Last week consisted of traveling for work. So only the weekend for birding. But Mike had been out during the week to the local flooded field and nothing new. Only the usual species. But Saturday of August Birding 2017 Week 3 proved to be fruitful.
Saturday started on a good note as two Common Nighthawks were flying over as I walked to the car. At first I thought they were early then I remembered it was the third week of August.
The plan for the day was a tour from Mike of Eagle Creek Park since I had only been there a couple of times in the 4.5 years we have been in Indiana.
We started with a quick check of the south part of the reservoir from Rick’s Boatyard. In the early light we picked up first of season Blue-winged Teal and Pied-billed Grebe.
We moved on to Eagle Creek Park. With a triathlon in progress we decided to park out a distance and walk to the Ice Skating Ponds. The walk there and the later walk to the Marina were both quiet.
Around the ponds there was a lot of activity with Red-eyed, White-eyed, and Warbling Vireos all seen. Plus the usual flycatchers were present. And have you noticed Baltimore Orioles are singing again?
At the Marina Purple Martins were putting on a display chasing Spotted Sandpipers and even a Double-crested Cormorant.
Mike had to take off so I headed to the Handicapped Road late morning. Though it was quiet I did pick up a couple of new birds for the August total.
A walk on the north trail proved productive adding a couple more to the month total.
I ended the day well north of 50 species and in the high 80’s for the month. Don’t know if I’ll get to 115 but I should break 100 for the month.
It’s been four months since my December Colorado trip. And I’ll be going again in two months to run two BBS Routes. Even though I have enough photos for a few more posts it’s time to wrap it up and present my Western Colorado final thoughts.
Like other trips I’ll do a final post on thoughts from the trip. And like those reports these are in no order.
Early December is probably not the best time to go birding in Western Colorado if you’re after a large species count. But since I wanted to check out the BBS routes and I had the time, I went. Plus, as I have stated it is going to be one of three areas I hope to come to know and bird repeatedly.
Next time I’m flying direct. For an extra $200 I can fly direct into Grand Junction and pick up an extra day of birding. On future summer trips I might fly into Denver and bird my way across the state. But on winter trips I’ll fly direct and not have to fight the mountain passes.
The drive back to Denver was rough. As stated above I’ll forgo looking for birds on the way not to worry about the drive. I have driven in the worst Midwest snowstorms but never at 10,000 feet with trucks going up and down on the mountain passes. Not again.
This was my first time flying on Frontier and had no problems on either flight. The only catch are limited flights from Indianapolis to Denver. And Alamo Rent-A-Car was good for the second straight trip. Will use both again without hesitation.
The next non-June trip will be timed to coincide with migration of raptors and before the snow comes to the mountains. There is a good movement of raptors along the west edge of the Rockies I’d like to see.
For you listers, I saw 62 species on the trip of which 23 were new Colorado species and 5 life birds. In June I’ll probably spend some time looking for rarer species up in the mountains.
I proved I like to bird one area and get to know it versus traveling all day from spot to spot. And flying direct will add another day of birding the area.
Still no Golden Eagle. But I’m sure one will fly by eventually.
The zoom feature of the Nikon P900 camera proved I don’t need to lug along a spotting scope. For distant views it worked well to ID species.
I saw other wildlife outside of birds. Rabbits, a lone fox, and a deer couple which scared the @(*%& out of me.
Weather was great for December outside of the mountain passes on the drive back. Lows in teens, highs in the 40’s. Very light snow
Accomplished the main goal of checking out Douglas Pass for the June Breeding Bird Survey trip. It should be interesting running the survey from the start in scrub land and working my way over a mountain pass.
As I stated in a couple of previous posts I need to learn status and distribution for the area better. The number of Ruby-crowned Kinglets still surprises me.
And as always every hour had highlights but the American Dipper was probably the best since it was totally unexpected.
After my last post on birders trying to turn Common Goldeneye to Barrow’s Goldeneye, you thought I would have learned. Nope. My first day in the Grand Junction area was spent wasting too much time trying to turn a Western Grebe into a Clark’s Grebe.
The day started out exactly like I hoped. Clear and cold (17F). I was at Highline Lake State Park in under a half hour. It was as quiet as birding in winter in Midwest. The difference though was no backdrop noise of cars or machinery like you hear in the Midwest.
I was one of the few people at the park besides the rangers. And the birding was slow but I didn’t mind as I walked the trails for a few hours.
In my last post from my recent Colorado trip I ended by asking about the Canada Geese I’d seen circling the airport area?
Well they were there. Hundreds congregating in a field.
I put the total at 8,000 but it was probably higher.
Now remember I’m only a few miles from the airport.
I’d just seen the movie Sully and my first thought was “doesn’t that many geese close to an airport equal trouble?”
On my previous trip I had been searching for Burrowing Owls which inhabit the surrounding plains. They were present with the large population of Prairie Dogs. Talking to one of the local photographers he said the Burrowing Owls are no longer present and had moved west. And he was amazed there were still so many raptors present.
The reason was because the local Prairie Dogs had been removed to another area. And their colonies had been destroyed by the Wildlife Hazard Management Program at Denver International Airport to reduce the food for large raptors. If you read the “Other Wildlife” section in the link you’ll see Prairie Dogs don’t impose a threat but do attract larger wildlife which do pose a threat.
So how to manage the large numbers of Canada Geese without turning the surrounding fields into a desert? This time of year the large fields of harvested corn are going to attract geese. And I assume be a nuisance to planes.
It’ll be something I think about on my flight next June.
Yesterday was my official start of the IAS Summer Count for Johnson County. If interested you can read about participating in the count at the IAS webpage or on IN-Bird.
The highlight of the day was finding WILSON’S SNIPE at a local “marshy” area. Even though I knew it was a late date for snipe my research has led to a separate blog that I will post in a day or two.
An EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE was at the previous known spot in Franklin. I check this every trip to Atterbury and haven’t seen one since late June of last year. Conservatively saying I stop two times a month that means I have checked a minimum of 20 times without seeing one. Now they are on the IAS Summer Count for the County.
Another species I added which hasn’t been on my previous three years of participating was a BLUE-WINGED WARBLER. It was at the same location Mike and I saw one on April 30th. I’m guessing it’s on territory since it’s still present.
There are a couple of spots in the county I know that have breeding PROTHONOTARY WARBLERS. With the grass now shoulder-high I bushwhacked back to one location and it didn’t take long to hear one calling.
There were also breeding WOOD DUCKS in the swampy area.
I had unofficially started the count earlier this week with a stop at the new BOBOLINK location to make sure I counted them before the grass was cut. DICKCISSELS were also calling from the tall grass.
I spent over an hour walking the River Road hoping to hear a BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO. No luck. But I did hear YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS and AMERICAN REDSTARTS, a species I didn’t have a June location previously.
Sunday I made my semi-annual trip to the local BALD EAGLE’S nest. It’s on the other side of the county and there isn’t any reason for me to go except to see the eagles. Looks like a good year with at least two juveniles in the nest.
It was good start to the Summer Count with 70+ species over the three days.
From Dictionary.com – surreal – “havingthedisorienting,hallucinatoryqualityofa dream;unreal;fantastic:”
And that is the only way I can describe the scene when 100,000+ SNOW GEESE are flying overhead honking. And that doesn’t do it justice. You must see it yourself to really comprehend the scene.
And this was the way it went all morning when I accompanied Don Gorney last Saturday on my first trip to Gibson County. While looking for other various specialties there was always the awareness of the Snow Geese flying in the distance.
I hadn’t seen this many Snow Geese since I went on chase #3 for a Little Gull at Carlyle Lake in Southern Illinois. That day there was the same constant swirling of Snow Geese until they settled on the lake. It is too bad that there isn’t access to Gibson Lake so we could see the vast amount of waterfowl that must be present.
And Snow Geese weren’t the only birds in large flocks. Though I didn’t get a picture (how can you get one that does the scene justice?) on the day we saw huge flocks of blackbirds – mainly COMMON GRACKLES. It would probably take someone with a video camera to record the long line of blackbirds and then try to get a count. I swear one of the flocks was a couple of miles long.
Early in the day we stopped by the town of Francisco to see if there were EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVES next to the grain elevator like every small town. And of course there were.
On the day we saw several impressive birds starting with the lingering GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE. Don had already spent time with it in December and I had spent considerable time with them last summer in Colorado, so we didn’t linger at the sight.
Hoping for waterfowl we moved on to Tern Bar Slough. There was little variety and numbers are still low. Hopefully the current cold snap will send some south. Moving on we encountered both endangered RUSTY BLACKBIRDS and RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS in the same woods. Which was good to see.
We then spent a considerable amount of time watching the Snow Geese while Don picked a few ROSS’S GEESE out of the swirling flock. A few groups of GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE also flew by at a higher elevation.
In the afternoon we headed to Somerville Mine in the eastern part of the county to search for raptors. They were numerous with many RED-TAILED HAWKS, NORTHERN HARRIERS, and more limited numbers of ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS and AMERICAN KESTRELS.
We also went into Warrick County in search of Northern Shrikes and MERLINS. We missed on the Shrikes but found a few Merlins.
We extended the day a little and went back to Somerville Mine area to catch the initial flights of SHORT-EARED OWLS at dusk.
From my first trip to the area I can see why Gibson County always does well on counts. The varied habitat is great for a wide variety of species.
This past weekend was busy to start but died down quickly. Mike and I headed to Southwestway Park to see if we could pick up any migrants. We parked cars at each end of the park allowing us to walk the length of the park without having to double back. We would be walking through a part of the park I hadn’t seen before. So hopefully a little bit of bushwhacking.
The first few yards along the southern end of the park was rather birder. Our goal was Golden-crowned Kinglets. A bird I thought I hadn’t seen yet this year. Have I mentioned my year on species has been a little slow? Anyway I later checked and had seen one on the Muscatatuck Christmas Bird Count on Jan 1.
And we did see numerous Golden-crowned Kinglets and several Ruby-crowned along the road. We also had White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows. But on the main walk along the bluff it was slow. So I was glad we did the cars the way we did. Just a few Yellow-rumped Warblers on the hour and half walk. On the north end we saw the first of fall Fox Sparrows. And the overcast skies didn’t lend itself to photos.
We did the car switch which put us back at the Southern edge of the park. Mike left and I went back along the road hoping for a few pictures in slightly better light. And of course it turned out to be much quieter than earlier. But watching a couple of Song Sparrows an Orange-crowned Warbler popped out. Since I have very few I was busy talking into my voice recorder to confirm the ID. And the ID comes first. So no picture. Sorry.
I had a little time Sunday morning so I did the local patches. Sparrows were numerous around Meijer Pond along with a few Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers.
I then headed to Franklin Township Park for the usual one hour loop.
And there were Yellow-rumped Warblers everywhere.
Others record these type of numbers but I haven’t seen this many in a long time. There were 2 or 3 in every bush and tree around the small pond.
Otherwise it was quiet until I reached the car around 10:45. I noticed a lone Turkey Vulture flying to the north. With the naked eye it didn’t seem right. I got the binoculars back out of the car and took a look. Sure enough. Turkey Vulture. But there was a second one and it banked and the plank wing pattern said it wasn’t a Turkey Vulture.
It was a younger Bald Eagle circling on the mid-morning winds. Earlier this year I had seen 2 adult Bald Eagles chasing each other here. So I knew they were around.
So as always there is usually something interesting if you get out and look.
Ever since we moved to Indiana three years ago, I have made a trip to Goose Pond each July 4th weekend. And since I only get there a couple of times a year, I have started to look forward to the trip. So like a kid at Christmas anticipating it’s gifts, I was up 15 minutes earlier than the 4:15 alarm, on the road by4:45, and arrived a little after 6:30 to watch the dawn movement.
I was immediately struck by how quiet it was. Outside of the Red-winged Blackbirds there weren’t many birds calling, though there were Marsh Wrens and even a couple of Least Bitterns calling from across IN59. And one of the Least Bitterns even flew over the cattails, but not long enough for a photo. I’m not sure if it was because the air was “heavy” with the cloudy, humid conditions but it seemed “noisier” last year. I ended up seeing about the same number of species as last year, and the the quantity of each species was comparable, but it seemed quieter. Maybe because last year was sunny and warm. Anyway I didn’t let it spoil the day.
Also the water levels were lower. I would have thought they would have been higher with all the rain, but the DNR must be controlling them. Even though I found some perfect shorebird habitat, I didn’t get lucky on any migrating shorebirds like I did last year.
All in all I got to see the native summer birds. Which is the reason I go every year.
The plan for the week wasn’t unique – bird the main habitats of the area. But before I headed to Grand Junction I had a day to spend east of Denver.
I had taken a 5:30 AM flight out of Indianapolis that had me birding by 7:30 AM Mounain Time Saturday. The plan for the day was to bird the perimeter road of the airport looking for owls and hawks, then drive east of out into the country for hawks, and then back to a state park reservoir. Wrap it up by 1 PM and then the 4-5 hour drive to Grand Junction.