Spring Waterfowl

Wednesday was my last day at my old job, and Thursday was a day devoted to packing up the house for the impending move. And birding. I had my best day of waterfowl so far at Eagle Creek, and spring migration is in full force for ducks and grebes.

#066 Bufflehead

#066 Bufflehead

A new duck for me, and year bird #066, was the Bufflehead. In addition to having an awesome name, these ducks are one of the smallest in North America. A large raft of them was easily visible from the viewing deck at the Eagle Creek Ornithology Center. Other first-of-the-year birds for me were #067 Pied-Billed Grebe and #068 (and lifer) Red-Breasted Merganser.

#068 Horned Grebe

#069 Horned Grebe

Year bird #069 was this very cooperative Horned Grebe, a bird I had only seen one previous time several years ago outside of Wilmington, NC.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

A duck that I already have on my year list but is great nonetheless is the Hooded Merganser. There were at least a dozen floating close to the observation deck, allowing for good photo ops.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Another sign of spring was this pair of flirting Belted Kingfishers. They kept chasing each other around and making their high-pitched rattling call. I believe the male is on the right. It was a good thing these two were so preoccupied with each other, because Kingfishers are usually not tolerant of a close approach.

March Birding

I apologize for the delay between updates. I have become rather busy between getting a new job, preparing to move to a new city, and buying a first home. Also, Jaime and I are expecting the first chick in our nest in August. So no matter how many birds I see, 2013 will definitely be a big year.

Before making the drive to Fort Wayne to go look at houses this past weekend, I was able to make some time for Eagle Creek, and my first birding day in March proved to be incredibly successful. I finished with 31 species for the day, which is definitely a high so far this year. Eight of those were ducks, four were lifers, and one was a bona fide rarity. I now have 65 birds in Indiana this year, 15 of which have been completely new to me.

#062 Northern Pintail

#062 Northern Pintail

The lake behind the Eagle Creek Ornithology Center was like an international airport with all of the take-offs and landings of water fowl. Spring migration is definitely in full force for ducks. I was fortunate enough to see these sleek Northern Pintails for my 62nd bird of the year. They were also one of my life birds for the day.

#063 Long-Tailed Duck

#063 Long-Tailed Duck

Year bird #063 and a lifer as well was the above-pictured Long-Tailed Duck. This bird spends its summers in the high Arctic and its winters in the open ocean, so seeing one this far inland is definitely not an everyday experience. Ebird qualifies this as a “rare” bird for Indiana, and I was indeed aware of its presence thanks to the IN-Bird-L listserv. I didn’t go to Eagle Creek with specific hopes of finding it; I only decided that if I happened to see it, then my trip would be that much better. So when I pulled into the parking lot to see two other birders scoping the lake, I decided to investigate. I got busy documenting the other ducks (Mallard, Ring-Necked Duck, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Redhead, Northern Pintail, and year bird #064 and lifer Green-Winged Teal), when suddenly the Long-Tailed Duck swooped down after only 20 minutes and landed within the range of my camera’s lens. I was able to snap the one photo above right as my batteries died, which is fortunate, because the duck left only moments later. With the several times I have dipped on rarities, I was definitely in the right place at the right time for this bird.

My final lifer on the day and year bird #065 was a Golden-Crowned Kinglet, a bird I had been trying to track down all winter. I wasn’t able to get a photo, much like the above-mentioned Green-Winged Teal, but that bird ended a highly productive day. From what I understand, neotropical migrants should soon be showing themselves in Indiana, so I am looking forward to my list really taking off in the next month.