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.

Atterbury Big May Day

I don’t remember the last time I spent the entire day birding. I’m aware others do it weekly. As I have stated the constant running and searching feels good in the moment but I never seem to remember what happened on those days. Not as enjoyable as birding one location for hours and living in the moment. But Saturday for the fifth year I did an Atterbury Big May Day for Johnson County portion for the Indiana Audubon Society Big May Day.

The day started well with all the expected owls – Eastern Screech-Owl, Barred Owl, and Great Horned Owl – calling on cue. I even had a bonus Common Nighthawk fly in front the car as I was leaving the Barred Owl area.

After owling the day started with haze coming off the wet fields.
One of the first daylight birds was a lone Green Heron watching from the mist.

This year I tried something different. With Turkey Season closing the interior of Atterbury until 1PM I planned stops along the roads and tried to bird those areas for a certain time. This is in the hope I can more or less repeat the run every year.

Dickcissels were out in force in the small grassland area on my route.

Uncommon findings were Red-breasted Nuthatch and Black Vulture.

If the Red-breasted Nuthatch hadn’t been singing its toy trumpet call I would have missed it. This is the latest date I’ve seen one in the Midwest.
The Black Vulture was on the east side of Atterbury where I have seen one previously. I assume they have moved this far north and aren’t enough people looking to note the increase.
This American Coot was the only one the group saw on the day. I don’t think he’ll be here much longer.

At lunch the group tallied up the species and we were in the 120’s with no shorebirds except for Killdeer. My afternoon plan was to hike into Atterbury for rails and on to shorebirds.

The rail search was a bust, probably the high water. I started meandering home crisscrossing the county checking fields I knew held water after heavy rains. The plan proved fruitful as I added 8 additional species on the day.

A  female Mallard was sharing a flooded field with a Solitary Sandpiper.
One of the fields which can only be viewed in late afternoon but more importantly when the big dog isn’t around, had a Semipalmated Plover and Least Sandpipers.
The field that last year produced a Bonaparte’s Gull had a Pied-billed Grebe along with Spotted Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs. The shorebirds aren’t in the photo.
Atterbury Big May Day
And a lone Northern Shoveler was swimming among the Mallards.

I failed while trying to flush snipe at a local marsh but flushed an American Woodcock as a bonus prize.

Reaching the county line around 7:30 I decided to call it a day. After 14 hours I once again proved by putting in the time will usually produce a good count.

Black-bellied Plover – Weekend Highlights

I have struggled since I started this blog on getting out timely reports, mainly from the weekend, and creating a decent post. A post usually takes 2 hours with the sorting of photos, initial draft, proofreading, tags, etc. Going forward I’m going to try to post on Monday AM the weekend photos without creating “a story” which sets a blog apart from Facebook. This will be the initial test with BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER being the lead.

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The local wet field is perfect for shorebirds. Without rain it will probably be dry by next weekend. Last year it didn’t dry up until late October. Southern Marion County 8/6/16
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Most of the usual shorebirds were present with KILLDEER being around 100 in number. The highlight was a molting BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER. Southern Marion County 8/6/16
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It never lifted its wings but after watching it for a long time it just didn’t look like an American Golden Plover. Southern Marion County 8/7/16
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The bill seems too big for an American Golden and the vent area showed no signs of black. Southern Marion County 8/7/16
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I ran into Cary Floyd who pulled out a distant RUDDY DUCK from the mass of Mallards. Far and away my earliest Ruddy Duck for the area. Southern Marion County 8/6/16
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A CEDAR WAXWING posed nicely for a photo. Westside Park, Greenwood 8/6/16
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Grassland birds were extremely quiet this weekend. I happened to notice this DICKCISSEL with a meal. County Line Road, 8/6/16
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This long shot photo shows an EASTERN MEADOWLARK, lower left, in the field by Franklin HS. I flushed 10 walking the grass but never heard one calling in the hour I was there. 8/7/16
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Three SAVANNAH SPARROWS, which appear young, were on a fence at Franklin HS. 8/7/16
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How often does someone post a photo of a crow? I picked up my life Indiana list Fish Crow at Eagle Creek but this AMERICAN CROW was at Westside Park in Greenwood. 8/6/16

Dickcissel Increasing?

Recently I was helping on a bird survey with Karl and Mike when Karl brought up the thought that Dickcissel are increasing in the area. And I had to agree. No facts to back it up but it seems like there are more than a few years ago.

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The Dickcissel were out in force last Sunday morning when I was checking on Bobolinks. Urban Johnson County 6/26/16

The Facts

  1. I first checked Brock’s Birds of Indiana to see what he saw as a long-term trend in Indiana. As seen below a slight increase but not significant.Brock - Dickcissel
  2. Next I checked the results of the USGS Breeding Bird Survey. As seen on the left chart below for the entire US there was an initial decrease at the start of the survey but has basically leveled off. The right chart shows Indiana and to my eye shows a slight increase since 1980.
DickCissel BBS
Breeding Bird Survey – The graph on the left is the long-term US results and on the right Indiana. Sauer, J. R., J. E. Hines, J. E. Fallon, K. L. Pardieck, D. J. Ziolkowski, Jr., and W. A. Link. 2014. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966 – 2013. Version 01.30.2015 USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD
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Urban Johnson County 6/26/16

My Personal Thought

My own personal thought is Dickcissel are increasing slightly in this area but only in selected spots.

Karl brought up the fact he sees Dickcissel in a scrubby area that didn’t use to hold birds. That is my same take. When we moved to Franklin from Illinois I started seeing them in numerous deserted scrubby lots. And that has been where I continue to see them.

These lots look like they had started development during the construction boom and when things crashed the lots become deserted scrub fields. With just the vegetation a Dickcissel likes. So over the last 7-8 years we have provided the perfect habitat for them.

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Urban Johnson County 6/26/16

On my BBS routes in the rural Indiana landscape, my numbers didn’t suggest an increase, similar to the BBS national trends. And I haven’t seen more or less at Atterbury either.

It will be interesting to see what happens as the lots disappear since they are starting to be developed.

DICK (2) Dickcissel Increasing
Urban Johnson County 6/26/16

Any thoughts?

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.

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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.

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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.

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This Prothonotary Warbler was actively feeding but wouldn’t stay put for a photo. Atterbury FWA 6/4/16
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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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The tall tree in the center hosts the Bald Eagle’s nest. Johnson County 6/5/16
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Like any children the young eagles appeared to be fighting over food on several occasions. Johnson County 6/5/16
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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.

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
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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

 

Annual July 4th Weekend Outing to Goose Pond

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.

Please enjoy the following photos from the day.

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A group of Great Egrets before they decided to disperse for the day.
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Could it be a distant Common Moorhen? I mean, Common Gallinule?
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Yes, the red bill confirms it.
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Of course it eventually came much closer for a better photo.
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Heading to the bridge on 1200W I immediately saw the continuing American White Pelicans.
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I never did see the distant Bald Eagles fly. Nor for that fact did I see any raptors flying except a lone Turkey Vulture. I did speak with a couple that had seen a Northern Harrier on the day.
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An Indigo Bunting was sitting by the road and really didn’t get excited about my presence.
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A Willow Flycatcher came in close while I was scanning the water.
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He kept checking out something above. The local nesting Barn Swallows were flying all over so maybe that was drawing his attention.
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A female Orchard Oriole.
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A male Orchard Oriole.
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The happy couple together. Too bad the lighting was bad.
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A Dickcissel in the same tree that a Northern Bobwhitesat in last year. Link to last year’s post –  https://bushwhackingbirder.com/general/goose-pond-saturday-greater-yellowlegs/
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Occasionally one of the nesting Least Terns would fly over while I was scanning the water. This is a heavily cropped photo.  Since I don’t get to hear many terns, it was good to hear it call.
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So I come across a pair of Blue-winged Teal. I wondered if they are breeding here?
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Who can tell from this distance with all the young Wood Ducks?
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Looks like they have have at least two of their own.
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A Gray Catbird stopped by to see what I was watching.
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And I will end with a Black-necked Stilt. I spent the last couple of hours watching them and scanning for shorebirds. I had so many photos of Black-necked Stilts that I will devout a whole post to them later.