Laura Hare Preserve – Some Changes

I usually don’t post on a birding spot that I didn’t stay and bird very long but my posts on Laura Hare Preserve have been my mostly heavily internet searched posts. It’s either there are a lot of hikers checking it out or I’m linked to some hiking/trail internet site that I don’t know about. If you do know why, I’d appreciate a comment.

So after birding Driftwood SWA Saturday I headed to Laura Hare Preserve. The first couple hundred yards walk into the preserve is usually the best for birding.

A beautiful day looking out over Lamb Lake. Laura Hare Preserve 11/7/15

The bulk of the preserve is mainly forest without much understory so the variety of birds in that part isn’t very high. Usually woodpeckers, titmice, and chickadees.  And thrushes in season.  And of course in spring and early summer it’s one of the few places close by to find Worm-eating and Hooded Warblers, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Ovenbirds.

But the first couple of hundred yards is made up of mixed trees and thickets and small pools of standing water. Just great for a variety of birds. And there have been all types of passerines in that area. And I usually walk out seeing something new for the site.

But Saturday was Different

I don’t know if it was because I got there later in the morning but I suspect it was the change to the landscape. Because it was very quiet. As I reported on my last visit there the area was hit hard with storms in July with a lot of water and wind damage. And as a result there had been some changes.

As I showed in that post part of the trail had been washed out. That area has now been fortified with concrete for drainage. In the following photos you can see the damage that happened in July but also the recent needed repair to keep the trail from constantly washing out.

The heavy rains in June and July washed out part of the trail. Laura Hare Preserve 7/25/15
Now a concrete drainage pad has been added to keep the trail from washing away. Note the lack of understory compared to the previous photo. Laura Hare Preserve 11/7/15

But it looks like in doing the repair that some of the undergrowth was removed. Hopefully just for the construction. I’m not sure why but the lack of undergrowth took away a lot of the habitat.

I know it is fall but you would have never have been ale to see through the trees last year. Laura Hare Preserve 11/7/15

My thought is that left alone the undergrowth and the birds will be back in the spring.

I didn’t spend anytime walking the complete trail since I wanted to move on to Johnson County Park.

But if you are into hiking more than birds, the preserve is still a good place to go.

Just odd to see a deer on the edge of a deep lake. Laura Hare Preserve 11/7/15

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.

One of two female Belted Kingfishers that was being chased by Tree Swallows. But I’m not sure who started the chase.
A Common Grackle watching the chase around the trees.
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.
A female Rose-breasted Grosbeak that was in the same area as 3 males that kept flying around.
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.

Purple Martins were numerous on the day, as were most swallows.
A tree full of Purple Martins. They must be moving since I had never seen them in this location before.
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.

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

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.

The local Red-tailed Hawk sitting in the tree behind our condo. Its mate is usually there but not on this day.
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?

Laura Hare Preserve in the Summer & an Osprey

First of all, what are the odds on seeing an Osprey in Johnson County in June?  And what are the odds of seeing one almost exactly a year later after Mike Clay and I saw one last June? But first the rest of the day.

Don’t let anyone tell you that birding is not a dangerous activity. We have all heard of people falling into lakes and rivers while birding. Or sliding down into ravines. Or getting lost and having to spend the night in the forest unprepared. Or sliding backwards down steep hills in their cars during Christmas Bird Counts. OK, I have only heard that story once but it was a good story.

So Saturday morning I am watching a pair of White-eyed Vireos when I hear a deer coming down the path. Now if you read my first entry about Laura Hare Preserve, then you know that at the beginning of the trail there is a steep incline. Well the deer, or two as it turns out, were hauling butt down the hill. They haven’t seen me yet since the trail takes a little turn at the base. And when they come around the corner they see me. Now this is all happening in about 5 seconds so I really haven’t grasped what is going on. The first deer gets about 10 feet from me, it seemed much closer, and I wave my sketchbook and yell something like “Owwwww”. The first deer veers left and takes a big leap into the lake. The second deer veers right and runs through a small, marshy area. Me, I am counting my good luck that the deer jumped into the lake because now a mother Wood Duck and young ones come out for a good view. Well I eventually get the good look when my heart slows down. Now the second deer has run around me through the marsh and has come out down the trail. The first deer I assumed swam to the other side of the lake, with the lake being probably 20-30 meters wide at this point. Anyway I assume it was OK because I heard a lot of snorting coming from the other side after a couple of minutes. At least I assumed it was the first deer and not the second deer. Deer can swim, right?

The rest of the morning didn’t disappoint from a birding point of view. Laura Hare had numerous Worm-eating Warblers, Louisiana Waterthrushes, Ovenbirds, and even a couple of Kentucky Warblers. Numerous Wood Thrushes were seen walking along the trail. Yes, they were walking on the trail. About all the species you would expect from the deep woods except I whiffed on Hooded Warbler. But I know they are there since Tom, Ann, and Karl reported them a week or so ago. Sorry, only one picture since I haven’t figured out how to take pictures in the dark woods. Yet.

Louisiana Waterthrush


I then proceeded to the Iron Bridge Road at Atterbury in hopes of adding Cerulean Warbler to the Johnson County IAS Summer Count. Never did see any Cerulean but heard 3 on the morning. With the cooler temps the birds were still calling into the late morning. I also had a female Summer Tanager land on the road a few feet ahead of me. She was a dark mustard yellow with a large bill. No hint of black in the wing. My National Geographic calls her color “ochre” yellow. Sorry, but I am not familiar with the color “ochre”. And my mother was from the south.

One of two White-breasted Nuthatches that kept coming around.


I had better views of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo but it wouldn’t come down for pictures.


After a couple of hours there I went by Pisgah Lake to see if anything uncommon was there. As I pulled into the parking lot a big bird was flying slowly west to east. First thought was Red-tailed Hawk. Now parking at a 45 degree angle in the middle of the lot and looking out the window, maybe a Bald Eagle, this is a big bird. Finally out of the car, seeing that it looks like a large gull flying, and getting the binocs on it, it’s apparent it’s a Osprey. It flies to the end of the lake, circles, and comes back by heading west over the trees. I wait 45 minutes but it does not appear again. So what is an Osprey doing in Johnson County in June for the second year in a row? Is it nesting in the area and I am just not out in the field often enough to see it? Or is it just a coincidence. But like the TV detective says, I don’t like coincidences. I will continue to look for it this summer.

A few pictures on the day.

Male Orchard Oriole seen on the day.


Bathing Baltimore Oriole.

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A Great Egret that has been hanging the pond at work and a Great Blue Heron from Pisgah Lake. I wonder what the Great Egret is checking out.  Nothing usually around that exciting except a lot of Canada Geese.

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Enlarged view of the Great Egret and Great Blue Heron’s heads – check out the eyes.






A Sparrow and a Thrush

The plan for the day was to search for rails and maybe a bittern at the cattail marsh at Atterbury.  Then meet up with Mike at Laura Hare for another try at migrating Hermit Thrush.

So as with most weekends the adventure started by bushwhacking through some brush.  This time through thorns to get to the marsh.  But no need to waste your time on the outing.  Even though it was a perfect morning to be out, no rails or bitterns were heard or seen.

Atterbury Marsh 041214

Nor were any Woodcocks or Owls and I was out early enough to hear them.  The water was still very high in the marsh so I understood why the rails weren’t there, yet.  I’ll try again next week. The good news is only one leg came out of my boot after getting stuck in the muck. A nice save and I got the leg in the boot before I stepped in the muck!

But I had heard Henslow’s Sparrows on my walk to the marsh.  I heard them last year on the far side of the same field in July and August so I was surprised to hear them this early in the spring on this side. I bet I stared at this thorn bush for 5 minutes listening to the Henslow’s before it finally flicked a wing and I spotted it.

HESP Bush Atterbury 041214

He jumped up and I maneuvered a little to get the following photos.

HESP Atterbury 0412147

HESP Atterbury 0412146

HESP Atterbury 0412145

Notice the olive colored face and short tail.

HESP Atterbury 0412143

HESP Atterbury 0412141

I also saw and heard a species that I will post about later this week.

On to Laura Hare, showing up 15 minutes late, after waiting around for the Henslow’s to pop up.  Just like last week the best birding was 100 meters from the parking lot in the boggy area.  Several species including a Louisiana Waterthrush was calling as was a Pileated Woodpecker.  We then got on a warbler up high that we at first thought was a Yellow-throated but it just didn’t look right.  Yellow on the throat but no white on the sides.  It then sang the song of a Northern Parula, ending that discussion.

On to the forest to search for Hermit Thrush.  We really hadn’t gone far when Mike saw a bird flutter up ahead on the trail.  Turned out to be two Hermit Thrushes.

HETH Laura Hare 0412142

HETH Laura Hare 0412143

HETH Laura Hare 0412141

We ended up with 3 Hermit Thrushes on the day.  Except for the boggy area near the parking lot, it was quiet. (in other words no Winter Wren)

A quick check on the way home at the best wet area I have found in the county only produced Killdeer, Pectoral Sandpipers, and Wilson Snipe.

And I will end with a photo of an Eastern Bluebird I took the other night.

ESBL Franklin HS 040914




April 5-6 – Several FOY & Nemesis Overcome

The theme for this weekend was water, water everywhere.  The rain on Thursday had flooded all the fields and even some roads.

Typical seen this weekend - water in the fields and on the roads - SE of Franklin. 04/05/14
Typical seen this weekend – water in the fields and on the roads – SE of Franklin. 04/05/14

But I still headed out on my bike Saturday heading east of town to look for shorebirds in the flooded fields.  The Red-tailed Hawk was on her nest but I still couldn’t get a good picture. Someone needs to tell me how to take a picture of an object when there are branches in the way.

RTHA on Nest 040514

The first couple of hours consisted of seeing most of the expected species including FOY Chipping Sparrow and Barn Swallows. I finally arrived at the flooded field that had shorebirds last year but none were present today.  Until I started to leave. The noise I made must have disturbed 4 Wilson’s Snipe and they flushed 40-50 feet. Sorry no photos but everything moved quick. The 6 mile ride home into the wind was uneventful except that I am out of shape and about threw-up.

Saturday afternoon I checked the local Great Blue Heron rookery.

Great Blue Heron Rookery. I count 12 nests and 11 Herons.  04/05/14
Great Blue Heron Rookery. I count 12 nests and 11 herons. 04/05/14

GBHE 040514

GBHE on Nest 040514

Now for the unusual part.  I watched a Red-tailed Hawk come in a couple of times and land on the top of a tree – like a Rough-legged Hawk. It then dove down in one of the nests fighting with one of the Herons.  Anyone know why?

Red-tailed Hawk that was harassing Great Blue-Heron on their Nests.  Was the hawk using the nest previously and want them out? Was it after food?  I'm not sure.  04/05/14
Red-tailed Hawk that was harassing Great Blue-Heron on their nests. Was the hawk using the nest previously and wanted them out? Was it after food? I’m not sure. 04/05/14

Mike called and wanted to go out Sunday morning.  We decided Laura Hare Preserve would be the best spot to find migrant Hermit Thrush and the nemesis Winter Wren.

Before sunrise and before the birds would be back-lit I stopped by another wet area on the way. While there a flock of 8 Pectoral Sandpipers flew in and I located a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs.

Sunrise Sunday Morning - SW of Franklin.  If you look close enough you can see 5 Blue-winged Teal and a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs. 04/06/14
Sunrise Sunday Morning – SW of Franklin. I liked the picture even though it really doesn’t show birds.  But if you look close enough you can see 5 Blue-winged Teal on the water and a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs on the waters’s edge. 04/06/14

Immediately arriving at Laura Hare Preserve two Pileated Woodpeckers flew in.  If I would of had the camera out I would have got a great picture instead of the following sad picture.

Pileated Woodpecker fat sunrise.  I just liked the way the sun caught the red.  Laura Hare Preserve. 04/06/14
Pileated Woodpecker at sunrise. I just liked the way the sun caught the red. Laura Hare Preserve. 04/06/14

I don’t know how many times I have looked for Winter Wren since I moved to Johnson County last year.  At least a dozen, probably more.  I never found what I thought would be the right habitat until the Laura Hare Preserve opened up last November.  And with the winter we had I never headed there figuring everything would be frozen.  So with the next couple of weeks being the height of spring migration for Winter Wren, my hopes were high.

Mike and I hadn’t walked 100 yards when we heard the song (warble?) of a Winter Wren.  With a little work Mike was able to locate it in the brush and my current Johnson County nemesis bird had been overcome. That easy, but definitely not anti-climatic. It kept hopping around for a bit but we got a couple of quick looks. But I still want better looks in the future.

We then preceded to the ravine area in hopes of more wrens and maybe a Hermit Thrush.  No luck but we heard and then saw a Louisiana Waterthrush, totaling 3 on the day.  The preserve still looks good for Hooded and Worm-eating Warblers this spring and summer.

We then checked a spot at Atterbury FWA without much activity except for a Barred Owl calling at 11AM.  I did get a picture of a Field Sparrow and a Brown Thrasher at a top of a tree.

FISP Atterbury 040614

BRTH Atterbury 040514A

Another good weekend of birding (there all good if I’m birding) with another Johnson county life bird and 7 FOY’s seen.

So what’s my next Johnson County nemesis?





Laura Hare Preserve at Blossom Hollow

In mid-November a new forest preserve opened up in Johnson County – The Laura Hare Preserve at Blossom Hollow.  The official description of the preserve can be found on the Central Indiana Land Trust site –

Entrance Sign - Laura Hare Preserve at Blossom Hollow
Entrance Sign – Laura Hare Preserve at Blossom Hollow

I have been there twice in the last few weeks searching for my 2013 nemesis bird – The Winter Wren.  The property is just south of Lamb Lake in SW Johnson County and is a great habitat addition.  The land is completely wooded with a stream cut out of rock running through the property.

Creek Bed - Laura Hare Preserve at Blossom Hollow
Creek Bed – Laura Hare Preserve at Blossom Hollow

From a birder’s perspective the preserve will offer its greatest benefit in the spring and summer. I have birded adjacent private property and know that Louisiana Waterthrush, Hooded Warbler, and Warm-eating Warbler are present. All hard species to come across in the county on public property. And not as hard to find in the county, but still tough, Pileated Woodpeckers were present on both trips. And if the creek running through the property had water I would also say Winter Wren would be present. But the creek does not appear to be spring fed so the creek was dry when I was there.  So I’m still Winter Wren less this year.

But you had better be in fair shape to bird there.

Steep Incline at Laura Hare Preserve at Blossom Hollow
Steep Incline at Laura Hare Preserve at Blossom Hollow

You don’t have to be Sir Edmund Hillary, but it isn’t a walk around the mall either. The trail takes you up a very steep gradient, probably a couple hundred yards long. I made a couple of stops on the climb up and it was okay. The trail makes a big loop through the property. On the walk in you go down to the creek and on the walk out it is a long uphill climb. The complete time to take the loop was about an hour and 15 minutes at a birders pace.

I am being watched Raccoon - Laura Hare
I am being watched
Raccoon – Laura Hare

So to recap, the property will be most beneficial to birders in spring and summer. And I would like to think the Central Indiana Land Trust for making the property available.