Geese, Geese, Geese – and a Few Swans. Universal Mines Saturday

In the attempt to add a few more birds to my Indiana Life list, Mike and I (and probably a large percentage of Central Indiana birders) headed to Universal Mines NW of Terre Haute Saturday morning to view the numerous swans and geese that had been reported.  This would be my first visit to the area.

The high temperature for the day was supposed to reach 50F with winds gusting to 45 MPH in the afternoon. So it was either leave early, fight the cold, and avoid the winds.  Or go later, be warm, and fight the wind. We choose the former.

We left early so we could arrive a little before sunrise to watch the morning flight. When we arrived there were still thousands of geese and hundreds of swans still on the only open water in the area – an old strip mine known as the “Grand Canyon”.

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The south end of the “Grand Canyon” at sunrise. 10,000 Geese?? 01/17/15

 

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A closer view showing more individual geese. 01/17/15

Now here is the rub for Indiana Birders.  The water is on the Illinois side of the border with Indiana.

Map of Grand Canyon Area
A satellite view showing the distance from the “Grand Canyon” to the Illinois-Indiana border.

I already knew the lake was in Illinois but assumed it was closer.  When reporting birds people usually report an Illinois count and then have an Indiana count for the birds that “fly” over the border.  The problem is that unless you actually park on the border, which is 400 meters away, it is hard to tell what birds actually fly over. But as I have previously stated my belief on listing, it is your bird list and unless it is a very rare bird, you can do what you want on your list. So Mike and I made our best guess on birds that flew towards the border.  Enough on that topic.

On the morning we saw great numbers, and I mean GREAT NUMBERS, of Canada Geese, Greater White-fronted Geese, and Trumpeter Swans. Plus 5 Tundra Swans (my goal bird) that we didn’t see fly over the border. I don’t think I have ever seen that many geese at once though I have seen large numbers at Hennepin-Hopper Lake in Illinois.

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Geese becoming air born at sunrise on the north side of the “Grand Canyon”. Another 10,000? 20,000? More? 01/17/15
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Trumpeter Swans flying over the road. 01/17/15

 

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A long distance shot of Greater White-fronted Geese. 01/17/15

And here is my first attempt at video.  Something (an eagle? gun shots?) put all the birds on the north side in the air at once. A sight to behold.

CANG Flight

At this point I’m not going to estimate the number of geese.  I think I will take a closer look at the photos and see if I can come up with a guess.  I’ll post about that at a later date.

On the way home we stopped at Chinook Mines for a quick pass.  Nothing to report but I did get a nice photo of a calling Eastern Meadowlark and a Rough-legged Hawk in flight.

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An Eastern Meadowlark that was calling at Chinook Mines. 01/17/15
RLHA Chinook Mines
And a Rough-legged Hawk flying over. (I lightened the photo) Chinook Mines 01/17/15

 

Now for the bird that I did add to my list today.  Carl Huffman has been reporting Black Vultures regularly on eBird at DePauw Nature Park in Greencastle. Since it wasn’t far out-of-the-way and since I needed the bird for the list, we stopped by. This is north of the usual range for Black Vultures (see map below) but there are other sites north of the range where they appear.  Hopefully this will be another consistent site.

BLVU Range Map
I put a red X on Greencastle to show how far north the Black Vultures are from their normal range.

After seeing 6 Turkey Vultures we ended seeing 2 Black Vultures at a distance which didn’t allow photos.  I did get one photo of a Turkey Vulture though.

TUVU Depauw Nature
A really lightened photo of a Turkey Vulture. DePauw Nature Park 01/17/15

Even if the Tundra Swans stayed on the Illinois side and couldn’t be added to the list, I got to add Black Vulture.

2 Replies to “Geese, Geese, Geese – and a Few Swans. Universal Mines Saturday”

  1. Excuse my technical term, but that’s a “butt load” of geese – WOW! Congrats on the Black Vulture!! I keep waiting for one to come a bit further north into Wisconsin.

    1. The numbers were impressive when they were on the water, but when they all lifted is was unreal. The sky didn’t get dark but they filled the sky.

      The Black Vulture was just for fun and to check out a new area. I would have eventually seen them this year. Good luck on a Black Vulture in Wisconsin. Maybe eventually if they keep moving north.

      Bob

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