Returning Saturday night after spending the latter half of the week in Boston I finally got some birding in Sunday afternoon. Not feeling like driving I hit the local patch which netted two new patch species Palm Warbler and Northern Waterthrush. Neither is exactly uncommon but this patch doesn’t have the most bird friendly habitat. So any new species is always welcomed.
I didn’t walk the complete loop since water was standing in many places. The Northern Waterthrush was calling along the creek in the West Woods. It came in close responding to my pishing but in the open for only a few seconds.
Along the West Wood’s south path a rufous bird flew low into the brush. Brown Thrasher probably, Wood Thrush maybe. Since I wasn’t sure I stood waiting for a glimpse and listening to it scratching in the leaves.
This gave a small bird the opportunity to slowly make its way up the path. Stopping on a bush limb. Then jumping out on the path. And back on a limb. On first glimpse I thought it was a Golden-crowned Kinglet since the yellow was so intense. But it didn’t take a second to recognize the yellow of a Palm Warbler.
I stood watching the bird move down the path passing within a foot, not recognizing I wasn’t part of the landscape. It continued to forge moving on down the path.
On the day I flushed the resident Barred Owl who was deep in woods. Not sure why it flushed since I really wasn’t close. And the Red-tailed Hawks called when I got close to their nest tree. So I assume they still have young ones.
And it was a Brown Thrasher lurking in undergrowth.
The last birds viewed on the weekend were also the highlight.
A group of 12 migrating Turkey Vultures.
Now most people might say a group of migrating Turkey Vultures aren’t exciting. But like a lot of things in birding migrating Turkey Vultures aren’t something you see away from a specialty site. Like a Hawk Watch. Or more importantly it’s not something I get to see every weekend.
And if caught low enough on the horizon it is a thrill to watch them come and go.
As I was heading back to the car I caught the glimmer of a white airplane to the north. Seemed odd since all the other planes Sunday morning had been high in that direction. Taken a glance towards the plane revealed a group of Turkey Vultures swirling on the horizon. They were too far for a photo so I watched them as they swirled/drifted up.
After reaching a certain height they all started drifting down and to the south at a rapid rate.
After gliding/drifting down for 4-5 miles (?) they started to swirl up again, this time much closer.
It didn’t take long before they were all behind the tree line and moving away.
What did I learn from that experience?
If I had left a minute earlier I would have missed the show. Looking at the times of the photos the whole event lasted 4 minutes. How far did they come in those 4 minutes? From the horizon to straight overhead. 4-5 miles?
If Broad-winged Hawks kettles travel in the same manner it shows you have to be at the right place at the right time or the odds are high you will miss them.
It seems it has been at least a month that I have been WAITING for the seasons to change the scenery from late summer birds to early winter birds. And with the weather in the 70 degree range this past week, I don’t think it is going to happen quite yet.
So Mike and I headed out last Saturday morning to check a few spots before the rain hit. After the rain last week we were hoping that the local shorebird spot might be have some birds. As my last post showed not only was it dried up, but plowed under. So we headed to the local ponds hoping some waterfowl had moved in. No waterfowl exept for a large number of Canada Geese. And the wind had now moved to the east at 15mph and a light rain was starting to fall. Enough of that. We discussed plans for the next few weekends, weather cooperating, and I headed home early.
The weather had improved by mid-afternoon and I had cabin fever, so I headed to the local park. Really not expecting anything different while we WAIT for the seasons to change. But a good walk in fall weather is always good.
And as expected there really wasn’t much happening outside the local species and large numbers of American Robins, Northern Flickers, and Yellow-rumped Warblers. And I saw a Lincoln’s Sparrow that had more markings on the breast than I have seen before. So that was fun trying to figure out. Not even one raptor flying.
But while walking through the park’s small forested area I saw a raptor fly from high up in one tree down and then back up to sit on a high branch. First thought since it was daytime was a hawk but something told me it was an owl. And sure enough it was a totally unexpected Barred Owl.
Having seen them in daylight off and on over the years in Illinois I knew that I had to follow it to exactly were it landed. Or it would blend in so well I would never find it in the trees. And I couldn’t move. Loosing the angle of sight and the same thing would happen.
So I stood in the same spot and watched the owl watching me.
Of course the line of sight did not give me a clear photo line. And past experience told me that it would flush if I tried to move towards it. So I moved 2 feet left, no better view. Then 2 feet right. Still no good. And the path was too narrow to go much further left or right.
So I gazed at the owl for many minutes and then decided to try to get a better line of sight by moving forward. And as expected after about 3 steps it flushed, not to be seen again.
But anytime I see an owl in the daytime it’s a treat.
Last Sunday I happened to stumble upon a flock of sparrows working their way through the brush of a local stream. I knew they were up ahead because I heard the songs of both White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows. When I came around the bend there was a mad scramble from the grass back into the brush telling me there was a good number of sparrows.
I tried to observe as many of the sparrows as I could. It paid off with a good view of a Lincoln’s Sparrow back a few feet in the brush. Even though I haven’t seen very many Lincoln’s Sparrows it was obvious with it’s smaller size than a Song Sparrow, plainer face, and buffy breast with thin stripes.
I watched the White-throated Sparrows fly out of the brush to feed on the grass and then fly back in. I finally decided to try to photograph one since they were all showing some of the brightest colors I have seen.
I have watched American Goldfinch eat dandelions but never sparrows.
1. Even when the weather stinks, the snow is deep, and I can’t do birding by foot without a lot of hassle, there are still birds to be found. In this case Horned Larks, Lapland Longspurs, and Snow Buntings along the roads of Johnson County. Actually hundreds of Horned Larks, a few Lapland Longspurs, and only one Snow Bunting.
The photos aren’t the best since the day was pretty dreary.
Plus some sparrows and friends along the plowed roads of Johnson County Park.
2. And I have wondered about the following for some time.
I’m not the guy that tracks up the most hours in the field, especially the past year. But I’ve put my share of hours in the field. So where are Horned Larks in the summer? Sunday I must have seen 5 or 6 flocks of 150-200 Horned Larks along the road. In the summer I hear a few but might go weeks without seeing one. I know they are in the fields but besides one gravel road in Illinois that always had 10-20 I never see many in the summer. Just wondering?
Remember you can subscribe to this blog via email and receive notifications of new posts by entering your email address above in the right hand column.