Local Birds – Weekend Highlight

My local birding this past weekend wasn’t too intense since returning from the week birding Western Colorado. I spent my time watching and listening to the local birds. I think I have previously stated I don’t like the term “common” species. Nothing common about any of them. So I like to use “local birds”.

I know at times we all take local species for granted. They are always present and at times the only birds we see or here. But after birding Western Colorado last week I’ll try not to take them for granted anymore.

Because several times I would have welcomed the chip or peep from one of our local birds.

Several days I walked the trails in Western Colorado and I’d go for long periods of time without the hint of a bird. But to be fair a couple of mornings were the same as birding here on a cold winter’s morning.

At a couple of locations I would here the calls of Black-capped Chickadees, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, White-crowned Sparrows, or even Song Sparrows. But all-in-all it was basically quiet.

Walking last Saturday back home in the same weather conditions it was good to hear our local birds – Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Northern Cardinals, and White-breasted Nuthatches.

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The constant chip note of the Northern Cardinal was missed in Western Colorado. Some type of seed must have fallen overnight because all the birds were on the ground eating. Southeastway Park 12/10/16
In Colorado I would occasionally encounter flocks of 10-12 Dark-eyed Juncos. I’ll have more to report on the color variations in a later post.
One of the few birds I did hear in Colorado was the flick of the Northern Flicker. Southeastway Park 12/10/16
On this trip I didn’t encounter the Tufted Titmouse counterpart the Juniper Titmouse. Southeastway Park 12/10/16
Probably the most vocal of the small songbirds in Colorado was the Black-capped Chickadee. Just like this Carolina Chickadee is here. Southeastway Park 12/10/16
The Yack call of the White-breasted Nuthatch was missed in Colorado. Southeastway Park 12/10/16
One of the odd feelings in Colorado was the lack of calling woodpeckers. The occasional Northern Flicker but never anything like our Red-bellied Woodpecker. Southeastway Park 12/10/16
The only local bird with a similar species was the Blue Jay. It seems at every stop be it birding or the gas station, I heard a Black-billed Magpie calling in the distance. Southeastway Park 12/10/16
Saturday morning I was being watched under the careful eye of a coyote. He didn’t get too excited by my presence but kept a watchful eye on me. Southeastway Park 12/10/16

Philadelphia Vireos – Weekend Highlights

Saturday was spent helping with the Indy Urban BioBlitz. The rain wasn’t cooperating but it eventually stopped and some birding was done. I couldn’t attend the wrap up though I later heard the group had over 50 species. My most unusual sighting was an Osprey lazily flying over the south side of Garfield Park.

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The only photograph I took at the Indy-Urban-BioBlitz was of an American Kestrel being harassed by the local Blue Jays. Garfield Park, 9/17/16

I wasn’t in any hurry to start Sunday morning and thought I’d bird the local park for an hour or so. I walked the perimeter of the park and ended up hitting a few waves so the hour turned into three hours. The morning was hot and muggy at times since the park was still damp from rain. That meant wearing the hot rubber boots. 🙁

The best time was spent watching two Philadelphia Vireos feeding along the edge of the south side. They would feed in and out of the Walnut trees which allowed good looks.

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I first caught sight of the two Philadelphia Vireos feeding out in the open along the tree line. Franklin Community Township Park 9/18/16
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They were often out in the open but always seemed to have a twig between us. Franklin Community Township Park 9/18/16
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Notice the bright yellow breast which differentiates it from other vireos. Franklin Community Township Park 9/18/16

Other highlights were a Sharp-shinned Hawk that I first thought was the local Cooper’s Hawk until I realized it was a miniature version. I heard three Yellow-billed Cuckoos on different sides of the park, saw and heard numerous Swainson’s Thrushes, and my first Red-winged Blackbirds in weeks. Also several warblers including a Golden-winged and my annual fall Bay-breasted.

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Not even close to a good photo but my first Red-winged Blackbirds in weeks. This will be the topic of a blog in the near future. Franklin Community Township Park 9/18/16
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One of the unique colors of Midwest birding is the green of a Chestnut-sided Warbler. We call it lime green but to my eye it isn’t quite that color. Franklin Community Township Park 9/18/16
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A Great Crested Flycatcher came out during one of the waves to see what was happening. Franklin Community Township Park 9/18/16
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Brown Thrashers are starting to appear after lying low in August. I had a group of three moving together. Franklin Community Township Park 9/18/16
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My feeble attempt to photograph a Chimney Swift. This guy was close so I gave it a try. Franklin Community Township Park 9/18/16

It was an enjoyable outing with over 40 species, many of them actually showing on the edge of the woods.

A Great Blue Heron Eating a Big Fish – Plus What I Saw and Learned this Past Week – 3/22/15

Not in any particular order, some things I saw or learned this past week. Sources listed as noted.

1. Many of you witnessed this. Or have seen it in video.  Or maybe on another blog. But until you see it, you don’t realize how big of fish a Great Blue Heron can swallow.

I pulled up to a local retaining pond, got out of the car, and heard a noise on the bank below.  A Great Blue had a fish in its mouth.  The fish looked rather large from my angle.  I had grabbed my camera and was fighting to turn it on and focus.  The Great Blue flew directly across the pond and stood in the shallow water with the fish.  I figured it couldn’t fly very far without losing the large fish.  It then proceeded to swallow it whole. Amazing.

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Needless to say, or maybe not considering what it just ate, it didn’t fly away the remaining time I was there.

2. An article in the ABA’s Birding Magazine March 2014 issue entitled A Review of World Birding Strategies by Jason Leifester got me thinking. All of the following numbers are probably off by a few but will serve to get the idea across.

There are 238 bird families in the world of which 88 (37%) are listed in the birds of North America.  I figure if you bird the entire US outside of Alaska you could probably see 77 of the 88 families (87%) without too much trouble. In other words no chasing. There are 2225 bird genera in the world which 319 (14%)  are listed on the ABA list. There are 10000 bird species in the world.  There are 650 (6.5%) birds listed as a 1 or 2 on the ABA list.

At the end of my birding days I would like to say I saw 2500 (25%) of the bird species. Not going to happen. Cost prohibitive.

So maybe I see 1200 genera (50%).  Maybe. But still probably cost prohibitive.

Or lets say I could tell my grand-kids I saw 180 families (75%).  Could happen.

Something to think about when planning trips…

3.  The Black-Crested Titmouse was a separate species until 1982 when it was grouped as a subspecies of the Tufted Titmouse.  Twenty years later in 2002 it was split off again as a separate species. ( Pete Dunne on Bird Watching, page 279) I can’t wait until 2022 to see what happens.

4. I don’t remember in years past seeing Horned Grebes in breeding plumage in the spring.  Then again I didn’t see very many in the area we lived in Illinois.

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Horned Grebe – Greenwood Retaining Pond – 03/22/15
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Different bird – Horned Grebe – Greenwood Retaining Pond – 03/22/15

5. Grebes sleep with their bills facing forward, nestled in the side of their neck. (The Sibley Guide to Birds, page 26)

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Horned Grebe – Greenwood Retaining Pond – 03/22/15

And a few more pictures from the week.

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Eastern Meadowlark – Johnson County Park – 03/21/15
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I guess I didn’t realize that the tail of the Eastern Towhees was this long. Atterbury FWA – 03/21/15
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Blue Jay – Atterbury FWA – 03/21/15
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Peaceful – Atterbury FWA – 03/21/15

 

 

Back to Bushwhacking – Johnson County 1/31/15

In the last few months I have drifted away what I like to do most in birding – bird the local area. And I have come to miss the familiarity of the local haunts.

So with that I went back to Johnson County Saturday to bird the spots I have spent the majority of the last two years.

I arrived an hour and fifteen minutes before sunrise and immediately had an Eastern Screech-Owl at one of the usual spots. I don’t know if it is me but I it wasn’t very far away and I still couldn’t find it with a flashlight.  The other usual Eastern Screech-Owl spot was silent. As was the usual Barred Owl site. I’m not having much luck with Barred Owls this year.

There were numerous Red-tailed Hawks on territory including one dark juvenile that had me thinking Rough-legged.  The local crows started to harass it which prevented me from getting a decent photo.

The bulk of the day was spent at Johnson County Park since there were still many hunters at Atterbury FWA. I spent several hours walking looking for sparrows and bushwhacking through thickets checking for owl whitewash before the snow came.  I didn’t find any whitewash but in the past it has paid off several times.  I came across a couple of good sized flocks of sparrows with the first flock consisting of several White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows.

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White-crowned Sparrow JC Park 01/31/15
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Same bird as above looking dapper.

While standing in some small saplings observing the White-crowned Sparrows, three American Kestrels came screaming by chasing each other and almost hit me.  My guess is they were only two to three feet above my head.  They landed on a power line across the road, all three still calling at each other.  One then flew to a nearby tree and kept calling.  They all eventually moved on with the one still calling.

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Two of the three American Kestrels on wires, the other having moved on to a nearby tree. JC park 01/31/15
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The third Kestrel just to the north, and still calling. JC Park 01/31/15

I did manage to record one of the American Kestrels that kept calling.

Audio of the American Kestrel calling close to me. Turn up your volume to hear. ( A Downy Woodpecker and Carolina Chickadee thought they would get in their 2 cents also)

Before I came upon the second flock of sparrows I was walking through a grass field that had a section plowed.  I kept hearing what I thought were Horned Larks.  The spot looked good for Horned Larks but the area is surrounded by miles of woods, not farm land.  So I was puzzled.  I scanned the area several times but did not see any larks.

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Are there Horned larks out there? JC park 1/31/15

Moving on to the brushy area on the other side I came upon a flock of American Tree Sparrows.  So the question is does the song of a flock of Tree Sparrows sound like the tingled song of a Horned Larks at a distance?

A little later while watching the flock of sparrows I heard a Red-shouldered Hawk in the distance.  It then got near enough that I could see it in the thicket.  It was a Blue Jay imitating the Red-shouldered Hawk.  No, it was practicing imitating a Red-shouldered Hawk because the hawk was still calling off and on in the distance.

Audio of a Blue Jay practicing its imitation of a Blue Jay. If you listen hard enough you can hear the distant, real Red-shouldered Hawk at 10 seconds.

I didn’t find anything unusual at Johnson County Park but did hear a Killdeer, which in itself isn’t unusual but I hadn’t heard one since the first of the month,

I then stopped by Walmart/Lowes Pond in Franklin on the way home.  On the limited amount of open water there was a pair of Common Goldeneye to go with the Canada Geese, Mallards, and American Coots.

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Local birds at Lowes/Walmart pond. Franklin 01/31/15

It was a good day to be out and looking for the local birds.