The rain and fog Saturday morning limited photos but I did manage a few with the camera’s settings jacked up. Mainly Mike and I walked along listening to the calling birds. I was hoping the sun would shine in the afternoon since I needed to spend time with my Butterfly Field Guides. When it did I decided to check the grassy area of Johnson County Park. This was a good choice since it allowed me to hear and see the Bell’s Vireo one additional year.
First a couple of the morning’s birds.
Bell’s Vireo One More Year
My first summer in Indiana was 2013. The Bell’s Vireo was at this location then and has been present each year. That was the year I spent a lot of time checking out different areas of Johnson County Park and Atterbury FWA. I later learned Bell’s Vireo had been recorded in the area in 1980’s but I don’t think anyone has birded the area much in the interim period.
The rest of the afternoon was spent ID’ing Butterflies, which is a whole other story.
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…
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.
The bird was Green above and Yellowish below. Maybe one of the Willow Flycatchers I had just seen?
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.
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.
I hadn’t expected anything exceptional to happen this past weekend given it’s late July and the heat index was headed to 110F. But I was sitting at 98 species for Johnson County in the IAS Summer Count and wanted to get to 100.
Not living in the county means I lose the opportunity to see several of the neighborhood species. Like COOPER’S HAWKS or RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS. Birds I see daily on my neighborhood walk in Marion County and I used to see daily when we lived in Johnson County.
But birders know you don’t what’s out there unless you look.
So off I went.
With the recent rainfall I thought my best bet to reach 100 was going to be shorebirds. I made a quick first stop at the Marion County site to see how the conditions looked. Good.
So I was hopeful for shorebirds in Johnson County.
But it was not to be. The shorebird sites had water and had either corn or beans or weeds also. This didn’t make for good shorebirding. Oh well. I would have to hope for other species for 100.
Do you know you can still see birds using the strategy of walking from one shade tree to the next? I used the strategy successfully all day starting at Driftwood following the disappointment at the shorebird sites.
It was still early enough in the day that I saw several species.
Leaving Driftwood I saw three TURKEY VULTURES flying lazily to the north. I didn’t think much about them until I turned onto US31. Thier number was now seven and two immediately looked different.
Driving north a half mile I finally found a pull off and confirmed the ID. They drifted my way giving good views and a few photos.
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.
The past weekend had one main and a couple of smaller goals. The main goal was to see once and for all if Atterbury FWA had EASTERN WHIP-POOR-WILLS. The weather forecast for Saturday called for rain but Sunday was clear with a full moon. So I opted to check for whips and a couple of the minor goals on Sunday. That report will be in the next blog.
On Saturday I did one of the minor goals, check for forest species at Atterbury.
A Different Area in Atterbury
Believe it or not there are a couple of areas I have never explored at Atterbury. From Google Maps they appear similar to other areas so I haven’t explored them. But just in case they had something new I thought I had better check.
I got a late start Saturday because of the rain and I didn’t feel like bushwhacking a new area in the rain. Especially one with the potential for high grass. And as expected, it had most of the forest species which included a KENTUCKY WARBLER on territory.
I ended up at the marsh but no rails were calling. Cutting back through the grasslands there were numerous WILLOW FLYCATCHERS and YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS on territory, as there would be throughout the weekend.
I found a pair of RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS which is a good since they are on the local endangered watch list.
I came across a group of EASTERN KINGBIRDS out either feeding or playing, I couldn’t tell which. At one time I had 6 in my binocular’s field of view.
Another numerous species were SWAINSON’S THRUSH calling from the brush.
What Was to be the Weekend Highlight
Up to finding the COMMON GALLINULE the bird that was going to be the highlight of the weekend was a common species – a WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW.
That’s right, a White-crowned Sparrow.
Why you may ask? Because it is 12 days later than my average departure date, including my data from Northern Illinois.
I was walking along the road after watching the woodpeckers and kingbirds when it flew out on the road. It took me a minute to realize it was a White-crowned Sparrow since I thought they would have gone north by now. A second appeared but I didn’t get it in the photo.
A mid-afternoon discovery of a wooded area that had several warblers including a Cerulean Warbler concluded the day.
Ever since we moved to Indiana three years ago, I have made a trip to Goose Pond each July 4th weekend. And since I only get there a couple of times a year, I have started to look forward to the trip. So like a kid at Christmas anticipating it’s gifts, I was up 15 minutes earlier than the 4:15 alarm, on the road by4:45, and arrived a little after 6:30 to watch the dawn movement.
I was immediately struck by how quiet it was. Outside of the Red-winged Blackbirds there weren’t many birds calling, though there were Marsh Wrens and even a couple of Least Bitterns calling from across IN59. And one of the Least Bitterns even flew over the cattails, but not long enough for a photo. I’m not sure if it was because the air was “heavy” with the cloudy, humid conditions but it seemed “noisier” last year. I ended up seeing about the same number of species as last year, and the the quantity of each species was comparable, but it seemed quieter. Maybe because last year was sunny and warm. Anyway I didn’t let it spoil the day.
Also the water levels were lower. I would have thought they would have been higher with all the rain, but the DNR must be controlling them. Even though I found some perfect shorebird habitat, I didn’t get lucky on any migrating shorebirds like I did last year.
All in all I got to see the native summer birds. Which is the reason I go every year.
Following are several things I learned (or had known, forgot, and learned again) the week of May 25. Hopefully you will learn a few things also.
1. Early Saturday morning I saw a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak. I couldn’t tell if she was carrying anything like nesting material. It seemed late in the season to see a Grosbeak, especially a female. Then later on the day I saw three males. So did I really know S&D (status and distribution) on Rose-breasted Grosbeaks? My recollection was that I might see one or two during the summer. But was I mixing up all the years I lived in Illinois?
So I checked. Johnson County is on the southern edge of Rose-breasted Grosbeak’s breeding range which means they will be seen by a few people in Central and Southern Indiana during the breeding season. I have seem a few the last couple of years but the sightings were early June and late July. So I will keep frequenting the area to see if I can get proof of breeding.
2. I came across two male Willow Flycatchers calling. I wondered if I could use them to track back to a nest?
Nope. According to The Birds of North America Online and I quote “Female selects site, collects nest material, and builds nest while male perches nearby.”
I’m sure there is a joke there describing female-male human relations but I will let it pass. I will look for a nest the old fashioned way. Get lucky.
3. Keeping on the nesting topic I learned that both Eastern Towhees and Field Sparrows start the breeding season building their nests on the ground. The later in the breeding season it gets they tend to build nests higher and higher in bushes. First starting in lower bush branches and then lastly slightly higher branches.
4. Put a pair of dry socks and shoes in the trunk if you are going to walk in high wet grass all morning.
5. I learned that Wood Thrushes do sing out in the open. I don’t think I have ever seen a Wood Thrush singing in the open for any length of time. Let alone at the top of a taller tree. This guy was singing for at least 20 minutes. But he never did get out in the sun for a better picture.
6. In the really “too much information”, The Birds of North America Online has a small section devoted to preening which I have always passed over. But Saturday I had the opportunity to watch a Common Yellowthroat preening and wanted to know what they had to say.
“Preens at all times of day. Normally scratches head with foot over wing, but may (rarely) scratch under wing.”
And I was glad to see that this Common Yellowthroat was normal on his scratching.