Bell’s Vireo One Additional Year

The rain and fog Saturday morning limited photos but I did manage a few with the camera’s settings jacked up. Mainly Mike and I walked along listening to the calling birds. I was hoping the sun would shine in the afternoon since I needed to spend time with my Butterfly Field Guides. When it did I decided to check the grassy area of Johnson County Park. This was a good choice since it allowed me to hear and see the Bell’s Vireo one additional year.

First a couple of the morning’s birds.

I’ve wanted to see a Wood Thrush out in the open all spring. Unfortunately it happened during the hardest part of the rain Saturday morning.
A back view to show the shades of brown.
Not the best Yellow-billed Cuckoo photo. As usual it stuck to the top of trees.
As expected a Willow Flycatcher was calling in the same vicinity as the Bell’s Vireo.

Bell’s Vireo One More Year

My first summer in Indiana was 2013. The Bell’s Vireo was at this location then and has been present each year. That was the year I spent a lot of time checking out different areas of Johnson County Park and Atterbury FWA.  I later learned Bell’s Vireo had been recorded in the area in 1980’s but I don’t think anyone has birded the area much in the interim period.

Bell's Vireo one additional year
My only decent photo of the Bell’s Vireo Saturday, a notorious lurker.
As seen on this 10-year eBird status and distribution map for Bell’s Vireo, Johnson County (the red rectangle) is on the eastern edge of the Bell’s Vireo range. That’s why I’m always glad to see Bell’s Vireo one additional year.

The rest of the afternoon was spent ID’ing Butterflies, which is a whole other story.

Bell's Vireo one additional year
A bonus Least Flycatcher I first heard calling in “my backyard”.

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.


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.

On Walking a Good Birding Loop

Labor Day means it’s that time of year when I make the switch from birding state parks that allow hunting to city or state parks that do not allow hunting. Looking back I have always done this in one form or another. Not sure if my birding suffers in the fall but I don’t have to worry about getting shot.

So I birded Southeastway Regional Park, Ft. Harrison State Park, and Franklin Township Park over the Labor Day weekend.  All are located within the city limits of Indianapolis, which means no hunting.

AMRE Southeastway
An American Redstart – middle of photo – at Southeastway Park Saturday. Swainson’s Thrushes and American Redstarts were on the move with many of each being seen. 9/6/15

Franklin Township Park isn’t the most birdy spot I visit but on a Sunday or holiday when there aren’t any school activities or soccer games the birding can be OK.

I realized Monday that I like it because it has a good 1.25 mile loop that takes about an hour and a half to walk.

And I have noticed over the years that I like nothing better than a birding loop that takes about 60-90 minutes.

FCHS Field
One of the main reasons I bird Franklin Township Park is the athletic fields. When it is dry and they get watered, there is always a chance for shorebirds. 9/7/15
FCHS Field A
But on this day there were only 40+ Killdeer. Franklin Township Park 9/7/15

I have tried out-and-back birding trails – like abandoned rail lines that are now trails – but they always seem to be boring on the way back. Even if I leave a bicycle at one end to ride back.  When I used to run my favorites were loops, not out-and-back runs. My favorite loop took 75 minutes over a mixture of varying hills and flats. There is just something I don’t like about seeing the same territory twice. I guess it goes with wanting to see something new.

I wasn’t the only one looking for birds. The local Cooper’s Hawk was also giving them a look over. Franklin Township Park 9/7/15
But an American Kestrel (on light pole) didn’t like the Cooper’s (in tree – lower left of photo) being in his area. He dived bombed him a few times making him move on. You never know what kind of action you will get out in the field. Franklin Township Park 9/7/15

One good thing about an hour loop is that I feel I can take my time and see the birds.  There is no hurry because the loop isn’t large. Unlike large loops or out-and-back trails that you aren’t ever sure where to stop.

I think the best thing about loops that take approximately 60-90 minutes is that you can get it done and call it a day. Usually with some good birding.

Or if you desire you can move on to another loop of equal length or your favorite spot to stop and scan gulls or shorebirds. And it still won’t take up your whole day.

A Red-tailed Hawk was also prowling the area. Franklin Township Park 9/7/15

A loop that is shorter than 60 minutes usually leaves me wanting for more. And when I bird all day I never seem to remember much about the birds or even where I saw them. On those long days all the birds just seem like a tick on a list. It takes an effort to remember each bird unlike the hour loop were I can usually remember and enjoy the birds as I enter them into eBird.

A Least Flycatcher was the only migrant besides an earlier seen Canada Warbler on the day. Besides the big eye-ring and head, it called a few times to confirm the ID. Franklin Township Park 9/7/15

So there’s my case for doing loops a little over a mile in about 60-90 minutes.  They just seem to fit.

What’s your favorite birding loop?