Gadwall Pair – Weekend Highlight

Even though the weather was great over the past weekend I spent time catching up for work. That kept me from getting out except for a few hours Saturday afternoon. I met up with Mike at the local retaining ponds for about an hour and later walked the local park. Both were quiet. There were a FOS Gadwall pair which was the only thing new/different. So by default I’ll give them the honor of Weekend Highlight.

And yes, I need to get out more.

dscn6742 Gadwall Pair
The female of the Gadwall pair swims slowly away. It appears the waterfowl is going to slowly trickle into the area this fall. Greenwood Retaining Ponds 11/5/16
Mourning Doves have been congregating in trees instead of power lines the last few weeks. Though their numbers are down from the 250 I saw in early October. Greenwood Retaining Ponds 11/5/16
When I see different species like this European Starling and Mourning Dove sitting close together I wonder what they are talking about? Greenwood Retaining Ponds 11/5/16
There’s usually a Northern Mockingbird around this area but it must have been a good year since I have been seeing up to 5 at a time. Greenwood Retaining Ponds 11/5/16

In other news the local shorebird area has almost dried up. With no rain in the forecast I would say it is done for the year.

But the bigger story here is it looks like the owner might have run a tile into the field which doesn’t bode well for next year.

Not much water left at the shorebird site. Though it lasted longer than last year. But what’s that dirt to the right? Semi-rural Marion County 11/5/16
Looks like some drainage has been run from the field to the road. Semi-rural Marion County 11/5/16
And then under the road to the drain. I don’t remember either the drain or the black top on the road where the tile would be run. I’ll check later this year and see that once it dries out completely if the tile is extended to the middle of the field. Semi-rural Marion County 11/5/16

Low Grade Past Weekend Birding

Let’s get right to it. I gave myself the low grade of D for birding this past weekend. I would have received a F except for taking good notes.

Saturday’s goal was to observe species that will be leaving soon. Birds like ORCHARD ORIOLE, YELLOW WARBLER, HENSLOW’S SPARROW, and YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT. I knew it wouldn’t be easy since they wouldn’t be singing. The plan was to walk Driftwood and Johnson County Park looking for these species.

The walk through Driftwood produced a Yellow Warbler but no Orchard Oriole. Odds are slim I’ll see one the rest of the year…

YEWA (2)
Most of the summer Yellow Warblers are thick at Driftwood SFA. By mid-August they are hard to come by as this was the only one seen last Saturday. Driftwood SFA 8/13/16

After waiting out the strong thunderstorm, checking out the shorebirds that had put down, I finally got around to walking Johnson County Park. Most of the birds were still wet.

WIFL (4)
A Willow Flycatcher and a House Finch were out after the rain subsided. Johnson County Park 6/13/16
A soggy Northern Mockingbird wasn’t interested in flying very far. As I approached it moved a little farther up the fence. Johnson County Park 6/13/16


NOFL (2) low grade
This damp Northern Flicker showing the name sake yellow-shafted variety. Johnson County Park 6/13/16

The Low Grade

As I walked the fence row following the NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD a yellow bird popped out of the vegetation and onto the fence farther up the road.

  1. The bird was Green above and Yellowish below. Maybe one of the Willow Flycatchers I had just seen?
  2. The bird flew a little farther up the fence and landed. A better look showed it had Olive Green above and Brighter Yellowish below. No wing bars or other marks could be determined. From the habitat a female/young Common Yellowthroat was now the thought.
  3. It flew a little farther up, landed again on the fence, and flashed bright white outer tail feathers, like a Dark-eyed Junco. This was definitely not a Common Yellowthroat BUT WHAT WAS IT? Of course it flew away without a further look or photo.

I should have known, but I had no clue. I wrote down everything I could remember and proceeded to continue birding. Back at the car an hour and half later I looked through Sibley’s Eastern Birds. First I looked at the vireos and next warblers.

Then I read the following:

HOODED WARBLERS – “with tail often raised and fanned” and “mostly white tail distinctive”.

So was it a young Hooded Warbler? By process of elimination it probably was but I’m not sure enough to call it one and log into eBird. In my defense – what was it doing at Johnson County Park on a fence instead of the deep woods? Was it migrating and the heavy rains knock it down like the shorebirds? Probably.

The point is I should have known Hooded Warblers flash their white outer tail feathers. And I didn’t.

Thus the low grade.

Same Water, Same Birds, Same eBird Report

The first snow of the year turned out to be a little heavier than anticipated.  I should have headed out earlier Saturday morning but the forecast said that first rain and then snow would be here early morning. It never got here until around noon. So by then I thought I would go out and check the local area but then it finally started to snow. And it snowed big, heavy flakes limiting visibility to a few yards. So I waited.

With cabin fever setting in I finally went out around 3:30.  The highlight in the freezing wind and cold was adding BALD EAGLE to one of my local patch totals.  It explained why the few GADWALL on the pond took off.

Sunday was sunny but cold, so I waited to noon to head out.  I was going to head to Johnson County Park but Mike called and said he was already there and not much happening except for 7 RUSTY BLACKBIRDS.

And Mike saw the exact same waterfowl I saw 2 weeks ago at Honker Haven – MALLARD, GADWALL, GREEN-WINGED TEAL. And in almost the same quantities.  Otherwise the lakes were clear.

So I decided to stay local.

A pair of American Kestrels at the local grassland. Greenwood – 11/22/15
A Savanna Sparrow checking to see who was out in the cold weather. Greenwood – 11/22/15

So I headed to my local ponds.

And just like Mike I saw the same waterfowl on the same ponds that I did 2 weeks ago. MALLARD, GADWALL, NORTHERN SHOVELER, AND PIED-BILLED GREBE.  The same species on the same ponds in about the same numbers. I should have just copied my eBird report from 2 weeks ago. And like Mike the other ponds were clear.

Really kind of creepy.

In the years I have been birding I can remember things not changing much in November. But I don’t remember things remaining this static like this for a few weeks.

Maybe the cold will make things move.  I hope so since we are getting close to the Christmas Bird Counts.

But there were a few changes this week. One was the lack of TURKEY VULTURES. I think this was the first weekend I hadn’t seen Turkey Vultures since last winter.  And AMERICAN ROBINS numbers went from flocks of 100+ to a couple of birds.

And there was one addition.  I saw a flock of birds across the field that I assumed was the local European Starling flock.  They would fly up and land like distant starlings do.  When I eventually made my way to that area the flock flew up out of the grass.  Not starlings but my first AMERICAN TREE SPARROWS of the winter and a largish flock at that. My estimate was 55 birds. It was too bad they were distant and the sun was the wrong angle to see of they had any other species mixed in with them.

The American Tree Sparrows were too distant to get a photo or to show their large numbers. Franklin TCP 11/22/15
A Red-tailed Hawk taken through the car window. I only post this photo because I’m sure it is the closest I have ever been to a Red-tailed Hawk. Kind of like being in a rehab facility where they are close in a cage. It flew in and landed by the car. I watched it for a few minutes and then it moved on. Greenwood – 11/22/15

I spent the rest of the afternoon walking the local park.  It was good to be out in the sunshine since I can’t stand the dark, depressing, shorter days of November. Not much outside of the expected species at the park although YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS still remain albeit in smaller numbers.

A Northern Mockingbird enjoying the sun. Just like me. Franklin TCP 11/22/15


An Easy Weekend

With the weekend being sandwiched between weeks of traveling for work, last Saturday I looked forward to an easy morning of walking and enjoying the outdoors.  Since sparrows should be moving through and since hunting isn’t allowed there, I headed to my favorite sparrow spot – Johnson County Park.

Trail JCP
Walking the paths on a beautiful Saturday morning. Johnson County Park 10/10/15

Basically I took my time and enjoyed the birds, the changing trees, and the easy walk. I didn’t see any uncommon sparrows but I did see most of the expected fall sparrows. The closest I had to an uncommon sparrow was a Chipping Sparrow that wanted to be a Clay-colored Sparrow for several minutes.  It was always back-lit so I never could get a photo.

One of those times that the birds actually sat in a tree together for more than few seconds. I don’t know if they were talking but both the Eastern Phoebe and Eastern Bluebird were calling while sitting in the tree.  JCP 10/10/15
A Swamp Sparrow really didn’t seem to be in any hurry to move on. He gave good looks including the one I used in the blog header photo. JCP 10/10/15


A little further down the path a White-crowned Sparrow sat somewhat out in the open. JCP 10/10/15
Come on now. Why do Northern Mockingbirds always seem to think they can’t be seen? JCP 10/10/15

I ended up seeing Eastern Towhee, Chipping, Field, White-crowned, White-throated, Song, and Swamp Sparrows on the day.

An easy blog post for an easy day of birding.

And now a few photos from earlier in the month from the area by my place.

Not a good photo but I really liked the brightness of the yellow shafts showing on this Northern Flicker. South Indianapolis 10/11/15
Who says a big bird can’t use its colors for camouflage? If this Great Blue Heron hadn’t called I would have walked right by it. South Indianapolis, Early October 2015

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?