Summer Tanager 1st Summer Male

It’s been a dry spell for seeing a Summer Tanager locally. Almost two years. June 13, 2015 to be exact. And I have only seen 6 in the 5 years I’ve lived in Indiana. So, it was a pleasant surprise to spend a few minutes with a Summer Tanager 1st Summer Male.

What’s ironic is I thought I’d see more when we move to Indiana from North-central Illinois. But the catch is one pair nested annually at the local state park in Illinois. Not counting that pair the numbers are about even in both states.

After the rain stopped Saturday Mike and I went to Atterbury FWA hoping to hear a Black-billed Cuckoo. We should have gone earlier during the rain since I usually hear/see them during a light rain. This is one of the various reasons they have the nickname “Rain Crow”. No luck on the cuckoo though.

The woods were full of new migrants and we had a good time relearning calls and spotting new arrivals.  We had worked the road pretty good and I was returning to the car when I heard a previously seen Blue-winged Warbler. This time it was much closer to the road.

The Blue-winged Warbler was working close to the road and getting closer.

While watching the Blue-winged Warbler I noticed a bird in the background. It was larger than the warblers and sparrows in the area.

A Summer Tanager 1st Summer Male

A tough call, keep on the Blue-winged Warbler or the Summer Tanager. I see a few Blue-winged Warblers annually so the tanager won out.

The bird in the background was a Summer Tanager 1st Summer Male. Nothing better than seeing a bright, multi-colored bird in Indiana.

I immediately got a couple of photos which turned out to be a good idea since it didn’t hang around long. Then it moved on. I spent time looking and listening but didn’t sight it again.

1st Summer Male
A very distinctive bird for our area. Bright red-orange, yellow and green. Nothing else it could be unless a migrant Western Tanager came our way. I’ll have to seek out an adult male Summer Tanager this summer.
Luckily the Blue-winged Warbler continued to call during the Summer Tanager encounter. When I returned he had moved closer to the road.

Summer Count – Snipe and Collared-Doves

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.

Other Highlights

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.

ECOD (1)
An early morning photo to document the Eurasian Collared-Dove in Franklin. 6/4/16

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.

BWWA (2)
Blue-winged Warbler – Atterbury FWA 4/30/16

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.

PROW (5)
This Prothonotary Warbler was actively feeding but wouldn’t stay put for a photo. Atterbury FWA 6/4/16
PROW (2)
From tree to stick and back. Then into the forest to sit and sing. Atterbury FWA 6/4/16

There were also breeding WOOD DUCKS in the swampy area.

SWAMP (2)
This is the area of the Prothonotary Warbler and numerous breeding Wood Ducks. The Wood Ducks scattered when I came out of the trees. Atterbury FWA 6/4/16

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.

BOBO (3)
Someday I will get a good photo of a Bobolink. Urban Johnson County 6/2/16
DICK (3)
As I have seen lately on Facebook Dickcissels are much more obligating for taking photos. Urban Johnson County 6/2/16

DICK (5)

NRWS (1) Start of Summer Count
I couldn’t resist this photo of a Northern Rough-winged Swallow. The head reminds me of an alien in a science-fiction movie. Atterbury FWA 6/4/16

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.

BAEA NEST (2)
The tall tree in the center hosts the Bald Eagle’s nest. Johnson County 6/5/16
BAEA (6)
Like any children the young eagles appeared to be fighting over food on several occasions. Johnson County 6/5/16
BAEA (1)
This was the best of the photos showing one of the young eagles. Johnson County 6/5/16

It was good start to the Summer Count with 70+ species over the three days.

Prelude to a County Big Day

It’s 4PM on a beautiful April Sunday afternoon. What am I doing? Cussing a poor, innocent COOPER’S HAWK flying by. And what has it done to receive my wrath? It’s because I’m a mile from the Marion County Line, I’ve been birding since 5:15AM, and I want to go home. But the Cooper’s Hawk is #98 and as soon as I lift my binoculars I will see the ROCK PIGEONS that live at the intersection of I65 and Main in Greenwood. One of those unlucky souls is #99 and I can’t quit on #99. Only a mile from the county line means I really don’t have much of an option for #100 except for a long drive across teh county to an eagle’s nest. I’d rather quit at #99 than drive. So what to do?

Prelude – 10 Days Ago

About 10 days ago I started thinking about a Big Day for Johnson County. Living here for 3+ years I pretty well know the bird’s locations. I used to run Big Days periodically when I lived in Illinois. I thought then and I still do that planning for Big Days make one a better birder.

Having to plan for a Big Day makes you:

  1. On a regular basis bird different spots to know exactly where the birds are located, which is good for long-term trend analysis. If you eBird.
  2. Get out of a rut by birding those areas instead of visiting the same old “productive” spots.
  3. Search for new areas. I’m still looking for a marsh in Johnson County with rails. Or an owl/hawk nest to cut down on the chance of missing them on a Big Day. Also for more shorebirds sites in this rural agriculture county.

With the IAS Big May Day on May 14 that left the weekend of May 7-8 or later. When I lived in Illinois I used to go to Southern Illinois and participate in a fund-raising Big Day the last weekend of April. So I decided I’d run a Big Day the last weekend in April to compare the totals.

Prelude – 29 Hours Previous

Having decided to run a Big Day on May 1 I headed out at 7AM on Saturday, April 30, to do some scouting with Mike. The weather was not very cooperative but we had a good morning with several species seen for the first time this year. Right off the bat we had a late staying NORTHERN SHOVELER at Franklin HS pond where we also flushed a WILSON’S SNIPE. Then a PIED-BILLED GREBE at the Walmart/Lowes Pond which isn’t easy to find this time of year. Later we saw a DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT at Driftwood, which is a tough county bird.

We located areas that if the birds continued overnight would be good spots on Sunday.

Like the regular flooded area which held BLUE-WINGED TEAL along with GREATER YELLOWLEGS.

BWTE

The “Purple Martin” road had numerous warblers plus this ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK.

RBGR (2)

The “River Road” in Atterbury had one spot with a calling SCARLET TANAGER and YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO.

SCTA

YBCU (2)
I’m showing the back-end of the cuckoo to show how much water the feathers repel.

Mike heard a BLUE-WINGED WARBLER calling as we drove through Atterbury. It posed for photos in the rain.

108

BWWA (1)

Not an uncommon bird but a photo of a singing EASTERN MEADOWLARK during a break in the rain.

115

Would these birds be there the next day? Would I find #100.

I’ll finish the story soon.