In pursuit of adding species that should already be on my Indiana Life list, Mike Clay and I headed to Sullivan and Greene Counties on Saturday. Our main objectives were Northern Shrike, Rough-legged Hawk, and Short-eared Owl. And if time permitted a quick side trip to Turtle Creek for the Little Gull, if still present.
The day’s plan was to drive around searching for our objectives. Which meant my least favorite type of birding – car birding. But there isn’t any other way to find the target species. With the temperature in the high teens and a south wind around 12 MPH, the short bouts outside of the car were cold. Jumping back into the car was a relief, so I will stop whining about car birding. At least for now.
We started by checking for Northern Shrike and Rough-legged Hawk in NE Sullivan County. We hadn’t been at it long when a large dark bird put up the Canada Geese and Mallards. At first we thought it was a Rough-legged Hawk, but pretty quickly we figured out it was a young Bald Eagle.
Within a couple of minutes we spotted a Rough-legged Hawk, one of six we would see on the day. I enjoy watching Red-tailed Hawks soar but it was nice to see something different.
After an hour and half we decided the shrike was a no-show and moved on. We headed to the Dugger Unit where there were more Bald Eagles and a good variety of waterfowl on the only open water we saw.
Now getting later in the day a decision had to be made, go to Turtle Creek or not? We decided to pass after checking IN-Bird and reading that the Little Gull hadn’t been seen.
So off to Goose Pond for a quick drive around. We had numerous Northern Harriers and even a couple of Eastern Meadowlarks. Also more Rough-legged Hawks.
Not seeing anything unusual we headed back to Sullivan County for Short-eared Owls. After watching Northern Harriers fly the area for 15 minutes the first Short-eared Owl appeared at 5:31, fourteen minutes before sundown.
It wasn’t long before other Short-eared Owls appeared. Over the next 25 minutes we watched them fly, chase, and even “bark” at one another. It was one of those things I had never encountered before but will always remember. With daylight gone and a 2 hour drive home, we called it a day, adding 2 more species to my Indiana Life list.