August Birding 2017 Week 4

August Birding 2017 Week 4 can be summed up in one word, robins. And goldfinches. OK, two words. But mainly robins. Not many additions to the August list but there were a couple of surprises.

At both Southwestway Park Saturday and the local park Sunday American Robins were out in force. It seemed every movement I checked on was a robin. And if it wasn’t a robin it was an American Goldfinch doing a different call.

The star of the weekend – vast numbers of American Robins.
Brown Thrashers made a return last week after being quiet for the summer. Each day I heard 3 or 4 SMACKING in the bush.
And Indigo Buntings made a return doing their loud CHIP call.
Red-winged Blackbirds made their return from their summer molt.

Otherwise it was relatively quit. Mike and I had hoped for warblers but a lone Blackburnian Warbler was it for Saturday. I even checked the flooded field and Soccer field without much action.

Without rain the local flooded field is going to be gone by Labor Day.

Weekend Star

Since not much else was happening a male Summer Tanager was a welcome surprise. While watching the before mentioned robins the tanager appeared out of nowhere. Though he wasn’t close his colors still stood out.

The Summer Tanager kept to the early morning shadows.
Once he jumped up a little higher the yellow on his belly became apparent.
We finally got a chance to see his bright colors in the morning sun.
August Birding 2017 Week 4
A few butterflies were out including several Monarchs.

With the addition of three species I’m in the low 90’s for the month. I might get a chance to go out early Wednesday or Thursday but that darn work keeps interfering!

So I’m guessing 100 isn’t a possibility unless I luck into a wave of warblers.

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.

GRYE
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.

NOSH (1)
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.

BRTH (14)
The first Brown Thrasher of the year singing at Driftwood SWA. 3/12/16
BRTH (7)
Same individual getting ready to sing.

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

BRTH (6)

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.

TRES (4)
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.

SOSP (2)
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.

An Owl to Help the Waiting

It seems it has been at least a month that I have been WAITING for the seasons to change the scenery from late summer birds to early winter birds.  And with the weather in the 70 degree range this past week, I don’t think it is going to happen quite yet.

So Mike and I headed out last Saturday morning to check a few spots before the rain hit. After the rain last week we were hoping that the local shorebird spot might be have some birds.  As my last post showed not only was it dried up, but plowed under. So we headed to the local ponds hoping some waterfowl had moved in. No waterfowl exept for a large number of Canada Geese. And the wind had now moved to the east at 15mph and a light rain was starting to fall. Enough of that. We discussed plans for the next few weekends, weather cooperating, and I headed home early.

The weather had improved by mid-afternoon and I had cabin fever, so I headed to the local park.  Really not expecting anything different while we WAIT for the seasons to change. But a good walk in fall weather is always good.

Franklin TP Sign
The intro sign to my local park. I really hadn’t paid much attention to it before. I’ll have to check the webpage listed at the bottom of the sign.
AMRO FTP (4)
The bird of the day, in terms of numbers, was easily the American Robin. They were everywhere giving the false hope they might be something else. Franklin TCP 10/31/15

And as expected there really wasn’t much happening outside the local species and large numbers of American Robins, Northern Flickers, and Yellow-rumped Warblers. And I saw a Lincoln’s Sparrow that had more markings on the breast than I have seen before.  So that was fun trying to figure out.  Not even one raptor flying.

CARW FTP
A Carolina Wren getting close to scold me for pishing for sparrows. Franklin TCP 10/31/15
WTSP FTP
Two White-throated Sparrows discussing if they should drop down in the brush. And of course they did. Franklin TCP 10/31/15

But while walking through the park’s small forested area I saw a raptor fly from high up in one tree down and then back up to sit on a high branch.  First thought since it was daytime was a hawk but something told me it was an owl.  And sure enough it was a totally unexpected Barred Owl.

BADO FTP
It’s amazing to me how well Barred Owls blend into their landscape. If I hadn’t watch it land I would have never picked up it’s location. Franklin TCP 10/31/15

Having seen them in daylight off and on over the years in Illinois I knew that I had to follow it to exactly were it landed.  Or it would blend in so well I would never find it in the trees.  And I couldn’t move. Loosing the angle of sight and the same thing would happen.

So I stood in the same spot and watched the owl watching me.

BADO 2 FTP
I never could get a line of sight on the owl through the underbrush. Don’t you wonder how many owls go unnoticed? Franklin TCP 10/31/15

Of course the line of sight did not give me a clear photo line. And past experience told me that it would flush if I tried to move towards it.  So I moved 2 feet left, no better view. Then 2 feet right.  Still no good. And the path was too narrow to go much further left or right.

BAOW 122909
Since I didn’t get a good photo Saturday I’ll add this obliging Barred Owl sitting in the sun at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois. It hung around for a few weeks at this spot. 12/29/09

So I gazed at the owl for many minutes and then decided to try to get a better line of sight by moving forward. And as expected after about 3 steps it flushed, not to be seen again.

But anytime I see an owl in the daytime it’s a treat.