August Birding 2017 Week 4

August Birding 2017 Week 4 can be summed up in one word, robins. And goldfinches. OK, two words. But mainly robins. Not many additions to the August list but there were a couple of surprises.

At both Southwestway Park Saturday and the local park Sunday American Robins were out in force. It seemed every movement I checked on was a robin. And if it wasn’t a robin it was an American Goldfinch doing a different call.

The star of the weekend – vast numbers of American Robins.
Brown Thrashers made a return last week after being quiet for the summer. Each day I heard 3 or 4 SMACKING in the bush.
And Indigo Buntings made a return doing their loud CHIP call.
Red-winged Blackbirds made their return from their summer molt.

Otherwise it was relatively quit. Mike and I had hoped for warblers but a lone Blackburnian Warbler was it for Saturday. I even checked the flooded field and Soccer field without much action.

Without rain the local flooded field is going to be gone by Labor Day.

Weekend Star

Since not much else was happening a male Summer Tanager was a welcome surprise. While watching the before mentioned robins the tanager appeared out of nowhere. Though he wasn’t close his colors still stood out.

The Summer Tanager kept to the early morning shadows.
Once he jumped up a little higher the yellow on his belly became apparent.
We finally got a chance to see his bright colors in the morning sun.
August Birding 2017 Week 4
A few butterflies were out including several Monarchs.

With the addition of three species I’m in the low 90’s for the month. I might get a chance to go out early Wednesday or Thursday but that darn work keeps interfering!

So I’m guessing 100 isn’t a possibility unless I luck into a wave of warblers.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo – Weekend Highlight

I’ve been traveling for work so I didn’t have time to post earlier this week. The rain last Saturday made photography tough and since I didn’t see many birds on Sunday, not many photos.  The highlight was a cooperative Yellow-billed Cuckoo that showed nicely at Southwestway Park.

ybcu-2 Yellow-billed Cuckoo
After moving from branch to branch, the Yellow-billed Cuckoo decided to sit for a minute. Almost out in the open. Southwestway Park 9/10/16

ybcu-3

inbu-1
There were a couple of young Indigo Buntings moving along the edge. The bird’s odd colors and lack of a tail was enough to throw me off for a minute. Southwestway Park 9/10/16
piwo-22
I’ll swear anytime a woodpecker lands on a pole it will always be on the opposite side. Whom am I kidding? Woodpeckers like this Pileated Woodpecker now exactly where you are located. Northwest Park Greenwood 9/11/16

Other seen but not photographed highlights. An Osprey was carrying a fish over Southwestway Park, which seemed odd. After seeing numerous Swainson’s Thrush my annual Gray-cheeked Thrush popped up on a limb along the trail. With a good look the plain face and lack of color sets it off from the Swainson’s. And Mike and I heard a Hairy Woodpecker. Still haven’t seen one in months…

Undertail Patterns – Useful for ID

I’m basically a generalist. There are few things which I want to become an “expert”. When it comes to birding I want to know the key points, including status and distribution, to be able to positively ID a species. But I don’t spend hours going over molt and plumage. One of the things I do periodically review to help ID species is undertail patterns, especially on Warblers.

Last Saturday I met up with Mike and we basically caught up on the week because there weren’t any migrants moving at the local park. Just quiet. As were my next couple of stops. I made a final quick stop at Atterbury before the rains of the afternoon hit. The last two weeks Mike and I had commented on not hearing Indigo Buntings for some time.

INBU
My first sighting of an Indigo Bunting in over 3 weeks. Even in the rain the ID is pretty straightforward. Unlike the next species. Atterbury FWA 8/27/16

As the rain started in earnest I was getting back in the car when a small yellow bird went flying into a nearby tree.

I initially thought from the size and coloring it was a Yellow Warbler since they breed in good numbers in this area. But the eye seemed a little too big. Could it be a Wilson’s Warbler?

This is where Undertail Patterns come into play

WIWA (1)
From this view I’m still not sure of the species. Atterbury FWA 8/27/16

I first came across the importance of Undertail Patterns in Jon Dunn and Kimball Garrett’s Warblers field guide. The drawings show how a warbler would look from beneath a warbler.

Undertail Patterns A
Note the Undertail Patterns of the Yellow Warbler, upper left block, and the Wilson’s Warbler, lower right block. Plates 31 and 32 from Warblers.

Since I didn’t get a definite view in flight or initially on the limb, if I could get a good view of the Undertail Patterns of the bird I could probably confirm the species.

WIWA (4)

WIWA Undertail Patterns
The original and cropped/enlarged photo showing the dark undertail pattern of Wilson’s Warbler. And if you look close you might see a smudge of dark on the crown.

So knowing your Undertail Patterns can be useful in ID’ing certain species.

Note: If you look immediately left of the Wilson’s Warbler Undertail pattern in the plates above you will see Hooded Warblers have an all white pattern. I still don’t know why I didn’t know that

Bobolink Update

I was going to title this post “To the Mall” but that didn’t pan out, so I stuck with Bobolink Update.

And let me reiterate my position, even in the so-called “slow times”, there is always something going on if you get out the door.

I actually slept in until 4:30 this Saturday so I could be to the mall at 5:30. The first thing I noticed was the dawn chorus of robins was gone. I thought it was less last week but this week it was gone.

I picked the mall in hopes a COMMON NIGHTHAWK might have used its flat roof for nesting. Wikipedia states the mall was built in 1966 so I was hopeful the roof was still gravel as opposed to the modern rubber roof. The mall went in for a major change in 2003 so maybe it has a rubber roof. But it didn’t have any nighthawks around I could hear.

On to Franklin High School in hopes of photographing the continuing WILSON’S SNIPE. I was doing good on sneaking up to the spot I encountered one last week when a bee went down my shirt. It must have been comical watching me strip off layers in shoulder-high wet weeds. So much for getting a photo. Walking back to the car I flushed a snipe in a completely different part of the marsh. Did it move from the recent rains and ensuing high water?

On to a known VESPER SPARROW spot that was still needed for the IAS Summer Count. The spot is by a low spot which sometimes holds shorebirds. Upon arriving there was water, 55 MALLARDS, and a LESSER YELLOWLEGS. All flushed when I opened the car door and I wasn’t even close. A Spotted Sandpiper also flushed in the mass exit. The yellowlegs is the earliest fall shorebird I have ever had in the county. But it helps to have water in July for shorebirds. And I did hear two Vesper Sparrows calling in the distance.

Still no photos on the day.

On to Atterbury FWA were I saw a distant RINGED-NECKED PHEASANT heading to the brush.

RNEP
Ring-necked Pheasant

A few photos of other locals from Atterbury.

INBU
Indigo Bunting
OROR
Orchard Orioles – there were three but I could never get them in the same photo.
WIFL
Willow Flycatcher

Down at Pisgah Lake were I watched swallows harassing a Red-shouldered Hawk.

RSHA
Tree Swallow(?) attacking a Red-shouldered Hawk.

Bobolink Update

The Bobolink are still at the now partially mowed field at Atterbury. I saw two on the day and heard Grasshopper Sparrows calling. What we could have if man wouldn’t intervene?

BOBO FIELD
The mowing must have pushed the Bobolink closer allowing me to finally get some decent photos.

BOBO (3)

BOBO (4)

BOBO (7)

BOBO (1) Bobolink Update
Finally, a decent Bobolink photo!

On the way home I noticed the field in Greenwood that still has Bobolinks was getting mowed. It will be seen if they stay.

On the day I added three species for the IAS Summer Count – Vesper Sparrow, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Ring-necked Pheasant.

Plus, I saw three raptors getting assailed. The fore mentioned Red-shoulder Hawk, an American Kestrel stirred up 50 Barn Swallows when it attacked a barn, and an Eastern Kingbird pecking away while riding the back of a Red-tailed Hawk.

Eventually I’m going to remember I have a video function on the camera.

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.

GREG Group1
A group of Great Egrets before they decided to disperse for the day.
COGA
Could it be a distant Common Moorhen? I mean, Common Gallinule?
COGA1
Yes, the red bill confirms it.
COGA2
Of course it eventually came much closer for a better photo.
AWPE
Heading to the bridge on 1200W I immediately saw the continuing American White Pelicans.
BAEA
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.
INBU
An Indigo Bunting was sitting by the road and really didn’t get excited about my presence.
WIFL
A Willow Flycatcher came in close while I was scanning the water.
WIFL1
He kept checking out something above. The local nesting Barn Swallows were flying all over so maybe that was drawing his attention.
ORORF
A female Orchard Oriole.
ORORM
A male Orchard Oriole.
OROR pAIR
The happy couple together. Too bad the lighting was bad.
Dickcissel - Goose Pond
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/
LETE2
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.
BWTE
So I come across a pair of Blue-winged Teal. I wondered if they are breeding here?
BWTE WODU
Who can tell from this distance with all the young Wood Ducks?
BWTE IMM
Looks like they have have at least two of their own.
GRCA
A Gray Catbird stopped by to see what I was watching.
BNST REFLECTION
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.