Wednesday morning found me at Southeastway Park hoping to find local birds I missed the first weekend of August. With only a half hour I thought I could make a small loop and pick up a few calling species. And the plan worked with a Northern Parula doing its alternate call which threw me off for a minute. A pair of Wood Thrushes were next along with the local group of Chipping Sparrows. Yellow-throated Warblers are usually present but not this day. A decent start to August Birding 2017 Week 2 I knew would have limited time for birding.
I met up with Mike early Saturday at the local flooded field. Along with hundreds of Canada Geese and Mallards there were the usual Killdeer, Pectoral, and Least Sandpipers. But nice addictions to the August list were Semipalmated Plover and Short-billed Dowitcher.
Since I had to leave mid-morning for a four-day out-of-town family trip we decided on the nearby Southeastway Park. Even though it was quiet Mike and I eventually saw most of the expected species. But nothing new for the month.
After leaving Southeastway I still had a little time. I knew some of the needed August species could be found in the small pond behind our residence. So I headed there.
After the short week my Marion County August total was in the high 70’s. And there probably won’t be much movement for another 10 days. Hurry up migration.
The flight arrived late-morning, as opposed to the usual one into Denver and the day spent driving to Grand Junction. This forced the problem of where to bird in the afternoon heat? The choices were either the cooler higher elevations or water birds which didn’t care about the heat. Since I’d be going to higher elevations later in the week the water birds won out. But where? The state parks would be full of weekend visitors. This left Fruitgrowers Reservoir semi-arid water.
The advantage of Fruitgrowers Reservoir is no people. None. As I reported two years ago the lake is off-limits do to phosphorous pollution concerns. Plus this would probably be my only chance to see certain water species this year.
That left me to enjoy the water birds on the warm Sunday afternoon.
The plan was to wrap up the December Colorado trip with one more blog. But after reviewing the photos from the final days I came up with several more posts. A couple travelogue type posts and a couple about things that caught my interest. Day 3’s morning was an enjoyable one in the field with a long walk at a state park. Strictly a travelogue day which means not any one highlight but many good views and observations. I’ll go with a Northern Flicker drumming to show my improving video talent. Ha!
There were numerous Dark-eyed Juncos but they too are getting a separate blog.
Now the following isn’t a good video. I was playing around with the video and thought I had a focused video of a Northern Flicker drumming. Turns out there was a small branch in the way. But I had fun in the field watching and recording.
Turn up the volume to catch the Northern Flicker Drumming.
I wrapped up the morning’s walk with a good mix of species – waterfowl, raptors, and songbirds. I encountered three separate Bewick’s Wrens but like any wren they didn’t come out long enough for a photo.
Early on Saturday morning of Labor Day Weekend I read a post on IN-Bird by Joni Jones about seeing Great Egrets leaving their roost at 7AM. I had planned to go to the local wet area around sunrise at 7:17AM, but changed my plans after reading her post and instead arrived at 6:45AM. And I’m glad I did because those 15 minutes made a difference.
Here are counts at 7AM:
Canada Geese – 500
Mallard – 250
Green-winged Teal – 1
Great Blue Heron – 22
Great Egret – 16
The moral of the story is to get there even earlier then planned because if I would arrived at sunrise I would have seen 90% less birds.
On Labor Day morning I stopped by to check for shorebirds. There were a couple of shorebirds but more unusual was the presence of the resident Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons.
And they were sitting!
In case you’re wondering the heron’s “knee” is hidden up under their feathers. The part they are sitting on in the photos is more like our “ankle”.
Another Saturday and I’m up at 4AM so Mike and I can make our 4th Annual Goose Pond Fourth of July Trip looking for species not usually seen in the Johnson County area – MARSH WREN, LEAST BITTERN, LEAST TERNS, COMMON GALLINULE, and BLACK-NECKED STILTS.
The weather cooperated but the habitat, not so much. Unlike past years the water level was low providing limited habitat for Least Bitterns and Common Gallinules. And where there is water, vegetation has grown to the water’s edge giving limited shorebird access. Compare this year’s photos to last years, when the water level was higher.
And enough habitat around to make the day enjoyable.
The highlight of the day was finding other shorebirds besides the Black-necked Stilts and Killdeer.
All in all, our Annual Goose Pond Trip was good though it was quieter than years past. We missed on Least Bittern and Common Gallinule, plus no Bell’s Vireo or Sedge Wrens. Hopefully the heavy rain predicted for today will help bring some of the habitat back to life.
My portion of the Johnson County Christmas Bird Count IAS Big May Day Count (felt like a Christmas Bird Count) started out and ended well with several surprises in the middle. I’ll stick to the highlights with some follow-up posts over the next few weeks covering a few other things on the day.
Big May Day – The Start
The weather at 5AM was 50F and windy, with light rain. The only thing that changed during the day was the rain stopped. Otherwise the temperature and wind held steady all day. I noticed the temperature on the local bank said 51F when I went by early in the day and said 50F late in the afternoon. I have participated in several Christmas Counts that were warmer.
So I didn’t start optimistic.
But the first bird, a GREAT HORNED OWL, flew off its usual telephone pole as soon as I drove up. There was hope.
I called in an EASTERN SCREECH-OWL and missed on Barred Owl. While waiting in the dark for a Barred Owl a bird flew in with white wing marks like a nighthawk. I didn’t remember those on a Barred Owl?? A couple of minutes it swooped back in – it was a COMMON NIGHTHAWK. Which was reassuring since I didn’t remember a Barred Owl acting that way.
The morning continued on with several FOY. Like CEDAR WAXWINGS.
Next was one of those county lister things when I found 1 CLIFF SWALLOW mixed in a feeding flock. No photo. Have you ever tried to take a photo of a swallow? A few BANK SWALLOWS were also mixed in for good measure.
Big May Day – The Middle
After lunch we went out searching for species we’d missed. First we hit one of the local shorebirds sites.
Then I visited a spot which previously had a SORA calling and at that time I thought I had heard a portion of a calling VIRGINIA RAIL. Yesterday no Sora but 2 Virginia Rails called. Johnson County #214.
I added a few more species we had missed in the morning like GRASSHOPPER SPARROW, WILSON’S SNIPE, and PIED-BILLED GREBE. Not the same grebe from my previous story. But I was still glad to see one late in the day.
Big May Day – The End
When the Worthsville Road exit on I65 was recently added it opened up observation to a flooded field I thought might be good for shorebirds. Well it hasn’t panned out for shorebirds. But I still made it my last stop of the day yesterday.
Once again there were no shorebirds however there was a distant piece of white trash.
No, looking again the trash looked like a gull.
Assuming it was a Ring-billed I got out the scope to confirm. The bird was walking away but I could still see the small black bill, gray ear patch, and yellowish legs. A Bonaparte’s Gull in Johnson County in May. Who would have thought? (Yes, eBird flagged it if you were wondering)
And for fun a departing photo, to make up for the lack of photos from another dark Saturday.
I have admittedly been doing too much easy birding. Getting started later and later on Saturday mornings and not staying out as long. And as my last post suggested, I was blaming the consistent weather for the SAMENESS of the birds. Maybe the amount of traveling I did for work in October contributed, but I was in a rut.
Time for a change. So I decided I needed a day of birding like I used to do every Saturday to break the rut. Make a plan, up early, and get out the door. See what’s out there. So that is what I did.
Pre-Sunrise – Great Horned Owl
I started an hour before sunrise and drove the road south of Franklin to see if the GREAT HORNED OWL was on its usual telephone poll. And sure enough silhouetted in the glow of the town lights it sat. I drove by and stopped a little further down the road to look back. We watched each other for a bit before the owl decided I might be trouble and flew off to the woods to the east.
And with one exception that was how the day would go. Many of the expected birds were on their “spots”.
Sunrise/Early Morning – Ring-billed Gull
The first few hours of the day were spent at Driftwood SFA. And as usual it had birds in the trees plus birds in the air. The first bird I saw on the morning was a RING-BILLED GULL. Not that unusual elsewhere but uncommon in basically waterless Johnson County as seen by this being only my second sighting this year. I assume it had been following the adjacent Flatrock River.
A little later I saw a juvenile BALD EAGLE which was definetly following the river’s course.
Not any unexpected passerines at Driftwood. The day startled at sunrise with EASTERN BLUEBIRDS, CEDAR WAXWINGS, YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS, and DARK-EYED JUNCOS in the same tree.
So not really all that close in size but puffed up in the early morning chill they can appear similar from a distance.
Over the next couple of hours I would see my first non-Mallard/Wood Duck waterfowl of the fall – RING-NECKED DUCKS. And I ended up with a slightly uncommon YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER, my first in Johnson County for the year.
I ended up having a productive two hours at Driftwood which says something about getting up and out the door.
In a couple of days I’ll post about my late morning and early afternoon adventures. And some changes at Laura Hare Nature Preserve.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After wrapping up at Colorado National Monument I had the choice to either try for cooler (as in temperature) birds at elevation or spend the afternoon at the only large lake in the area. Since a breeze had picked up I figured it wouldn’t be so warm around the lake. I was kinda right.
It took about an hour to get to Fruitgrowers Reservoir outside Delta, CO. I know I said I didn’t want to drive that much but not really many options if I was going to beat the heat. The lake tuned out to be good-sized with absolutely no people around. None. Just like the morning it was quiet but in a different way.
Then I read a sign that explained why. There was to be no water contact by people – no swimming, no fishing, no boating. The lake has a high level of phosphorous pollution and from reading on the internet it has for some time. So why is safe for birds? I don’t know.
But even though it was polluted and it was quiet, there were birds. The lakes’ north end had a road that cut off the lake from a low area that was a large cattail marsh. So I walked the road observing grebes, pelicans, and gulls to one side and blackbirds, coots, and herons on the other side.
The road had very little traffic and it made for a wonderful afternoon. Even in 100F temperature!
And it reminded me of when we lived in Illinois. I have written how I would go to LaSalle Lake almost every summer afternoon and watch the gulls. Often in 90F or higher heat. So this brought back pleasant memories and reminded me how much I like the heat.
And just like those Sunday afternoons of searching through all the Ring-billed Gulls for Laughing Gulls or searching the Caspian Terns for a Royal and usually coming up short, I never could turn a Western Grebe into a Clark’s.
And reaching the end of the road and being out for more than several hours in the heat it was time to head back.