Terrible Photos of Pretty Good Birds

First, I’d like to say that if anyone has traveled here thanks to the shout out that I got from 10,000 birds, thank you!

I went looking for migrants in Fort Wayne this weekend, but with all of the flooding that we have right now it wasn’t easy. I made a quick stop at Eagle Marsh looking for rails and warblers, but it was mostly inaccessible from high water so I didn’t find much beyond year bird #092 Barn Swallow (#091 Chimney Swift was seen earlier in the week at Lakeside Park).

Somewhat discouraged, I headed to Fox Island. But the road was flooded, so I had to turn around.

My next stop was Franke Park, where I had substantially better luck. New year birds were #093 Gray Catbird, #094 Winter Wren, and #095 Northern Rough-Winged Swallow. I did not get photographs of any of them.

Later in the day, a tip from IN-Bird-L let me know about a Cattle Egret close to Eagle Marsh, so Jaime and I went over again with a specific target bird on our list.

#096 Great Egret

#096 Great Egret

We were happy to see small white blobs in the distance at Eagle Marsh. They did not include a Cattle Egret, but Great Egrets were still a needed year bird for me, clocking in at #096.

#097 Cattle Egret

#097 Cattle Egret

A little further down the road, we hit paydirt. This is what a Cattle Egret looks like from about 200 yards away (he is the one up in the tree). If he was by himself, I would not have been positive on the ID. But thankfully he was hanging out with a Great Blue Heron and a few other Great Egrets for size comparison, and in this shot I was able to discern his short bill. Year bird #097, and my first viewing of this species in the Midwest.

#098 Peregrine Falcon

#098 Peregrine Falcon

After our successful Egret hunt, Jaime and I had dinner at Pint and Slice in downtown Fort Wayne. Birds were totally off of my radar until we both heard a strange screeching noise coming from directly above us. Looking 90 degrees straight up, we found one of the city’s resident Peregrine Falcons peeking out from over the top of the PNC Center. I had seen evidence of this fellow earlier in the week when I stumbled upon the disembodied wing of a Northern Flicker on the sidewalk in front of my office, so it was nice to see the perpetrator himself for year bird #098.

I have 9 days to find 2 more birds to meet my 100 bird deadline for the end of April. Hopefully, they can also be additions to a brand new yard list when we are moved into our new house!

Early Migrants

Jaime and I were back in Indianapolis this weekend to pack up all of our worldly possessions in anticipation for our move to The Fort. But I still managed to get in a trip to Eagle Creek, and I am certainly glad that I did. I ended up with 10 new year birds, including a life bird, some of which were migrating early enough to be considered “rare” by eBird:

#082 Black-and-White Warbler

#082 Black-and-White Warbler

My first Warbler of the year was a variety I was not expecting: Black-and-White. As far as I can tell from what has been reported, this fellow may be one of the first to be seen in the state this year.

#083 Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

#083 Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

A swarm of Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers were feeding with the Black-and-White Warbler, representing my next FOY (first of year).

#084 Yellow-Rumped Warbler

#084 Yellow-Rumped Warbler

My next Warbler was the one that I expected to be first. Yellow-Rumped Warblers are just about the only Warbler expected to winter in Indiana.

#086 Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

#085 Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

Continuing the theme of small, color-named birds is the Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, who was also participating in the mixed foraging flock. Their Golden-Crowned bretheren were also there but not as willing to pose for photos.

#086 Pine Warbler

#086 Pine Warbler

My third Warbler for the day was of the Pine variety. There were several floating around the woods by Lily Lake, but this female was the only one who would stay still long enough to be photographed. Males are bright yellow.

#087 Hermit Thrush

#087 Hermit Thrush

I am not usually very good at identifying the brown woodland Thrushes, but this Hermit Thrush posed quite nicely to show off its reddish tail, helping me greatly with identification.

#088 Blue-Winged Teal

#088 Blue-Winged Teal

Switching gears from passerine birds, here are some Blue-Winged Teal, which are some of the last Indiana ducks I am missing for the year. They also represent a pretty decent run of photographs of consecutively-numbered year birds for me (in case you hadn’t noticed, we just got #82-88 without skipping a beat).

#090 American Bittern

#090 American Bittern

The final new bird of the day, no doubt the best, and also a lifer, was this terrifying American Bittern. Do not look directly into its unblinking, demonic eye.

(New birds that were not photographed include #081 Double-Crested Cormorant and #089 Eastern Phoebe.)

Round Numbers

In the last few weeks, I have been slowly chipping away at birds not yet on my year list. I’ll start from where I left off last time:

#070: Wood Duck. I finally got to see a few of these guys at Eagle Marsh in Fort Wayne, which is quickly becoming my new Eagle Creek.

#071: Mute Swan. A pair seen at Eagle Marsh on the way to make an offer on what will be (fingers crossed) our new house. I never liked these much before, but they may be a good luck bird for me now.

#071 Mute Swan

#071 Mute Swan

#072: Sharp-Shinned Hawk. Seen at Fox Island County Park one day after work, and a life bird for me! I got great looks at it from my car.

#073: Black-Capped Chickadee. Likewise seen at Fox Island. There are only a few places in the country where Black-Capped and Carolina Chickadees coexist, and where that happens they are very difficult to distinguish from each other. Fort Wayne happens to be one of those places. But, the birds at the Fox Island feeders were careless enough to approach close, letting me see their subtle differences (bright white cheeks as opposed to plain white, pale patch on wing).

#074: Eastern Towhee. Kicking around under the feeders at Fox Island.

#075: Brown-Headed Cowbird. Seen perched on the roof of the in-laws’ house after returning home from a walk with Emma The Dog.

#076: Tree Swallow. Riding gusty winds over Eagle Marsh.

#076 Tree Swallow

#076 Tree Swallow

#077: Field Sparrow. Lurking in the brush at Eagle Marsh.

#077 Field Sparrow

#077 Field Sparrow

#078: Chipping Sparrow. Flocking in a yard near Lakeside Park, also seen while walking Emma The Dog.

#079: Greater Yellowlegs. Life Bird #200!!! Seen today in a flooded field on the southwest side of town. I went there specifically thanks to tip-offs from IN-Bird-L.

#079 Greater Yellowlegs

#079 Greater Yellowlegs

#080: Lesser Yellowlegs. The only reason I was able to identify either of the Yellowlegs was because both species were present in said flooded field, and size comparison was easy.

So at 4.5 months into 2013, I stand at 80 birds on the year and 200 birds on the life, and migration season has barely started!

Birding Raleigh

Jaime and I traveled to my parents’ house to celebrate my mom’s birthday and Easter last weekend. As always, there were many great birds to be had. My parents have provided ample landscaping, feeders, and water features to attract many birds. In between the many dozens of meals that we ate, I spent a considerable amount of time on the deck and looking out the kitchen window, jealously plotting how to landscape our future yard (closing later this month, fingers crossed) to be a similar haven for these small, wing-ed beasts. Behold!

Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Chickadee

It was totally appropriate to be watching Carolina Chickadees in the state of (North) Carolina. Also: it takes an architect’s talent to select a feeder that is both this visually pleasing and also effective at nourishing the avian fauna of the suburban Triangle region. Well played, dad.

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

I’m having deja-vu all over again. Carolina Wren? In Carolina? It can’t be! Author’s note: I found it amusing that despite being one of the smallest birds of the yard, these fellows were first in pecking order, giving much larger Towhees and Cardinals the boot when they demanded some vittles.

House Finch

House Finch

House Finches (or Pink Birds in our household) were the most common feeder enthusiasts chez Majewski. This gentleman knows what is proper as he allows his lady friend to dine first.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

This American Goldfinch was shedding his brown winter plumes for a new yellow get-up. And he, like countless others, could not be dissuaded from the clean lines of modernism.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbirds aren’t so shallow as to be easily had by the prospect of a free meal.

White-Crowned Sparrow

White-Crowned Sparrow

And somehow Casa di mi Padre remains the only locale where I have ever seen a White-Crowned Sparrow despite their supposed commonality. Come on, Indiana, you’re falling behind.

Winter Wren

Winter Wren

Not all birds were found quite so easily. Jaime and I made a trip to a local park with a walking path around a lake. A Winter Wren was working some tree roots and caught me off guard. I had to stalk it for a few minutes before getting this mediocre photo. It was by far the best bird of the weekend, and another missing from my Indiana list. While not rare, I will go out on a limb and declare these to be uncommon.

It was a great trip for many reasons besides just birds. But, this weekend the task at hand is Swallows, which are beginning to appear up here in Fort Wayne for the spring. My goal is to get to 100 birds by the end of April. Go!