Before I get into this post, I will start by saying that despite my lack of blogging, I have been actively birding. Last week gave me birds 048 Red-Winged Blackbird, 049 Turkey Vulture, and 050 Red-Breasted Nuthatch. No photos, but still getting check marks on my list.
Now onto this weekend. I took the hour drive south to Monroe County with specific intentions to check out the Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve, which is a rather new network of trails and boardwalks in a low-lying area surrounded by hills.
After taking a few wrong roads (because they don’t tend to label them way out in the country), I arrived at the preserve, which is mostly reclaimed agricultural fields. This is what most of it looks like. It is a relatively unique habitat, and the marshy ground hosts shrubs and saplings that harbor Red-Winged Blackbirds, Eastern Bluebirds, and American Goldfinches in great numbers. It was also beneficial that the ground was frozen, otherwise much of the area would have been an impassable mud pit. This habitat was great for birding, but it was not the star of the show.
The reason I came was for the hardwood swamp. The mighty combination of beavers and time created this mini ecosystem, which contains the preferred dead tree habitat of my target species of the weekend…
The Red-Headed Woodpecker was the seventh and final woodpecker on my Indiana list (not to mention bird #051 on my year list). I had only ever seen one before in my life, but Beanblossom Bottoms abounded with them. They were by far the most common bird I saw that day, which was kind of surprising considering how absent they have been from every other place I have been birding in the state. That is probably because of their habitat, though. Living in Indianapolis, it’s not every day that I can make it to a good, old-fashioned swamp. In any case, I don’t think they were excited to see me. Check out the dirty look that the one pictured above was giving me as I invaded his privacy to take photos.
Another bird, though somewhat unexpected, was also worth my while. Year bird #052 (and a lifer as well) was the Swamp Sparrow. There were two of these running in and out of brush cover, making it almost impossible for me to identify them, let alone get a picture. I was glad that I brought my field guide, because I was ultimately able to ID them from a combination of field marks (reddish crown, grayish chest), chip note, and habitat (I was standing in the middle of a swamp, after all).
The last bird of my trip was a Bald Eagle, although I didn’t realize it. From one of the observation platforms, I saw a nest high in a tree several hundred yards away. I thought it would make a good picture, so at full zoom I took the photo above. It was only after I got home that I noticed a Bald Eagle actually sitting in it. Though Bald Eagle is already on my year list, I was happy to get this shot, because it validated my nest identification skills.