Bell’s Vireo One Additional Year

The rain and fog Saturday morning limited photos but I did manage a few with the camera’s settings jacked up. Mainly Mike and I walked along listening to the calling birds. I was hoping the sun would shine in the afternoon since I needed to spend time with my Butterfly Field Guides. When it did I decided to check the grassy area of Johnson County Park. This was a good choice since it allowed me to hear and see the Bell’s Vireo one additional year.

First a couple of the morning’s birds.

I’ve wanted to see a Wood Thrush out in the open all spring. Unfortunately it happened during the hardest part of the rain Saturday morning.
A back view to show the shades of brown.
Not the best Yellow-billed Cuckoo photo. As usual it stuck to the top of trees.
As expected a Willow Flycatcher was calling in the same vicinity as the Bell’s Vireo.

Bell’s Vireo One More Year

My first summer in Indiana was 2013. The Bell’s Vireo was at this location then and has been present each year. That was the year I spent a lot of time checking out different areas of Johnson County Park and Atterbury FWA.  I later learned Bell’s Vireo had been recorded in the area in 1980’s but I don’t think anyone has birded the area much in the interim period.

Bell's Vireo one additional year
My only decent photo of the Bell’s Vireo Saturday, a notorious lurker.
As seen on this 10-year eBird status and distribution map for Bell’s Vireo, Johnson County (the red rectangle) is on the eastern edge of the Bell’s Vireo range. That’s why I’m always glad to see Bell’s Vireo one additional year.

The rest of the afternoon was spent ID’ing Butterflies, which is a whole other story.

Bell's Vireo one additional year
A bonus Least Flycatcher I first heard calling in “my backyard”.

Whip-poor-will/Bell’s Vireo – Y or N

After Saturday’s hike which turned up White-crowned Sparrows I set out Sunday to see once and for all if Atterbury FWA had EASTERN WHIP-POOR-WILL.  Plus check for NORTHERN BOBWHITE and the returning BELL’S VIREO.


This would be the second time in two years I was going to make sure there were no EASTERN WHIP-POOR-WILLS at Atterbury FWA. Sunday’s forecast was perfect for checking – Full Moon, Clear, and Calm Winds.

MOON (2) Looking for Whip-poor-will.
The early morning was perfect for checking for Eastern Whip-poor-wills.

When I arrived it was perfect conditions. I listened at 6 places between 4:50 – 5:40 AM.

The result is I’m pretty confident there are NO Eastern Whip-poor-wills at Atterbury FWA.

It took several years to find a whip-poor-will spot in my home county in Illinois, so I’m not done yet looking in Johnson County.

But I did hear numerous BARRED OWLS with one actually landing by the car for a good view. And of course the chats were chatting in the dark.

Northern Bobwhite

I proceeded to the NW part of Atterbury to listen for Northern Bobwhite. The area has been off-limits for the past several weekends for Spring Turkey Season.  I walked for a couple of miles – no luck there either as the area has had a controlled burn.

EATO (3)
Eastern Towhees were quite numerous singing in the morning daylight.


I remembered the park manager saying she had seen a Northern Bobwhite by her office. So I headed the mile east to sit and eat breakfast by a large field north of her office. In a couple of minutes I heard bobwhite calling. Another specifies tied down for the IAS Summer Count.

Bell’s Vireo

The last species I was checking was to see if the Bell’s Vireo had returned to the same area of Johnson County Park. I no sooner got out of the car and one was singing in the same bush as last year, giving great views. Then another came along and they flew off. But one kept singing hidden in a nearby bush.

BEVI (3)
Except for a short period last year I don’t think I have ever seen a Bell’s Vireo out in the open for this long.
BEVI (4)
Later a second bird which looked like a Bell’s Vireo chased this one off its perch. Maybe that’s why it was singing so long in one spot? Staking out his territory?
This Chipping Sparrow landed down the road when I was watching the Bell’s Vireo.
The resident American Kestrel watching the events at the Johnson County Horse Park.

And that was a very good end to the weekend or so I thought until I came across the COMMON GALLINULE.

The Return of Bell’s Vireo

On Saturday Mike and I birded Johnson County Park.  One of the species we heard but did not see was a Bell’s Vireo. As you probably know Central Indiana is on the eastern edge of the breeding area for Bell’s. Bell’s has been in the Johnson County Park area since I moved here and I’m told it has been for years.  So it is always good to confirm the return of Bell’s to Johnson County.

For several reasons that I will blog about in the coming weeks I went back to Johnson County Park on Sunday.  I wasn’t particularly looking for Bell’s Vireo again Sunday but when I heard it start singing,  I eventually made my way that direction.

Remember: As always, click on images for a larger and clearer view.   All images are of a male Bell’s Vireo singing in some terrible lighting for photos.


143It took me about 15 minutes to wrap observing another species and I stayed around the Bell’s area for another hour with him singing the entire time.



His routine was to alternate singing in three spots. The main spot was a tree in the middle of a bushy area.  The other spots were trees 35 meters to the north and 25 meters south of the main tree.  This fits with Birds of North America Online stating the usual breeding territory is .5 hectare (60 meters squared = 3600 or .36 hectares.  A little small but there were man-made boundaries to limit the area.



According to eBird most Bell’s Vireo arrive the week’s of 5/1 or 5/8.   I’ll use 5/8 since that has been historically when I first hear them. The Birds of North America Online then supplied the rest of the details to fill out the chart below. The purpose of the chart is to give approximate dates so I can monitor the area to confirm some of the breeding cycle dates. Like watching for nest-building material being carried into the bush.  Or watch for food being carried in for nestlings.

But mainly to check if the male did attract a mate and breeding occurs.

Bell’s Vireo – Breeding Date Guesses
Male arrives 5/8/15
Female arrives/nest-building begins 10 days later 5/18/15
nest building 5 days 5/23/15
egg-laying 4 days 5/27/15
incubation 14 days 6/10/15
nestlings 12 days 6/22/15
fledged date 6/22/15

152So stayed tune to see if my predictions are close and if the I can confirm them.

Indiana Audubon Society Field Trip to Atterbury FWA – April 26, 2014

OK, mark your calenders, or phones, or computers or whatever people are using now.  The Indiana Audubon Society is sponsoring a field trip to Atterbury Fish and Wildlife Area on  April 26, 2014. Doug Gray will be leading the trip and he has asked me to help him out.  Here is the link to the official notice.

In the 14 months since I have move here my total species count  for the Atterbury/Driftwood/Johnson County Park area is 184 species.  I consider Atterbury/Driftwood/Johnson County Park complex all one big park since they are all next to each other.  On the last week of April last year I saw 64 species and the first week of May 76.  And I was just out birding and not trying to run up any counts so I am sure there were more species present those days.  So you get the idea on the numbers that are possible.

Some of the highlights were Bell’s Vireo, Yellow-breasted Chat, and both Cuckoos.  Only heard Black-billed, darn-it.  The following 3 photos were all taken in the same area in Johnson County Park.  Besides the Bell’s I know of several spots that one can see Prairie Warbler and Yellow-breasted Chats in the area.

Bell's Vireo - Prairie Warbler - Johnson County Park 05/04/13
Bell’s Vireo – Prairie Warbler – Johnson County Park 05/04/13
Prairie Warbler - Johnson County Park 04/27/13
Prairie Warbler – Johnson County Park 04/27/13
Long distance photo of a Yellow-breasted Chat - Johnson County Park 04/27/13
Long distance photo of a Yellow-breasted Chat – Johnson County Park 04/27/13

Let me know if you a have any questions or if certain species are seen there that time of year.  I’ll post more as we get closer to the date.