Wilson’s Snipe Photos – Finally

Don’t be fooled by the title. I have many Wilson’s Snipe photos. Just not Wilson’s Snipe photos from the local only marshy area. Snipe have been present for the last couple of years at the marsh. But never out in the open long enough for a photo. Until Sunday.

Saturday started out with Mike and me heading to Laura Hare Preserve at Blossom Hollow. With Mike’s help I spent much of the time learning to ID several trees from their bark. The birding was typical for the habitat and time of year, meaning it was quiet at times. We did hear two Louisiana Waterthrush and I saw my yearly Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Sunday morning I went to the marsh area with express purpose of checking on the Wilson’s Snipe and any other shorebirds/waterfowl present.

Within the first minute of walking upon the marsh a Wilson’s Snipe flew in and landed in an opening. If I would have been prepared I would have had a photo right off the bat. But it proceeded to walk into the thick grass and when I moved it flushed to the far side. So I began the process of checking all the open areas for snipe.

The cat and mouse game would proceed over the next couple hours with snipe flying in and out but never where I could photograph one.

In between hoping to see the snipe, an Eastern Meadowlark landed nearby.
A pair of Savannah Sparrows were buzzing around chasing each other with one eventually landing.

Finally Wilson’s Snipe Photos 

I kept watch on the far shore hoping a snipe would walk out in to the open. After a couple of hours one finally appeared.

First I was watching a Solitary Sandpiper move along the edge.
Then a movement in the tall grass. Could it be? Yes, a Wilson’s Snipe.
By luck they both ended up in the same photo.
Not the best of photos but it shows it’s definitely a Wilson’s Snipe.
Wilson's Snipe Photos
Probably the best photo on the day. It at least captures some of the snipe’s bright barring.

I’ll follow-up this post up using Wilson’s Snipe as an example of something I think is a bigger problem.

Western Grebe – No Magic

After my last post on birders trying to turn Common Goldeneye to Barrow’s Goldeneye, you thought I would have learned. Nope. My first day in the Grand Junction area was spent wasting too much time trying to turn a Western Grebe into a Clark’s Grebe.

My first photo from the Grand Junction area. Looking west after the obligatory Starbucks stop. 12/4/16

The day started out exactly like I hoped. Clear and cold (17F). I was at Highline Lake State Park in under a half hour. It was as quiet as birding in winter in Midwest. The difference though was no backdrop noise of cars or machinery like you hear in the Midwest.

The real reason I go to Grand Junction. The wide open scenery. The view north from the south end of Highline Lake.

I was one of the few people at the park besides the rangers. And the birding was slow but I didn’t mind as I walked the trails for a few hours.

What would a stocked lake be without a Bald Eagle? 12/4/16
Of course there were deer. They must be less numerous since the Park Ranger made a point of telling me where the deer were located. 12/4/16
Ruby-crowned Kinglet were numerous on the trip, which surprised me. I’m going to do a separate post on them at a later date. 12/4/16
I stumbled upon a Say’s Phoebe at the south end of the lake. From a distance I initially took it to be an American Robin. 12/4/16
And yes it wagged its tail like all good phoebes. 12/4/16
A group of eight Wilson’s Snipe were on the runoff stream below the dam. A hearty bunch in the cold. 12/4/16

And now about Clark’s, I mean, Western Grebe.

Western Grebe
I first encountered the Western Grebe when they were in the middle of the lake. With the crown looking like it might be above the eye, the one on the right looked possible for Clark’s Grebe. 12/4/16
So I spent more time than I should waiting for them to get closer. 12/4/16
I didn’t mind waiting because I could enjoy the western skyline. 12/4/16
Even at a distance this cropped photo shows the dark surrounding the eye on the first grebe. Obviously a Western Grebe. 12/4/16
I can’t work any magic on the other grebe. The dark area surrounds the eye, though it’s faint.  Western Grebe. It was fun waiting and watching though. 12/4/16

Next on to the real reason for the trip.

Orange-Crowned Warbler?-Weekend Highlight

Maybe an Orange-crowned Warbler? was the weekend highlight. Maybe not. I’m not 100% sure. More on that towards the end of the post.

I haven’t had much time to either bird or post the last couple of weeks. A week-long trip to Canada for work (no birding involved), catching up from the trip, and then the Thanksgiving Holiday. I could have been out more over Thanksgiving weekend but I spent the time finalizing and preparing for my next birding trip. So I don’t feel like it was wasted time.

I finally had some time over the weekend and knowing there would be sparrows I birded Johnson County Park. I made a stop at Honker Haven at Atterbury FWA and confirmed there still hasn’t been a major movement of waterfowl into the area.

honker-haven Orange-crowned Warbler?
Only the regulars were at Honker Haven in Atterbury – Canada Geese, Mallards, and Gadwalls. Plus one new addition – Lesser Scaup. Atterbury FWA 11/26/16

Johnson County Park had the previously mentioned sparrows with all of the anticipated ones there in good numbers.

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First a White-crowned Sparrow. Johnson County Park 11/26/16
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Then an American Tree Sparrow. Johnson County Park 11/26/16
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Now both an American Tree Sparrow and White-crowned Sparrow together. I find it fascinating when different species mix together. Johnson County Park 11/26/16
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I’ll let the reader decide the number of Northern Cardinals and White-crowned Sparrows are hiding in the bush. Johnson County Park 11/26/16

On the way home I made a stop at the Wilson Snipe location. Taking a casual walk through the marsh flushed 8 snipe. Unless we have a major weather change they should be good for the upcoming Johnson County Christmas Count.

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After flushing the Wilson’s Snipe I watched as two flew a big lap before landing in a neighboring field.
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Perfect Wilson’s Snipe habitat – damp, high, marshy grass.

An Orange-crowned Warbler?

I spent a couple of hours Sunday at the local retention ponds watching, sketching, and documenting the movements of the local Red-tailed Hawks. I want to make sure I know them inside and out before an upcoming trip.

While watching one of the Red-tailed Hawks through the spotting scope I heard a loud CHIP in the Mocker Tree. (This is a small tree that has a Northern Mockingbird in it 90% of the time) The chip was loud and persistent. My first thought was a sparrow but I had never heard a sparrow chip this loud. There were nearby Song Sparrows chipping but they were much lower sounding. The chipping bird stayed in the bush and I wrote down it sounded like a repeated CHIK CHIK. I then thought it might be a really agitated Yellow-rumped Warbler, though it didn’t sound right.

The bird flew out of the bush onto the top limb. In the short naked eye glimpse from about 20 feet the bird was small and appeared all yellow. An even quicker look through the binoculars showed it had a slight eye ring (lower and upper crescents?) and was yellow.

And then it flew. My first and last impression was Orange-crowned Warbler. But I’m not confident enough with the short look to confirm. I haven’t heard one chipping in a few years but it sounded like one after listening to its chip on an app immediately after the sighting. Oh well.

A few photos from the weekend.

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Another billboard going up along I-65?
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Didn’t take long for the local Red-tailed Hawk to use for a hunting spot.
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Watching me – watching you.
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I came across a flock of Dark-eyed Juncos. They didn’t seem to be mixing with the other sparrows in the park??

Wilson’s Snipe – Year Round Resident?

Over the last month I have regularly checked a local “marshy” area to see how long WILSON’S SNIPE will hang around. Last winter I checked twice in December flushing 5 on the 20th. I didn’t get back until February 6 when I flushed 6. With the winter not being overly harsh I figure they were present all winter. They have been present this spring and Saturday taking a short stroll through the marsh flushed three.  I stopped after 1 as not to disturb any others but flushed 2 more on taking a way out I didn’t think they would be located.

Wilson's Snipe - One of four that were on a mud island at Atterbury FWA. By November there were up to 10 at this location. 082513
My first year here in Indiana was dry and Honker Haven at Atterbury FWA was low. Numerous shorebirds including Wilson’s Snipe would be on the mud islands. By November there were up to 10 snipe present at this location. 8/25/13
WISM Summer Wilson's Snipe
The image on the left shows Wilson Snipe’s eBird occurrence for June (all years 1900 -2016) and on the right for Jun-Jul (all years 1900-2016). My sighting from yesterday is the red dot below Indianapolis.

Looking at the eBird map for June shows very few records in Indiana except for the concentration around Goose Pond. And I’m sure there have been more at Goose Pond not recorded on eBird.

WISN Range Map
As seen on a range map from The Birds of North America Online, we are well south of the breeding range of the Wilson’s Snipe.

Checking Brock’s Birds of Indiana we see the average departure date for Central Indiana is May 6 and there are is an “n” in the 20-Year Abundance Table which indicates no records (over the past 20 years).

WISN Brock
Wilson’s Snipe Table taken from Brock’s Birds of Indiana by Kenneth J. Brock

A line from The Birds of North America Online sums it up, “Marshy habitat, cryptic coloration, and crepuscular habits make for remarkably poor knowledge of this common species.”

Like the above sentence states, how does one check on the snipe without disturbing them? More importantly how do you check for young when you can’t even see the adults? Tread softly looking for a nest? Tough situation.

I’d sure like to know if they are breeding in the marsh but it might not be possible except by knowing there is snipe there the entire summer.

I’m open for suggestions.

A Benton County Saturday

After returning from London I took my daughter to Lafayette Saturday morning and the nhad to pick her up in the afternoon. So I took the opportunity to bird a couple of spots in Benton County.

But first let me say it was COLD. According to National Weather Service the temperature at 10AM was 31F with winds out of the NW at 22mph with gusts of 28mph making the Wind Chill 18F. This wasn’t good since I had planned to search for shorebirds in the rain-soaked fields. But they were frozen.

The first stop was a quick one for WESTERN MEADOWLARKS. Immediately upon rolling down the car window I heard and then saw numerous VESPER SPARROWS on the road.

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A Vesper Sparrow eating grit in the road close to the car. Rural Benton County 3/9/16

While watching the sparrows I heard a Western Meadowlark calling. Only a couple of meadowlarks flew in the cold, so I’m not sure if I saw an Eastern or Western. But I definitely heard a Western calling.

I then headed to Pine Creek Gamebird Habitat. I didn’t know what to expect with this being my first time there. And it didn’t take long to realize I would be facing the freezing wind to view the shorebirds. But that same cold weather helped by freezing the entire water area everywhere but the water closest to the road. Forcing the shorebirds closer.

PINE CREEK (3)
Number 3 parking area is at the top of the bluff to the right (south) of the road. Walking across the road one can view the water looking to the north. Pine Creek 3/9/16

There were numerous GREATER AND LESSER YELLOWLEGS, plus a few PECTORAL SANDPIPERS. And with the water frozen that was the extent of the birds.

Shorebirds (3)
Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs working along the edge of the frozen water. Pine Creek 3/9/16

I then walked the south trail into the sun to thaw my frozen face. A NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD was flying about as where a flock of AMERICAN TREE SPARROWS.

ATSP
An American Tree Sparrow  that was part of a flock I initially thought were Field Sparrows. Pine Creek 3/9/16

I then headed to the west trail along the shallow bluff which would keep the wind out of my face. I could then walk back with the wind.  The walk was productive since it was now afternoon and the water was beginning to melt.

Over a one hundred BLUE-WINGED TEAL flew in along with NORTHERN SHOVELERS, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, a lone HOODED MERGANSER, and MALLARDS.

BWTE
The closest of the one hundred Blue-winged Teal, but still a distance away. Pine Creek 3/9/16

A RED-TAIL HAWK, AMERICAN KESTREL, and TURKEY VULTURES flew by. It was a very enjoyable walk.

RTHA (7)
The local Red-tailed Hawk kept circling overhead, sometimes coming quite close. Pine Creek 3/9/16

I then saw a group of shorebirds land in the grass a little further to the north. My first thought was WILSON’S SNIPE since they like moist, grassy areas but I couldn’t be sure. So I took my time heading that way to see if I could get a glimpse.

PINE CREEK (2)
The shorebirds landed at the far left of the photo by the bushes. I slowly started in that direction. Pine Creek 3/9/16

I noticed a hawk flying low behind the tree line heading straight for the presumed snipe. It came in unexpectedly and almost got them. They immediately flew giving me the chance to ID them.

NOHA (1)
It all happened so fast this is the best I could do for the Northern Harrier looking for lunch. Pine Creek 3/9/16
WISN (4)
I did catch the Wilson’s Snipe flying away, which helped to definitely ID them. Pine Creek 3/9/16

I’m glad I waited around trying to ID the snipe since I got to see the harrier attack plus more waterfowl kept flying in.

WISN (2)
One of the Wilson’s Snipe landed a little closer to me. Still not a good photo but enough to ID it. Pine Creek 3/9/16

My thoughts from my first visit to the area? Good area for shorebirds and waterfowl with easy viewing and trails for walking. Right up my alley.

If someone knew of a good passerine site in the county, you could probably build a very good county list just visiting those two areas.