August Birding 2017 Week 4

August Birding 2017 Week 4 can be summed up in one word, robins. And goldfinches. OK, two words. But mainly robins. Not many additions to the August list but there were a couple of surprises.

At both Southwestway Park Saturday and the local park Sunday American Robins were out in force. It seemed every movement I checked on was a robin. And if it wasn’t a robin it was an American Goldfinch doing a different call.

The star of the weekend – vast numbers of American Robins.
Brown Thrashers made a return last week after being quiet for the summer. Each day I heard 3 or 4 SMACKING in the bush.
And Indigo Buntings made a return doing their loud CHIP call.
Red-winged Blackbirds made their return from their summer molt.

Otherwise it was relatively quit. Mike and I had hoped for warblers but a lone Blackburnian Warbler was it for Saturday. I even checked the flooded field and Soccer field without much action.

Without rain the local flooded field is going to be gone by Labor Day.

Weekend Star

Since not much else was happening a male Summer Tanager was a welcome surprise. While watching the before mentioned robins the tanager appeared out of nowhere. Though he wasn’t close his colors still stood out.

The Summer Tanager kept to the early morning shadows.
Once he jumped up a little higher the yellow on his belly became apparent.
We finally got a chance to see his bright colors in the morning sun.
August Birding 2017 Week 4
A few butterflies were out including several Monarchs.

With the addition of three species I’m in the low 90’s for the month. I might get a chance to go out early Wednesday or Thursday but that darn work keeps interfering!

So I’m guessing 100 isn’t a possibility unless I luck into a wave of warblers.

Mourning Warbler Call

Before I get to Monday’s frustrating Mourning Warbler call I’ll give a quick recap of Saturday’s birding.

Since I’m not sure I’ll get to Laura Hare Preserve at Blossom Hollow before the breeding season is in full swing I headed there Saturday morning. The hope was to see the expected deep forest warblers not available in the rest of Johnson County while they’re still calling. The targeted species of Worm-eating Warbler, Ovenbird, and Louisiana Waterthrush were seen or heard. Which were three of the four. But never even a hint of a Hooded Warbler, which is usually calling in the woods.

Looks like something or someone doesn’t like the sign at the entrance? Any ideas what might cause the holes?
Always a pleasant hike through the wooded landscape.

The other deep wood species were out in full force. Red-eyed Vireo, Wood Thrush, Acadian Flycatcher, and Eastern-wood Pewee were everywhere. But with the clouds and trees, no photos.

On to Monday and the Mourning Warbler call.

The day started at the local grassland listening for Grasshopper Sparrow and Bobolink. My thought was the truck traffic from I65 would be less on a holiday. No such luck. With the wind out of the NW it made listening tough. So no Grasshopper Sparrow.

At least one Bobolink has returned to the local grassland. Now if they can breed before the grass is mowed.
Dickcissels seemed to be everywhere I turned.

On to Franklin Township Community Park for general birding. First thing out of the car I heard a Black-throated Green Warbler calling across the road, otherwise it was quiet. I made the rounds constantly fighting off mosquitoes.  Around 10AM a couple of Barred Owls started calling. I figured they were complaining about the mosquitoes.

An Acadian Flycatcher in the deeper woods.  Note the eye-ring and wing-bar.
This Brown Thrasher was telling the world this is his area. Keep out!

Mourning Warbler Call

Right after the owls I heard an out-of-place call. I was aware enough to know it was one of the uncommon warblers and it didn’t take long to place it as a Mourning Warbler.

There is a reason field guides describe Mourning Warbler as a skulker, or always hidden in deep undergrowth. It never comes out to give a look.

I listened for over 3 minutes but the skulker never appeared. Darn.

 

A portion of a long recording of the Mourning Warbler calling. Listen around 2 and 9 seconds for the call.

 

While waiting for the Mourning Warbler, a White-eyed Vireo jumped out to see what was going on.
Mourning Warbler call
One of three Eastern Phoebes grouped in a small clearing.

Now it’s on to the best time of year. Breeding Counts. Stayed tuned.

Horned Grebe Molting

One of my favorite times of the year is the last of March and first of April. That’s the time Common Loon and Horned Grebe in Johnson County. And if really lucky Bonaparte’s Gull and Red-breasted Merganser. Outside of Lamb Lake in the far SW of the county the large lake at Driftwood SFA is the only spot deep enough for those species. After a couple of attempts I eventually found those species, especially some Horned Grebe molting, but not in Johnson County.

I had looked for the above species at Driftwood the last weekend in March without any luck. So I was hopeful for this past weekend.

Mike and I met up early Saturday and in the cold proceeded to check out several locations in Johnson County. Mike was hopeful for Rusty Blackbirds and I was just glad to be outdoors away from work. I saw several FOY birds and Mike added Wild Turkey at Johnson County Park.

Late morning Mike had to take off so I checked Driftwood. Lots of Tree Swallows, but no loons or grebes.

The lone bird singing at Driftwood was a lone Brown Thrasher.

So with the weather a little warmer Sunday I made a run up to Marion County’s Geist Reservoir. Upon exiting the car I could hear the roar of BIG boat engines. I hadn’t thought about fisherman being out. But as chance would have it I arrived before the boaters were out in full force and could scan the lake.

The view from the dam at Geist Reservoir.
Common Loons were staying on the far side of the reservoir.
As noted above the Common Loons weren’t near until this one popped up right in front. It then immediately dove and I never saw it again.
The boaters were periodically flushing the waterfowl. With their white wing patches and body pattern these Red-breasted Merganser were easy to ID. Even at a distance.
Just to confirm the ID I took a photo at the max zoom of the P900. Even at this zoom and in bad sunlight it’s at least a confirming photo of the Red-breasted Mergansers. With the zoom it allows me to leave the spotting scope in the car.
Now for the feature species. A non-breeding plumage Horned Grebe.
Horned Grebe Molting
A Horned Grebe going into breeding plumage.

And now a photo that will go into my personal Top 10.

I’m not sure I have ever seen Horned Grebes in both breeding and non-breeding plumage this close together. Let alone photographed them. I wish the lighting would have been brighter.

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.

phvi-3 Philadelphia Vireos
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.

Migrants are Here!

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!

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I’ll start with what I think is the best photo of the day. A White-eyed Vireo came out to check me out and stayed out posing for photos. Johnson County Park 4/23/16
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A Brown Thrasher showing as much eye-ring as the previous White-eyed Vireo. Driftwood SFA 4/23/16
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Prairie Warblers were numerous Saturday though they wouldn’t come out for a photo, as noted here. Johnson County Park 4/23/16
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It took me a minute or two to recognize the call of the Gray Catbird coming from the bushes. That happened on several of the “new” birds Saturday. Driftwood SFA 4/23/16
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Yellow Warblers were out in force at Driftwood. It was good to see them back in good numbers. Driftwood SFA 4/23/16
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I think subconsciously I knew how feisty Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are but until I tried to get a photo it wasn’t an issue. They never sit still and I felt lucky to get this shot. Driftwood SFA 4/23/16
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A Turkey Vulture I think going into adulthood as shown with more black than red on its head. Johnson County Park 4/23/16
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An Eastern Kingbird looked like it was checking out a spot to set up a nest. Johnson County Park 4/23/16
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Purple Martins were back at the reliable spot just north of Atterbury FWA. Rural Johnson County 4/23/16
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I know it is hard to see the shorebirds in this photo. I counted 100 at this location and probably missed some in the corn stubble. Most were Lesser Yellowlegs and Solitary Sandpipers with a few Greater Yellowlegs and Spotted Sandpipers. Rural Johnson County 4/23/16
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My second sighting of a Black Vulture in Johnson County. The first was last November. Note the short tail. Rural Johnson County 4/23/16

And that was about it for this pleasant Saturday to be out.

Right on Time

I know I said in the last post I would continue last week’s story, but I thought I’d report on yesterday’s birds first.

Living here three years I have learned there is basically a two week window to see COMMON LOONS, HORNED GREBES, and BONAPARTE’S GULLS in Johnson County. So I thought I had better take advantage of a day off Friday to check the local water. I wasn’t disappointed.

The shorebird spot was still devoid of shorebirds. Maybe tomorrow.

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But there was a Blue-winged Teal showing nicely by the road. Rural Johnson County 3/25/16

I then headed to Driftwood SWA to check on loons and grebes. NOTHING but a distant PIED-BILLED GREBE. Once again no waterfowl. Or no fisherman for that fact.

But for the second year in a row at Driftwood I had an early BARN SWALLOW mixed in with the TREE SWALLOWS.

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An early season Barn Swallow with one of the hundred+ Tree Swallows. Driftwood SWA 3/25/16
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Looking a little colder here. And it was cold, only in the 30’s. Driftwood SWA 3/25/16

I wasn’t surprised but both the Barn Swallow and the count on the Tree Swallows – 110 – were flagged by eBird. The Barn Swallow was 3 days earlier than the one I wrote about last year.  And the number of Tree Swallows wasn’t unusual for this time of year.

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The Tree Swallows kept coming in off the lake to preen in this tree. Driftwood SWA 3/25/16
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If you look close you can see 10 or more Tree Swallows feeding over the lake. Driftwood SWA 3/25/16

But no loons was troublesome since I’m not sure I’ll have an opportunity to check for them in the next 2 weeks and Driftwood is the only location I have seen them in Johnson County.

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A Field Sparrow calling right at noon. Telling me to eat lunch? Driftwood SWA 3/25/16
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And a Brown Thrasher replying. (Not really) Driftwood SWA 3/25/16

On to Atterbury FWA to check for other waterfowl. Stopping at Honker Haven (you have to love the names the DNR has assigned to the small ponds) for waterfowl, I immediately see a COMMON LOON on the water.

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This Common Loon is still showing beautifully even in the bad lighting. Atterbury FWA 3/25/16
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And on the down low. Atterbury FWA 3/25/16

As stated above, a county first for me outside of Driftwood. It didn’t move around or dive which wasn’t unusual since this isn’t a very deep pond. In summer it doesn’t take long for it to develop into shorebird habitat. I also saw a GADWALL which I was missing off the county list.

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Finally a Gadwall for my 2016 county list.Would have hated to miss it. Atterbury FWA 3/25/16

My last stop was Lowe’s Pond in Franklin for a possible HORNED GREBE.

Walking down to the water and looking around the brush one pops up about 20 feet from me. What luck!

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A Horned Grebe that actually stayed for a few minutes and didn’t dive away. Lowe’s Pond – Franklin – 3/25/16

And it didn’t get spooked for a minute actually giving some good photos. But it finally noticed me and took off to the far end to be with the LESSER SCAUP, BUFFLEHEAD, and RING-NECKED DUCKS.

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Now swimming away. Lowe’s Pond – Franklin – 3/25/16

So all in all a good day. Missed the Bonaparte’s but I have only seen  them once in the county.

The First Wave

If you have spent any length of time birding then you know spring migrants come through the Midwest in Waves. The First Wave are heartier migrants that winter just south of the winter freeze line, which in a normal winter is usually just south of the Midwest. These First Wavers usually start showing up in early to mid-March and in milder years small numbers of these birds are present all winter.

EAPH
This map from IUCN Red List shows the range of the First Waver Eastern Phoebe. Note they winter just south of the Midwest.

The next wave are birds that winter in Florida or the Gulf Coast. Birds like Greater Yellowlegs. They usually show up later in March.

GRYE
And this map shows the Second Waver Greater Yellowlegs that winters on the Gulf of Mexico coast (and all the way to the tip of South America if the map was extended) From IUCN Red List.

As I posted last week, Mike and I spent the first weekend in March looking for early migrants. And we struck out. But this past Saturday I ran into five of the First Wave migrants.

But before I went looking for First Wavers I checked a couple of flooded fields that regular hold shorebirds. No luck but one of them did have a few NORTHERN SHOVELERS feeding in the field.

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Brrr, that’s cold! A Northern Shoveler appears to be testing out the water before getting in. Flooded Field – Johnson County 3/12/16

There is a country road bridge north of Atterbury FWA that usually has an early EASTERN PHOEBE.  Before I reached the bridge I heard one calling from the backyard of a house in the woods. Never did see it and there wasn’t one at the bridge. But it was good to know they were back.

AMRO
I noticed that the American Robin pre-dawn chorus began in earnest early last week with the warmer temperatures. This one was at Driftwood SWA. 3/12/16

Then on to Driftwood SWA which usually has several of the First Wavers breeding there in summer. And it looks like this year will be no exception.

My first target were the FIELD SPARROWS that usually occupy Driftwood in large numbers. Walking east of the boat unloading area I heard and then saw 2 chasing each other. They did this for the whole time, never landing long enough for a photo.  There were other distant Field Sparrows calling out their “pin-pong ball on a table” call but they were not to be seen either.

Moving to the other side of the lake and immediately getting out of the car I heard a BROWN THRASHER.  He was at the top of a tree and I assume staking out his territory.

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The first Brown Thrasher of the year singing at Driftwood SWA. 3/12/16
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Same individual getting ready to sing.

And within a few seconds I heard another thrasher calling a couple hundred yards to the west.

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I thought the thrashers might not be present or be little less vocal, but in true form they called the entire time I was present.

Walking down to the lake I heard a TREE SWALLOW, another of the First Wavers, calling and then flying away. A few minutes later one landed in a tree for a photo.

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The first Tree Swallow of the year acted like it wasn’t sure where it wanted to go, so it sat for a few minutes. Driftwood SWA 3/12/16

With 4 First Wavers seen I headed to Johnson County Park to pick up one more First Waver – FOX SPARROW. Last week Mike found one but I never really got on it. So back to the sparrow spot for another try. It took some pishing but eventually after numerous Song Sparrows and Juncos, a Fox Sparrow popped up. Same one as last week? In the poor light I never did get a good photo but I did get good looks.

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Not a First Waver but definitely the most numerous species on the day. Song Sparrows were out singing in large numbers at every stop. Driftwood SFA 3/ 12/16

With The Doldrums over its time to get back catching more Waves.

An August Dickcissel

Now a Dickcissel in August doesn’t sound that exciting for someone living in Central Indiana. But in North Central Illinois in August it can be hard to find.

As I recalled in a November 2013 post that in late July 2012 I decided to bird everyday in August 2012 and to see how many more birds I would see than my normal August birding. I knew from past experience that I would probably need to see Sedge Wren and Dickcissel the first week.

I started the month by birding the places that both species had been in July. Sedge Wrens were still holding on at the same spot at Matthiessen SP, but Dickcissel were notably silent at Matthiessen, a spot they were usually reliable year after year and had been in July.  So I checked a couple of other reliable spots. Same thing, quiet.  And it was like that for the rest of the month.  The Sedge Wrens though hung on until mid-August.

I am not sure what was different that year.  I was out every day in prime habitat.  And in previous years they would hang on until mid-August. Another one of those bird mysteries.

So now anytime I see a Dickcissel in August I always think back to the summer of 2012.

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A distant photo of a local Dickcissel this August. Greenwood Loop 8/9/15
Dickcissel - Female
A much better photo of a female Dickcissel from Matthiessen SP IL. 6/19/10
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And a singing male – McCune Sand Prairie, Bureau County, IL 6/24/12

And a few more photos from Driftwood SWA a week ago.

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There were several Baltimore Orioles out early at Driftwood SWA. 8/8/15
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A Cedar Waxwing checking things out. I stood by this tree for a while and had several birds fly in to get their picture. One of them must have passed the word around. Driftwood SWA 8/8/15
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Eastern Kingbird. Same tree. Driftwood SWA 8/8/15
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Gray Catbird. Ditto.
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Probably the bird of the day. I first heard and then saw 3 Red-headed Woodpeckers including 2 juveniles. Including this one. This is only the second time I have seen Red-headed Woodpeckers at Driftwood. 8/8/15
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A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher playing peek-a-boo. Driftwood SWA 8/8/15
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And here is more typical view. Driftwood SWA 8/8/15
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A Brown Thrasher watching me but I don’t think he knows I see him. Driftwood SWA 8/8/15
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And one of those surreal moments when I’m just standing watching things and a Great Blue Heron lands in a tree about 20 feet away. I slowly walked away after a while and it didn’t fly away. Driftwood SWA 8/8/15

 

Driftwood SFA – Loons, Gulls, and a Swallow

I had already planned to check Driftwood Saturday, but after reading Don Gorney’s post on IN-Bird about the large numbers of Common Loons and Horned Grebes at Eagle Creek, I knew I would have to check out Driftwood.

I arrived a little after 10AM and spent the next 4 hours picking up two new county birds and basically just having a good time observing birds I hardly get to see.   The species aren’t that uncommon for the state, but they are uncommon for Johnson  County since it doesn’t have a large lake or river.

On the day I observed 7 Common Loons (personal high count for the county), 18 Horned Grebes (personal high count for the county), 3 Red-breasted Mergansers (new county bird), 120 Tree Swallows (which eBird flagged as a high count), a Barn Swallow (which eBird flagged as rare this time of year), FOY Brown Thrasher, and a species I thought I might not ever see in the county – 4 Bonaparte’s Gulls (needles to say new county bird).

Knowing that Mike needed a few of this birds for his county list, I gave him a call and he showed up for the remainder of the day.

BAEA 1
A cropped photo of a Bald Eagle to start the day.

 

COLO
The loons came close several times.
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I never did figure out of the loons were paired up or not.

COLO 3

COLO 2
Several times the loons would get low and start calling. Not sure why so  I will check on it but if you know please leave a comment.

Tuesday I will post some audio I got of the loons calling. And post some things I have learned about audio and Internet browsers.

The Tree Swallows were all huddled together in the cold in one tree.  Some would then go out and forage. Click to enlarge and see if you can spot the one Barn Swallow.

TRES
Where is the Barn Swallow?
TRES 1
TRES 3 I actually got one flying low on the lake!

 

TRES 2
Brrrrr. Cold.
BARS
As above.
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Not a good photo, but good enough to document my first Red-breasted Merganser in the county.

A series of photos of Horned Grebes.

HOGRHOGR 4 HOGR 3 HOGR 2 HOGR 1

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I didn’t take the time to get a good photo of this Brown Thrasher. Too busy watching the Bonaparte’s Gulls.

And now for a series of photos of the Bonaparte’s Gulls.  Distant photos but I enjoy watching the light and bouncy way they fly.  I immediately new them from that flight pattern. A real treat for a county where I have yet to see a Ring-billed Gull yet this year.

BOGU 1BOGU 2BOGU 3BOGU 4BOGU 5

BOGU 15

BOGU 12 BOGU 10

BOGU 20
A cropped photo of a Bonaparte’s that came close.
Driftwood SFA
A beautiful, if cold day, to be watching the loons and gulls.