I’m still fooled by birds, especially when they aren’t in their proper clothing. And this time of year is when I’m fooled most. Especially by winter birds turning into their summer clothes. This was the case the last weekend when I was in doubt over a couple of vested Yellow-rumped Warbler.
Walking through Atterbury’s woods a pair of birds kept showing only straight-on head shots or slightly from the side. Small, grayish birds with pointed faces.
The birds kept working their way through the trees keeping very quiet. Not helping me there. Then they started to show a glimpse of a dark vest, similar to an Olive-sided Flycatcher.
I kept wracking my brain what it could be??
My thoughts were of … Maybe Cerulean Warbler since these birds appeared bluish in the light. Though the habitat was correct it was too early in the spring. And they were more dark than blue.
An early Eastern Wood-Pewee with a deep vest? Doubtful.
Finally one of the birds turned and showed a yellow rump.
Vested Yellow-rumped Warbler!
How could I have been fooled?
A few paragraphs ago I stated being unsure because of bad lighting and poor looks. But the truth is I didn’t remember or didn’t know Yellow-rumped Warblers wear a heavy, dark vest this time of year.
So how was I fooled?
Probably becasue I’m use to seeing Yellow-rumped Warblers in their winter garb before they head north. They are much lighter colored and show just a hint of a vest.
Another tidbit of information to put in my memory. And I wasn’t fooled this weekend.
I enjoy reading well written CBC recaps. You know the kind where the compiler takes the time to give an overview of the weather conditions, compare totals to other years, gives high or lows for each species, and misses and gains. Why are there so few written when there are so many CBC’s? Then again why are most reports a picture and few words on FB? Another topic to lament.
Mike will be compiling the total recap for the 2016 JC CBC but the numbers should be above average for the complete count. The groups saw several species we usually miss or see every few years. Plus there was waterfowl on Lamb Lake for the first time in several years.
Now for the SE Corner of the 2016 JC CBC which Megan and I have covered this territory the last several years. The area entrails Johnson County Park, the public side of Atterbury FWA, Driftwood SFA, and Irwin Park in Edinburgh.
We weren’t sure there was even going to be a count because the weather was predicted to be cold, which wasn’t the problem. But a slight coating of ice was also expected. Which we did get. But the main roads were heavily salted and weren’t a problem.
I was out by 6AM and owling by 6:45. I no sooner turned the Eastern-screech Owl recording on and one was within 10 feet. Probably the easiest one I ever called in. Then on to the Great Horned Owl area and it was apparent the side roads were going to be a problem.
I stopped and let hunters drive by and debated if I really wanted to try for Great Horned or not. Seeing as I still had an hour to sunrise and it was Sunday morning, I figured if I took my time I could manage the two miles on ice. Going 15mph the roads were manageable.
This proved to be one of the best birding choices I ever made.
Finally arriving at the location I stood outside the car for 25 minutes listening for the Great Horned Owls to call. I don’t know if it was the wind or weather but I never heard them calling. First time in 5 years I have missed them.
Ten minutes from the listed sunrise of 8AM I decided to get my bagel out of the lunchbox in the back seat. I get the bagel and turn to get into the driver seat.
Not 50 yards away I see a Great Horned Owl fly into a group of pines.
I have listened to this Great Horned Owl many times over the years and have even seen it a couple of times on telephone pole, but now I’m pretty sure I know where it roosts.
And those few seconds of seeing the owl fly into the pines is what keeps me getting up and going birding every chance I get.
We got started late since Megan had issues since her area had even worse roads. We finally started in Johnson County Park where we saw the strangest bird of the day.
At the park’s compost site we saw all the expected sparrows plus a little bit uncommon Field Sparrow.
We continued on over the frozen roads picking up a few species here and there. There was zero on the water at Driftwood SFA.
Mike had seen a Winter Wren at Irwin Park earlier in the week and sure enough it was there Sunday. But it didn’t stay still long enough for any photos for Mike or us. Canada Geese were seen which were the only waterfowl on the day.
After lunch I stopped by the Wilson Snipe area where I flushed three.
Megan and I ended up with 38 species which is just below the territory’s 4-year average of 39. The Field Sparrow was the only new species added. We saw another lone Ring-billed Gull a few years ago so this year was not the first. Frozen ponds led to notable misses of Mallard and Great Blue Heron. Otherwise we saw the expected species in the expected numbers.
After a week of traveling for work I stayed close to home birding. This is rather miss-leading since I would stay close to home for birding anyway. I saw a few migrants but the highlight was watching a Red-tailed Hawk kiting into a southerly wind.
On to the local retaining ponds that still don’t have any new waterfowl. We did see a few sparrows – mainly Song but a Lincoln’s and Savannah were mixed in.
Mike headed out and I continued on to the local park for an afternoon of birding.
The park held several migrants including my FOS Golden-crowned Kinglet and Brown Creeper. A getting kind of late Black-throated Green Warbler was in a moving mixed flock.
The highlight of the day was watching a Red-tailed Hawk kiting motionless into a 20mph wind. It was amazing how long it stayed hanging in one spot!
Since the last couple of weekends were warm and hazy which didn’t allow for photos it was good the weather changed to cold, clear, and windy. Maybe a little too cool since I wore long underwear Saturday but at least I could take photos without wondering if they would be too dark.
Saturday started out by checking if any Great Egrets were still at the local wet area. Sure enough there are still seven there, along with Blue-winged Teal and shorebirds, but missing Canada Geese? I was there long before sunrise and they weren’t flying away as I approached. Past weekends there have been up to 500 geese present before sunrise waiting to fly off to feed. Like in early September when I posted about their early morning flight. Where can that many geese go?
After an hour of counting Killdeer and seeing if the local Cooper’s Hawk would make a second pass for breakfast, I headed to the retaining ponds to see if any new waterfowl had moved in with the passing front.
And that answered where the missing Canada Geese had gone!
After the Canada Geese left I stayed to see what else might be around the ponds. I could see the geese in the fields feeding in the recently harvested corn fields.
The rest of the morning was searching for migrants. The new semi-rural site produced several raptures plus Vesper and Lincoln Sparrows.
I noticed a definite drop in Blue Jays flying through with only one flock of 15.
I’ll be back in the next post with photos of the Weekend Highlight.
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.
I have admittedly been doing too much easy birding. Getting started later and later on Saturday mornings and not staying out as long. And as my last post suggested, I was blaming the consistent weather for the SAMENESS of the birds. Maybe the amount of traveling I did for work in October contributed, but I was in a rut.
Time for a change. So I decided I needed a day of birding like I used to do every Saturday to break the rut. Make a plan, up early, and get out the door. See what’s out there. So that is what I did.
Pre-Sunrise – Great Horned Owl
I started an hour before sunrise and drove the road south of Franklin to see if the GREAT HORNED OWL was on its usual telephone poll. And sure enough silhouetted in the glow of the town lights it sat. I drove by and stopped a little further down the road to look back. We watched each other for a bit before the owl decided I might be trouble and flew off to the woods to the east.
And with one exception that was how the day would go. Many of the expected birds were on their “spots”.
Sunrise/Early Morning – Ring-billed Gull
The first few hours of the day were spent at Driftwood SFA. And as usual it had birds in the trees plus birds in the air. The first bird I saw on the morning was a RING-BILLED GULL. Not that unusual elsewhere but uncommon in basically waterless Johnson County as seen by this being only my second sighting this year. I assume it had been following the adjacent Flatrock River.
A little later I saw a juvenile BALD EAGLE which was definetly following the river’s course.
Not any unexpected passerines at Driftwood. The day startled at sunrise with EASTERN BLUEBIRDS, CEDAR WAXWINGS, YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS, and DARK-EYED JUNCOS in the same tree.
So not really all that close in size but puffed up in the early morning chill they can appear similar from a distance.
Over the next couple of hours I would see my first non-Mallard/Wood Duck waterfowl of the fall – RING-NECKED DUCKS. And I ended up with a slightly uncommon YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER, my first in Johnson County for the year.
I ended up having a productive two hours at Driftwood which says something about getting up and out the door.
In a couple of days I’ll post about my late morning and early afternoon adventures. And some changes at Laura Hare Nature Preserve.
This past weekend was busy to start but died down quickly. Mike and I headed to Southwestway Park to see if we could pick up any migrants. We parked cars at each end of the park allowing us to walk the length of the park without having to double back. We would be walking through a part of the park I hadn’t seen before. So hopefully a little bit of bushwhacking.
The first few yards along the southern end of the park was rather birder. Our goal was Golden-crowned Kinglets. A bird I thought I hadn’t seen yet this year. Have I mentioned my year on species has been a little slow? Anyway I later checked and had seen one on the Muscatatuck Christmas Bird Count on Jan 1.
And we did see numerous Golden-crowned Kinglets and several Ruby-crowned along the road. We also had White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows. But on the main walk along the bluff it was slow. So I was glad we did the cars the way we did. Just a few Yellow-rumped Warblers on the hour and half walk. On the north end we saw the first of fall Fox Sparrows. And the overcast skies didn’t lend itself to photos.
We did the car switch which put us back at the Southern edge of the park. Mike left and I went back along the road hoping for a few pictures in slightly better light. And of course it turned out to be much quieter than earlier. But watching a couple of Song Sparrows an Orange-crowned Warbler popped out. Since I have very few I was busy talking into my voice recorder to confirm the ID. And the ID comes first. So no picture. Sorry.
I had a little time Sunday morning so I did the local patches. Sparrows were numerous around Meijer Pond along with a few Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers.
I then headed to Franklin Township Park for the usual one hour loop.
And there were Yellow-rumped Warblers everywhere.
Others record these type of numbers but I haven’t seen this many in a long time. There were 2 or 3 in every bush and tree around the small pond.
Otherwise it was quiet until I reached the car around 10:45. I noticed a lone Turkey Vulture flying to the north. With the naked eye it didn’t seem right. I got the binoculars back out of the car and took a look. Sure enough. Turkey Vulture. But there was a second one and it banked and the plank wing pattern said it wasn’t a Turkey Vulture.
It was a younger Bald Eagle circling on the mid-morning winds. Earlier this year I had seen 2 adult Bald Eagles chasing each other here. So I knew they were around.
So as always there is usually something interesting if you get out and look.