I don’t remember the last time I spent the entire day birding. I’m aware others do it weekly. As I have stated the constant running and searching feels good in the moment but I never seem to remember what happened on those days. Not as enjoyable as birding one location for hours and living in the moment. But Saturday for the fifth year I did an Atterbury Big May Day for Johnson County portion for the Indiana Audubon Society Big May Day.
The day started well with all the expected owls – Eastern Screech-Owl, Barred Owl, and Great Horned Owl – calling on cue. I even had a bonus Common Nighthawk fly in front the car as I was leaving the Barred Owl area.
This year I tried something different. With Turkey Season closing the interior of Atterbury until 1PM I planned stops along the roads and tried to bird those areas for a certain time. This is in the hope I can more or less repeat the run every year.
Uncommon findings were Red-breasted Nuthatch and Black Vulture.
At lunch the group tallied up the species and we were in the 120’s with no shorebirds except for Killdeer. My afternoon plan was to hike into Atterbury for rails and on to shorebirds.
The rail search was a bust, probably the high water. I started meandering home crisscrossing the county checking fields I knew held water after heavy rains. The plan proved fruitful as I added 8 additional species on the day.
I failed while trying to flush snipe at a local marsh but flushed an American Woodcock as a bonus prize.
Reaching the county line around 7:30 I decided to call it a day. After 14 hours I once again proved by putting in the time will usually produce a good count.
I hadn’t expected anything exceptional to happen this past weekend given it’s late July and the heat index was headed to 110F. But I was sitting at 98 species for Johnson County in the IAS Summer Count and wanted to get to 100.
Not living in the county means I lose the opportunity to see several of the neighborhood species. Like COOPER’S HAWKS or RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS. Birds I see daily on my neighborhood walk in Marion County and I used to see daily when we lived in Johnson County.
But birders know you don’t what’s out there unless you look.
So off I went.
With the recent rainfall I thought my best bet to reach 100 was going to be shorebirds. I made a quick first stop at the Marion County site to see how the conditions looked. Good.
So I was hopeful for shorebirds in Johnson County.
But it was not to be. The shorebird sites had water and had either corn or beans or weeds also. This didn’t make for good shorebirding. Oh well. I would have to hope for other species for 100.
Do you know you can still see birds using the strategy of walking from one shade tree to the next? I used the strategy successfully all day starting at Driftwood following the disappointment at the shorebird sites.
It was still early enough in the day that I saw several species.
Leaving Driftwood I saw three TURKEY VULTURES flying lazily to the north. I didn’t think much about them until I turned onto US31. Thier number was now seven and two immediately looked different.
Driving north a half mile I finally found a pull off and confirmed the ID. They drifted my way giving good views and a few photos.
I spent most of Saturday birding the usual spots in Johnson County. I met Mike at Northwest Park in Greenwood first thing in the morning and spent the rest of the day heading south. I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary unless you count my second county sighting of BLACK VULTURES and the large number of shorebirds at a flooded field south of Franklin. Otherwise it was just a pleasant day birding seeing 15 or so new migrants. I checked my records and all of them arrived pretty much on schedule. And not much bushwhacking either. Just the usual spots checking for new migrants.
This post will display more attempts with my new camera. It doesn’t matter what camera you use when birds don’t cooperate and won’t get out of the bushes!
And that was about it for this pleasant Saturday to be out.
I’ve noticed that many blogs post what they think will be the next 10 birds they’ll find in a certain area. And they usually rank them in the order they might be seen.
I wish I had made a ranking for Johnson County. I’ve been telling Mike for sometime the next species I’ll see in Johnson County will be a Black Vulture. I have seen sporadic reports on eBird of Black Vultures but we all know those must be taken with a grain of salt. But after Don Gorney told me he had seen one in Southern Shelby County I knew it was just a matter of time.
But it wasn’t easy. Since moving to the area in late 2012 I have counted 620 Turkey Vultures in Johnson County. And I bet I have looked at almost every one knowing that eventually one would be a Black Vulture.
And Wednesday it finally happened. We were supposed to go back to Illinois for the holiday but our plans fell through. Since I had already taken the day off I decided to head to Johnson County. And as luck had it I caught one in the distance flying with a Turkey Vulture west of Johnson County Park. It was distant but I did get some ID photos.
That makes just the 5th new species I’ve seen in Johnson County this year. It’s always good to add a new species to your main list. But we all know after a couple of years new species are hard to come by on your regular patch. I still have some species I should see even for a mainly water-less area.
In the attempt to add a few more birds to my Indiana Life list, Mike and I (and probably a large percentage of Central Indiana birders) headed to Universal Mines NW of Terre Haute Saturday morning to view the numerous swans and geese that had been reported. This would be my first visit to the area.
The high temperature for the day was supposed to reach 50F with winds gusting to 45 MPH in the afternoon. So it was either leave early, fight the cold, and avoid the winds. Or go later, be warm, and fight the wind. We choose the former.
We left early so we could arrive a little before sunrise to watch the morning flight. When we arrived there were still thousands of geese and hundreds of swans still on the only open water in the area – an old strip mine known as the “Grand Canyon”.
Now here is the rub for Indiana Birders. The water is on the Illinois side of the border with Indiana.
I already knew the lake was in Illinois but assumed it was closer. When reporting birds people usually report an Illinois count and then have an Indiana count for the birds that “fly” over the border. The problem is that unless you actually park on the border, which is 400 meters away, it is hard to tell what birds actually fly over. But as I have previously stated my belief on listing, it is your bird list and unless it is a very rare bird, you can do what you want on your list. So Mike and I made our best guess on birds that flew towards the border. Enough on that topic.
On the morning we saw great numbers, and I mean GREAT NUMBERS, of Canada Geese, Greater White-fronted Geese, and Trumpeter Swans. Plus 5 Tundra Swans (my goal bird) that we didn’t see fly over the border. I don’t think I have ever seen that many geese at once though I have seen large numbers at Hennepin-Hopper Lake in Illinois.
And here is my first attempt at video. Something (an eagle? gun shots?) put all the birds on the north side in the air at once. A sight to behold.
At this point I’m not going to estimate the number of geese. I think I will take a closer look at the photos and see if I can come up with a guess. I’ll post about that at a later date.
On the way home we stopped at Chinook Mines for a quick pass. Nothing to report but I did get a nice photo of a calling Eastern Meadowlark and a Rough-legged Hawk in flight.
Now for the bird that I did add to my list today. Carl Huffman has been reporting Black Vultures regularly on eBird at DePauw Nature Park in Greencastle. Since it wasn’t far out-of-the-way and since I needed the bird for the list, we stopped by. This is north of the usual range for Black Vultures (see map below) but there are other sites north of the range where they appear. Hopefully this will be another consistent site.
I put a red X on Greencastle to show how far north the Black Vultures are from their normal range.
After seeing 6 Turkey Vultures we ended seeing 2 Black Vultures at a distance which didn’t allow photos. I did get one photo of a Turkey Vulture though.
Even if the Tundra Swans stayed on the Illinois side and couldn’t be added to the list, I got to add Black Vulture.