In Slaughterhouse Five, Billy Pilgrim has this question posed to him by a bird. It is the only question that makes sense to him after an event that does not make sense.

EATO Portrait 3.JPG


And so it was asked of me, too, this Easter in Morgantown, West Virginia. I was asked by this Eastern Towhee. It did not say, “drink your tea,” it said, “po-tee-weet.” That is the only thing that can be said to make sense of Morgantown, a town where hippies and hillbillies walk side-by-side. A place where pickup trucks and the Personal Rapid Transit system both traverse the mountainsides. This bird had a point. So my vendetta against the species is officially dropped. I spent some quality time with EATO.

EATO Portrait 4.JPG

He was not imploring me to drink my tea.

EATO Portrait 1

I officially motion to change the mnemonic for this bird.

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The orange, brown, and gold here are straight out of 1969.

There was more than one emberizid around.


White-throated Sparrow

My grandparents’ deck made for a surprisingly great place to photograph sparrows.

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Mourning Cloak

I did get this one lifer out of the trip, too.

Weekend Update

I went birding this weekend, and now I’m going to blog about it. So if you thought you would be spared another post of me stretching my puny zoom to the limit across the expanse of the Fort Wayne water treatment ponds, then you are sorely mistaken.


Horned Grebe

Despite my best efforts, this is not a Common Loon. HOGR had the honor of being my last 2015 motorless bird, so now I don’t have to sweat it out in November.


Lesser Scaup

A raft of Lesser Scaup that actually aren’t Ring-necked Ducks! Even from this atrocious distance, the lack of a pointy white thing creeping up from the flank is absent. A bird not seen enough, and not at all last year.


White-breasted Nuthatch

WBNU posed nicely.


The Salmon of Capistrano

I tallied six new green species on Sunday, the scaup being the highlight. All of the early migrants are back, including Golden-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Phoebe, Wood Duck, and Tree Swallows doing what swallows do.

Eagle vs. Owl: Battle for the Marsh

The Indiana online birding world is reeling. The forces of good have apparently been undone by pure evil. Are any of us truly safe any more? High drama to be sure, and it’s all unfolding right here in my city.


Immature Bald Eagle

Before I start, let me say that I have nothing against Bald Eagles. Bald Eagles are fine, kind of like how Red-tailed Hawks and Great Blue Herons are fine.

As its name implies, Eagle Marsh is the best place to see them in Fort Wayne. But I have also seen them at the water treatment plant, Foster Park, while driving along the highway, and soaring over the middle of downtown. Not to mention in close to a dozen other places around the state. They are common and widespread here. I understand that this was not always the case, but it has been decades since they were really in any existential danger, so maybe my age plays into my attitude about them.

With that said, Bald Eagles have a huge fandom around here. The most commonly list-served bird? Bald Eagle. The bird with the most photos on the Birding Indiana Facebook group? Bald Eagle. The bird anyone wants to talk about when they find out you are into birds? Bald Eagle.

So imagine the drama that has been unfolding this week when this was spotted:



This is a nest built by Bald Eagles at the aforementioned Eagle Marsh. It has been productive for years, and it is incredibly easy to see from the main road going by the preserve. The days are rare that I don’t see at least one car pulled off to the side with camera pointed at this nest. And even I am guilty of stopping to look when an adult is perched on it or in the trees close by. But look carefully at the photo above.

That is not an eagle head sticking up out of the nest. Those are the ear tufts of a Great Horned Owl, which has apparently evicted the resident pair of eagles and usurped the nest. My first reaction to hearing this news was one of elation. GHOW was a nemesis for me in the state, and the bird above is my state bird, not to mention a solid green bird #58 for the year. I am super pumped about this owl, and I hope it succeeds in raising a brood.

To everyone else, this news is a tragedy. It kind of makes me feel like I am rooting for the bad guy. But when you can see eagles easily almost anywhere where there is water, why aren’t more people happy to have this owl? Am I in the wrong here, or what?


Eastern Bluebird

Having been exhausted by so much drama, I spent the rest of my outing playing with my new camera. A warm winter has made for poor waterfowl viewing this year, so I had to resort to shooting more common and resident birds, like this hot mess of an Eastern Bluebird.


Red-winged Blackbird

Similar to the eagle vs. owl debate, there seems to be a raging fight over which bird truly means that spring is finally here: American Robin or Red-winged Blackbird? Having seen both birds by early January, my vote goes to Hermit Thrush.



Mammals had a good showing, too. This muskrat sat dumbly chomping on a cattail as I stood ten feet away. On the other side of the trail, I heard some rustling in the reeds and saw some movement out of the corner of my eye. Hoping it was an interesting sparrow, I turned to face the noise and pished to draw it out…


American Mink

Instead of a bird head popping up, I got a surprise mink giving me the stink eye. These mustelids seem to be thriving here, but it was great to be so close to one.


Beaver Work

The other charismatic mammal of the marsh didn’t make an appearance, but they were obviously around.

The last interesting thing to note: I saw one of the marsh’s Bald Eagles (the one in the first photo above) nastily bullying a Red-tailed Hawk around. It almost seemed like it was taking out the frustration from its second-place finish on the hawk. Crazy times we live in when a Red-tailed hawk is only the third most dominant raptor around.

Birds Not Birds

This week was light on photos, so I will be brief. Biggest news is that I added three green birds, the best being Northern Harrier which I didn’t see last year.

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Dam Seagulls

The Maumee River Dam sports some impressive looking machinery. I am not sure if it actually does anything any more, but it sure makes a nice setting for gulls. A huge swarm was circling the area on Sunday, but I couldn’t pick out anything besides Ring-billeds.


Fox Squirrel

While I still don’t have any Fox Sparrows this year, Fox Squirrels are plentiful. I stopped to take a portrait of this guy at Foster Park.

With a lack of anything else bird-related to talk about, I was going to post a photo of the meth lab I found while scouting a building this week and some associated political and social commentary to go along with it. But I deleted it. Instead, I will talk about how if politicians were birds, I would be voting for the Bohemian Waxwing running for president this year. He’s the one who can be found in a northern state, makes sure everyone in the flock gets a chance to eat, and in all honesty is a little bit flighty and eccentric and is something nobody expects to see. Discuss among yourselves.