Virginia Rail Grunting – Weekend Highlight

In my last post I ended by stating I’d use Wilson’s Snipe as an example of something I think is a bigger problem. That post isn’t ready yet but it will address the lack of fresh water marshes. Since I love marshes and I had Friday off, I headed to one of two I know locally. And I was rewarded with both a Sora calling and a Virginia Rail grunting.

Friday morning’s birding at Atterbury FWA was broken into two habitats, heavy woods and open grasslands walking to the marsh. Both areas are close together so in total I didn’t cover more than a mile in the whole morning.

The Woods

The woods produced several FOY species but little in the way of photos. Though I heard numerous Yellow-throated Warblers none where ever out in the open. The surprise of the day was a Nashville Warbler in the brush as I was viewing a White-throated Sparrow.

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers seemed to be every in the woods.
And Northern Parulas were calling all along the river road.

Has happens every year I forget the call of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Luckily more than one was calling so I got to hear it often.

Grassland 

To access the marsh one must walk along woods and through a grassland area.

The marsh is out there beyond the tall Sycamore.

After exiting the woods I was momentarily stymied by a call. A simple loud call from the grass. It took a minute but it finally dawned it was a Henslow’s Sparrow. On the day I would hear six in the area.

A usually secretive Henslow’s Sparrow was out calling on territory.

The Wetland – Virginia Rail Grunting

I needed to check the rails since the next few weekends will have early Turkey Season and the off road areas are closed until after 1PM. I have only heard a couple Virginia Rails at this marsh so I wasn’t hopeful.

The area I listen for rails is down and to the left, a couple hundred yards away.
Swamp Sparrows were great company while waiting to hear any rails call.

I arrived at the listening spot and played one Sora recording. Immediately a Sora replied with its descending call. And then it was time to wait. I have learned if a Virginia Rail is going to call it will take a few minutes after the recording. I learned this last year when they called as was leaving. Since then I wait 5-10 minutes and see what happens.

To capture the call I turned on the camera’s video/audio and waited. The following came at minute 6 of the recording, which shows how long it takes the Virginia Rail to respond. I was preparing to leave when I finally heard the call. So the static in the first few seconds are me preparing to walk.

Turn up your volume and listen. The Virginia Rail grunting starts at 8 seconds.

VIRA Atterbury

After lunch the temperature was approaching 80F and the birds were quieting down. A leisurely walk at Johnson County Park produced a couple of FOY birds.

virginia rail grunting
An Eastern Kingbird was a surprise. I thought they were still a week or so away from arriving.
Not a FOY but I liked the color on this American Kestrel.

Redemption Wednesday

I’m hoping for redemption today with a few photos from Sunday. Saturday the wind gusts were blowing at greater than 25MPH in the open areas which meant taking photos of grasslands birds tough. I still tried to take photos of distant birds though. And the photos from the woods weren’t any better with the overcast skies and light rains.

Sunday afternoon I went to the central part of Atterbury FWA. That part of Atterbury is closed daily until 1PM for Spring Turkey Season. So to see if it will be worth birding next Saturday on the IAS Big May Day Count I went bushwhacking after 1PM. I did come across several species that might be needed if not found in the morning Saturday. The lighting wasn’t much better with overcast skies but they weren’t the heavy clouds. I got a few photos which hopefully will redeem myself.

Henslow's Sparrow - redemption from Saturdays's so-so photo.
Confirmed a Henslow’s Sparrow was still present at the same location as last year. A much better photo than the one on Saturday.
LISP (6)
I stumbled across a Lincoln’s Sparrow which wasn’t in any hurry to jump back in the undergrowth.
LISP (1)
Same Lincoln Sparrow looking around. Note the buffy color.
LISP (9)
Easily my best photos of a Lincoln’s Sparrow.
GCKI (1)
I think the Great Crested Flycatchers are setting up a nest. Its partner wasn’t too far away.
ATFL
To show the contrast in Myiarchus flycatchers, an Ash-throated Flycatcher from Rabbit Valley CO. Note how its plain colors blend in to the habitat and the previous Great Crested blends in to our brighter environment.
BAOR (1)
Always a crowd pleaser when they are out in the open, a colorful Baltimore Oriole.
BAOR (2)
Same Baltimore Oriole in a different tree. I think I must have been close to the nest as it kept moving from tree to tree.
WAVI (2)
And to contrast the colorful oriole here is a drab Warbling Vireo.

Cuckoo Day Two – Black-billed

Let’s get right to it. Last Sunday during my Big Day I had some of my all-time best looks and photos of a YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO. Yesterday was no different with a BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO with one seen and two others heard on the day. Even in the poor light the one I watched sat like cuckoos will. So I stood and watched back.

Black-billed Cuckoo
I’m at almost the same spot as last week when I saw the Yellow-billed Cuckoo except this Black-billed Cuckoo is on the other side of the road. It’s hard to see but the buff color under the chin is visible. Atterbury FWA 5/7/16
BBCU (14)
I don’t think I disturbed it but it tried to get small and “hide” after a bit. Atterbury FWA 5/7/16
BBCU (13)
I cranked up the ISO to get a better photo in the rainy conditions. Notice the lack of spots on the tail. Atterbury FWA 5/7/16

One of the Black-billed Cuckoo called a couple of times, once doing the low “cuckle” call as I call it. Cool times.

And for fun here is last week’s Yellow-billed on the left and this week’s Black-billed on the right.

YBCUBBCU A

The day started off well with Mike and I at Northwest Park in Greenwood. The first bird on the day was a GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER that would never stop long enough for a photo.

BWWA (4)
This Black-and-White Warbler is demonstrating the nuthatch behavior for which they are known. Northwest Park 5/7/16
SWTH (1)
I have lightened this early morning photo to show the buff around the eye of this Swainson’s Thrush. Northwest Park 5/7/16

At Atterbury we picked up some FOS species.

BOBO (6)
A very distant Bobolink testing the limits of my new camera. Atterbury FWA 5/7/16
BOBO (8)
Photobomb! What do you think, an Eastern Meadowlark? Atterbury FWA 5/7/16
HESP (6)
Another distant photo this time of a Henslow’s Sparrow. The wind was gusting at 25mph making photos tough. Atterbury FWA 5/7/16

And in the afternoon after Mike had departed I saw a few more FOY including the before mentioned Black-billed Cuckoo.

SCTA (1)
I can’t get enough of the bright red of a Scarlet Tanager. Atterbury FWA 5/7/16
LEFL (1)
The ISO is up to capture this Least Flycatcher in the undergrowth. Atterbury FWA 5/7/16
LEFL (5)
How does it turn its head around 360deg? Atterbury FWA 5/7/16

You can tell it’s that time of year as I continue to see 10 or so FOY species each weekend.

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.

BLPH ATTERBURY FWA 060615
Eastern Phoebe calling insistently above a creek and of course close to a bridge. Atterbury FWA 6/06/15
GCKI OUTLINE
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)
EATO ATTERBURY FWA 060615
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
YBCH ATTERBURY FWA 060615
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
YBCH ATTERBURY FWA 060615A
Same guy as above.
HOSP  FHS 060715A
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
HOSP  FHS 060715B
And the male house Sparrow wasn’t too far away. FHS 6/06/15
SASP FHS 060615A
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
SASP FHS 060615
Same bird as above.
YEWA JCP 060615
A Yellow Warbler flew in and decided to take a quick bath. Johnson County Park 6/06/15
NRWS JC 060715
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
MIKI 061910
Maybe movie producers used Mississippi Kites instead? Ferne Clyffe SP IL 6/19/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My New Favorite Photos? Henslow’s Sparrow

I don’t exactly know what it is about the following photos but they really caught my attention. A week ago Saturday, April 20, Mike and I were checking for shorebirds at Atterbury FWA when I initially heard this Henslow’s Sparrow. After a couple of minutes we spotted him sitting out in the open.

REMEMBER TO CLICK ON THE PHOTOS FOR A LARGER VERSION

037These aren’t the best photos I have ever taken, far from it. But the contrasting colors just struck me. Especially the next one, even with the head turned away.  I had never really noticed the difference between the yellow-green head and the light-brown back.

035Notice how the pattern on the light-brown back just stands out.

038And the white eye-ring.

I guess if you take your time and look there is always something new and different to see.  Especially with local birds.