Not in Kansas (Or Indiana)

I thought I had better put up a quick blurb to explain why I hadn’t posted anything the last week.  The following should explain.

Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks and 11 young. Sabal Palm Sanctuary 06/20/14

As one can tell from the picture I am not in Indiana or anywhere else in the Midwest.  The photo of a pair of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks and 11 young was taken on 6/20/14 at Sabal Palm Sanctuary in Brownsville, TX.  Of course I had many pictures to pick from but my daughter picked this one cause of the “cute babies”.  A scientific term I think.

Just a few more hours of birding and I’ll be home posting about the trip.  At least I will try since I think I have taken more photos in the last week than I have all year.

A parting photo from today.

Great Kiskadee, Estero Llano Grande SP, Weslaco TXGRKI Estero Llano Grande SP Weslaco TX



Laura Hare Preserve in the Summer & an Osprey

First of all, what are the odds on seeing an Osprey in Johnson County in June?  And what are the odds of seeing one almost exactly a year later after Mike Clay and I saw one last June? But first the rest of the day.

Don’t let anyone tell you that birding is not a dangerous activity. We have all heard of people falling into lakes and rivers while birding. Or sliding down into ravines. Or getting lost and having to spend the night in the forest unprepared. Or sliding backwards down steep hills in their cars during Christmas Bird Counts. OK, I have only heard that story once but it was a good story.

So Saturday morning I am watching a pair of White-eyed Vireos when I hear a deer coming down the path. Now if you read my first entry about Laura Hare Preserve, then you know that at the beginning of the trail there is a steep incline. Well the deer, or two as it turns out, were hauling butt down the hill. They haven’t seen me yet since the trail takes a little turn at the base. And when they come around the corner they see me. Now this is all happening in about 5 seconds so I really haven’t grasped what is going on. The first deer gets about 10 feet from me, it seemed much closer, and I wave my sketchbook and yell something like “Owwwww”. The first deer veers left and takes a big leap into the lake. The second deer veers right and runs through a small, marshy area. Me, I am counting my good luck that the deer jumped into the lake because now a mother Wood Duck and young ones come out for a good view. Well I eventually get the good look when my heart slows down. Now the second deer has run around me through the marsh and has come out down the trail. The first deer I assumed swam to the other side of the lake, with the lake being probably 20-30 meters wide at this point. Anyway I assume it was OK because I heard a lot of snorting coming from the other side after a couple of minutes. At least I assumed it was the first deer and not the second deer. Deer can swim, right?

The rest of the morning didn’t disappoint from a birding point of view. Laura Hare had numerous Worm-eating Warblers, Louisiana Waterthrushes, Ovenbirds, and even a couple of Kentucky Warblers. Numerous Wood Thrushes were seen walking along the trail. Yes, they were walking on the trail. About all the species you would expect from the deep woods except I whiffed on Hooded Warbler. But I know they are there since Tom, Ann, and Karl reported them a week or so ago. Sorry, only one picture since I haven’t figured out how to take pictures in the dark woods. Yet.

Louisiana Waterthrush


I then proceeded to the Iron Bridge Road at Atterbury in hopes of adding Cerulean Warbler to the Johnson County IAS Summer Count. Never did see any Cerulean but heard 3 on the morning. With the cooler temps the birds were still calling into the late morning. I also had a female Summer Tanager land on the road a few feet ahead of me. She was a dark mustard yellow with a large bill. No hint of black in the wing. My National Geographic calls her color “ochre” yellow. Sorry, but I am not familiar with the color “ochre”. And my mother was from the south.

One of two White-breasted Nuthatches that kept coming around.


I had better views of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo but it wouldn’t come down for pictures.


After a couple of hours there I went by Pisgah Lake to see if anything uncommon was there. As I pulled into the parking lot a big bird was flying slowly west to east. First thought was Red-tailed Hawk. Now parking at a 45 degree angle in the middle of the lot and looking out the window, maybe a Bald Eagle, this is a big bird. Finally out of the car, seeing that it looks like a large gull flying, and getting the binocs on it, it’s apparent it’s a Osprey. It flies to the end of the lake, circles, and comes back by heading west over the trees. I wait 45 minutes but it does not appear again. So what is an Osprey doing in Johnson County in June for the second year in a row? Is it nesting in the area and I am just not out in the field often enough to see it? Or is it just a coincidence. But like the TV detective says, I don’t like coincidences. I will continue to look for it this summer.

A few pictures on the day.

Male Orchard Oriole seen on the day.


Bathing Baltimore Oriole.

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A Great Egret that has been hanging the pond at work and a Great Blue Heron from Pisgah Lake. I wonder what the Great Egret is checking out.  Nothing usually around that exciting except a lot of Canada Geese.

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Enlarged view of the Great Egret and Great Blue Heron’s heads – check out the eyes.






Summer is Here

What follows is a pretty lame travelog type report from my birding Saturday morning.  I didn’t see any migrants or anything else uncommon this past weekend, though the Great Horned Owl was cool, so I’m going to assume that summer is officially here.  I did check a couple of spots for a White-rumped Sandpiper, usually the last of the migrants, but no shorebirds of any type were seen, not even a Spotted.  The ponds where I saw Spotted last year are very high from the recent rains.  Hopefully Spotted Sandpipers were just quiet sitting on nests and haven’t moved elsewhere.

But as usual I still had a good time this weekend.  After reading Roger Hedge’s report Friday on IN-BIRD about a Black-billed Cuckoo in Boone county, I decided to start on the west side of Atterbury in a spot I have head one call at dawn each of the last 2 years.  On the way out Saturday I came across a Great Horned Owl just south of Franklin.  This is probably the same bird that was my first bird of the year.

Great Horned Owl at dawn Saturday


Also on the way to Atterbury I stopped by a freshly cut hay field where I heard Grasshopper and Savannah Sparrows.  Which was a good thing since later that morning I found out that the field that holds Bobolinks had been cut. Not sure where I will see one for the IAS Summer Count.

On the west side of Atterbury there wasn’t a Black-billed Cuckoo but plenty of high, wet, grass to walk through.


Did I say wet? My clothes finally dried out when I got home a little after noon.  Anyway I got good looks at Barn and Tree Swallows and a Willow Flycatcher at the parking lot when I returned from my walk through the tall, wet, unproductive grass.

Barn Swallows


Tree Swallow


Willow Flycatcher – giving the “fitz-bew” call the whole time.


From there I moved on to the  previously mentioned Bobolink field.  On the way a Henslow’s Sparrow was given good, if distant, looks.

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From there I spent the remainder of the morning at Driftwood SFA watching the comings and goings of Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Warbling Vireos, Willow Flycatchers, American Robins and a host of other birds.

Another Willow Flycatcher showing it’s yellowish lower mandible.


Mother Kingbird on nest. This was a distant shot so I wouldn’t upset her.


Orchard Oriole nest.  It was fun to watch the parents return and the young ones head pop out for food. Someday my photo skills will improve so I can catch that moment.


And I went out for a while Sunday after the rain and checked a couple of spots for breeding Blue-winged Teal.  No luck but I about lost my head from a couple of Tree Swallows that didn’t like me getting with 30-40 meters of their nest in a bluebird box. They were constantly diving within an inch or two of my head which kept me moving at a pretty fast pace.  The only bird that poised for a picture was an Eastern Phoebe who didn’t call or pump it’s tail much.

Eastern Phoebe – I think it was getting tired of me taking notes and watching it flycatch for a half hour. Thus the hard stare in my direction.


Not much else to report since I have been spending most of my free time getting ready for my first trip to The Rio Grande area later this month.  You’ve gotta love a bird named Plain Chachalaca.

Roger Hedge
Roger Hedge

Olive-sided Flycatcher – Mute Swans

After missing the last two weekends to graduations in and out of state, which means I missed the last half of migration, I finally got time to bird Sunday.  The plan was to hit a few spots around Atterbury FWA looking for late migrants and waterfowl for the IAS Summer count which runs the months of June and July.

I didn’t find any late migrants but did come across an Olive-sided Flycatcher at a spot that usually has a Blue Grosbeak. And yes, the grosbeak as usual was there,  singing with about 5 Dickcissels. and I might have tracked the Blue Grosbeak to its nesting tree.

The flycatcher was only the 5th one I have seen in the Midwest and the first since moving to Indiana (Johnson County #207).  So the excitement I felt when first seeing it is hard to describe.  I always feel fortunate to see a bird that migrates through our area in such a narrow window of time. It migrates for just a couple of weeks around the end of May. I didn’t get in any hurry and spent an hour or so watching the flycatcher, getting a few photos, making a rough sketch, and taking several notes. It never called so I didn’t get to hear about any beer. Darn it.  So I drank my coffee.

First view of the Olive-sided Flycatcher. First thought was a Eastern Kingbird, then Eastern Wood-Pewee.  Atterbury FWA 06/01/14
First view of the Olive-sided Flycatcher. First thought was an Eastern Kingbird, then Eastern Wood-Pewee. Atterbury FWA 06/01/14
Little closer - vest is becoming apparent.
Little closer – vest is becoming apparent.
Not much doubt now - big head and a vest!
Not much doubt now – big head and a vest!
If there had been any doubt this side view showing relatively big head.
If there had been any doubt this side view showing relatively big head.

A few more photos from a distance.

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Not a clear picture but one showing the white patches on the flank that are sometimes seen on Olive-sided.


Mr. Dickcissel kept making the flycatcher move from one of the trees.


The Olive-sided Flycatcher would alternate between the dead limb on the right, under the clouds, sallie down catching insects above the grasses, and fly up in the tree on the left.  Then repeat.


I finally moved on down to Pisgah Lake where there were two Mute Swans, an uncommon bird for Johnson County. I am always glad to watch them, even if they are causing problems elsewhere in the U.S.

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And a mother Wood Duck and her young were out in the marsh. Dig the eye.


A picture of a Red-winged Blackbird I took waiting for the Wood Ducks to come out.


And a male Bell’s Vireo was singing on territory at Johnson County Park.  He came out for about two seconds, so no photos.

I checked the Edinburgh retaining pond.  No late shorebirds or Blue-winged teal but I’ll keep checking.