Rare Bird Alert!

This morning I went to Eagle Creek for the Sunday morning bird walk that Audubon Society members host every week. I am very happy that I did. I ended up with a daily tally of 34 species, including 5 lifers, 2 of which are considered rare in Indiana!

Red-Necked Phalarope

Red-Necked Phalarope

First on the lifer list is the Red-Necked Phalarope. These birds are technically a subfamily of sandpipers, but are unique in several ways. First, instead of running around on shore probing for invertebrates, they swim around like tiny ducks and spin in circles very quickly, kicking up lunch from the bottom of the water. Secondly, the females are much more brightly colored than males. This individual is in its winter plumage, so I am unsure of its sex. But Peterson describes it as “scarce inland” and eBird lists it as a rarity for this location!

The other rarity I was able to see was a Baird’s Sandpiper, which is distinguishable from all of the other sandpipers by the dark black chevron marks on its back. I was only able to see it through an older gentleman’s spotting scope, so it was much too far to even attempt a photograph. But it is also a rare Indiana bird, as verified by eBird and Peterson (who calls it “scarce in the east”).

American Woodcock

American Woodcock

Not a rare bird, but next on my life list is the American Woodcock. You are probably more likely to step on one rather than see it because their camouflage is so ridiculous. Luckily, this individual had been roosting in the same spot for two weeks, so the other birders knew exactly where to look for it.

Caspian Tern

Caspian Tern

The Caspian Tern was also a lifer. These are the largest terns in the world and are distinguishable by their huge orange bills and black crests. These two were chilling with the seagulls.

My final lifer for the day was a Red-Shouldered Hawk, and I was able to get a great up-close look at one. While circling around a marsh, I heard a bird’s distress call break the silence. After locating the bird, I was able to see that it was a Wood Duck that was caught on something, most likely fishing line. As it struggled to free itself, the hawk was attracted by its distress signal and swooped down low less than 20 yards in front of me. The hawk did not get the duck, though. After a few minutes, everything was quiet again and the Red-Shoulder settled in a tree. The wood duck was gone. I didn’t see it go under, but I think it was most likely taken down by a snapping turtle. So it goes.

Final count for the day:
1.) American Crow
2.) Double-Crested Cormorant
3.) Great Blue Heron
4.) Mallard
5.) White-Breasted Nuthatch
6.) Northern Cardinal
7.) Carolina Chickadee
8.) Tufted Titmouse
9.) American Goldfinch
10.) Caspian Tern (lifer #1!)
11.) Mourning Dove
12.) Osprey
13.) Great Egret
14.) Song Sparrow
15.) Gray Catbird
16.) Canada Goose
17.) American Woodcock (lifer #2!)
18.) Killdeer
19.) Bald Eagle
20.) Barn Swallow
21.) Chimney Swift
22.) Baird’s Sandpiper (lifer #3!)
23.) Ring-Billed Gull
24.) Red-Necked Phalarope (lifer #4!)
25.) Blue Jay (vocalization)
26.) Downy Woodpecker
27.) Wood Duck
28.) Green Heron
29.) Eastern Bluebird
30.) Red-Shouldered Hawk (lifer #5!)
31.) Yellow Warbler (vocalization)
32.) American Robin
33.) Cedar Waxwing
34.) Pileated Woodpecker (vocalization)


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