A Cure for The Doldrums – Road Trip

In my last post I lamented about how slow birding had become – The Doldrums. So I had mentally prepared myself for the next 6 weeks to be rather slow. And in that last post I almost included, but didn’t, about the only way I knew to breakout of the Doldrums was a trip south to Florida or Texas or even farther south.

A Road Trip if you will.

But last Thursday Don asked if I wanted to go with Aidan and him on a different sort of road trip.  A trip to the Indiana’s Lake Michigan Lakefront. The Lakefront in winter is the only place and season I had left where I could make some big gains on my Indiana list. The 3 hour drive one way didn’t appeal to me but the birds and the predicted mild weather did. So I was in.

And how did the day turnout?

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13 new year birds that took me well over 100 species for the month of January.  Something I had never done before.

8 new state birds. I told you I had never been to the Lakefront in winter and to get those species in Johnson County would probably take a long time. If ever.

1 new life bird – Monk Parakeet.

Basically, without going into all the logistic details, we birded the west end of the Lakefront. From Calumet Park in Chicago to Jeorse Park in East Chicago.  And one stop further east at the Port of Indiana. So we spent time birding at the active sites and moving on from the slow ones. We also kept in touch with other birders in the area that let us know what was showing up, which lead to a few course adjustments.

We basically got all the birds we came to see but not all were cooperative. The first time we waited 45 minutes at the Hammond Bird Sanctuary for Common Redpolls without them showing.  Even when we got a call that they were showing and we headed back, it took another 15-20 minutes for the only one to show. We later spoke to someone who saw 12-15 first thing in the morning.

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It was tough to get a picture because the Common Redpoll spent most of the time with its head in the feeder. Hammond Bird Sanctuary -1/30/16

We saw good numbers of the expected Herring Gull plus several Great Black-backed Gulls, plus a Lesser Black-backed that I didn’t expect.

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A few of the variety of gulls, the Great Black-backed Gull is middle left. 1/30/16
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Doing what it does best, stealing food. A Great Black-backed Gull at the Indiana Lakefront. 1/30/16
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And one of two unexpected birds on the day. A Long-eared Owl that another birder came across. 1/30/15

We missed the Monk Parakeet early in the day but doubled back to a different, reliable location late in the day. All Parakeets are loud. We heard this guy long before we saw him.

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I thought we were in a pet store from the amount of noise that this guy made all by himself. Monk Parakeet – Griffith, IN 1/30/16

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And the Story of the Day

We had gone to Calumet Park in Chicago to scan back into Indiana waters.  Don had scanned the water pretty thoroughly and asked Aidan to take a follow-up look through his scope. It took about 5 seconds when Aidan somewhat casually announced, “There is a Western Grebe out there”.  It didn’t take long for Don and me to find the bird. When first spotted it was diving for long periods of time. So it was probably under when Don made his passes of the water.  It was too distant for photos but I noticed there were a few long distance photos embedded on eBird lists.

Another Indiana bird I didn’t expect on the day.

And this may sound like a business meeting but one of the main takeaways I had from the day, I need to “keep in touch” with all probable local species. I hadn’t looked at my field guide for gulls and scoters for a while.  I’ll chalk it up to complacency of living in an agriculture area. Luckily I still retained enough from my days in Illinois.

But a local walk on Sunday produced few birds. It appears The Doldrums aren’t ever far away in the winter…