Vested Yellow-rumped Warbler – Field Notes

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.

This cropped photo gives the idea of the pointed faces. The birds were darker and the lightening worse than this photo.

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.

The birds appeared to have a vest similar to an Olive-sided Flycatcher. Atterbury FWA June 2014

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?

Since I didn’t get a photo last weekend I didn’t think I’d write this post. But looking back I had photos of Yellow-rumped Warblers from the same weekend last year showing the vest.

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.

A Yellow-rumped Warbler in December. Not much of a vest.
Another winter bird. A light vest.
Vested Yellow-rumped Warbler
A shot of the bird from last April showing the heavy vest.

Another tidbit of information to put in my memory. And I wasn’t fooled this weekend.

SE Corner 2016 JC CBC Recap

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.

2016 JC CBC
The strangest encounter of the day was a Ring-billed Gull at Johnson County Park. We don’t see gulls in this area let alone on a frigid day??

At the park’s compost site we saw all the expected sparrows plus a little bit uncommon Field Sparrow.

The American Tree Sparrow were staying low out of the wind to feed. But what else was with them?
We kept thinking there was a Field Sparrow mixed in the flock. “You looking for me?”
Yep, 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.

No waterfowl but a Yellow-rumped Warbler showed nicely at Driftwood SWA.

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.

This is what snipe habitat looks like in the cold of winter. I would be heading south if I was a snipe…
The snipe area also had a Killdeer hidden in the weeds.

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.

Red-tailed Hawk Kiting – Weekend Highlight

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.

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But first, a Swamp Sparrow that was to be the highlight last week but traveling kept me from getting the blog out. Franklin Township Community Park 10/9/16
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Mike and I started at the local wet spot which is drying up quickly. Hopefully Sunday’s rain will make a difference. Urban Marion County 10/15/16

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.

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Before the park I stopped by the new semi-rural area. Not many sparrows but the local American Kestrel was present again. Semi-rural Marion County 10/15/16
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The new spot looks like a consistent spot for Eastern Meadowlarks. Next week Horned Larks? Semi-rural Marion County 10/15/16

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.

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Ruby-crowned Kinglets were present with this one showing a little of the Ruby. Franklin Township Community Park 10/15/16
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Once again Yellow-rumped Warblers were everywhere in the park. Franklin Township Community Park 10/15/16
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Nothing special but I liked the way this Mourning Dove was low to the ground hiding by the fence. Franklin Township Community Park 10/15/16

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!

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The Red-tailed Hawk stayed in this one position long enough for me to take several photos without it ever leaving the field of view. Meaning it never moved. Franklin Township Community Park 10/15/16
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I watched it for quite a while but it never did dive into the high grass for a meal. Franklin Township Community Park 10/15/16

Missing Canada Geese

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?

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The local wet area has no Canada Geese where previously there had been hundreds. Where did they go? But the remaining Great Egrets were still present. Urban Marion County 10/8/16

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!

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I’m guessing the Canada Geese have decided to roost in the local retention pond since the wet area has become too shallow. The count was the same as the wet area has been on previous weekends – 500. Urban Johnson County 10/8/16
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It wasn’t long before most of the geese headed to the fields. The noise didn’t seem to bother this Belted Kingfisher. Urban Johnson County 10/8/16

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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.

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After a half hour all of the Canada Geese went up in a panic. What would cause them to take flight? I never laid eyes on the cause but I know there are Bald Eagles that fly through. Urban Johnson County 10/8/16

The rest of the morning was searching for migrants. The new semi-rural site produced several raptures plus Vesper and Lincoln Sparrows.

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How come I’m never on the right side of the wind to capture American Kestrels hovering? Semi-rural Marion County 10/8/16

I noticed a definite drop in Blue Jays flying through with only one flock of 15.

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Ruby-crowned Kinglets were on the move both Saturday and Sunday. Franklin Township Community Park 10/9/16
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As were Yellow-rumped Warblers with 25 seen in a concentrated area. Franklin Township Community Park 10/9/16
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Showing off its signature ID. Franklin Township Community Park 10/9/16
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This Tennessee Warbler was the only warbler I stumbled across Sunday. Franklin Township Community Park 10/9/16

I’ll be back in the next post with photos of the Weekend Highlight.

Mainly Celery Bog Sunday

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.

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This is one of 3 Solitary Sandpipers hanging out in a flooded field south of Franklin. 3/16/16

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.

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I had to try a waterfowl shot with my new camera, this American Coot was the subject. Celery Bog, W. Lafayette 3/17/16
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Tree Swallows were numerous in the dead trees along the water’s edge. Celery Bog, W. Lafayette 3/17/16
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A few photos of the numerous Yellow-rumped Warblers. I don’t remember ever hearing them call as much as they did Sunday. Celery Bog, W. Lafayette 3/17/16
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Yellow-rumped Warbler
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Yellow-rumped Warbler

There were also a fair assortment of waterfowl and my FOS GREAT EGRET.

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A distant shot of a Great Egret to show the zoom capabilities. Celery Bog, W. Lafayette 3/17/16
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A zoomed shot of the egret, nowhere near the max zoom. Celery Bog, W. Lafayette 3/17/16

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.

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A Black-throated Green Warbler got my attention doing his zee zee zoo zee call. Celery Bog 3/17/16

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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.

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RSHA (19) Celery Bog
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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.

 

Mainly the Same but Not Quite

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”.

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I’ve used this photo before but it is one of the few Great Horned Owl photos I have and I feel I should post a photo since I’m talking about it. A sleeping Great Horned Owl from Middleton, WI. 10/11/09

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.

Passerines

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.

Various Driftwood SFA
I like this photo because it shows how similar in size different species can appear in the field. Cedar Waxwing (upper right), Eastern Bluebirds (center), and Yellow-rumped Warbler (lower-left). Lower center bird is another Cedar Waxwing. I really had never noticed that these different species seem similar in size. Driftwood SFA 11/07/15
DEJU EABL Driftwood SFA
And a comparison of Eastern Bluebird and Dark-eyed Junco. Driftwood SWA 11/07/15

Sibley lists the following sizes:

Eastern Bluebird – 7″

Cedar Waxwing – 7.25″

Yellow-rumped Warbler – 5.5″ (seems bigger, plump shape?)

Dark-eyed Junco – 6.25″

So not really all that close in size but puffed up in the early morning chill they can appear similar from a distance.

Other Species

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.

Other Photos

Beaver Driftwood SFA
Two beavers were working the north portion of the lake. I forget how big these guys are. Driftwood SWA 11/07/15
EABL Driftwood SFA
Two Eastern Bluebirds showing their color. Driftwood SWA 11/07/15
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A Great Blue Heron basking in the morning sunlight. Driftwood SWA 11/07/15
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A group of Grebes (say that 3 time fast) swimming away. Pied-billed Grebes at Driftwood SWA 11/07/15
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A beautiful fall morning to bird. Driftwood SWA 11/07/15

 

 

Yellow-rumpeds and a Bald Eagle

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.

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A Song Sparrow that hopped up out of the brush. Meijer Pond 10/25/15

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.

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The first of many Yellow-rumped Warblers encountered on the morning. Franklin Township Park 10/25/15

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They were in every type of bush or tree. Franklin Township Park 10/25/15
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This one even decided to show his yellow rump to the camera. Franklin Township Park 10/25/15

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.

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I’m guessing a third year Bald Eagle from amount of white on the head and tail. Franklin Township Park 10/25/15

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Not a great photo but I posted it to show how wide and “plank” looking are Bald Eagle wings. Franklin Township Park 10/25/15

So as always there is usually something interesting if you get out and look.