The First Wave

If you have spent any length of time birding then you know spring migrants come through the Midwest in Waves. The First Wave are heartier migrants that winter just south of the winter freeze line, which in a normal winter is usually just south of the Midwest. These First Wavers usually start showing up in early to mid-March and in milder years small numbers of these birds are present all winter.

EAPH
This map from IUCN Red List shows the range of the First Waver Eastern Phoebe. Note they winter just south of the Midwest.

The next wave are birds that winter in Florida or the Gulf Coast. Birds like Greater Yellowlegs. They usually show up later in March.

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And this map shows the Second Waver Greater Yellowlegs that winters on the Gulf of Mexico coast (and all the way to the tip of South America if the map was extended) From IUCN Red List.

As I posted last week, Mike and I spent the first weekend in March looking for early migrants. And we struck out. But this past Saturday I ran into five of the First Wave migrants.

But before I went looking for First Wavers I checked a couple of flooded fields that regular hold shorebirds. No luck but one of them did have a few NORTHERN SHOVELERS feeding in the field.

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Brrr, that’s cold! A Northern Shoveler appears to be testing out the water before getting in. Flooded Field – Johnson County 3/12/16

There is a country road bridge north of Atterbury FWA that usually has an early EASTERN PHOEBE.  Before I reached the bridge I heard one calling from the backyard of a house in the woods. Never did see it and there wasn’t one at the bridge. But it was good to know they were back.

AMRO
I noticed that the American Robin pre-dawn chorus began in earnest early last week with the warmer temperatures. This one was at Driftwood SWA. 3/12/16

Then on to Driftwood SWA which usually has several of the First Wavers breeding there in summer. And it looks like this year will be no exception.

My first target were the FIELD SPARROWS that usually occupy Driftwood in large numbers. Walking east of the boat unloading area I heard and then saw 2 chasing each other. They did this for the whole time, never landing long enough for a photo.  There were other distant Field Sparrows calling out their “pin-pong ball on a table” call but they were not to be seen either.

Moving to the other side of the lake and immediately getting out of the car I heard a BROWN THRASHER.  He was at the top of a tree and I assume staking out his territory.

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The first Brown Thrasher of the year singing at Driftwood SWA. 3/12/16
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Same individual getting ready to sing.

And within a few seconds I heard another thrasher calling a couple hundred yards to the west.

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I thought the thrashers might not be present or be little less vocal, but in true form they called the entire time I was present.

Walking down to the lake I heard a TREE SWALLOW, another of the First Wavers, calling and then flying away. A few minutes later one landed in a tree for a photo.

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The first Tree Swallow of the year acted like it wasn’t sure where it wanted to go, so it sat for a few minutes. Driftwood SWA 3/12/16

With 4 First Wavers seen I headed to Johnson County Park to pick up one more First Waver – FOX SPARROW. Last week Mike found one but I never really got on it. So back to the sparrow spot for another try. It took some pishing but eventually after numerous Song Sparrows and Juncos, a Fox Sparrow popped up. Same one as last week? In the poor light I never did get a good photo but I did get good looks.

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Not a First Waver but definitely the most numerous species on the day. Song Sparrows were out singing in large numbers at every stop. Driftwood SFA 3/ 12/16

With The Doldrums over its time to get back catching more Waves.

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