I spent a few hours Saturday morning covering a small area of Driftwood SFA watching just a few birds and seeing if they were heading to nests.
The easiest to observe from a distance was a pair of Eastern Kingbirds on a nest.
A male Yellow Warbler was singing from a tree top which lead to a nest in an adjacent tree. See the nest?
And a Baltimore Oriole’s nest way up in a Cottonwood(?) tree.
I also came across a couple of Brown Thrasher’s doing their chuck call at me when I walked by, so I am guessing they had a nest in the bush. A couple more Yellow Warblers were on territory singing. And numerous American Robins were flying in and out of the hedges.
A pair of Spotted Sandpipers were walking along the water’s edge.
It’s amazing to me how many birds were probably nesting in the small 9-10 acre area I was observing. Eastern Towhees, Song Sparrows, Mourning Doves, Gray Catbirds, Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, Orchid Orioles for example.
And Saturday afternoon I came across this Savannah Sparrow at the local High School.
Sorry for the late report. I should have had this out earlier this week but in one of those rare times life has taken priority over birding. And will continue to do so for the next few weeks. So postings might be sparse.
I once again covered the SE portion of Johnson County for the annual IAS Big May Day Count. In a nutshell I was out from 4:30AM to 5:30PM covering Atterbury FWA, Driftwood SFA, Irwin Park in Edinburgh, the south portion of Johnson County Park, and a couple of areas along roads that usually hold particular species. I birded alone except for an hour or so around lunch when I was with Mike Clay. The weather in the morning ranged from light showers to heavy downpours at times which severely limited photo taking until afternoon and made several changes in plans on when and where to bird.
My final count was 101 species compared to 95 last year adding 12 FOY species. The difference was a couple more warblers and in the fact we had less participants. After lunch I went out and found a few more birds we were missing on territory that would have normally been covered in the AM. The preliminary final count for the county was 133 species versus 127 last year.
My highlights were going out early and hearing both Barred and Great Horned Owls. Black-billed Cuckoos were calling from two different locations at dawn, with one being at a marsh which makes one think Least Bittern. But it is a small marsh and sounded like a cuckoo. A Double-crested Cormorant was at Driftwood, always hard to find in Johnson County. A flock of Cedar Waxwings showed up in one spot, the first I had seen all year. Irwin Park had Prothonotary Warbler and Red-headed Woodpecker again this year. A lone Dickcissel was at the usual field north of Edinburgh. The retaining pond on the way into Edinburgh held 7 species of shorebirds including Semipalmated Plover, Least Sandpipers, and a Dunlin. And I discovered a new spot for Bell’s Vireo in Atterbury after whiffing at Johnson County Park.
Some of the misses were American Woodcock and Sora, the first time in the last 5 years I haven’t heard either one on a May count. The weather through me off so I didn’t get to the Grasshopper/Savannah Sparrow area. And the Eurasian Collard-Dove was not in Franklin.
Following are a few photos Mike Clay took on the day at Johnson County Park.
And the only decent photo I got on the day – Yellow-throated Vireo.
Once again I am struck by the fact that unless you bird often, no matter what your birding goals are, the odds of seeing uncommon birds is greatly reduced. I know that sounds kind of self-evident, but the more time you spend in the field the greater the odds of fulfilling you birding goals.
A good case in point has been the last two weekends. Atterbury FWA currently has the Spring Turkey Season going and people are not allowed out in the field until after 1PM. So I have been hitting other places on the weekend mornings and going to Atterbury on the afternoons. I know the odds of finding warblers and other song birds are less in the heat and wind of the afternoon, but I go anyway because it is migration and birds can be found anywhere.
There is one stretch of road that parallels the river that is good for Cerulean Warblers. So a week ago Sunday I decided to walk the road and possibly see the Cerulean Warbler. It was a nice day, kind of windy, and the habitat is typical river bottom land. I read on I-Bird the previous day that a couple of people had seen their first of the year Red-breasted Nuthatch. This bird should probably be one of my nemesis birds but I really hadn’t made a concerted effort like I had for the Winter Wren. And I really hadn’t found the right kind of coniferous woods in Johnson County. So I figure if next year was an irruption year I would see one.
So while I am watching 2, then 3, male Cerulean Warblers fight for territory, with me hoping to get a picture of the encounter, out of the clear blue I hear the “yank yank yank” of a Red-breasted Nuthatch. I am nowhere near conifers but in river bottom land, so this took me by surprise. At first I thought maybe it was a Blue Jay doing a great imitation, since two had been flying around. But the bird continues to call so I know it isn’t a Blue Jay. So I am scrambling around some bushes to get an angle on the bird and it keeps calling. It now goes up river and is still calling. I finally get the angle and it stops calling. There was no mistaking it was a Red-breasted Nuthatch but I will have to chalk it up as a heard only bird.
The same thing happened in Illinois one early May day when I was on a field trip with the local Audubon club. We were on the forest edge looking for warblers, nowhere near conifers, when one of the members says “look, there is a Red-breasted Nuthatch on the oak tree.” And it was a FOY for many members. So my recent encounter struck me as odd but not unusual. Johnson County #205
A week later, same day, about the same time, almost the same location. I am walking along looking for orioles and tanagers, when I see a flutter up ahead. The bird moves again and it is a Least Flycatcher. Small, big-headed, bold eye ring, perfect habitat – brushy under story. No mistake. On the Big May Day Count last year Karl Werner saw one along the same road when I was getting the car. I knew I would come across one again in due time. Johnson County #206
So to reiterate my opening words – it is always good to be out in the field, especially during migration, since you never know when, where, and for how long birds will turn up.
Since I don’t have pictures of either a Red-breasted Nuthatch or Least Flycatcher, and Mike says I need to have pictures, here are a couple from Minnesota in February 2010. These pictures were taken just minutes apart and represent one of the great birding decisions of my life. I guess I need to tell that story sometime.
Sorry I haven’t posted much lately but I have been using extra time to be out in the field.
This past weekend I scrapped birding and exercise and used the car to check out many areas in preparation for next Saturday Johnson County Big May Day count. I am glad I did because a couple of the grassland areas have been plowed under and are now farm ground. And if we don’t get rain this week, a couple of the areas could be good for shorebirds will be dry. But I did find a couple of new areas for shorebirds.
And I didn’t do any bushwhacking but still had FOY mosquitoes and ticks.
For the weekend I added 14 FOY birds with the highlight probably being a Black-billed Cuckoo at Johnson County Park that called for well over a minute. I waited and tried for over 30 minutes to get a look but to no avail. If history is any indication I might not see/hear one more this year.
Hear is the Black-billed Cuckoo calling on my voice recorder. The noise at the start is me cranking up the volume. You will also to hear it in the background.
And I am finally starting to learn to use the camera better. Here are a few pictures from the weekend.
A good comparison of Greater Yellowlegs and Spotted Sandpiper side by side. The Solitary was calling when I arrived and still calling when I left.
And I also actually keep track of the number of species this time of year since I was getting ready for the count. I ended up in the mid-90’s and really didn’t hit any good migrant areas. So next weekend looks promising if the weather will cooperate.