eating on the road.  Johnson County 03/21/14

The Red-tailed didn’t have any interest in the Turkey Vulture eating on the road. Johnson County 03/21/14

Saturday I started at Driftwood again looking for loons.  As often happens I didn’t find the target bird but come across something else, in this case FOY Brown Thrasher and Field Sparrow.  Neither would pose for pictures but it was good to hear them.  There has been several Horned Grebes over the last week.

One of several Horned Grebes at Driftwood SFA.  03/20/14

One of several Horned Grebes at Driftwood SFA. 03/20/14

A quick stop at Casey’s had the local Turkey Vultures in a dead tree.

How many Turkey Vultures in a tree?  13? Edinburgh 03/22/14

How many Turkey Vultures in a tree? 13? Edinburgh 03/22/14

Reminds me of an old western movie.  Is the hero out of water over that way and the vultures are waiting for him to die? Edinburgh 03/22/14

Reminds me of an old western movie. Is the hero out of water over that way and the vultures are waiting for him to die?
Edinburgh 03/22/14

One of the Turkey Vultures in the morning sun.  Edinburgh 03/22/14

One of the Turkey Vultures in the morning sun. Edinburgh 03/22/14

The main part of the morning was spent walking the east side of Atterbury FWA.  The road is closed for good reason.  There are a couple of washouts that are going to need major repair.

Another pleasant stroll on an early spring day.  Did just a little bushwhacking.  Atterbury FWA - SE portion 03/22/14

Another pleasant stroll on an early spring day. Did just a little bushwhacking. Atterbury FWA – SE portion 03/22/14

I walked the road for a couple of miles seeing my first Eastern Phoebe and getting a good look at a Fox Sparrow.

FOY Eastern Phoebe - Atterbury FWA 03/22/14

FOY Eastern Phoebe – Atterbury FWA 03/22/14

Not sure if you see the blend of these colors on any other birds?  Probably but one doesn't come to mind.  Fox Sparrow - Back Atterbury FWA 03/22/14

Not sure if you see the blend of these colors on any other birds? Probably but one doesn’t come to mind. Fox Sparrow – Back Atterbury FWA 03/22/14

Same bird - front

Same bird – front

This guy was cruising by on Sugar Creek - Atterbury FWA.  03/22/14

This guy was cruising by on Sugar Creek – Atterbury FWA. 03/22/14

A quick stop at the Lowes/Walmart pond in Franklin had a lot less waterfowl than last week. They are already moving on…

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Birding, Blogging, and Time Management

One of the things I have come to appreciate since I started blogging is the time it takes to create a good blog.  Especially one like Biking for Birds that is updated daily. The time that it takes to write a blog, proofread, and add pictures is more than I thought it would be.  But I am not complaining since it has made me a better birder since I now take the time to research something before publishing.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/87/Digital-clock-radio-basic.jpg/320px-Digital-clock-radio-basic.jpg

Not enough time to get everything done…

So with the extra time I have added to my life blogging I have had to go back to figuring out how to get everything I want to do done.  I don’t want to cut out anything.  Especially actually being out in the field birding, which I want to add more time.  So I go back to what I have done for the last 20 years.  In the mid 90′s I read Time Tactics of Very Successful People by B. Eugene Griessman which discusses how successful people from all fields get things done.  I have followed several of those things over the years but one key thing I took away from the book was blocking out a period of time to get accomplish tasks.

Time Tactics of Very Successful People

It’s not a knew concept but if you want to get something done you have to set aside the time and do it.  Usually at the expense of something else.  But I have found the something else is usually time wasted in front of some form of video – TV or internet.  So if I want to spend more time in the field birding then I have plan to be out every Tuesday night after work.  My current hours per week in the field are around 5-6 hours per week but I want them in the 8-10 hour range.  As I posted a while back to be successful in finding uncommon birds I need to be birding a minimum of 8 hours per week and closer to 10-12 hours.

A Merlin that was the result of spending extra time in the field.  Last April for about 2 weeks I would go home by a flooded field and scan for shorebirds. One night someone else was scanning looking for supper.  Johnson County 04/27/14

A Merlin that was the result of spending extra time in the field. Last April for about 2 weeks I would go home by a flooded field and scan for shorebirds. One night someone else was scanning looking for supper. Johnson County 04/21/14

I also have found that I write much better away from home, like at the local Starbucks.  If I try to write at home there are just to many distractions. So I need to set aside time to go somewhere and write. I once heard an interview on the radio discussing a very successful children’s author.  They said that everyday from 10AM to 12PM and 4-6PM he would go out to a small studio on his property and write.  He said that if writing was that important, then block out time and write. Of course this concept can pertain to anything in life, not just birding or writing.

So if you are letting other things keeping you from birding, them block out a period of time, and go birding!

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Indiana Audubon Society Field Trip to Atterbury FWA – April 26, 2014

OK, mark your calenders, or phones, or computers or whatever people are using now.  The Indiana Audubon Society is sponsoring a field trip to Atterbury Fish and Wildlife Area on  April 26, 2014. Doug Gray will be leading the trip and he has asked me to help him out.  Here is the link to the official notice.

http://www.indianaaudubon.org/Home/tabid/37/ctl/Details/Mid/409/ItemID/122/Default.aspx

In the 14 months since I have move here my total species count  for the Atterbury/Driftwood/Johnson County Park area is 184 species.  I consider Atterbury/Driftwood/Johnson County Park complex all one big park since they are all next to each other.  On the last week of April last year I saw 64 species and the first week of May 76.  And I was just out birding and not trying to run up any counts so I am sure there were more species present those days.  So you get the idea on the numbers that are possible.

Some of the highlights were Bell’s Vireo, Yellow-breasted Chat, and both Cuckoos.  Only heard Black-billed, darn-it.  The following 3 photos were all taken in the same area in Johnson County Park.  Besides the Bell’s I know of several spots that one can see Prairie Warbler and Yellow-breasted Chats in the area.

Bell's Vireo - Prairie Warbler - Johnson County Park 05/04/13

Bell’s Vireo – Prairie Warbler – Johnson County Park 05/04/13

Prairie Warbler - Johnson County Park 04/27/13

Prairie Warbler – Johnson County Park 04/27/13

Long distance photo of a Yellow-breasted Chat - Johnson County Park 04/27/13

Long distance photo of a Yellow-breasted Chat – Johnson County Park 04/27/13

Let me know if you a have any questions or if certain species are seen there that time of year.  I’ll post more as we get closer to the date.

 

 

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