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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Uncommon findings were Red-breasted Nuthatch and Black Vulture.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There were also breeding WOOD DUCKS in the swampy area.
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.
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.
It was good start to the Summer Count with 70+ species over the three days.
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 atMatthiessen 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.
And a few more photos from Driftwood SWA a week ago.
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.