August Birding 2017 Week 1

Last week I blogged about hoping to see as many Marion County August species as possible.  Over half  of the expected species were seen in August Birding 2017 Week 1.

The local flooded field had a small spot on the far side suitable for shorebirds. With the cold front passing on Friday I visited it late Thursday. The glare from the west was heavy but luckily periodic clouds helped with the seeing. With the help of the cloud cover I was able to ID the expected Least, Pectoral, Solitary, and Spotted Sandpipers.

August Birding 2017 Week 1
Early Saturday morning the local flooded field was packed with Canada Geese and Mallards. But no Wood Ducks??

The local park was the starting point Saturday searching for owls. Success was had with both Eastern Screech and Barred Owls. The Barred Owl was seen as it flew away from the area of the screech owls. It must have come in to check out the tape.

The flooded field was the next stop. As I have discovered if I don’t arrive at least 15-20 minutes before sunrise the Great Egrets will be gone. Arriving 15 minutes before sunrise the lone Great Egret there flew away a minute later. Mike then arrived but our scan only produced a few shorebirds.

We decided on Southwestway Park for the local and hopefully a long shot species. And we ended up with a couple of birds I didn’t expect to see in August – Blue Grosbeak and Yellow-breasted Chat.

On the edge of the park a Blue Grosbeak was singing from a tree line .
One of several Eastern Phoebes on the day.

Otherwise it was a battle to avoid mosquitoes while seeing the expected species.

The south end of Eagle Creek Reservoir for a short lake watch was the day’s last stop. An Osprey on the water’s far side was one of the few birds seen.

Sunday I visited the SE corner of the county for a few rural birds. The resident American Kestrel was present at its usual spot as were Eastern Meadowlarks.

The fun though was watching a Cooper’s Hawk turn the tables on American Crows.

This Cooper’s Hawk must have had enough of the local American Crows.
In a reversal of roles the hawk stayed above the crows and would periodically dive at them.
Here comes the hawk after the crows. They crows would disperse and then return. And the process would start over. Instead of the hawk having to fly away the crows eventually flew away from the hawk.

I figure there are an additional 10-15 species that should easily be seen until migration starts later this month. It’s the harder ones which will now be the challenge.

Windblown Eastern Phoebe – Weekend Highlight

So how windy was last Saturday? Check out this photo of a windblown Eastern Phoebe!

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Luckily this Eastern Phoebe could still see with its feathers almost over its eyes!
Or this Red-tailed Hawk kiting in a strong SE wind?
Or even a Tree Swallow hanging in the wind.

Along with Mike Saturday’s plan was to search for the expected early migrants. But before I met up with Mike I did a bit of owling.

The Eastern-screech Owls weren’t the usual spots but a Barred Owl was calling nearby at one. I finally found one screech-owl.

Can you see the Eastern Screech-Owl in the photo? This is my first attempt using the flash on my camera. Looks like one of those TV supernatural show videos.
And now a zoomed shot. OK, next time I’ll have a better photo.

I met up with Mike at the Great Horned Owl spot where we eventually heard one calling right before sunrise. We visited a couple of lakes and saw a good variety of waterfowl and the first of the migrants, three distant Tree Swallow flying over the Pisgah Lake.

The next stop was the known Eastern Phoebe Bridge and one was heard “chipping” immediately exiting the car.

The first Eastern Phoebe of the year, looking rather cold. Which it was for most of the day.

Now watch the tail. Wait for it. Classic Phoebe!

At Driftwood SFA we found both migrants. The before mentioned windblown Eastern Phoebe and a small group of Tree Swallows.

Probably feels good in the sun with a break in the wind.
Looks like I’ve been spotted. Time to move on.
Now you see why it’s called Driftwood. A different Eastern Phoebe warming in the sun.

A third one flew in from behind and almost landed on me.
I couldn’t get the angle of the Tree Swallows in a tree, so I’ll have to settle for a line shot.

This is my fifth spring in Indiana, so I can start to have realistic personal early/late dates.

Earliest Eastern Phoebe by 6 days. But not sure I was always looking for an early one.

Tree Swallow was the second earliest. Earliest was 3/2/13.

The 34th Annual JC CBC

This post is basically a repeat of the same one I do about this time of year. This will be the fourth time I have posted about the 34th Annual JC CBC since we moved here in 2013.

The 34th annual Johnson County Christmas Bird Count will be on Sunday, December 18, 2016. The center of the 7.5 mile radius circle is centered south of Indiana 252 and county road 200E.  The circle includes portions of a Johnson, Bartholomew, and Brown counties. It appears at one time the count was called the Atterbury count and changed its name to Johnson County. Maybe a change in the circle’s center?

If you are interested in joining the compiler is Mike Clay and he can be reached at:

mpclay at comcast.net.

If you live in the count circle all feeder reports are welcome.

Mike assigns teams that bird in the morning and then we meet at noon to recap the morning’s count.  After lunch some people continue searching for species missed in the morning.

Approximate Johnson County Christmas Bird Count Circle
The area the Johnson County CBC covers – from Franklin on the north to Sweetwater Lake on the south and west of Trafalgar to east of Edinburgh.

Now for data. The JC CBC count has averaged in the high 60’s for the number of species per count in the 29 years of data I could find on the National Audubon Society site. But the last few years it has averaged around 60 with only a few species of waterfowl seen. My guess is it hasn’t frozen up north and waterfowl hasn’t headed south. If the weather doesn’t change I’m guessing we’ll be around the same total again this year.

Some photos from 2013.

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Our group came across an American Kestrel that had caught a House Sparrow at the Kokomo Elevator. 12/15/16
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A lingering Eastern Phoebe by a natural seep at Driftwood SFA. 12/15/13

Migrating Turkey Vultures – Weekend Highlight

The last birds viewed on the weekend were also the highlight.

A group of 12 migrating Turkey Vultures.

Now most people might say a group of migrating Turkey Vultures aren’t exciting. But like a lot of things in birding migrating Turkey Vultures aren’t something you see away from a specialty site. Like a Hawk Watch. Or more importantly it’s not something I get to see every weekend.

And if caught low enough on the horizon it is a thrill to watch them come and go.

As I was heading back to the car I caught the glimmer of a white airplane to the north. Seemed odd since all the other planes Sunday morning had been high in that direction. Taken a glance towards the plane revealed a group of Turkey Vultures swirling on the horizon. They were too far for a photo so I watched them as they swirled/drifted up.

After reaching a certain height they all started drifting down and to the south at a rapid rate.

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At this point the Turkey Vultures had already drifted up and were now gliding down gaining distance heading south. Franklin Township Community Park 10/30/16

After gliding/drifting down for 4-5 miles (?) they started to swirl up again, this time much closer.

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Once again they were swirling going up higher and closer. It reminded me of last year at Eagle Creek and a couple of years ago in Costa Rica. FTCP 10/30/16
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After swirling almost right overhead they once again turned south and drifted/glided away. FTCP 10/30/16
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Now they were over head and drifting/gliding south at a rapid rate. FTCP 10/30/16

It didn’t take long before they were all behind the tree line and moving away.

What did I learn from that experience?

  1. If I had left a minute earlier I would have missed the show. Looking at the times of the photos the whole event lasted 4 minutes. How far did they come in those 4 minutes? From the horizon to straight overhead. 4-5 miles?
  2. If Broad-winged Hawks kettles travel in the same manner it shows you have to be at the right place at the right time or the odds are high you will miss them.

Other photos on the weekend.

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Terrible photo of 30 Cedar Waxwings that flew in all at once. Southwestway Park 10/29/16
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A nice flock of Chipping Sparrows. I never could turn one into a Clay-colored Sparrow. Southwestway Park 10/29/16
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Funny how in a flock of 10+ White-throated Sparrows only one will pop out for a photo. Southwestway Park 10/29/16
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FOS Northern Shovelers showed up over the weekend. Greenwood Retaining Ponds 10/29/16
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I just liked this photo of a Mourning Dove. One of 30 or so at the park. FTCP 10/30/16
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An Eastern Phoebe showing nicely before the wind picked up and made finding birds in the bush tough. FTCP 10/30/16
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Easy Photo Quiz. The colors on the crown give it away. I didn’t know they had this much olive-green in the tail. FTCP 10/30/16

Belted Kingfisher – Weekend Highlight

In my last post I reported I’d be staying closer to home for birding. So what can one see closer to home in late October? Belted Kingfisher for one.

With a limited time Saturday to go birding I was glad I decided to bird closer to home. I went out Sunday but the windy weather wasn’t as conducive to birding.

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I checked the wet area first. No herons or egrets or waterfowl for that matter. Since Great Egrets leave early in the day I checked a half hour before sunrise Sunday. Still no luck. Urban Marion County 10/22/16
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There were still a few Least Sandpipers to go with the Killdeer. Still hoping for Dunlin.
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The ever-present male Belted Kingfisher was the first of two Kingfishers on the day. Greenwood Retaining Ponds 10/22/16
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Still no waterfowl moving in but the Belted Kingfisher (upper left), Great Blue Heron (lower right), and American Coots (center back) are usually present.

After checking out the local water areas I headed home to bird my home area.

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A Downy Woodpecker was working a tree when I arrived. Urban Indianapolis 10/22/16
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Eastern Phoebes have been present all summer with two being seen Saturday. Urban Indianapolis 10/22/16
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The picture of the weekend. This female Belted Kingfisher didn’t like me in the area and rattled at me constantly. I think she looks like she is laughing here. Urban Indianapolis 10/22/16
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If one keeps an eye to the sky you’ll never know what you might see. Two Red-shouldered Hawks were soaring quite high. A few seconds earlier a Red-tailed Hawk was also soaring with them and the smaller size of the Red-shouldered was apparent. Plus the coloring and fight shape helped to ID them. Urban Indianapolis 10/22/16

Sunday afternoon I spent a few hours at the local park. The wind kept the birds down but on the north side of the tree line the kinglets came out in a fair numbers.

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At one point I had both kinglets in the field of view. The Ruby-crowned moved right before I took the photo leaving the Golden-crowned Kinglet. Franklin Township Community Park 10/23/16
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The Ruby-crowned Kinglet came in very close and was quite inquisitive when I was pishing. Franklin Township Community Park 10/23/16

Always a good weekend when I can see a few migrants and the local Kingfishers.

An Easy Weekend

With the weekend being sandwiched between weeks of traveling for work, last Saturday I looked forward to an easy morning of walking and enjoying the outdoors.  Since sparrows should be moving through and since hunting isn’t allowed there, I headed to my favorite sparrow spot – Johnson County Park.

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Walking the paths on a beautiful Saturday morning. Johnson County Park 10/10/15

Basically I took my time and enjoyed the birds, the changing trees, and the easy walk. I didn’t see any uncommon sparrows but I did see most of the expected fall sparrows. The closest I had to an uncommon sparrow was a Chipping Sparrow that wanted to be a Clay-colored Sparrow for several minutes.  It was always back-lit so I never could get a photo.

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One of those times that the birds actually sat in a tree together for more than few seconds. I don’t know if they were talking but both the Eastern Phoebe and Eastern Bluebird were calling while sitting in the tree.  JCP 10/10/15
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A Swamp Sparrow really didn’t seem to be in any hurry to move on. He gave good looks including the one I used in the blog header photo. JCP 10/10/15

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A little further down the path a White-crowned Sparrow sat somewhat out in the open. JCP 10/10/15
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Come on now. Why do Northern Mockingbirds always seem to think they can’t be seen? JCP 10/10/15

I ended up seeing Eastern Towhee, Chipping, Field, White-crowned, White-throated, Song, and Swamp Sparrows on the day.

An easy blog post for an easy day of birding.

And now a few photos from earlier in the month from the area by my place.

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Not a good photo but I really liked the brightness of the yellow shafts showing on this Northern Flicker. South Indianapolis 10/11/15
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Who says a big bird can’t use its colors for camouflage? If this Great Blue Heron hadn’t called I would have walked right by it. South Indianapolis, Early October 2015

High Water and Forest Damage – The Last Saturday of the IAS Summer Bird Count

My plan for the last Saturday in July, which was the last Saturday for the Indiana Audubon Summer Bird Count, was like the first weekend in June – visit as many habitats as possible. The difference as opposed to the first weekend in June was that the few birds that would be calling would probably be done by 10AM. And they were. So I was hoping for shorebirds to observe after 10.

I was out by 5AM in search of Eastern Screech-Owls but only found a pickup with a boat in the parking lot about 50 yards from my best spot at Atterbury FWA. With its motor running and lights on.  Why would someone be in a parking lot an hour and half before sunrise with a big boat by a pond that I wouldn’t even bother to canoe?  Who knows.

Anyway after missing the screech-owl I headed to the Great Horned Owl location and they began calling on cue about a half hour before sunrise.  But I missed Barred Owl again. I have only heard one this year as opposed to six by this time the last two years. Maybe I just need to get out more?

The next hour and half around Atterbury/Johnson County Park was productive. I observed not one but four Belted Kingfishers, a bird I had missed on the count so far.  It was also cool to watch Tree Swallows chase them around, a behavior I had never witnessed.

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One of two female Belted Kingfishers that was being chased by Tree Swallows. But I’m not sure who started the chase.
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A Common Grackle watching the chase around the trees.
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I’ll let you guess on the top bird way across the lake. Use the process of elimination of the tagged species at the end of the article for the answer.
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A female Rose-breasted Grosbeak that was in the same area as 3 males that kept flying around.
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One of the males landed long enough for a quick photo.

As others have noted swallows were gathering with a large group of Purple Martins at one of the small lakes at Atterbury. I was also glad to see a Spotted Sandpiper fly over since I had missed them because of the high water in the county.  And today the water was even higher. Driftwood SFA was the highest I have ever seen it, with no boats on the water when I checked.  The Big Blue River was also very high. And all the usual shorebirds spots were either flooded or so full of weeds that no shorebirds would land there.

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Purple Martins were numerous on the day, as were most swallows.
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A tree full of Purple Martins. They must be moving since I had never seen them in this location before.
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An Eastern Phoebe doing a 180 look. Not sure but I didn’t see anything in that direction.

Atterbury also showed the effects of the recent storms with trees down in many places. You could see were the DNR had cut many trees that had falling across the road. After Atterbury I headed to Laura Hare Preserve and the situation was even worse. If I hadn’t been to the preserve previously I’m not sure I could have picked up the trail in several spots. Trees were down everywhere and the trail was washed out in a couple of spots.  And the birding was slow as it approached the 10AM hour.

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Some of the damage at Laura Hare Preserve. You can’t even tell the trail veers to the left.
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One of the smaller trees that was laying across the path.
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And part of the trail was washed out by the lake.

I stopped by the south side of Atterbury and Johnson County Park on my way back from Laura Hare. While there I had all three raptors on the day – Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, and Turkey Vulture – while sitting on a picnic table getting a drink and watching meadowlarks.  The JCP Bell’s Vireo was still calling and a Yellow-breasted Chat came out to see who was around.

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A Yellow-breasted Chat popped out to see who was in this far corner of the park.

So I ended the summer count with 88 species, the first time I hadn’t broke 100 in the three years I have participated. But I didn’t get to Laura Hare in early June and that is needed for 5 or so breeding warblers. Plus no shorebirds this year. Which usually is another 5 or so. And I missed a week going to Colorado and another week to cataract surgery. Cataract Surgery is something I should blog about but I’m waiting to see how it improves my birding. So far it has been great.

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The local Red-tailed Hawk sitting in the tree behind our condo. Its mate is usually there but not on this day.
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And the local Northern Mockingbird. Recently I have heard it calling as late as midnight and as early as 5AM. Does it ever sleep? Does it call in its sleep? Does it ever stop?

Almost Time For This Year’s Adventure

Wish I had more to write about, but I don’t.  Between sitting in a training class last week or driving to the training class, the creative juices weren’t flowing.

Plus what free time I have is going to learning the birds of Colorado. The western slope of the Rockies to be exact.  I fly out next weekend for 6 days around the Grand Junction area. I plan on trying to make a daily post but that might be a little to ambitious. At that time I’ll go into more detail how I picked that area to see birds of the U.S. “Great Basin”.

NO photos from this weekend.  Along with Mike and Karl we did the annual breeding census on the military side of Camp Atterbury. No cameras allowed on the military base, so no photos.  Karl had done the east side on Friday which is mostly grasslands and had a good count of 35 Henslow’s Sparrows. We did the forested west side and some how came up with the same number of Hooded Warblers, Ovenbirds, and American Redstarts – 17.  The count on the Hooded is the highest ever for this count. With the high temperatures the birds stopped calling early so we didn’t have as good of day as past years.  Oh well.

But here are a few photos from a week ago.

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Eastern Phoebe calling insistently above a creek and of course close to a bridge. Atterbury FWA 6/06/15
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One and only one guess as to this species. Getting a good look so I can compare it to an Ash-throated Flycatcher next week. Atterbury FWA 6/06/15 (Great Crested Flycatcher)
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Same thing here. Taking a long look at an Eastern Towhee so I can compare to a Spotted Towhee next week in Colorado. Atterbury FWA 6/06/15
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I heard numerous Yellow-breasted Chats on the day. Most were up and singing on territory. If you can call what they do singing. Atterbury FWA 6/06/15
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Same guy as above.
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I always find House Sparrows away from man interesting. But of course they really aren’t away from man because she is standing on a man-made bluebird house. FHS 6/06/15
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And the male house Sparrow wasn’t too far away. FHS 6/06/15
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There were several male Savannah Sparrows giving me their chip note to keep away. And I wasn’t even that close. I did learn their chip note though, which is a softer one than a Song Sparrow. FHS 6/06/15
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Same bird as above.
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A Yellow Warbler flew in and decided to take a quick bath. Johnson County Park 6/06/15
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And is there any doubt that the Northern Rough-winged Swallow was the prototype for every movie alien? Look at those eyes. East of Franklin – Johnson County
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Maybe movie producers used Mississippi Kites instead? Ferne Clyffe SP IL 6/19/10