Bobolink Update

I was going to title this post “To the Mall” but that didn’t pan out, so I stuck with Bobolink Update.

And let me reiterate my position, even in the so-called “slow times”, there is always something going on if you get out the door.

I actually slept in until 4:30 this Saturday so I could be to the mall at 5:30. The first thing I noticed was the dawn chorus of robins was gone. I thought it was less last week but this week it was gone.

I picked the mall in hopes a COMMON NIGHTHAWK might have used its flat roof for nesting. Wikipedia states the mall was built in 1966 so I was hopeful the roof was still gravel as opposed to the modern rubber roof. The mall went in for a major change in 2003 so maybe it has a rubber roof. But it didn’t have any nighthawks around I could hear.

On to Franklin High School in hopes of photographing the continuing WILSON’S SNIPE. I was doing good on sneaking up to the spot I encountered one last week when a bee went down my shirt. It must have been comical watching me strip off layers in shoulder-high wet weeds. So much for getting a photo. Walking back to the car I flushed a snipe in a completely different part of the marsh. Did it move from the recent rains and ensuing high water?

On to a known VESPER SPARROW spot that was still needed for the IAS Summer Count. The spot is by a low spot which sometimes holds shorebirds. Upon arriving there was water, 55 MALLARDS, and a LESSER YELLOWLEGS. All flushed when I opened the car door and I wasn’t even close. A Spotted Sandpiper also flushed in the mass exit. The yellowlegs is the earliest fall shorebird I have ever had in the county. But it helps to have water in July for shorebirds. And I did hear two Vesper Sparrows calling in the distance.

Still no photos on the day.

On to Atterbury FWA were I saw a distant RINGED-NECKED PHEASANT heading to the brush.

Ring-necked Pheasant

A few photos of other locals from Atterbury.

Indigo Bunting
Orchard Orioles – there were three but I could never get them in the same photo.
Willow Flycatcher

Down at Pisgah Lake were I watched swallows harassing a Red-shouldered Hawk.

Tree Swallow(?) attacking a Red-shouldered Hawk.

Bobolink Update

The Bobolink are still at the now partially mowed field at Atterbury. I saw two on the day and heard Grasshopper Sparrows calling. What we could have if man wouldn’t intervene?

The mowing must have pushed the Bobolink closer allowing me to finally get some decent photos.

BOBO (3)

BOBO (4)

BOBO (7)

BOBO (1) Bobolink Update
Finally, a decent Bobolink photo!

On the way home I noticed the field in Greenwood that still has Bobolinks was getting mowed. It will be seen if they stay.

On the day I added three species for the IAS Summer Count – Vesper Sparrow, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Ring-necked Pheasant.

Plus, I saw three raptors getting assailed. The fore mentioned Red-shoulder Hawk, an American Kestrel stirred up 50 Barn Swallows when it attacked a barn, and an Eastern Kingbird pecking away while riding the back of a Red-tailed Hawk.

Eventually I’m going to remember I have a video function on the camera.

A Not Totally Unexpected Black Vulture

I’ve noticed that many blogs post what they think will be the next 10 birds they’ll find in a certain area.  And they usually rank them in the order they might be seen.

I wish I had made a ranking for Johnson County.  I’ve been telling Mike for sometime the next species I’ll see in Johnson County will be a Black Vulture. I have seen sporadic reports on eBird of Black Vultures but we all know those must be taken with a grain of salt. But after Don Gorney told me he had seen one in Southern Shelby County I knew it was just a matter of time.

But it wasn’t easy. Since moving to the area in late 2012 I have counted 620 Turkey Vultures in Johnson County.  And I bet I have looked at almost every one knowing that eventually one would be a Black Vulture.

And Wednesday it finally happened. We were supposed to go back to Illinois for the holiday but our plans fell through.  Since I had already taken the day off I decided to head to Johnson County. And as luck had it I caught one in the distance flying with a Turkey Vulture west of Johnson County Park.  It was distant but I did get some ID photos.

First look, something didn’t appear right. The tail was too short for a Turkey Vulture. Upper right-hand bird. Johnson County Park 11/25/15
It turned a little and the white outer primaries jumped out. Johnson County Park 11/25/15
A little closer and I was pretty certain now it was a Black Vulture from shape and color. I just needed it to turn. Johnson County Park 11/25/15
And that did it. White primaries and short-tailed! Even the dark head is noticeable here. Johnson County Park 11/25/15
Flying to the west not to be seen again. Johnson County Park 11/25/15
For comparison, a Turkey Vulture later in the day showing the longer tail and silvery flight feathers. Johnson County Park 11/25/15
Even banking a Turkey Vulture shows the silvery flight feathers. Johnson County Park 11/25/15

That makes just the 5th new species I’ve seen in Johnson County this year. It’s always good to add a new species to your main list. But we all know after a couple of years new species are hard to come by on your regular patch. I still have some species I should see even for a mainly water-less area.

I think I will make one of those next 10 lists!

Extra Photos on day:

Even though I’m pretty sure it’s a released bird, it’s still good-looking. Ring-necked Pheasant – Atterbury FWA 11/25/15
And here doing the 2-step. Atterbury FWA 11/25/15



Can it be counted?

Saturday morning I saw and then heard one other Ring-necked Pheasant at Atterbury FWA. That didn’t really surprise me because the habitat there is pretty good for it. But is it countable for birding lists?

A cold Ring-necked Pheasant in North-Central Illinois.  Not all that unusual there. 01/22/10
A cold Ring-necked Pheasant in North-Central Illinois. Not all that unusual there. 01/22/10

The short answer about listing the bird is yes. It is my list so I can count what I want. But if I had to submit the list for some kind of record to a rules committee, would it be countable? The answer is probably no.

The Ring-necked Pheasant was introduced from Asia as a game bird in the U.S. The American Birding Association rules state:

  1. an introduced species may be counted only where and when it meets the ABA Checklist’s definition for being an established population. An introduced species observed well away from the accepted geographic area is not counted if it is more likely to be a local escape or release rather than an individual straying from the distant population;


As seen on the below distribution map the Ring-necked Pheasantfalls in the geographic area of Central Illinois and Indiana.

Ring-necked pheasant

The wild population I used to see around Matthiessen State Park in Illinois were probably countable because, I think, at one-time the state released Ring-necked Pheasants for hunting and they became established in the area. So how do you know if the birds have lived there for years or are ones that were recently released in the area for hunting?

Reading the DNR website Ring-necked Pheasant are released at Atterbury every February for hunting. But how do I know for sure if the ones I saw were released this past February or ones that were released 14 months ago or 26 months ago and are now established? I really don’t.

But if I had to guess they were probably released this past February but I really don’t spend a lot of time in that particular area of Atterbury, especially in the early morning when they are calling. Maybe they have always been there and I have just missed them.

So unless you are submitting your list for a national or state record, I say count the birds and move on.