August Birding 2017 Week 1

Last week I blogged about hoping to see as many Marion County August species as possible.  Over half  of the expected species were seen in August Birding 2017 Week 1.

The local flooded field had a small spot on the far side suitable for shorebirds. With the cold front passing on Friday I visited it late Thursday. The glare from the west was heavy but luckily periodic clouds helped with the seeing. With the help of the cloud cover I was able to ID the expected Least, Pectoral, Solitary, and Spotted Sandpipers.

August Birding 2017 Week 1
Early Saturday morning the local flooded field was packed with Canada Geese and Mallards. But no Wood Ducks??

The local park was the starting point Saturday searching for owls. Success was had with both Eastern Screech and Barred Owls. The Barred Owl was seen as it flew away from the area of the screech owls. It must have come in to check out the tape.

The flooded field was the next stop. As I have discovered if I don’t arrive at least 15-20 minutes before sunrise the Great Egrets will be gone. Arriving 15 minutes before sunrise the lone Great Egret there flew away a minute later. Mike then arrived but our scan only produced a few shorebirds.

We decided on Southwestway Park for the local and hopefully a long shot species. And we ended up with a couple of birds I didn’t expect to see in August – Blue Grosbeak and Yellow-breasted Chat.

On the edge of the park a Blue Grosbeak was singing from a tree line .
One of several Eastern Phoebes on the day.

Otherwise it was a battle to avoid mosquitoes while seeing the expected species.

The south end of Eagle Creek Reservoir for a short lake watch was the day’s last stop. An Osprey on the water’s far side was one of the few birds seen.

Sunday I visited the SE corner of the county for a few rural birds. The resident American Kestrel was present at its usual spot as were Eastern Meadowlarks.

The fun though was watching a Cooper’s Hawk turn the tables on American Crows.

This Cooper’s Hawk must have had enough of the local American Crows.
In a reversal of roles the hawk stayed above the crows and would periodically dive at them.
Here comes the hawk after the crows. They crows would disperse and then return. And the process would start over. Instead of the hawk having to fly away the crows eventually flew away from the hawk.

I figure there are an additional 10-15 species that should easily be seen until migration starts later this month. It’s the harder ones which will now be the challenge.

American Crows – Weekend Highlights

I told myself sometime ago I was going to post weekend highlights to make life a little easier. Having a regimented blog post concerning the weekend and one more later in the week about whatever I want fits my schedule. But I hadn’t thought of what would happen if the weather was so dark (fog and haze) that there wouldn’t be a highlight?

At least not in photos. Because every time I go birding it is an adventure and there are always highlights. The problem is I don’t get photos of everything to share.

So like the man once said, go with what you have got.

Mike and I birded Combs Wet Area and Southeastway Park in the fog and haze Saturday morning. When we arrived at dawn, Combs was packed with geese and ducks but like I previously reported was void of geese within a half hour. The odd thing is that I haven’t seen any Blue-winged Teal there yet this fall. I have seen them there each of the last couple of September’s. The only shorebirds were a couple of Pectoral Sandpipers and a few Least Sandpipers. Of course there were a lot of Killdeer.

Southeastway was slow in the fog. We might have been better off to come back later in morning. We did hear a Broad-winged Hawk calling in the trees but after a half hour search never located it.

Sunday morning was spent at Franklin Township Community Park. Not much in the way of warbler migrants but I watched a steady flow of Blue Jays fly from the north tree line and keep moving south. I figure they were migrating since I probably under counted at 50, which is many more than the normal 10 in the park.

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I spent Sunday morning with these dudes constantly flying around the Franklin Township Community Park (FTCP). I think they had found scrapings left over from Saturday’s soccer games. 9/25/16
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The main group of American Crows moved back and forth from the goalpost to the scoreboard on a regular basis. FTCP 9/25/16
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These two photos show the difference how birds appears at a distance. The larger of the American Crows is much closer than the smaller one. Without knowing that and looking only at the photo, I would think we had a rare, smaller crow. FTCP 9/25/16

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The photographic highlight of the weekend was capturing migrating Double-crested Cormorants. You can sort of tell they are in a V heading south. FTCP 9/25/16
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Back home the Northern Flicker family was out together. If I had been a second sooner a fourth one would be in the photo. Indianapolis 9/25/16
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Couldn’t pass up the chance for a photo of one of the Red-tailed Hawks that live in the woods by our place. Indianapolis 9/25/16

Black-bellied Plover – Weekend Highlights

I have struggled since I started this blog on getting out timely reports, mainly from the weekend, and creating a decent post. A post usually takes 2 hours with the sorting of photos, initial draft, proofreading, tags, etc. Going forward I’m going to try to post on Monday AM the weekend photos without creating “a story” which sets a blog apart from Facebook. This will be the initial test with BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER being the lead.

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The local wet field is perfect for shorebirds. Without rain it will probably be dry by next weekend. Last year it didn’t dry up until late October. Southern Marion County 8/6/16
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Most of the usual shorebirds were present with KILLDEER being around 100 in number. The highlight was a molting BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER. Southern Marion County 8/6/16
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It never lifted its wings but after watching it for a long time it just didn’t look like an American Golden Plover. Southern Marion County 8/7/16
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The bill seems too big for an American Golden and the vent area showed no signs of black. Southern Marion County 8/7/16
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I ran into Cary Floyd who pulled out a distant RUDDY DUCK from the mass of Mallards. Far and away my earliest Ruddy Duck for the area. Southern Marion County 8/6/16
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A CEDAR WAXWING posed nicely for a photo. Westside Park, Greenwood 8/6/16
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Grassland birds were extremely quiet this weekend. I happened to notice this DICKCISSEL with a meal. County Line Road, 8/6/16
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This long shot photo shows an EASTERN MEADOWLARK, lower left, in the field by Franklin HS. I flushed 10 walking the grass but never heard one calling in the hour I was there. 8/7/16
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Three SAVANNAH SPARROWS, which appear young, were on a fence at Franklin HS. 8/7/16
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How often does someone post a photo of a crow? I picked up my life Indiana list Fish Crow at Eagle Creek but this AMERICAN CROW was at Westside Park in Greenwood. 8/6/16

Why Bird Surveys Need to be Annual

The Thought

After running the two BBS (Breeding Bird Surveys) through East-Central Indiana and analyzing the data, I had the thought WHY are bird surveys done on an annual basis? Trends in the Midwest do change but on a slower basis. And with the trouble of getting volunteers to run bird surveys why not run them for 4 or 5 years, take a 4 or 5 year break, and then repeat? That would catch the developing trends over 40-50 years and require fewer volunteers.

The Why

Then I listened to the June 6 Talking Naturally episode on BAER’S POCHARD – a Critically Endangered East Asian Duck where Charlie discusses the dramatic decline over the last 5 years of the Baer’s Pochard. The IUNC lists the Baer’s as Critically Endangered and states “It winters mainly in eastern and southern mainland China, India, Bangladesh (maximum winter total of 17 individuals in the last five years, down from 1,000–2,000 individuals [Chowdhury et al. 2012]).”

Let me state that again:

maximum winter total of 17 individuals in the last five years, down from 1,000–2,000 “.

Listening to the podcast there were 1000 recorded at two sites in 2010 and less than 300 in 2014 when there was an organized search.

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Baer’s Pochard By Dick Daniels (http://carolinabirds.org/) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13494370

Now it was discussed the Baer’s Pochard could have wintered elsewhere for the winter but even in under surveyed China someone would have reported them. So it’s one species that definitely needs tracked annually.

But a large decrease can’t happen in the Midwest, can it?

Then I woke up and remembered the West Nile Virus and AMERICAN CROWS. If we hadn’t been tracking them on an annual basis the steep decline at the turn of the century might have not been noticed.

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The composite index for the American Crow for all BBS routes in the United States. North American Breeding Bird Survey Results and Analysis 1966-2013

Let’s say the survey was run every 5 years like I was thinking. From 1995 to 2000, a 5 year break, and again from 2005-2010. The impact of the West Nile Virus would have been missed. When the survey resumed in 2005 the numbers of crows would have been half. It would have probably been noticed but would there have been the data to help track the problem?

So yes, my thought was wrong. We definitely need to take annual bird surveys.

AMCR Bird Surveys
Luckily the American Crow survived and are now almost back to previous numbers.

Luckily the numbers of American Crows didn’t drop to the point a captive breeding program was needed like the Baer’s Pochard. But if the downward trend continued the data was there to guide conservationists to take action.

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.

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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.

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Double-crested Cormorants seen from Rick’s – Eagle Creek Reservoir. 9/26/15
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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.

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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.

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

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Looking for a safe haven the Red-shouldered Hawk ducks into a nearby tree. Eagle Creek Airport – 9/26/15
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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.)

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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
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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.)