Because of this lousy weather I’m not in the shape I wanted to be on March 1. And the weather hasn’t allowed me to start biking. So to see if the American Woodcocks have returned I decided I’d drive today instead of walk.
I arrived at the north end of Atterbury FWA at 6:40 AM, opened the door, and immediately heard a PEENT, then another. In the short time I was there I heard three in all. I wanted to make sure that the ponds at Atterbury were still frozen so I moved on to Mallard Bay. And it was. So my plans were set for the day. Find open water elsewhere. But while I was there I heard another American Woodcock, a Great Horned Owl, and an Eastern Towhee. And it then dawned on me I don’t think I had heard or seen a towhee yet this year. And checking eBird later, I hadn’t. Strange year.
I decided to check Sugar Creek from the center of Atterbury. There were two Common Goldeneye which were a treat. I heard some Canada Geese off to the south and from previous Bushwhacking I knew there was a seep to the south that might hold open water.
I walked the 1/2 mile south, at one point almost stepping on an American Woodcock. No kidding. I think I might of actually clipped it before it flew off. After hacking my way through the undergrowth I finally got a look at the geese.
About 25 Canada Geese and to my surprise 2 little geese – Cackling Geese. I really hadn’t expected anything but it made the bushwhacking worthwhile.
Walking back to the car checking several more spots I knew American Woodcock slept, but no luck for a picture. But I did come across a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers which are always around there, and a pair of Rusty Blackbirds, which aren’t usually around there.
A couple more unproductive stops and then on to Lowes/Walmart pond. I had an activity with the family at noon so I had to keep moving. Getting to the pond at 10:40 I immediately saw many more species than I had been there lately – Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, and Hooded Merganser were good additions to the usual Redheads, Mallards, and American Coots. And then I caught a glimpse of something white diving. Common Eider came to mind? No way. Male Long-tailed Duck? Probably with all the reports lately. I have seen several females but never a male. Of course it was a antagonizing 10 minutes before I spotted it up again. It was diving and surfacing so fast I hadn’t noticed it had move to the west. One good look and it was a Male Long-tailed Duck.
What a cool looking bird. Why don’t we have more birds that look like this in the Midwest?
Check out the sleeping eye!
I called Mike Clay and left a message. I spent several minutes watching it through the scope and then trying for some pictures. Mike called back and said he was on the way. I watched the duck while waiting for Mike. Seemed much smaller than I realized and dove with some frequency. Mike arrived and the duck decided to preen giving good looks. I talked to Mike for 10 minutes and then had to split wishing I could stay.
So on the day I had to work hard for the Cackling Geese and had one-handed to me – Long-tailed Duck. And for those keeping score, which I am – Johnson County 199. And a complete surprise at that.