Yellow-rumpeds and a Bald Eagle

This past weekend was busy to start but died down quickly.  Mike and I headed to Southwestway Park to see if we could pick up any migrants.  We parked cars at each end of the park allowing us to walk the length of the park without having to double back. We would be walking through a part of the park I hadn’t seen before.  So hopefully a little bit of bushwhacking.

The first few yards along the southern end of the park was rather birder.  Our goal was Golden-crowned Kinglets.  A bird I thought I hadn’t seen yet this year. Have I mentioned my year on species has been a little slow? Anyway I later checked and had seen one on the Muscatatuck Christmas Bird Count on Jan 1.

And we did see numerous Golden-crowned Kinglets and several Ruby-crowned along the road.  We also had White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows.  But on the main walk along the bluff it was slow.  So I was glad we did the cars the way we did.  Just a few Yellow-rumped Warblers on the hour and half walk. On the north end we saw the first of fall Fox Sparrows. And the overcast skies didn’t lend itself to photos.

A Song Sparrow that hopped up out of the brush. Meijer Pond 10/25/15

We did the car switch which put us back at the Southern edge of the park.  Mike left and I went back along the road hoping for a few pictures in slightly better light. And of course it turned out to be much quieter than earlier.  But watching a couple of Song Sparrows an Orange-crowned Warbler popped out.  Since I have very few I was busy talking into my voice recorder to confirm the ID.  And the ID comes first. So no picture. Sorry.

I had a little time Sunday morning so I did the local patches.  Sparrows were numerous around Meijer Pond along with a few Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

I then headed to Franklin Township Park for the usual one hour loop.

And there were Yellow-rumped Warblers everywhere.

Others record these type of numbers but I haven’t seen this many in a long time. There were 2 or 3 in every bush and tree around the small pond.

The first of many Yellow-rumped Warblers encountered on the morning. Franklin Township Park 10/25/15


They were in every type of bush or tree. Franklin Township Park 10/25/15
This one even decided to show his yellow rump to the camera. Franklin Township Park 10/25/15

Otherwise it was quiet until I reached the car around 10:45.  I noticed a lone Turkey Vulture flying to the north.  With the naked eye it didn’t seem right. I got the binoculars back out of the car and took a look.  Sure enough.  Turkey Vulture.  But there was a second one and it banked and the plank wing pattern said it wasn’t a Turkey Vulture.

It was a younger Bald Eagle circling on the mid-morning winds. Earlier this year I had seen 2 adult Bald Eagles chasing each other here.  So I knew they were around.

I’m guessing a third year Bald Eagle from amount of white on the head and tail. Franklin Township Park 10/25/15


Not a great photo but I posted it to show how wide and “plank” looking are Bald Eagle wings. Franklin Township Park 10/25/15

So as always there is usually something interesting if you get out and look.



A Sad Story

I was really glad to see Palm Warblers at a couple of different locations this past Sunday. Because if I hadn’t seen them it would have led to one of those birding dilemmas.

A Palm Warblers I pished in and remained sitting up in the sunlight. Greenwood Retaining Ponds 10/18/15

I have missed several of the migratory species this year and missing Palm Warblers would have just added insult to injury.  Palm Warblers are usually one of the last warblers to move through so I held out hope that I would see them. Otherwise I would have been forced to list one from a sad story.

I’m just enough of a lister that I like to see my state’s year list just high enough that I have done the minimum amount of birding through the year.  And since I switched jobs earlier this year and living in the Eastern Time Zone, I don’t seem to be in the field anywhere near enough. That hopefully will change as I adapt to the job.

The first Palm Warbler of the day. Meijer Retaining Pond 10/18/15
Same bird showing that Palm Warblers are constantly pumping their tails. Meijer Retaining Pond 10/18/15

Heading into this past weekend I had seen a Palm Warbler.  But I really didn’t want to add it to the list.  Maybe if I had ended the year one short of my goal I might have begrudgingly added it.

The Sad Story

One of my co-workers and I were sitting outside eating lunch in early October. It’s one of those typical brick patios with outdoor tables that manufacturing facilities seem to have. The patio area is open to the east with the south and west walls part of the factory and the north wall is windows for the inside lunch area.  Shrubs and small trees are spattered about.

There is a flock of House Sparrows that live in the area and they are constantly flying into the area to get crumbs off the ground.  They’ll zoom in from the south parking lot one or two at a time. They usually are moving fast and head into a bush and then to the ground for food.

So when a small bird zoomed by without any halting motion of going into the bush I knew it was something different. Definitely not a House Sparrow. Even my non-birding co-worker started to comment “What was that?” And then the


I knew right away that the bird was dead.  There was no way going that speed it could have survived the impact.

It was a Palm Warbler that didn’t survive the impact. Not much else to say…

But the problem from a listing perspective was that I saw it alive before it hit the window. And I really didn’t want to count it and did the eBird gods need to know that there was a Palm Warbler in Shelby County?  No.

So I didn’t count it and hoped I would encounter some later so I wouldn’t have to resort to counting it. Which luckily I don’t have too after this past weekend.

Hopefully this guy will avoid windows and keep moving south. Greenwood Retaining Ponds 10/18/15
Bonus photo of a White-crowned Sparrow that popped up to see what all that pishing noise was about. Greenwood Retaining Ponds 10/18/15

An Easy Weekend

With the weekend being sandwiched between weeks of traveling for work, last Saturday I looked forward to an easy morning of walking and enjoying the outdoors.  Since sparrows should be moving through and since hunting isn’t allowed there, I headed to my favorite sparrow spot – Johnson County Park.

Trail JCP
Walking the paths on a beautiful Saturday morning. Johnson County Park 10/10/15

Basically I took my time and enjoyed the birds, the changing trees, and the easy walk. I didn’t see any uncommon sparrows but I did see most of the expected fall sparrows. The closest I had to an uncommon sparrow was a Chipping Sparrow that wanted to be a Clay-colored Sparrow for several minutes.  It was always back-lit so I never could get a photo.

One of those times that the birds actually sat in a tree together for more than few seconds. I don’t know if they were talking but both the Eastern Phoebe and Eastern Bluebird were calling while sitting in the tree.  JCP 10/10/15
A Swamp Sparrow really didn’t seem to be in any hurry to move on. He gave good looks including the one I used in the blog header photo. JCP 10/10/15


A little further down the path a White-crowned Sparrow sat somewhat out in the open. JCP 10/10/15
Come on now. Why do Northern Mockingbirds always seem to think they can’t be seen? JCP 10/10/15

I ended up seeing Eastern Towhee, Chipping, Field, White-crowned, White-throated, Song, and Swamp Sparrows on the day.

An easy blog post for an easy day of birding.

And now a few photos from earlier in the month from the area by my place.

Not a good photo but I really liked the brightness of the yellow shafts showing on this Northern Flicker. South Indianapolis 10/11/15
Who says a big bird can’t use its colors for camouflage? If this Great Blue Heron hadn’t called I would have walked right by it. South Indianapolis, Early October 2015

Deja Vu from 2000 Miles describes deja vu as ” the illusion of having previously experienced something actually being encountered for the first time.”

I know while birding I have experienced this many times. Often when birding the local patch and seeing a familiar bird.  I feel that I have been here before looking at the same bird.  And maybe I have??

But I still get the feeling when birding my local area but the feeling is for areas far from Illinois or Indiana.  Maybe walking a trail at Atterbury FWA brings the feeling that I walked this same trial somewhere far away from the Midwest.  Maybe Oregon or California. Somewhere but not here.

Have you ever had the feeling that you have been here before? While walking a trail in Ecola State Park, Oregon I was sure I had been there before but couldn’t place when or where…

But on a recent Saturday morning there was no doubt the location of the feeling.

Observing from Rick’s Cafe Boatyard I noticed a group of Turkey Vultures on the Eagle Creek Reservoir Dam.  After a quick scan to check that there were no Black Vultures mixed in I gave my attention to other birds flying up and down the reservoir. While watching a group of Double-crested Cormorants fly I noticed the Turkey Vultures had lifted off and were flying in a group high above the ground.

And immediately there was no doubt that I was back at Flamingo Beach, Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

The view from Rick’s Cafe Boatyard, Indianapolis – 9/26/15.
The view along the main road – Flamingo Beach, Guanacaste, Costa Rica – 12/19/14.

As you can see from the photos there isn’t much difference except the sky is cloudy and overcast in Indiana and is a clear and tropic-blue in Costa Rica.

Plus the difference that there are Turkey and Black Vultures, Magnificent Frigatebirds, and Brown Pelicans soaring in the photo from Costa Rica.  And only Turkey Vultures and two Bald Eagles in the photo from Indiana.  But the feeling was the same for both as when I posted about Costa Rica back in February – both times it was really something to watch!



Can’t Get a Break

One never knows when the day begins how it is going to turn out.  Most days are the same. Uneventful.  We go through the day doing the same thing without much deviation.

The day begins like any other day for this Red-shouldered Hawk, with an uneventful flight over Eagle Creek Reservoir, Indianapolis. 9/26/15

You see the same neighbors fly by that you do most other days.

Double-crested Cormorants seen from Rick’s – Eagle Creek Reservoir. 9/26/15
And a lone Ring-billed Gull flies by on its daily routine. Rick’s – Eagle Creek Reservoir 9/26/15

But there are other days when you just can’t get a break.


The Red-shouldered Hawk headed east towards Eagle Creek Airport and then things started to get ugly.

A group of 20 American Crows were lounging around the airports hangers just looking for trouble like crows often do, when one spots the Red-shouldered Hawk  flying by slowly.

An American Crow spots the Red-shouldered Hawk and alerts the mob that there is someone in the area to harass. Eagle Creek Airport 9/26/15

The Crows not missing a chance to harass immediately jump into action.

The Red-shouldered Hawk is just gliding by when the American Crows decide to harass it. Eagle Creek Airport – 9/26/15
The first of several Crows after the Red-shouldered Hawk. Eagle Creek Airport – 9/26/15
A couple more Crows decide to join the “fun”. Eagle Creek Airport – 9/26/15

It takes some fast flying and some good maneuvers but the Red-shouldered finally shakes the Crows.

Looking for a safe haven the Red-shouldered Hawk ducks into a nearby tree. Eagle Creek Airport – 9/26/15
The Red-shouldered sits in a secure location and waits out the Crows to move on and bully someone else down the road. Eagle Creek Airport – 9/26/15

After a bit the Red-shouldered Hawk decides that it is safe to move on. So it flies low and east over a group of evergreen trees.

When out of no where a Red-tailed Hawk comes flying in fast and rams the Red-shouldered. 

(Sorry, no photo, it all happened fast and after the crows I wasn’t expecting more action.)

And just like a bouncer at a bar, after ramming the Red-shouldered Hawk a couple of times, the Red-tailed Hawk flew over to a fence and watches to make sure that the Red-shouldered left the premises. Eagle Creek Airport – 9/26/15
And I swear this American Kestrel, who was watching the whole action, was just waiting for its chance to make a pass at the Red-shouldered Hawk. But it restrained itself and stayed on the fence watching. Eagle Creek Airport – 9/26/15

So maybe this was a normal day for the Red-shouldered Hawk, but I’m betting it was one of those days that it wished it just had stayed in the nest a little while longer.

(I want to think Don Gorney for confirming the Red-shouldered Hawk ID. One of those cases the more I looked the less sure I was of the ID.)

I’m Glad the Birdglimpsing Season is Over

This might seem sacrilegious on a birding blog, but I’m glad fall migration is about over. I’ll miss viewing the vireos, thrushes, and shorebirds as they move through.

But not warblers.

So is it a warbler? Maybe a vireo? Who knows. The half-second glimpse proved futile. Southwestway Park – 9/26/15

It’s not that I can’t ID warblers. That’s not the problem.  It’s just that they never seem to give a good look. Just a quick view and they move on. Even sparrows cooperate better.

One of the many Field Sparrows that came over to check me out. Most of them were sitting out in the open giving easy ID. Southwestway Park – 9/26/15

And this is supposed to be birdwatching, not birdglimpsing.


Even a Turkey Vulture scrounging a meal can be more satisfying than a glimpse at a fast-moving warbler. South Indianapolis – 9/26/15

I have never developed the love of the bright warblers that others have.  Yes, most are usually stunning when you can get a glimpse of one.  But the time and effort and brief look is usually not worth the half-second glance.

The leisurely pace of this Pied-billed Grebe gave me the time to sit and watch. Rick’s – Eagle Creek Reservoir – 9/26/15

I have decided over the years that taking a few hours on a Saturday morning in the vain attempt to see warblers is just not as satisfying as viewing larger birds. I see why people specialize in gulls or hawks. They usually give a good long, look. And with gulls there are usually numerous ones sitting out in the open to check out.

As I have often lamented I miss gull watching at the Illinois River Widewaters in LaSalle County, IL. Most of the gulls were usually Ring-billed Gulls like this guy but I would usually see 6 or 7 different gull species over the course of a year. Rick’s – Eagle Creek Reservoir 9/26/15

Even American Robins or Eastern Bluebirds are more welcome as they sit for a few minutes in a tree, well exposed.  Or most woodpeckers, a bird that usually sits out in the open.

But not the singular warbler darting through the undergrowth. Just not that fun.

Even American Goldfinches slow down long enough for me to see them, unlike warblers. Southeastway Park – 9/26/15

Maybe if I was more of a lister this would be important. Taking the time to make sure I get a warbler for a list might make the time spent looking worth it.

Unless a predator flies in shorebirds usually give you ample time to ID them, even at a distance. Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs at the local flooded field. South Indianapolis – 9/26/15

So I’m looking forward to getting back to large raptors and large waterfowl and even winter sparrows. Birds I can see and ID.