Though others make numerous trips to Goose Pond readers know I prefer to bird closer to home. So I look forward to Mike and I’s Goose Pond annual July 4th visit. It’s usually my only chance to see or hear species like Least Bittern, Marsh Wren, Least Tern, Black-necked Stilts, and Common Gallinule. Except this year due to scheduling conflicts we couldn’t go until Saturday July 8.
Photos of the trip will be sparse since my Nikon P900 is out for repair and I had to revert back to my old Panasonic DZ35.
Friday night the National Weather Service issued a Dense Fog Advisory until 9AM Saturday. Two years ago the fog was so bad we didn’t see any birds until almost 10AM. But driving down the fog was spotty so I was feeling better about it.
Our first stop was the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron spot where the fog wasn’t bad. Two herons were feeding out in the fields which made photos tough. But seeing this species was a treat since I don’t see it annually.
We moved on to Main Pool East in search of shorebirds before the sun’s angle made observing them a problem. Water levels were just right at the end of the old road and we observed Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpipers, Killdeer, and Black-necked Stilts. Since I’m not around them often I kept thinking I was hearing a Common Gallinule’s whiny call in the reeds. And eventually one appeared.
On to Main Pool West South Bridge where we saw three distant Least Terns flying. Not much else at this location due the water being high at Goose Pond.
In fact I thought the water levels made it the least favorable of my five July trips.
We ran into the Timmons brothers who said GP4 had Least Bitterns, one of Mike’s target birds. Upon arriving we heard numerous Common Gallinules and ended up seeing several young.
But to see a Least Bittern one has to be patient. While waiting we heard a couple of Marsh Wren calling but of course we didn’t see this nearly impossible visual species. Eventually I saw a Least Bittern flying from reed bed to reed bed being chased by a Red-winged Blackbird.
Things were slowing down and Mike had to be back early afternoon. So we headed back to Indy after successfully seeing the sought out species.
I had several things to post about this weekend’s birding but I’ll just cover the last bird of the weekend in this post. A surprise COMMON GALLINULE.
If someone a month ago would have told me I would have had two Rallidaes as my next county birds, I wouldn’t have believed them. But that’s the case having Virginia Rails last week and a Common Gallinule this week. I have been working on the Virginia Rails since locating several spots with Soras. I figured I might eventually find one, but the Common Gallinule was a big surprise. It wasn’t even on my radar as an eventual county bird.
I left the car parked diagonally and didn’t even close the door since I figured it would by empty. It was except for a lone bird on the far side of the pond. My first thought was Common Gallinule but the bird was heading towards small weeds where a Great Blue Heron had popped out its head.
So I ran back to the car for the spotting scope. When I got back the bird was gone. No photo and not a proper ID. I figured it was by the heron which started a chain of events that probably took a half hour but seemed longer.
I walked the perimeter of the pond to the south end for a side view. No bird.
This meant walking into the woods to the west and then back to come up behind the weeds. Which I did and when I got there, no bird.
I figured it had gone into the trees. I knew from prior experience when WOOD DUCKS got in the trees it was hard to find them. I figured the best strategy was to go back around the lake and keep scanning.
And then it popped out briefly from the trees! ID was correct – Common Gallinule!
My best view would be on the other side of the lake so I went back around.
Sure enough it was out in the open when I got back on the other side of the lake.
It eventually came back to the shore and walked on the edge where I had initially saw it.
I called Mike since I knew it would be a county bird for him also and he arrived in about 20 minutes.
And we went through the whole process again since the bird had moved back to the trees.
I’ll keep checking to see if the bird stays but I figure it was just moving through. The habitat is not what you’d expect for a Common Gallinule. That and if it is in the woods it will be tough to see.
Ever since we moved to Indiana three years ago, I have made a trip to Goose Pond each July 4th weekend. And since I only get there a couple of times a year, I have started to look forward to the trip. So like a kid at Christmas anticipating it’s gifts, I was up 15 minutes earlier than the 4:15 alarm, on the road by4:45, and arrived a little after 6:30 to watch the dawn movement.
I was immediately struck by how quiet it was. Outside of the Red-winged Blackbirds there weren’t many birds calling, though there were Marsh Wrens and even a couple of Least Bitterns calling from across IN59. And one of the Least Bitterns even flew over the cattails, but not long enough for a photo. I’m not sure if it was because the air was “heavy” with the cloudy, humid conditions but it seemed “noisier” last year. I ended up seeing about the same number of species as last year, and the the quantity of each species was comparable, but it seemed quieter. Maybe because last year was sunny and warm. Anyway I didn’t let it spoil the day.
Also the water levels were lower. I would have thought they would have been higher with all the rain, but the DNR must be controlling them. Even though I found some perfect shorebird habitat, I didn’t get lucky on any migrating shorebirds like I did last year.
All in all I got to see the native summer birds. Which is the reason I go every year.
I’m a few days late on this. Out of town – North Carolina – for work. No birding if you can believe that.
1. The 7.5 Challenge
I see where Wisconsin Birders did a 7.5 mile radius challenge last year – The 2014 Wisconsin Local Patch Challenge. As stated, “it’s a relatively green challenge, where birders try to find as many species as possible 7.5 miles or less from home.” Looks like Illinois might be doing it this year.
Of course for someone like me that is into finding uncommon species in my local area, this is right up my alley. I think the real point of the challenge is finding new, local areas to bird. Not for someone that lives on a lake that sits and counts all day.
2. No shorebirds yet locally
I keep checking my local flooded field (a floodeld??). But no shorebirds. A nice assortment of waterfowl. And yes, it is within 7.5 miles.
3. Very Angry Moorhen
I was reading about “The very angry Moorhen” and it got me thinking about a Mad Moorhen (Common Gallinule) that I saw last year in Texas. I was at The World Birding Center in South Padre (I think I need to blog about something that calls itself “The World” ) and was watching a family of Mottled Ducks.
For some reason the Common Gallinule didn’t like them and kept attacking them. This went on for a good hour. I never did figure out if there was nest nearby or it just had a bad disposition.
OK, I really didn’t hang around the whole hour just to watch their interaction. There was a Clapper Rail that kept vocalizing and I was hoping it would walk out in the open. Of course, like I posted back in July, 2014, I got tired of waiting and walked around the boardwalk, where a Clapper Rail was out in plain sight.
4. The size of shorebirds
I knew that the length of birds listed in field guides is from bill tip to tail tip. But I really hadn’t thought what this meant until I read this post by Greg Gillson – Who’s bigger? I knew that plovers always “seem” larger than shorebirds and this post explains why.