So how windy was last Saturday? Check out this photo of a windblown Eastern Phoebe!
Along with Mike Saturday’s plan was to search for the expected early migrants. But before I met up with Mike I did a bit of owling.
The Eastern-screech Owls weren’t the usual spots but a Barred Owl was calling nearby at one. I finally found one screech-owl.
I met up with Mike at the Great Horned Owl spot where we eventually heard one calling right before sunrise. We visited a couple of lakes and saw a good variety of waterfowl and the first of the migrants, three distant Tree Swallow flying over the Pisgah Lake.
The next stop was the known Eastern Phoebe Bridge and one was heard “chipping” immediately exiting the car.
Now watch the tail. Wait for it. Classic Phoebe!
At Driftwood SFA we found both migrants. The before mentioned windblown Eastern Phoebe and a small group of Tree Swallows.
This is my fifth spring in Indiana, so I can start to have realistic personal early/late dates.
Earliest Eastern Phoebe by 6 days. But not sure I was always looking for an early one.
Tree Swallow was the second earliest. Earliest was 3/2/13.
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.
A few photos of other locals from Atterbury.
Down at Pisgah Lake were I watched swallows harassing a Red-shouldered Hawk.
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?
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.
I had to head back to Lafayette again this weekend. This time I had 4 hours to bird on Sunday. So just like last weekend I took the time to bird another spot that I hadn’t birded before, Celery Bog in West Lafayette.
But first a few words on Saturday. I tried for rails at a small wetland area in Shelby County just across the road from Johnson County. No luck. The habitat almost looks good for rails, but I’m thinking it is too overgrown. But I’ll try again.
I then checked the flooded fields south of Franklin. There were SOLITARY SANDPIPERS but not any other shorebirds.
The bulk of Saturday morning was spent at Laura Hare Preserve. I was searching for HERMIT THRUSH, WINTER WREN, and LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH. I ended up seeing one Hermit Thrush and 3 Louisiana Waterthrushes. But no photos.
And the reason for no photos was because I finally got a new camera. A Nikon Coolpix P900. Which I wasn’t having much luck with Saturday. So the time at Celery Bog was as much for birding as to take the time to learn the camera.
One could get use to birding Celery Bog on a regular basis. Nice habitat and access. I spent 2-1/2 hours walking the length of the area.
The most abundant bird after AMERICAN COOTS and TREE SWALLOWS were YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS. I had a minimum of 25.
There were also a fair assortment of waterfowl and my FOS GREAT EGRET.
I heard a BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER calling in the woods which I hadn’t expected. It stuck to the tops of the trees but I did manage a few shots.
The highlight of the day came at the end of the walk. There was a RED-SHOULDERED HAWK ahead on the path. I watched it eating something and then it seemed to carry it away. A mouse a maybe?
Here is the sequence of events.
And just so you know I wasn’t sold on the camera after Saturday. But the day at Celery Bog swayed my opinion. I think the improved photos show that.
I’ll blog about the new camera soon and keep reviewing it through migration.
First the rest of the Solid Saturday that I posted about earlier in March. The day never cleared up until after I got home. So it was another day of taking photos with a cloudy background. Maybe next time it will be clear.
After leaving Franklin HS I headed to Atterbury. First I stopped by the GREAT BLUE HERON Rookery just west of the High School on Young’s Creek. I bring it up because soon I’m going to blog on the Johnson County’s Rookeries I know.
I then spent the rest of the day in the greater Atterbury FWA area. The bulk of the afternoon was spent walking the north end of Atterbury. Where I saw the SWAMP SPARROW.
First though was a stop at Driftwood were there wasn’t much happening except TREE SWALLOWS feeding.
Then on to the hike at Atterbury. The area always holds large numbers of EASTERN TOWHEES with over 20 seen or heard on the day.
I ended the day by watching a lone PIED-BILLED GREBE on the pond that my hike had circled.
I know I said in the last post I would continue last week’s story, but I thought I’d report on yesterday’s birds first.
Living here three years I have learned there is basically a two week window to see COMMON LOONS, HORNED GREBES, and BONAPARTE’S GULLS in Johnson County. So I thought I had better take advantage of a day off Friday to check the local water. I wasn’t disappointed.
The shorebird spot was still devoid of shorebirds. Maybe tomorrow.
I then headed to Driftwood SWA to check on loons and grebes. NOTHING but a distant PIED-BILLED GREBE. Once again no waterfowl. Or no fisherman for that fact.
But for the second year in a row at Driftwood I had an early BARN SWALLOW mixed in with the TREE SWALLOWS.
I wasn’t surprised but both the Barn Swallow and the count on the Tree Swallows – 110 – were flagged by eBird. The Barn Swallow was 3 days earlier than the one I wrote about last year. And the number of Tree Swallows wasn’t unusual for this time of year.
But no loons was troublesome since I’m not sure I’ll have an opportunity to check for them in the next 2 weeks and Driftwood is the only location I have seen them in Johnson County.
On to Atterbury FWA to check for other waterfowl. Stopping at Honker Haven (you have to love the names the DNR has assigned to the small ponds) for waterfowl, I immediately see a COMMON LOON on the water.
As stated above, a county first for me outside of Driftwood. It didn’t move around or dive which wasn’t unusual since this isn’t a very deep pond. In summer it doesn’t take long for it to develop into shorebird habitat. I also saw a GADWALL which I was missing off the county list.
My last stop was Lowe’s Pond in Franklin for a possible HORNED GREBE.
Walking down to the water and looking around the brush one pops up about 20 feet from me. What luck!
And it didn’t get spooked for a minute actually giving some good photos. But it finally noticed me and took off to the far end to be with the LESSER SCAUP, BUFFLEHEAD, and RING-NECKED DUCKS.
So all in all a good day. Missed the Bonaparte’s but I have only seen them once in the county.
If you have spent any length of time birding then you know spring migrants come through the Midwest in Waves. The First Wave are heartier migrants that winter just south of the winter freeze line, which in a normal winter is usually just south of the Midwest. These First Wavers usually start showing up in early to mid-March and in milder years small numbers of these birds are present all winter.
The next wave are birds that winter in Florida or the Gulf Coast. Birds like Greater Yellowlegs. They usually show up later in March.
As I posted last week, Mike and I spent the first weekend in March looking for early migrants. And we struck out. But this past Saturday I ran into five of the First Wave migrants.
But before I went looking for First Wavers I checked a couple of flooded fields that regular hold shorebirds. No luck but one of them did have a few NORTHERN SHOVELERS feeding in the field.
There is a country road bridge north of Atterbury FWA that usually has an early EASTERN PHOEBE. Before I reached the bridge I heard one calling from the backyard of a house in the woods. Never did see it and there wasn’t one at the bridge. But it was good to know they were back.
Then on to Driftwood SWA which usually has several of the First Wavers breeding there in summer. And it looks like this year will be no exception.
My first target were the FIELD SPARROWS that usually occupy Driftwood in large numbers. Walking east of the boat unloading area I heard and then saw 2 chasing each other. They did this for the whole time, never landing long enough for a photo. There were other distant Field Sparrows calling out their “pin-pong ball on a table” call but they were not to be seen either.
Moving to the other side of the lake and immediately getting out of the car I heard a BROWN THRASHER. He was at the top of a tree and I assume staking out his territory.
And within a few seconds I heard another thrasher calling a couple hundred yards to the west.
I thought the thrashers might not be present or be little less vocal, but in true form they called the entire time I was present.
Walking down to the lake I heard a TREE SWALLOW, another of the First Wavers, calling and then flying away. A few minutes later one landed in a tree for a photo.
With 4 First Wavers seen I headed to Johnson County Park to pick up one more First Waver – FOX SPARROW. Last week Mike found one but I never really got on it. So back to the sparrow spot for another try. It took some pishing but eventually after numerous Song Sparrows and Juncos, a Fox Sparrow popped up. Same one as last week? In the poor light I never did get a good photo but I did get good looks.
With The Doldrums over its time to get back catching more Waves.
Before I get to the Oasis, I’d like to ask you a few questions.
1. What is the ratio to finding decent shorebird habitat and the proximity of the nearest road or parking spot?
An extremely unofficial poll of 1 puts it at 92.3%. And if I read IN-Bird correctly it appears that the best shorebird habitat at Goose Pond is always a one mile walk. No more. No less. Doesn’t matter which pond or season, it’s always a mile in and out. Through vegetation thick vegetation of course.
2. Why are the best looking shorebird spots always along the Interstate so that you don’t dare stop for fear of being rundown?
You know of what I speak. You are traveling down Interstate XX (you fill in the Interstate numbers, 65 for me) and see this great looking flooded field and even at 70MPH+ you see a couple of hundred shorebirds but you don’t dare stop. So you get off the next exit but there is never any access from the country roads.
3. So now you finally find a decent flooded field along a two-lane road. But there is no shoulder or parking spot.
And the only turn-off is a mile away. In either direction. And of course the road is so busy you don’t stop for even two seconds or you will get rear ended.
And that pretty well sums up my experience on shorebirding habitat in the Midwest.
But even with that being my track record I haven’t given up. After all the rain in June and July I have spent most of my bird outings criss-crossing the rural landscape in hopes of finding a new shorebird spot.
So it was with great joy and excitement that I found an Oasis east of Whiteland. I could almost hear the music in my ears when I drove by, kind of like the movies where the heroes are lost in the desert and they only have enough energy left to climb one more sand dune and when they reach the top there is the Oasis.
The only difference is that I didn’t weep like our heroes always do. Now if it ended up not containing shorebirds I might have wept. But luckily for you it did.
What I didn’t say and you can’t see is that there is a two-lane road between the Oasis and me. Big Trucks like to drive down it. Even on Sunday morning. That is a negative. But this Oasis has a farm lane directly across which makes scoping easy. A bigger positive.
I haven’t seen anything rare at the Oasis but most of the usual shorebirds have been seen. Just good to have another option.
And I still need to tell the story about the how shorebirding can end you up in the hospital.