White-crowned Sparrow – 12 Days Late

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.

TRAIL (2)
The path through the wet woods. Perfect for Bushwhacking.

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.

WIFL (1)
A Willow Flycatcher calling on the edge of the marsh.
YBCH (5)
A Yellow-breasted Chat checking me out from a small bush.

I found a pair of RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS which is a good since they are on the local endangered watch list.

WHWO (6)
One of the two Red-headed Woodpeckers on a fallen dead tree. Thanks to the DNR for leaving it.

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.

EAKI (14)
Can you see 4 Eastern Kingbirds? There was a Red-headed Woodpecker in the bush straight back but I don’t see it now.

Another numerous species were SWAINSON’S THRUSH calling from the brush.

SWTH (4)
One of the better views I’ve had lately of Swainson’s Thrush.

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.

WCSP (1) White-crowned Sparrow
Almost the star of the weekend, 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.

WCSP eBird
As noted on this eBird chart White-crowned Sparrows are virtually gone from Indiana after 5/22 and non-existent June – August.

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.

High Water and Forest Damage – The Last Saturday of the IAS Summer Bird Count

My plan for the last Saturday in July, which was the last Saturday for the Indiana Audubon Summer Bird Count, was like the first weekend in June – visit as many habitats as possible. The difference as opposed to the first weekend in June was that the few birds that would be calling would probably be done by 10AM. And they were. So I was hoping for shorebirds to observe after 10.

I was out by 5AM in search of Eastern Screech-Owls but only found a pickup with a boat in the parking lot about 50 yards from my best spot at Atterbury FWA. With its motor running and lights on.  Why would someone be in a parking lot an hour and half before sunrise with a big boat by a pond that I wouldn’t even bother to canoe?  Who knows.

Anyway after missing the screech-owl I headed to the Great Horned Owl location and they began calling on cue about a half hour before sunrise.  But I missed Barred Owl again. I have only heard one this year as opposed to six by this time the last two years. Maybe I just need to get out more?

The next hour and half around Atterbury/Johnson County Park was productive. I observed not one but four Belted Kingfishers, a bird I had missed on the count so far.  It was also cool to watch Tree Swallows chase them around, a behavior I had never witnessed.

079
One of two female Belted Kingfishers that was being chased by Tree Swallows. But I’m not sure who started the chase.
083
A Common Grackle watching the chase around the trees.
073
I’ll let you guess on the top bird way across the lake. Use the process of elimination of the tagged species at the end of the article for the answer.
064
A female Rose-breasted Grosbeak that was in the same area as 3 males that kept flying around.
060
One of the males landed long enough for a quick photo.

As others have noted swallows were gathering with a large group of Purple Martins at one of the small lakes at Atterbury. I was also glad to see a Spotted Sandpiper fly over since I had missed them because of the high water in the county.  And today the water was even higher. Driftwood SFA was the highest I have ever seen it, with no boats on the water when I checked.  The Big Blue River was also very high. And all the usual shorebirds spots were either flooded or so full of weeds that no shorebirds would land there.

068
Purple Martins were numerous on the day, as were most swallows.
072
A tree full of Purple Martins. They must be moving since I had never seen them in this location before.
103
An Eastern Phoebe doing a 180 look. Not sure but I didn’t see anything in that direction.

Atterbury also showed the effects of the recent storms with trees down in many places. You could see were the DNR had cut many trees that had falling across the road. After Atterbury I headed to Laura Hare Preserve and the situation was even worse. If I hadn’t been to the preserve previously I’m not sure I could have picked up the trail in several spots. Trees were down everywhere and the trail was washed out in a couple of spots.  And the birding was slow as it approached the 10AM hour.

092
Some of the damage at Laura Hare Preserve. You can’t even tell the trail veers to the left.
090
One of the smaller trees that was laying across the path.
088
And part of the trail was washed out by the lake.

I stopped by the south side of Atterbury and Johnson County Park on my way back from Laura Hare. While there I had all three raptors on the day – Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, and Turkey Vulture – while sitting on a picnic table getting a drink and watching meadowlarks.  The JCP Bell’s Vireo was still calling and a Yellow-breasted Chat came out to see who was around.

108
A Yellow-breasted Chat popped out to see who was in this far corner of the park.

So I ended the summer count with 88 species, the first time I hadn’t broke 100 in the three years I have participated. But I didn’t get to Laura Hare in early June and that is needed for 5 or so breeding warblers. Plus no shorebirds this year. Which usually is another 5 or so. And I missed a week going to Colorado and another week to cataract surgery. Cataract Surgery is something I should blog about but I’m waiting to see how it improves my birding. So far it has been great.

044
The local Red-tailed Hawk sitting in the tree behind our condo. Its mate is usually there but not on this day.
100
And the local Northern Mockingbird. Recently I have heard it calling as late as midnight and as early as 5AM. Does it ever sleep? Does it call in its sleep? Does it ever stop?

Almost Time For This Year’s Adventure

Wish I had more to write about, but I don’t.  Between sitting in a training class last week or driving to the training class, the creative juices weren’t flowing.

Plus what free time I have is going to learning the birds of Colorado. The western slope of the Rockies to be exact.  I fly out next weekend for 6 days around the Grand Junction area. I plan on trying to make a daily post but that might be a little to ambitious. At that time I’ll go into more detail how I picked that area to see birds of the U.S. “Great Basin”.

NO photos from this weekend.  Along with Mike and Karl we did the annual breeding census on the military side of Camp Atterbury. No cameras allowed on the military base, so no photos.  Karl had done the east side on Friday which is mostly grasslands and had a good count of 35 Henslow’s Sparrows. We did the forested west side and some how came up with the same number of Hooded Warblers, Ovenbirds, and American Redstarts – 17.  The count on the Hooded is the highest ever for this count. With the high temperatures the birds stopped calling early so we didn’t have as good of day as past years.  Oh well.

But here are a few photos from a week ago.

BLPH ATTERBURY FWA 060615
Eastern Phoebe calling insistently above a creek and of course close to a bridge. Atterbury FWA 6/06/15
GCKI OUTLINE
One and only one guess as to this species. Getting a good look so I can compare it to an Ash-throated Flycatcher next week. Atterbury FWA 6/06/15 (Great Crested Flycatcher)
EATO ATTERBURY FWA 060615
Same thing here. Taking a long look at an Eastern Towhee so I can compare to a Spotted Towhee next week in Colorado. Atterbury FWA 6/06/15
YBCH ATTERBURY FWA 060615
I heard numerous Yellow-breasted Chats on the day. Most were up and singing on territory. If you can call what they do singing. Atterbury FWA 6/06/15
YBCH ATTERBURY FWA 060615A
Same guy as above.
HOSP  FHS 060715A
I always find House Sparrows away from man interesting. But of course they really aren’t away from man because she is standing on a man-made bluebird house. FHS 6/06/15
HOSP  FHS 060715B
And the male house Sparrow wasn’t too far away. FHS 6/06/15
SASP FHS 060615A
There were several male Savannah Sparrows giving me their chip note to keep away. And I wasn’t even that close. I did learn their chip note though, which is a softer one than a Song Sparrow. FHS 6/06/15
SASP FHS 060615
Same bird as above.
YEWA JCP 060615
A Yellow Warbler flew in and decided to take a quick bath. Johnson County Park 6/06/15
NRWS JC 060715
And is there any doubt that the Northern Rough-winged Swallow was the prototype for every movie alien? Look at those eyes. East of Franklin – Johnson County
MIKI 061910
Maybe movie producers used Mississippi Kites instead? Ferne Clyffe SP IL 6/19/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indiana Audubon Society Field Trip to Atterbury FWA – April 26, 2014

OK, mark your calenders, or phones, or computers or whatever people are using now.  The Indiana Audubon Society is sponsoring a field trip to Atterbury Fish and Wildlife Area on  April 26, 2014. Doug Gray will be leading the trip and he has asked me to help him out.  Here is the link to the official notice.

http://www.indianaaudubon.org/Home/tabid/37/ctl/Details/Mid/409/ItemID/122/Default.aspx

In the 14 months since I have move here my total species count  for the Atterbury/Driftwood/Johnson County Park area is 184 species.  I consider Atterbury/Driftwood/Johnson County Park complex all one big park since they are all next to each other.  On the last week of April last year I saw 64 species and the first week of May 76.  And I was just out birding and not trying to run up any counts so I am sure there were more species present those days.  So you get the idea on the numbers that are possible.

Some of the highlights were Bell’s Vireo, Yellow-breasted Chat, and both Cuckoos.  Only heard Black-billed, darn-it.  The following 3 photos were all taken in the same area in Johnson County Park.  Besides the Bell’s I know of several spots that one can see Prairie Warbler and Yellow-breasted Chats in the area.

Bell's Vireo - Prairie Warbler - Johnson County Park 05/04/13
Bell’s Vireo – Prairie Warbler – Johnson County Park 05/04/13
Prairie Warbler - Johnson County Park 04/27/13
Prairie Warbler – Johnson County Park 04/27/13
Long distance photo of a Yellow-breasted Chat - Johnson County Park 04/27/13
Long distance photo of a Yellow-breasted Chat – Johnson County Park 04/27/13

Let me know if you a have any questions or if certain species are seen there that time of year.  I’ll post more as we get closer to the date.