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.

KILL
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
MALL SPSA (1)
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
SCTA
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.

ATTERBURY FIELD (2)
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
FISP
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.

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.

YBCUBBCU A

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.

Prelude to a County Big Day

It’s 4PM on a beautiful April Sunday afternoon. What am I doing? Cussing a poor, innocent COOPER’S HAWK flying by. And what has it done to receive my wrath? It’s because I’m a mile from the Marion County Line, I’ve been birding since 5:15AM, and I want to go home. But the Cooper’s Hawk is #98 and as soon as I lift my binoculars I will see the ROCK PIGEONS that live at the intersection of I65 and Main in Greenwood. One of those unlucky souls is #99 and I can’t quit on #99. Only a mile from the county line means I really don’t have much of an option for #100 except for a long drive across teh county to an eagle’s nest. I’d rather quit at #99 than drive. So what to do?

Prelude – 10 Days Ago

About 10 days ago I started thinking about a Big Day for Johnson County. Living here for 3+ years I pretty well know the bird’s locations. I used to run Big Days periodically when I lived in Illinois. I thought then and I still do that planning for Big Days make one a better birder.

Having to plan for a Big Day makes you:

  1. On a regular basis bird different spots to know exactly where the birds are located, which is good for long-term trend analysis. If you eBird.
  2. Get out of a rut by birding those areas instead of visiting the same old “productive” spots.
  3. Search for new areas. I’m still looking for a marsh in Johnson County with rails. Or an owl/hawk nest to cut down on the chance of missing them on a Big Day. Also for more shorebirds sites in this rural agriculture county.

With the IAS Big May Day on May 14 that left the weekend of May 7-8 or later. When I lived in Illinois I used to go to Southern Illinois and participate in a fund-raising Big Day the last weekend of April. So I decided I’d run a Big Day the last weekend in April to compare the totals.

Prelude – 29 Hours Previous

Having decided to run a Big Day on May 1 I headed out at 7AM on Saturday, April 30, to do some scouting with Mike. The weather was not very cooperative but we had a good morning with several species seen for the first time this year. Right off the bat we had a late staying NORTHERN SHOVELER at Franklin HS pond where we also flushed a WILSON’S SNIPE. Then a PIED-BILLED GREBE at the Walmart/Lowes Pond which isn’t easy to find this time of year. Later we saw a DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT at Driftwood, which is a tough county bird.

We located areas that if the birds continued overnight would be good spots on Sunday.

Like the regular flooded area which held BLUE-WINGED TEAL along with GREATER YELLOWLEGS.

BWTE

The “Purple Martin” road had numerous warblers plus this ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK.

RBGR (2)

The “River Road” in Atterbury had one spot with a calling SCARLET TANAGER and YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO.

SCTA

YBCU (2)
I’m showing the back-end of the cuckoo to show how much water the feathers repel.

Mike heard a BLUE-WINGED WARBLER calling as we drove through Atterbury. It posed for photos in the rain.

108

BWWA (1)

Not an uncommon bird but a photo of a singing EASTERN MEADOWLARK during a break in the rain.

115

Would these birds be there the next day? Would I find #100.

I’ll finish the story soon.