Easy Additions Saturday

Since I have now completed my BBS routes and finished helping on a couple other local breeding surveys I took the opportunity to work on my Johnson County IAS Summer Bird Count. The last few years I have been around the 100 species mark and since I was already at 90, I knew it would be tough to add species. With work being demanding the last few weeks I decided to go after EASY additions Saturday.

With sunrise at 6:15 that meant one more Saturday up by 4AM and out by 4:30AM. That put me at Atterbury FWA a little after 5AM. But even before I got there I had a GREAT HORNED OWL fly in front of my car while driving though Franklin. Right time. Right Place.

The first stop which is iffy anyway didn’t produce any owls. But the more reliable spot had 3 EASTERN SCREECH-OWLS flying around for over 10 minutes.  In case you’re wondering I usually play a recording for about 1 minute and that’s it.  This time it was about 30 seconds when the first one started calling.

Not even 6AM and I had added two species to the count.

MOON (2) Easy additions
The Moon was due South as I started my day owling. Atterbury FWA 6/25/16

Before heading to Driftwood I checked the pond in Johnson County Park. Again right place and time. No sooner than I stopped than a KILLDEER started hassling a SPOTTED SANDPIPER. Plus another easy addition was a RED-HEADED WOODPECKER calling in the distance. Two more easy species for the count.

Even though it was harassing the Spotted Sandpiper I want to think this Killdeer otherwise I might not have seen the spotted. Didn’t notice the garbage by the Killdeer until I looked at the photo. Johnson County Park – 6/25/16
Another of the easy additions was a Spotted Sandpiper on the right bobbing its tail. And the Mallard family is growing, compare to the header photo from 2 weeks ago. Johnson County Park – 6/25/16

On to Driftwood, no Double-crested Cormorant but a fly by Red-headed Woodpecker was nice.

To the Dark Road of Atterbury. No Black-billed Cuckoo calling as hoped but a young AMERICAN REDSTART was interested in me.

AMRE (2)
An American Redstart was interested in my walk along the road by constantly flying overhead. Atterbury FWA – 6/25/16
AMRE (1)
I included this photo since it reminded me of all the bird quizzes where you are only given so much to see. Atterbury FWA – 6/25/16
I don’t ever remember pishing in a Scarlet Tanager, but he came in overhead as I was trying to get a bird to come out of the bush. Atterbury FWA – 6/25/16

I then decided to walk back and take a long shot check to see if any rails were in the marshy area. By now the sun was up and it was getting hot. As expected no rails or much else of anything.

It’s hard to tell here but the weeds on the path to the marshy area are shoulder-high. And thorny. Atterbury FWA – 6/25/16
The only bird on the walk through the rough was this Field Sparrow asking me if I was nuts walking in the heat. Atterbury FWA – 6/25/16

So with the heat rising and nothing calling I headed home.  But first a stop by the PURPLE MARTIN house for a list easy species.

PUMA (1)
The Purple Martins were the last of Saturday’s easy additions. Rural Johnson County – 6/25/16

I’ll take the 5 easy additions since the birds were done calling by mid-morning. It’ll now by one species at a time until the last week of July when I can hope for an influx of shorebirds.

On Walking a Good Birding Loop

Labor Day means it’s that time of year when I make the switch from birding state parks that allow hunting to city or state parks that do not allow hunting. Looking back I have always done this in one form or another. Not sure if my birding suffers in the fall but I don’t have to worry about getting shot.

So I birded Southeastway Regional Park, Ft. Harrison State Park, and Franklin Township Park over the Labor Day weekend.  All are located within the city limits of Indianapolis, which means no hunting.

AMRE Southeastway
An American Redstart – middle of photo – at Southeastway Park Saturday. Swainson’s Thrushes and American Redstarts were on the move with many of each being seen. 9/6/15

Franklin Township Park isn’t the most birdy spot I visit but on a Sunday or holiday when there aren’t any school activities or soccer games the birding can be OK.

I realized Monday that I like it because it has a good 1.25 mile loop that takes about an hour and a half to walk.

And I have noticed over the years that I like nothing better than a birding loop that takes about 60-90 minutes.

FCHS Field
One of the main reasons I bird Franklin Township Park is the athletic fields. When it is dry and they get watered, there is always a chance for shorebirds. 9/7/15
FCHS Field A
But on this day there were only 40+ Killdeer. Franklin Township Park 9/7/15

I have tried out-and-back birding trails – like abandoned rail lines that are now trails – but they always seem to be boring on the way back. Even if I leave a bicycle at one end to ride back.  When I used to run my favorites were loops, not out-and-back runs. My favorite loop took 75 minutes over a mixture of varying hills and flats. There is just something I don’t like about seeing the same territory twice. I guess it goes with wanting to see something new.

I wasn’t the only one looking for birds. The local Cooper’s Hawk was also giving them a look over. Franklin Township Park 9/7/15
But an American Kestrel (on light pole) didn’t like the Cooper’s (in tree – lower left of photo) being in his area. He dived bombed him a few times making him move on. You never know what kind of action you will get out in the field. Franklin Township Park 9/7/15

One good thing about an hour loop is that I feel I can take my time and see the birds.  There is no hurry because the loop isn’t large. Unlike large loops or out-and-back trails that you aren’t ever sure where to stop.

I think the best thing about loops that take approximately 60-90 minutes is that you can get it done and call it a day. Usually with some good birding.

Or if you desire you can move on to another loop of equal length or your favorite spot to stop and scan gulls or shorebirds. And it still won’t take up your whole day.

A Red-tailed Hawk was also prowling the area. Franklin Township Park 9/7/15

A loop that is shorter than 60 minutes usually leaves me wanting for more. And when I bird all day I never seem to remember much about the birds or even where I saw them. On those long days all the birds just seem like a tick on a list. It takes an effort to remember each bird unlike the hour loop were I can usually remember and enjoy the birds as I enter them into eBird.

A Least Flycatcher was the only migrant besides an earlier seen Canada Warbler on the day. Besides the big eye-ring and head, it called a few times to confirm the ID. Franklin Township Park 9/7/15

So there’s my case for doing loops a little over a mile in about 60-90 minutes.  They just seem to fit.

What’s your favorite birding loop?






Almost Time For This Year’s Adventure

Wish I had more to write about, but I don’t.  Between sitting in a training class last week or driving to the training class, the creative juices weren’t flowing.

Plus what free time I have is going to learning the birds of Colorado. The western slope of the Rockies to be exact.  I fly out next weekend for 6 days around the Grand Junction area. I plan on trying to make a daily post but that might be a little to ambitious. At that time I’ll go into more detail how I picked that area to see birds of the U.S. “Great Basin”.

NO photos from this weekend.  Along with Mike and Karl we did the annual breeding census on the military side of Camp Atterbury. No cameras allowed on the military base, so no photos.  Karl had done the east side on Friday which is mostly grasslands and had a good count of 35 Henslow’s Sparrows. We did the forested west side and some how came up with the same number of Hooded Warblers, Ovenbirds, and American Redstarts – 17.  The count on the Hooded is the highest ever for this count. With the high temperatures the birds stopped calling early so we didn’t have as good of day as past years.  Oh well.

But here are a few photos from a week ago.

Eastern Phoebe calling insistently above a creek and of course close to a bridge. Atterbury FWA 6/06/15
One and only one guess as to this species. Getting a good look so I can compare it to an Ash-throated Flycatcher next week. Atterbury FWA 6/06/15 (Great Crested Flycatcher)
Same thing here. Taking a long look at an Eastern Towhee so I can compare to a Spotted Towhee next week in Colorado. Atterbury FWA 6/06/15
I heard numerous Yellow-breasted Chats on the day. Most were up and singing on territory. If you can call what they do singing. Atterbury FWA 6/06/15
Same guy as above.
HOSP  FHS 060715A
I always find House Sparrows away from man interesting. But of course they really aren’t away from man because she is standing on a man-made bluebird house. FHS 6/06/15
HOSP  FHS 060715B
And the male house Sparrow wasn’t too far away. FHS 6/06/15
SASP FHS 060615A
There were several male Savannah Sparrows giving me their chip note to keep away. And I wasn’t even that close. I did learn their chip note though, which is a softer one than a Song Sparrow. FHS 6/06/15
SASP FHS 060615
Same bird as above.
YEWA JCP 060615
A Yellow Warbler flew in and decided to take a quick bath. Johnson County Park 6/06/15
NRWS JC 060715
And is there any doubt that the Northern Rough-winged Swallow was the prototype for every movie alien? Look at those eyes. East of Franklin – Johnson County
MIKI 061910
Maybe movie producers used Mississippi Kites instead? Ferne Clyffe SP IL 6/19/10









Just Plain Lucky

If you have been following this blog then you know that taken photos is not my main objective in birding.  But I still like to get a good photo once in a while. Especially of birds that I don’t get a chance to photograph often.

Mike and I were birding a local park a week ago Saturday when I noticed something flitting through the trees.  My first thought was that it was a warbler but we had only seen one warbler that morning, an American Redstart.

American Redstart – Greenwood IN 05/02/15

But I stayed on the moving bird and from it’s shape I could tell it was a vireo.  And a Blue-headed Vireo at that! As seen in the following Indiana Bar Chart from eBird, we see less Blue-headed Vireos in Indiana than all vireos except Philadelphia Vireos .

Indiana - Vireos

We got to watch the bird for a good length of time.  But as I stated it was working its way though the trees like a warbler, not offering much of a chance for a photo. Mike thinks since the trees had hardly budded there wasn’t much to eat so it kept moving searching for food.

Finally it stopped for a second and I got to take two photos. First the usual photo – nothing.


And sometimes you’re Just Plain Lucky. Definitely click the photo for larger view.

Blue-headed Vireo – Greenwood IN 05/02/15

I will probably go the rest of my life and not get a better photo, maybe even a view, of a Blue-headed Vireo.