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.
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.
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.
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.
It was an enjoyable outing with over 40 species, many of them actually showing on the edge of the woods.
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.
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.
5. Grebes sleep with their bills facing forward, nestled in the side of their neck. (The Sibley Guide to Birds, page 26)
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.
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.
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.
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.
It was a good day to be out and looking for the local birds.