2013 Johnson County CBC – SE Quadrant

Sunday I was joined by Megan Bowman and Jules Erwin as we counted the SE Quadrant of the Johnson County CBC.  The weather was mid-20’s with a 15-25 mph wind and overcast.  In other words it was cold.

We started off well with 3 Eastern Screech-Owls, 2 Barred Owls, and 2 Great Horned Owls calling.  Well, starting off well as long as you don’t mind one of the screech owls swooping down and thinking about taking taking your hat off.  We then had good luck at Irwin Park in Edinburgh including a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, a hit or miss bird on this count.  On leaving Irwin Park I spotted a lone Ring-billed Gull flying down river.  A very rare bird for the count.

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - Irwin Park 121513
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Irwin Park 121513

On to Driftwood SFA which turned out to be frozen over except for a seep at the east end of the south lake.  This turned out to be productive with the only Killdeer, Wilson’s Snipe, and Eastern Phoebe found on the count.  Of course I had to verify it was a seep by walking on the edge and sinking into the muck up to my knee.  Somehow I didn’t get wet, just muddy.  I am sure it was pretty humorous for the ladies watching.

Killdeer Driftwood SFA 121513
Killdeer Driftwood SFA 121513
Eastern Phoebe - Driftwood SFA 121513
Eastern Phoebe – Driftwood SFA 121513
Wilson's Snipe Driftwood SFA 121513
A cold looking Wilson’s Snipe Driftwood SFA 121513

On the way to the Kokomo Grain Elevators Jules spotted an immature Bald Eagle and we picked up numerous sparrows and finches.  At Kokomo there were a couple hundred Horned Larks, 20 Lapland Longspurs, and 100 House Sparrows.  But no Snow Buntings.  We left one House Sparrow short when a American Kestrel appeared out of no where for Sunday Brunch.  It attacked right when we were leaving.  I wonder if it was using the distraction of our vehicle to put the other birds off guard?  If so, it probably has been using that tactic with grain trucks for sometime.

A few photos of the American Kestrel with its catch.

American Kestrel with House Sparrow  Kokomo Grain Elevator 121513
American Kestrel with House Sparrow it just caught.  Kokomo Grain Elevator 121513

Seems to telling us to move on.  American Kestrel and House Sparrow  JCCBC 121513

Seems to be telling us to move on. American Kestrel and House Sparrow
JCCBC 121513
American Kestrel with House Sparrow it caught. JCCBC 121513
American Kestrel with House Sparrow it caught.
JCCBC 121513

Megan spotted a Red-shouldered Hawk as lunch approached.

Red-shouldered Hawk  Atterbury FWA 121513
Red-shouldered Hawk Atterbury FWA 121513

As the noon-thirty lunch approached the skies cleared and the winds picked up.  The total tally was in the low 60’s with our group in the high 40’s with no waterfowl.  We went out after lunch but it seemed colder and we didn’t add any birds except for the fore-mentioned snipe and phoebe that I found on a double check of the seep on the way home.  And no, I didn’t walk out to check if it was frozen this time.



Lapland Longspurs and Horned Larks – 120813

After looking several times last winter and for a few hours Saturday, I finally came across some Lapland Longspurs in Johnson County Sunday afternoon. I drove the back roads of SE Johnson County and came across probably 8 groups of Horned Larks, totaling 60-70 birds without any longspurs.  Finally at Kokomo  Elevator north of Edinburgh there was a flock of mixed birds totaling 50 of which 4 were longspurs.  (2013 Johnson County number 195) The good news is they are in my area of the CBC next Sunday.

Not much else in the county this weekend.  If we don’t get an influx of waterfowl I’m afraid the CBC total is going to be low.

Here are some of the Horned Larks that were running around and singing.



Lapland Longspur on the left.



The following are actually 2 longspurs standing side by side,



The 31st Annual Johnson County Christmas Bird Count

The 31st annual Johnson County Christmas Bird Count will be on Sunday, December 15. At least it appears to be the 31st from the National Audubon statistics page. The center of the 7.5 mile radius circle is centered south of Indiana 252 and county road 200E.  The circle includes portions of a Johnson, Bartholomew, and Brown counties. It appears that at one time the count was called the Atterbury count and changed its name to Johnson County. Does anyone know why?

If you are interested in joining the compiler is Mike Clay and he can be reached at:

mpclay at comcast.net.

Also if you live in the count circle all feeder reports are welcome. Mike will assign teams that will bird in the morning and then teams meet at noon to recap the mornings count. At that point some are done for the day and others will continue to search for species missed in the morning.

Approximate Johnson County Christmas Bird Count Circle
Approximate Johnson County Christmas Bird Count Circle

Now for some data. The count has averaged 70 species per count in the 23 years of data I could find on the National Audubon Society site.  Last year the count was 60 species. My guess about last year was that it hadn’t frozen up north, and waterfowl hadn’t headed south. As seen in the attached spreadsheet, many common species of waterfowl were missed last year. And if things don’t change quickly, the same thing appears to be happening this year.

The spreadsheet can be found here : https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_VAU3vJnj6RUzN6YzdlNVFsZm8/edit?usp=sharing

My goal over the next two weeks will be to tie down locations of birds that fall in the 25 to 75% range or ones on the spreadsheet that were only seen on 6 to 18 of the last 23 counts. Those are the ones that will put the count above the average.

Laura Hare Preserve at Blossom Hollow

In mid-November a new forest preserve opened up in Johnson County – The Laura Hare Preserve at Blossom Hollow.  The official description of the preserve can be found on the Central Indiana Land Trust site – http://www.conservingindiana.org/places-to-visit/blossom-hollow-nature-preserve/

Entrance Sign - Laura Hare Preserve at Blossom Hollow
Entrance Sign – Laura Hare Preserve at Blossom Hollow

I have been there twice in the last few weeks searching for my 2013 nemesis bird – The Winter Wren.  The property is just south of Lamb Lake in SW Johnson County and is a great habitat addition.  The land is completely wooded with a stream cut out of rock running through the property.

Creek Bed - Laura Hare Preserve at Blossom Hollow
Creek Bed – Laura Hare Preserve at Blossom Hollow

From a birder’s perspective the preserve will offer its greatest benefit in the spring and summer. I have birded adjacent private property and know that Louisiana Waterthrush, Hooded Warbler, and Warm-eating Warbler are present. All hard species to come across in the county on public property. And not as hard to find in the county, but still tough, Pileated Woodpeckers were present on both trips. And if the creek running through the property had water I would also say Winter Wren would be present. But the creek does not appear to be spring fed so the creek was dry when I was there.  So I’m still Winter Wren less this year.

But you had better be in fair shape to bird there.

Steep Incline at Laura Hare Preserve at Blossom Hollow
Steep Incline at Laura Hare Preserve at Blossom Hollow

You don’t have to be Sir Edmund Hillary, but it isn’t a walk around the mall either. The trail takes you up a very steep gradient, probably a couple hundred yards long. I made a couple of stops on the climb up and it was okay. The trail makes a big loop through the property. On the walk in you go down to the creek and on the walk out it is a long uphill climb. The complete time to take the loop was about an hour and 15 minutes at a birders pace.

I am being watched Raccoon - Laura Hare
I am being watched
Raccoon – Laura Hare

So to recap, the property will be most beneficial to birders in spring and summer. And I would like to think the Central Indiana Land Trust for making the property available.

Johnson County Sat/Sun 11/2-3 – Osprey, Nashville Warbler, American Pipits

Saturday morning at Driftwood SFA while scanning a flock of sparrows and American Goldfinches a Nashville Warbler popped out. Since it would be late for a Nashville I started to doubt the quick look until it popped out again for a much better look.

A little later an Osprey flew over the lake several times.  Getting late for an Osprey also.

Osprey Driftwood SFA 11/2/13

I stopped by Atterbury FWA later in the morning.  Not much waterfowl but a few shorebirds – Dunlin, Pectoral Sandpipers, and Wilson’s Snipe.

Dunlin Atterbury FWA 11/2/13
Atterbury FWA 11/2/13

Sunday morning I met up with Mike Clay and we left early hoping for Northern Saw-whet Owls.  No luck but we heard a distant Great Horned Owl.  Besides sparrows not much was moving all morning.  We did have a Red-tailed give us the eye.

Red-tailed Hawk  Driftwood SFA 11/3/13
Red-tailed Hawk
Driftwood SFA 11/3/13

We stopped by Atterbury FWA and still not much waterfowl but now there were 8 Wilson’s Snipe.  While scanning the area 3 American Pipits landed on one of the dry areas.  Johnson County #194 this year – 200 is still a long shot.


Johnson County 10/20/13

Sorry for missing last week’s post but we were in Florida and only had a very slow internet connection. I’ll post some pictures from Florida later in the week along with the regular post.

So after returning from the Florida Keys where the temperatures were in the 90’s daily, I went out this morning and birded in 40F temperature.   The good news is that birds stay out in the cooler weather a lot longer than only the first hour as they did in the heat of Florida.

Sparrows were out in force this morning with Eastern Towhee, Chipping,  Field, Song, Swamp,  White-throated, White-crowned, and Dark-eyed Junco (FOS) seen.

Click the images for higher resolution photos.

White-crowned Sparrow Atterbury FWA 10/20/13
White-crowned Sparrow
Atterbury FWA 10/20/13

White-throated Sparrow Atterbury FWA 10/20/13

White-throated Sparrow
Atterbury FWA 10/20/13

 Chipping Sparrow Atterbury FWA 10/20/13

Chipping Sparrow
Atterbury FWA 10/20/13

Notice the Chipping Sparrow is in its Winter colors.

The highlight of the day was a lone Sandhill Crane which I found feeding in the marshy area north of Pisgah Lake .  This is the first I have seen on the ground in Johnson County.

SACR Atterbury FWA October 20, 2013

Sandhill Crane Atterbury FWA 10/20/13
Sandhill Crane
Atterbury FWA 10/20/13

I also saw a Dunlin and numerous Yellow-rumped Warblers.  For those interested the lists are at eBird.