Catching Up

Moving was a huge time (and money) sink, but I still had a very good birding time lately. Here are some highlights spanning back through the last month.

NOPI

Northern Pintail

I made a concentrated effort to bird Eagle Marsh multiple times before switching houses, because that destination is now about an hour’s ride away rather than just 20 minutes by bike. It was very productive this spring, and the newly created mitigation wetlands offered some up-close viewing for ducks I don’t often see well like these Northern Pintail.

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Red-breasted Merganser

The neighboring ponds at the Serv-All sanitation mitigation area also did well. I had my first green Red-breasted Mergansers there back in March.

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American Mink

The adjoining marshes also represent mammals well. Eagle Marsh is the best place to see mustelids in the area, with skunks and minks both abundant. This mink was entirely unconcerned with me.

RUDU

Ruddy Duck

I was also able to slay a state nemesis (finally)! I have gone out to the marsh seeking Ruddy Ducks more times than I can count, and I was never able to get one until April 1. The date and my previous luck made me think it was a joke, but this was in fact a real bird and a new addition to the green list.

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Tundra Swans

The Ruddy Duck was exciting enough that I almost missed another state (and life) bird swimming in the same impoundment. These two Tundra Swans were a complete surprise since they only pass through the county in small numbers. I admired them for a while and tried to decide if they were Tundras or Trumpeters as I hiked around the water to try and get the best vantage point. In doing so, I momentarily shared the same stretch of path with a guy who had a huge long lens and a complete camo outfit.

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Tundra Swans

The swans were totally fine with our presence, and Mr. Long Lens put his camera down for a moment, so I whispered over to him, “Tundra or Trumpeter?” He looked at me like I insulted his grandmother, then he did an about face and marched away at about 30 miles per hour without saying a word. Birding is weird.

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Belted Kingfisher

The encounter was fine, though, because I much preferred to hang out with a Belted Kingfisher anyway.

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Purple Finch

Fast forward a week, and I had a couple of hours one afternoon after our move during which I intended to ride my bike from the new house to the old and back to connect my green list and make it continuous. Fortunately for me, I also had a pretty awesome target bird to chase in my old neighborhood when a former neighbor and birding friend alerted me to Purple Finches at her home feeders.

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Purple Finches

I picked up the male right away, and within a minute or two he flew in to the feeder with a female for some up-close and highly satisfying views. A county bird, and my first time ever seeing one in male-type plumage. A huge addition to the green list.

RCKI 04.15.17

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Finally we are in the present, and having connected my green list to the new house, my new yard provided its first addition in the form of a small, pleasant flock of Ruby-crowned Kinglets flitting around my pine tree. I am pretty excited about the yard. It has spruce, pine, cedar, cherry, and ash trees for plenty of diversity, and it is directly across the street from a park with a large stand of mature oaks. A week and a half in I am at 23 birds on my yard list. I will be eagerly checking out a couple of new spots that may also be good enough for the title “local patch” once migration really kicks into gear. The green list is currently at 77, and it should be exploding in numbers very shortly. I can’t wait!

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The End of a Yard List

I haven’t posted in a while because I have moved. I am still in Fort Wayne, but as of yesterday Grosbeak Gardens has officially ended its run as the location of my yard list among many other things. Because it was so awesome of a home (with some more background on that here), I feel as though a Greatest Hits list of yard birds is in order. All photos below were taken in my old yard.

First, the namesake:

RBGR

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were the only grosbeak ever in the yard, but they made an annual appearance, and they were a hit with all members of the household.

Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

Eleanor

The first one showed up around Mother’s Day of 2013, and her name was Eleanor. She showed up daily for about two weeks and became a minor celebrity.

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Owlbert

Other named visitors included Owlbert the Barred Owl, shown here perched in our front ash tree right around Christmas last year. He (or she) was at least two owls who were very vocal every winter and spring we lived in the house. I last heard Owlbert the night before we moved, which was a relief since there was no trace of him for a few weeks after I recorded Great Horned Owl in his favorite spruce trees earlier in the year.

Northern Cardinal

Jim

We also had Jim the cardinal. Any and every male cardinal was Jim. Our high count of Jims was eight at one time. Jim and his wife Pam nested in our magnolia tree the first summer we lived in the house. Pam laid three eggs, two of which hatched, and one of which fledged.

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Rested-bread Nuthatch

We also had a troupe of Rested-bread Nuthatches, of which Walter was quite fond because I got so excited when they showed up for two consecutive winters. The high count was three at once last fall, and the birds at my feeders who would stash seeds in my neighbor’s carport roof represented my green ticks in 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager

One spring morning in 2014 I woke up to the song of a Scarlet Tanager directly out my bedroom window. I ran outside to chase it down the street as it hopped from tree to tree eating wasps. This was probably my favorite one-timer yard bird.

Cape May Warbler

Cape May Warbler

Also in 2014 was a flock of Cape May Warblers foraging in the spruces. I was watching football, and movement caught my eye. I found three of these birds, which were traveling through Indiana very late in October. I saw some again in the spruces last year, and those two sightings are my only two for the county.

Swainson's Thrush

Swainson’s Thrush

Swainson’s Thrushes also stopped by a few times to check in. One morning after a storm there was a fallout of Swainsons in the neighborhood, with individuals running in the street and eating out of the leaf litter in the gutters like robins.

Yard NOPA

Northern Parula

Once when I was grilling in the back yard an aggressively territorial Northern Parula came by to inspect. I was deemed unworthy, and it did not come back.

#117 Least Flycatcher

Least Flycatcher

Also in the one-hit wonder category was a Least Flycatcher who appeared soon after we moved in.

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Broad-winged Hawk

In the same vein was Broad-winged Hawk, although in this case the one-hit was a kettle of about 200 birds swirling overhead.

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes also played the flyover card, but only a couple times a year and never consistently. Some times they showed up in March, other times in December or January. They always evoked great happiness with their bugling, however. Unfortunately, I never had a Whooping Crane mixed in.

Final stats for the yard are 72 species observed, with the first being a Jim on April 30, 2013 and the last new species being an Eastern Phoebe on March 25, 2017. I had eight warbler species, four woodpeckers, three flycatchers, two owls, four hawks, three wrens, three thrushes, and two chickadees. The ‘best’ yard bird was probably Yellow-billed Cuckoo, the ‘worst’ definitely House Sparrow, most surprising the flyover Double-crested Cormorants, and my personal favorite Scarlet Tanager (my spark bird after all). Owlbert was the biggest celebrity, with my neighborhood association dubbing him the unofficial mascot for a time. The most obvious birds that I never saw in my yard were Eastern Bluebird despite that they were all over my neighborhood, Red-winged Blackbird, or Killdeer in at least a flyover fashion.

My new yard, which as of now is unnamed, is already playing catch up. But after three days it boasts 11 species, and I am looking forward to seeing what ends up on the list.