Morgantown, WV

Over Memorial Day Weekend, Jaime and I had the opportunity to spend a few days in West Virginia visiting my grandparents. In between old family stories and more than a few good meals, we were able to check out the Core Arboretum on the campus of WVU to do some hiking and birding. I didn’t get any new lifers, but we were able to see many birds much more commonly in the hills than we get in Indiana. Among the biggest highlight was a Wild Turkey stumbling around in the underbrush. We also got the chance to see some much more common birds at the feeders in my grandparents’ yard and around the neighborhood.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

This Northern Cardinal was framed by the deck posts. I don’t give Cardinals enough attention because of how common they are, and it is also worth noting that the Northern Cardinal is the state bird of every state I have ever lived in (chronologically: North Carolina, West Virginia, Ohio, Virginia, and Indiana).

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Blue Jays ruled the roost at the feeder. They were also seen in quantities unheard of in our home city.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

This Northern Flicker was seen at the Arboretum. Flickers are the weird cousins of the woodpecker family, as they like to spend a lot of the time on the ground, where they smash ants and rub them all over their bodies. They also have very dapper handlebar mustaches.

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

We did see MoDos in Morgantown, but this photo was actually taken at a stop in Columbus on our way to West Virginia. For a while, there was some confusion in our household over the possibility of these birds actually being owls because of the calls that they make.

Fort Harrison State Park

Today was my first birding day post-degree, so I spent about four hours wandering around Fort Harrison State Park in Lawrence, Indiana. It wasn’t a great day for photos, but I got two lifers (Hooded Warbler and Red-Eyed Vireo!) on my tally of 37 species identified.

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting

I saw about three times as many Indigo Buntings at Fort Harrison as I have on every other day of my life combined. The jamboree began immediately, as one of these was the very first bird I saw as I was still in my car driving to the trail head.

Indigo Bunting (Female)

Indigo Bunting (Female)

This is a female. Mother Nature is sexist.

Northern Rough-Winged Swallow

Northern Rough-Winged Swallow

Some Northern Rough-Winged Swallows perched high in a tree by a lake and were very good sports about having their pictures taken.

Red-Eyed Vireo

Red-Eyed Vireo

While on the theme of drab-looking birds, here is the lone photo of a lifer that I was able to get. This is a Red-Eyed Vireo, which I actually heard the entire day without realizing what they were because they are loud and monotonous in their song, but like to hide up in treetops and don’t have any distinguishing physical features. Finally, as I was getting back into my car one sang right above my head and stayed long enough to let me take this.

It would also like to say that since I was able to bag my first Black-Throated Green Warbler and Scarlet Tanager last week, I saw them everywhere today. Maybe my eye is now trained to spot them, but I saw two separate Scarlet Tanagers and dozens and dozens of Black-Throated Green Warblers. If this pattern holds, I will see many more Vireos and Hooded Warblers on my next outing.

Tally for the day (in order of appearance):
1.) Indigo Bunting
2.) Song Sparrow (vocalization only)
3.) Carolina Chickadee
4.) American Robin
5.) Scarlet Tanager
6.) Northern Cardinal
7.) Brown-Headed Cowbird
8.) Black-Throated Green Warbler
9.) Blue Jay
10.) Tufted Titmouse
11.) Common Grackle
12.) Barn Swallow
13.) American Goldfinch
14.) Cedar Waxwing
15.) Eastern Towhee
16.) Eastern Bluebird
17.) Great Blue Heron
18.) White-Throated Sparrow (vocalization only)
19.) Baltimore Oriole
20.) House Wren
21.) Chipping Sparrow
22.) Hairy Woodpecker
23.) Hooded Warbler (lifer!)
24.) Red-Bellied Woodpecker
25.) Downy Woodpecker
26.) Pileated Woodpecker
27.) White-Breasted Nuthatch
28.) Eastern Wood Pewee
29.) Northern Flicker
30.) Canada Goose
31.) Northern Rough-Winged Swallow
32.) Chimney Swift
33.) Red-Winged Blackbird
34.) Mourning Dove (vocalization only)
35.) Brown Thrasher
36.) Gray Catbird
37.) Red-Eyed Vireo (lifer!)

Birding Flashback: Dallas, TX 2007

Right after I graduated from Ohio State (actually, one week before I graduated), I started working for a company called American Woodmark that is based in Virginia. Their rookie training program had me jumping around all over most of the Southeast, with a stay in Dallas in August of 2007. I quickly found the city’s best hot spot for birds and spent a few afternoons there. Looking back, I wonder how much better the birding would have been with nicer weather (we had two straight weeks of 95+ degree heat with humidity, immediately followed by Hurricane Erin). But nonetheless, I had many lifers at White Rock Lake on the east side of downtown. Observe:

Great-Tailed Grackle

Great-Tailed Grackle

Upon disembarking from my flight and stepping foot on Texan soil outside of DFW, I saw several of these birds, went “Whoa!” and immediately dug my camera out of my suitcase to take pictures right there in the airport parking lot. I had never seen them before, so naturally I was excited. I probably could have waited a little while to paparazzi them, though, because it turns out that in Texas, Great-Tailed Grackles are about as common as Pigeons. Oh well.

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird

Another lifer for me was the Western Kingbird that I saw once I got to White Rock Lake. This gentleman remains the only individual of the species I have ever seen.

Monk Parakeet

Monk Parakeet

As I made my way to the northern side of the lake, I heard the biggest racket created by hundreds and hundreds of these Monk Parakeets. After going back to the hotel to look up this bird (obviously not in my field guide), I was able to identify them and also learn that the population in Dallas goes beyond escaped and feral pets. The colony is well-established, with most of the birds likely being born in the wild. They have also become a nuisance animal, building huge stick nests on utility poles that occasionally catch on fire.

American Coot

American Coot

The common American Coot presented a good photo opportunity.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

As did the much less common (for a northerner) Snowy Egret. I am, however, at a loss as to what species of turtle that is.

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

The lake also harbored one of the densest swallow populations I have ever seen.

Purple Martin

Purple Martin

So I tried to get artistic with my photography. I still wish I had tried to get an actual photo of the Purple Martins.

Election Day at Eagle Creek

As government employees, Jaime and I get Election Day off. So Jaime used the occasion to plan a celebratory graduation adventure day that consisted of, among other things, seeing The Avengers and going to lunch at the Historic Steer Inn. But for me the highlight of the day was 3 relaxing hours of birding with my wife at Eagle Creek Park on the west side of Indianapolis. I thought I had a productive day this past weekend, but today beat it easily: 30 species seen, including FOUR lifers.

It also marked the first time I encountered a truly rare bird. Well, we didn’t actually see it. But we did run across dozens of people scanning the islands of the bird sanctuary’s lake, scouring the flocks of roosting Double-Crested Cormorants for one solitary Neotropic Cormorant among them, which is only the second individual of that species ever recorded in the state of Indiana. Even without logging one of those, I had a great birding day nonetheless. Here are some pictures.

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager (lifer!). After being really pumped about seeing my first Summer Tanager on Saturday, I was high-fiving Jaime when I completed the set with this Scarlet Tanager, who we probably would have missed if not for the tip from a fellow birder there for the Neotropic Cormorant. We also saw this little guy’s wife, but I couldn’t get a photo of her.

Black-Throated Green Warbler

Black-Throated Green Warbler (lifer!). I am still enough of a novice that pretty much any Warbler I can definitely ID is a lifer for me. This guy was no exception, and Jaime and I watched him for about 15 minutes. We were only able to identify him after consulting Roger Tory Peterson when we got home.

Orchard Oriole

Orchard Oriole (lifer!). I only got to take one photo of this guy before he flew off. Good thing it turned out great!

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler (lifer!). Enjoy this photo of a Prothonotary Warbler’s butt. This was my last lifer of the day, and his ID was again secret until we got home. I would like to note that he was much more orange in the face than the field guide would have lead me to believe.

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole. Since I’m on a theme of orange birds.

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole. As an added bonus, we were able to spot a female in her nest!

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird. I’m now officially out of orange.

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird. I like these guys a lot.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow. Iridescent and turquoise, a pair of these guys may or may not have attacked us as we got too close to their nest box.

Official tally for the day (in order of appearance):
1.) Mallard
2.) Canada Goose
3.) American Crow
4.) Red-Bellied Woodpecker
5.) Northern Cardinal
6.) Blue Jay
7.) Yellow-Rumped Warbler
8.) Brown-Headed Cowbird
9.) Carolina Chickadee
10.) Great Blue Heron
11.) Downy Woodpecker (vocalization only)
12.) Black-Throated Green Warbler (lifer!)
13.) American Goldfinch
14.) White-Breasted Nuthatch (vocalization only)
15.) Tufted Titmouse
16.) Double-Crested Cormorant
17.) Scarlet Tanager (lifer!)
18.) American Coot
19.) Yellow Warbler
20.) Song Sparrow
21.) Baltimore Oriole
22.) Gray Catbird
23.) Orchard Oriole (lifer!)
24.) Red-Winged Blackbird
25.) Cedar Waxwing
26.) Tree Swallow
27.) Eastern Kingbird
28.) Mourning Dove
29.) Prothonotary Warbler (lifer!)
30.) Eastern Bluebird

Birding Holliday Park

Now that I am done with school (forever!), I will hopefully be birding more frequently. I even bought a new Nikon Coolpix L810 to replace my dead Canon especially for the cause. For my inaugural post-master’s bird hike, this morning I ventured to Holliday Park, which is a large city park with hiking trails and cool ruins that is only about two miles from home. I made a good decision, because I identified 28 species and heard and saw probably a dozen others that I couldn’t pin down. I also managed to get some good photos from the brand new camera.

The first interesting bird of the day was a bright red streak that I saw dart below a shrub off to my right almost directly inside of the entrance gate. I made a mental note of “Cardinal” and instead turned my attention to whatever small unidentifiable bird was singing from a treetop overhead, with the hope that it would be some kind of new Warbler. It eventually left me without a positive ID, so I continued down the path, only to see the Cardinal again. I figured I might as well try to get a picture since it was posing for me so nicely in a locust tree up ahead. As I zoomed in, I realized that it did not have a black mask, it did not have a crest, and it had a thin yellow beak, which made it a Summer Tanager, not a Northern Cardinal.

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager

This was really exciting for a few reasons. First, these birds are relatively uncommon, usually preferring to fly around woodland treetops eating bees, and central Indiana is in the extreme northern extent of their range. Second, I had never seen one before. Third, despite never seeing one, I knew exactly what it was and didn’t have to look to see if it was a Summer or a Scarlet Tanager, which made me proud of my birding skills.

The only other bird that exciting for me was the enormous Pileated Woodpecker that flew down and perched in a small tree about 30 feet from me. I scrambled for my camera, took one blurry picture, then was told I was “out of memory.” After deleting a few pictures of more common birds to make room, the Pileated flew away, of course.

Some birds I did get pictures of include these Canada Geese on the White River:

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

This Gray Catbird yodeling from the top of a tree:

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

An Eastern Bluebird towards the middle of the lawn:

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

And these three Brown-Headed Cowbirds out of about 17 billion in the park that day:

Brown-Headed Cowbird

Brown-Headed Cowbird

My full count for the day, in order of appearance, included:
1.) American Robin
2.) Eastern Wood Pewee
3.) Red-Bellied Woodpecker
4.) Brown-Headed Cowbird
5.) White-Breasted Nuthatch
6.) White-Throated Sparrow (vocalization only)
7.) Chipping Sparrow
8.) Tufted Titmouse
9.) American Goldfinch
10.) Mallard
11.) Gray Catbird
12.) Northern Cardinal
13.) Summer Tanager (lifer!)
14.) Common Grackle
15.) House Sparrow
16.) Downy Woodpecker
17.) Eastern Bluebird
18.) Mourning Dove (vocalization only)
19.) Song Sparrow
20.) Canada Goose
21.) Carolina Wren
22.) Blue Jay (vocalization only)
23.) Pileated Woodpecker
24.) Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
25.) Carolina Chickadee
26.) House Finch
27.) Turkey Vulture
28.) European Starling