Atterbury Big May Day

I don’t remember the last time I spent the entire day birding. I’m aware others do it weekly. As I have stated the constant running and searching feels good in the moment but I never seem to remember what happened on those days. Not as enjoyable as birding one location for hours and living in the moment. But Saturday for the fifth year I did an Atterbury Big May Day for Johnson County portion for the Indiana Audubon Society Big May Day.

The day started well with all the expected owls – Eastern Screech-Owl, Barred Owl, and Great Horned Owl – calling on cue. I even had a bonus Common Nighthawk fly in front the car as I was leaving the Barred Owl area.

After owling the day started with haze coming off the wet fields.
One of the first daylight birds was a lone Green Heron watching from the mist.

This year I tried something different. With Turkey Season closing the interior of Atterbury until 1PM I planned stops along the roads and tried to bird those areas for a certain time. This is in the hope I can more or less repeat the run every year.

Dickcissels were out in force in the small grassland area on my route.

Uncommon findings were Red-breasted Nuthatch and Black Vulture.

If the Red-breasted Nuthatch hadn’t been singing its toy trumpet call I would have missed it. This is the latest date I’ve seen one in the Midwest.
The Black Vulture was on the east side of Atterbury where I have seen one previously. I assume they have moved this far north and aren’t enough people looking to note the increase.
This American Coot was the only one the group saw on the day. I don’t think he’ll be here much longer.

At lunch the group tallied up the species and we were in the 120’s with no shorebirds except for Killdeer. My afternoon plan was to hike into Atterbury for rails and on to shorebirds.

The rail search was a bust, probably the high water. I started meandering home crisscrossing the county checking fields I knew held water after heavy rains. The plan proved fruitful as I added 8 additional species on the day.

A  female Mallard was sharing a flooded field with a Solitary Sandpiper.
One of the fields which can only be viewed in late afternoon but more importantly when the big dog isn’t around, had a Semipalmated Plover and Least Sandpipers.
The field that last year produced a Bonaparte’s Gull had a Pied-billed Grebe along with Spotted Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs. The shorebirds aren’t in the photo.
Atterbury Big May Day
And a lone Northern Shoveler was swimming among the Mallards.

I failed while trying to flush snipe at a local marsh but flushed an American Woodcock as a bonus prize.

Reaching the county line around 7:30 I decided to call it a day. After 14 hours I once again proved by putting in the time will usually produce a good count.

Easy Additions Saturday

Since I have now completed my BBS routes and finished helping on a couple other local breeding surveys I took the opportunity to work on my Johnson County IAS Summer Bird Count. The last few years I have been around the 100 species mark and since I was already at 90, I knew it would be tough to add species. With work being demanding the last few weeks I decided to go after EASY additions Saturday.

With sunrise at 6:15 that meant one more Saturday up by 4AM and out by 4:30AM. That put me at Atterbury FWA a little after 5AM. But even before I got there I had a GREAT HORNED OWL fly in front of my car while driving though Franklin. Right time. Right Place.

The first stop which is iffy anyway didn’t produce any owls. But the more reliable spot had 3 EASTERN SCREECH-OWLS flying around for over 10 minutes.  In case you’re wondering I usually play a recording for about 1 minute and that’s it.  This time it was about 30 seconds when the first one started calling.

Not even 6AM and I had added two species to the count.

MOON (2) Easy additions
The Moon was due South as I started my day owling. Atterbury FWA 6/25/16

Before heading to Driftwood I checked the pond in Johnson County Park. Again right place and time. No sooner than I stopped than a KILLDEER started hassling a SPOTTED SANDPIPER. Plus another easy addition was a RED-HEADED WOODPECKER calling in the distance. Two more easy species for the count.

Even though it was harassing the Spotted Sandpiper I want to think this Killdeer otherwise I might not have seen the spotted. Didn’t notice the garbage by the Killdeer until I looked at the photo. Johnson County Park – 6/25/16
Another of the easy additions was a Spotted Sandpiper on the right bobbing its tail. And the Mallard family is growing, compare to the header photo from 2 weeks ago. Johnson County Park – 6/25/16

On to Driftwood, no Double-crested Cormorant but a fly by Red-headed Woodpecker was nice.

To the Dark Road of Atterbury. No Black-billed Cuckoo calling as hoped but a young AMERICAN REDSTART was interested in me.

AMRE (2)
An American Redstart was interested in my walk along the road by constantly flying overhead. Atterbury FWA – 6/25/16
AMRE (1)
I included this photo since it reminded me of all the bird quizzes where you are only given so much to see. Atterbury FWA – 6/25/16
I don’t ever remember pishing in a Scarlet Tanager, but he came in overhead as I was trying to get a bird to come out of the bush. Atterbury FWA – 6/25/16

I then decided to walk back and take a long shot check to see if any rails were in the marshy area. By now the sun was up and it was getting hot. As expected no rails or much else of anything.

It’s hard to tell here but the weeds on the path to the marshy area are shoulder-high. And thorny. Atterbury FWA – 6/25/16
The only bird on the walk through the rough was this Field Sparrow asking me if I was nuts walking in the heat. Atterbury FWA – 6/25/16

So with the heat rising and nothing calling I headed home.  But first a stop by the PURPLE MARTIN house for a list easy species.

PUMA (1)
The Purple Martins were the last of Saturday’s easy additions. Rural Johnson County – 6/25/16

I’ll take the 5 easy additions since the birds were done calling by mid-morning. It’ll now by one species at a time until the last week of July when I can hope for an influx of shorebirds.

Just Waiting Around…

The Doldrums are still present.  But I can start to see a slight movement in the migratory sails which means we should slowly start moving toward full migration. But basically I’m still just waiting around…

I got an offer from Don G. to head to Goose Pond Saturday but after picking up a cold from basically being on the road for the past 2 weeks, I had to pass. So Mike and I hit some spots in Johnson County with the hope of seeing some early migrants plus add to our paltry 2016 Johnson County Lists.

Looking at the following cut from chart from eBird’s Indiana Bar Chart, you can see which species start migrating in early to mid-March.

Indiana March Migrants
March migrants to Indiana boxed in yellow. – eBird Bar Charts

Our main targets were Eastern Phoebe and Tree Swallow, but the day turned out to be cloudy and cold and with the passing of a cold front, the winds turned to the W and then NW. So not a great day for migrating birds. Or photos for that part.

So birding turned out to be like any other winter’s day. Looking for waterfowl and sparrows and waiting for spring and migrants to arrive.

And outside of one stop most of the birds were either single or in a pair.

You know it’s slow when a photo of a pair of Mallards is about as good as it gets. Franklin HS 3/5/16
Or a Canada Goose at Irwin park in Edinburgh. Then again I can’t say I have ever posted a photo of a lone Canada Goose. 3/5/16
There was one, and only one, bird at Driftwood. A distant and a lone Ruddy Duck. 3/5/16

So we saw a pair of MALLARDS at Franklin High School, a pair of CANADA GEESE at Irwin Park, a lone RUDDY DUCK at Driftwood, and a lone WOOD DUCK with a pair of RING-NECKED DUCKS at Atterbury.  Like I said, all singles or pairs and that was it.

Except for Lowe’s Pond in Franklin. Which was good to see since the pond has been hit and miss this winter.

There was a good mixture of Lesser Scaup, Redheads, American Coots, Mallards, and Canada Geese at Lowe’s Pond in Franklin. 3/5/16

Mike took a few shots with his camera.

IMG_4202_Redheads_Franklin IN
Some of the 40+ Redheads that were at Lowe’s pond. 3/5/16
IMG_4200 redhead male_Franklin walmart
A good flight shot of one of the Redheads that took off flying when it thought we were getting close. The others disagreed and just kept swimming. 3/5/16

We concluded the day at Johnson County Park coming across a large flock of sparrows at the usual spot. We ended up with over 10 each of SONG, WHITE-THROATED, and WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS. Plus a few EASTERN TOWHEE, AMERICAN TREE, and a lone FOX SPARROW which Mike spotted and I really didn’t get a good look at. So not on 2016 list yet.

IMG_4204 kestrel male JC Park
The male American Kestrel that was hunting at Johnson County Park. The female was just a little higher up in the tree. 3/5/16

Hopefully the south winds and warmer temperatures forecast for this week will change things around. The Doldrums are getting old.

Thanks DNR

Back on November 7 I stopped at Honker Haven, one of the smallish ponds at Atterbury FWA. I really hadn’t expected to see much for a couple of reasons.

First, it has as an observing deck that used to allow you to see the waterfowl that gather in the NW part of the pond.  But the small trees growing up along the edge of the pond had all but blocked the view to the NW part of the pond.

A view of the observing deck and the south end of the pond. Atterbury FWA

Secondly this time of year there are warning signs not to enter since this is a “Waterfowl Resting Area, Restricted Use, Authorized Personnel Only”. And since you can’t go to the edge of the water to look NW you still won’t see any waterfowl on the usually empty southern part.

Waterfowl Resting
You can’t access the pond to view waterfowl this time of year. Atterbury FWA

So imagine my surprise when I get to the top of the deck and the trees blocking the view to the NW are gone! I usually don’t like trees being cut down but these were small trees that should never have been allowed to grow. This is a pretty big deal for basically waterless Johnson County. One more place to view a lake where waterfowl congregate.

You can still see some of the trees in the foreground that used to block the view to the NW. Atterbury FWA
And the waterfowl to the NW. The distance isn’t so great that you can’t ID most everything with a scope. Atterbury FWA

So with the trees down I could actually scope the waterfowl and came up with GADWALL, RING-NECKED DUCKS, GREEN-WINGED TEALS, and of course MALLARDS on the water.

Pushing my camera to its max, a photo of a distant Mallard and Gadwall. Atterbury FWA 11/7/15

One other thing I have noticed is that the slight elevation is good for raptors.  The small elevation is just enough to almost see over the tops of the trees in the basically flat surrounding land. I usually try to be there around noon when the thermals are rising and have seen most of the expected species flying over at one time or another. And sometimes really close when they come gliding over the tops of the trees and catch you off guard.

A photo of a Turkey Vulture to show how close raptors some time come in to the top of the observing platform. Atterbury FWA 11/7/15
A good photo to show how a raptor can catch you off guard. This Red-tailed Hawk came sailing in right over the tree tops and I never saw it coming. Just sailing away. Atterbury FWA 11/7/15

Thanks DNR!