Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary

I eagerly watched eBird all week for signs of the continuation of Evening Grosbeaks at the Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary in Connersville, about an hour and a half east of Indianapolis. After seeing no updates, I impatiently asked on the Indiana Birding Facebook group if they were still there, and I was met with an affirmative answer! So the first thing I did on Saturday (after cleaning the house and walking the dog) was to pack up and go bird.

I pulled up to the parking lot right at 9:00, and a gentlemen approached my car and asked if I was looking for the Grosbeaks. He turned out to be the resident manager of the sanctuary, and he brought me to the glassed-in porch behind his home where dozens of common feeder birds were feasting on sunflower seeds. I only had to wait about five minutes before the giant yellow beasts showed up, and I owe him life bird #187 and year bird #042! (Thank you!)

Evening Grosbeak

#042 Evening Grosbeak

Evening Grosbeaks only appear irregularly during the winter in Indiana, and sometimes they don’t show up at all. To be able to see them so easily and at such close range was just awesome. This is just another bird in the great bounty of this winter’s huge irruption.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

#044 Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Year bird #044 was this Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker that was banging away on a pine tree on one of the sanctuary’s many trails. I wasn’t expecting to see this woodpecker until after I had encountered the much more common Hairy Woodpecker, but to date, the Hairy is the most notable absence on my year list.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Continuing the theme of woodpeckers was a Downy Woodpecker, a species that I had previously seen this year. Because they are everywhere.

House Finch

House Finch

Another of the already seen and common birds was the House Finch. This one swooped in after the Grosbeaks left and started noshing on seeds. For those keen observers keeping track at home, year bird #043 was this guy’s friend, a Purple Finch, that was hanging out with the flock, but I did not get his photo.

Dark-Eyed Junco

Dark-Eyed Junco

For good measure, here is another common winter bird, the Dark-Eyed Junco.

Since this was the last weekend of January, my total for the month will most likely stay at 44 birds, unless something unexpected lands on my head or I finally see a Hairy Woodpecker around my neighborhood.

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Ducks

Yesterday was one of the best days for birding so far this year. It was sunny and in the 50s, and the ice at Eagle Creek is gone (for now anyway, we’re supposed to have a high of 19 on Tuesday). The ducks were out in full force enjoying the weather.

Mallard

Mallard

Mallards were the dominant species of the day like usual, but I realized I have never bothered to take a picture of them. So to be fair despite their commonness, here you go.

Common Goldeneye

Common Goldeneye

Also abundant were Common Goldeneyes, my life bird from last week. They did not like being watched, and the best photo I could get was of one duck who was preoccupied with fighting off Ring-Billed Gulls and did not notice my approach.

Hooded Merganser

#038 Hooded Merganser

Year bird #038 and a lifer as well were these Hooded Mergansers. The male of this species is possibly the coolest looking waterfowl I have ever seen. He kept raising and lowering his crest to show off. The ladies loved it, as evidenced in the photo above.

American Black Duck

#040 American Black Duck

Had I not been on the lookout specifically for ducks, I very well might have overlooked the flock of American Black Ducks hanging out near the mudflats at the far north edge of the park. At first glance, they look like the Mallards that they tend to socialize with. Year bird #040 and a lifer as well (bringing my life list to 186).

Other birds seen this week for the first time in 2013 were #037 Eastern Meadowlark (seen at the Indianapolis Regional Airport on Friday afternoon), #039 Great Blue Heron (seen alongside the duck action at Eagle Creek), and #041 Red-Shouldered Hawk (two of which I wouldn’t have seen if they weren’t busy screaming at each other in the woods at Eagle Creek).

January 12th Update

Well, the year is 3.2% over, and I am at 14.4% of my goal! Don’t worry, I am not actually tracking my progress that way. I just wanted to post a quick update for the birds I have seen this week. I didn’t get any pictures, but the birds to put me at the three dozen mark are: 030 Northern Mockingbird, 031 House Finch, 032 Mallard, 033 Ring-Billed Gull, 034 Bald Eagle, 035 Common Goldeneye (lifer!), and 036 American Kestrel.

Sparrow Fest 2013

Instead of going off to some exotic location to single out a specific bird, I went to Eagle Creek here in Indy this morning. I had intentions of bulking up my year list, but since it is still outstandingly cold and most of the water in the reservoir was frozen over, things were pretty slow. It was, however, a great day for sparrows:

#026 White-Throated Sparrow

#026 White-Throated Sparrow

#028 Fox Sparrow

#028 Fox Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

The Fox Sparrow is life bird #183 for me! I also had a few other year birds today: #024 American Goldfinch, #025 American Coot, #027 Northern Shoveler, and #029 Pileated Woodpecker.

Sparrow Party

Sparrow Party

I’ll leave you with a shot of the whole gang together. From left to right: Song Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, and Northern Cardinal (which you might already know is not a sparrow).

 

 

 

 

Quick Update

Today after work I stopped at the Indianapolis Regional Airport to chase some birds that had been reported there: Horned Lark, Lapland Longspur, and Snow Bunting. I only got the Lark, but in addition to being year bird #022, it is lifer #182 for me! Also this week, I have seen birds #021 Rock Pigeon and #023 Red-Tailed Hawk. And there are still dozens and dozens of incredibly common birds I have yet to see.

#022 Horned Lark

#022 Horned Lark

I think Horned Larks are awesome. It looks like they are wearing little luchadore masks.

Chasing Rarities

The Varied Thrush is a striped orange and gray bird that is usually found in the humid forests of the Pacific Northwest. So naturally, to have one turn up in Indiana is pretty uncommon, and two is pretty spectacular! That is exactly what is going on right now: one Varied Thrush has been reported from Evansville, and another Varied Thrush has been reported from Lafayette. I figured that the perfect way to start my Big Year was to go after this bird and get a true rarity on day one. I chose the one in Lafayette, since Evansville is a three-hour drive from home even when there is not a level-2 snow emergency.

Having just gotten home, I can safely report that the Varied Thrush probably showed up right after I left. I am sure eBird will verify this for me later. No rarity, no lifer, and nothing spectacular to start the Big Year. Oh well.

I do think it’s pretty appropriate that the first bird I saw this year was the state bird of Indiana, the always reliable Northern Cardinal. Bird #001 was seen while taking the dog out this morning. The rest of the year birds are as follows: 002 American Robin, 003 American Crow, 004 European Starling, 005 Canada Goose, 006 Tufted Titmouse, 007 Carolina Chickadee, 008 White-Breasted Nuthatch, 009 Carolina Wren, 010 Downy Woodpecker, 011 Blue Jay, 012 Song Sparrow, 013 Belted Kingfisher, 014 Brown Creeper, 015 Dark-Eyed Junco, 016 American Tree Sparrow, 017 Red-Bellied Woodpecker, 018 House Sparrow, 019 Eastern Bluebird, and 020 Mourning Dove.

#014 Brown Creeper

#014 Brown Creeper

I probably could have gotten a much, much larger list on day one had I stuck to the basics and went somewhere I know well, but I’ll chalk this up as a learning experience. And hey, if I didn’t make the hour drive up to Lafayette, I never would have gotten this exact picture of a Brown Creeper!