One of Those Days

Everyone eventually has a birding day when they put together a plan with high expectations, only to find that it’s all for naught. Either the birds aren’t there, or the plans change, or conditions are poor for viewing. Today was not one of those days.

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Welcoming Committee

I spent the morning and early afternoon birding Eagle Marsh. It used to be about a 25 minute ride for me, but from my new house it takes over an hour. No matter. The weather was awesome. And I had a pretty great sign of things to come in the form of three amigos perched on the wires over the trailhead at the marsh: Green Heron, Mourning Dove, and Red-winged Blackbird.

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The Fourth

Then an Indigo Bunting joined them for good measure.

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Green Heron

Of all the birds to be perched on a wire, this one was pretty weird.

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Purple Martins

The good signs kept coming with a tree full of Purple Martins just a little way down the trail. PUMA was (somehow) a county bird for me and the first new green bird on the day.

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Common Gallinule

Next up, a state bird popped its head out of the reeds and stared me down for several long moments before I could figure out what the hell it was. Juvenile Common Gallinules are weird. I wasn’t expecting this bird at all, least not in this particular plumage. I have only seen adults before, and those were in Florida. My mind cycled in the following order: Wood Duck, Sora, Virginia Rail. Nope.

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Bank Swallow

Before checking out the other end of the marsh, I stopped to admire the massing post-breeding dispersal birds. These Bank Swallows obliged for a photo.

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Pectoral Sandpiper

At the other end of the marsh was where I realized it would be a phenomenal birding day. Not only were there huge mudflats hosting hundreds of birds, the lighting was great, the birds stayed put, and I got some great shots. I like this Pectoral Sandpiper and its reflection.

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Least Sandpiper

The shorebirds kept coming, and next on the buffet was Least Sandpiper.

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Solitary Sandpiper

A duo of Solitary Sandpipers followed close behind. This was a pretty bad miss for me last year, so these views made up for it.

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Spotted Sandpiper

Continuing a theme, I present to you: Spotted Sandpiper.

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Killdeer

And a Killdeer, because why not?

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A whole mess of birds

I also lucked into some Caspian Terns, which are annual but uncommon and irregular in Allen County. Two flyovers on the east end plus two more chilling with gulls on the west end for a total of four individuals was a pretty good tally. As you can tell from the photo above, there was a lot to keep track of, and I almost overlooked the small white blob just to the left of the terns.

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Bonaparte’s Gull

With its head tucked, all I could see was the edge of a black cap making me think it might have been one of the sterna terns, but it finally picked its head up showing an extensive black hood and a black bill, good for Bonaparte’s Gull. This was my best find of the day, another county bird, and apparently the first July record for the species in this part of the state.

I ended the day with seven new green birds, three of which were new for me in Allen County and one of those new for Indiana. My 2017 green list is currently at 142 species, only one less than all of last year. 150 will be totally obtainable with “easy” birds (I say that without somehow seeing them yet) left to pick up including Pileated Woodpecker, Scarlet Tanager, both yellowlegs, and a couple of fall warblers to push me over the hump, and hopefully one or two unexpected things. If you had a birding goal this year, how is it coming along now that we are midway through?

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New Local Patch

I have been settled into my new house for about three months now, and that means (most) of the paint touch-ups, furniture assembly, and emergency repairs are done. So I get to bird! The first thing for me in that regard was to find a new local patch. I had an outstanding one right next to my old neighborhood in Foster Park, so I am used to a high quality of patch birding. I did not take this decision lightly. After consulting Google Maps, considering how long it would take me to get there, and how conducive it would be for green birding, I arrived at the only logical choice.

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My New Local Patch

Gaze upon it! It is the western half of the IPFW campus, pronounced “IP-fwah,” short for Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne, and one of my wife’s alma maters (Go ‘Dons!). Yes, I made it an eBird hotspot, but the reviewer decided that a better acronym would be IUPUFW in the same style as IUPUI, (pronounced “Ooey-pooey“) one of my alma maters and short for Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (saying ‘university’ twice is really important).

My house is in the neighborhood just south of the bottom-right corner of the map above. The greenway trail follows Anthony Boulevard north right into the heart of campus, and it is less than a ten-minute bike ride away from me.

[Begin Stephan voice.] This patch has everything: the St. Joseph River, restored meadows, lots of edge habitat, and a big ol’ woodlot.

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Tiny Swamp

It also has a legitimate swamp in it with water literally right up against, and often flooding, the road next to it. It is also tiny, like less than a quarter of an acre tiny, but it provided me with at least one FOY bird in Green Heron this year.

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St. Joseph River

The big draw is the river. It is very wide here with lots of little inlets and banks in a fairly natural state. When the water is low, it exposes lots of mudflats which I am hoping will be a boon for shorebirds pretty soon.

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Cool Bridge

It has a pretty great bridge as part of the trail system, and Cliff and Barn Swallows are all over the place on it. It also provides a great vantage point from which to scan the riverbanks in all directions.

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Common Nighthawk

Being part of a relatively recently build college campus, there are lots of gravel rooftops in the area, meaning Common Nighthawks are abundant at this time of year. With as many as were flying around I actually tried to get a decent photo of one for the first time ever, and I don’t think I did too bad.

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Eastern Kingbird

Most of the area in between these features is a big complex of athletic fields, fittingly called The Plex. The trees around them create great edges for all manner of birds, and tonight when I visited the passerines du jour were high numbers of Eastern Kingbirds, a bird I had never seen in the city limits before. So that was cool.

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Don the Mastodon

I will be sure to keep you all apprised of the birding opportunities here. I think this area holds great potential. Just tonight I picked up another FOY in Sharp-shinned Hawk to put my green list at 135. Fifteen more species and five months to go to hit the elusive 150, and I have faith that IPFW can help me do it!

3 Dimensions and 2 Generations

I spent a long holiday weekend with much family time, and Walter and I went kayaking downtown on Monday afternoon. They don’t call Fort Wayne the Three Rivers City for nothing!

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Cheese.

It was Walter’s first time in a boat, and he did remarkably well. The fine folks at Fort Wayne Outfitters helped make paddling with kids easy and fun.

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Hotdog toes not included.

We stayed on the water for over an hour, which with a three year old is pretty good. We toured about one and a half miles of the city’s rivers, including those right alongside its namesake fort, several downed logs with plenty of turtles to observe, and three bridges which were counted. Having biked to the depot, I was also keeping an eye out for birds to add to the green list.

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Black-crowned Night Heron

Walter proved to be the reason why I was able to add one to the list. He demanded that I paddle over to a floating beer can, and when we got there we flushed an adult Black-crowned Night Heron from the trees overhead. I managed a smartphone photo before it disappeared. In two and a half years, I have added birds to the list by foot and by bicycle, but this was the first time I got a year bird while in a kayak. Make that a three-dimensional green list!

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Walter’s List!

I encourage Walter to observe the birds around us and tell him what we see, and he is able to identify several species by sight and sound. But I have tried to leave the obsessive-compulsive listing behavior out of it. However, after seeing the heron, I was trying to tell Walter why it was a special bird. I remember saying something along the lines of “I haven’t seen one yet this year, so now I can add it to my list.” Two days later, and tonight while on a walk Walter says unprompted, “Dad, I want to put these birds on my list!” while we were looking at some House Sparrows. When we got home he could not recall what we had seen earlier, but he was able to identify the bird on our feeder as “a girl woodpecker” (it was in fact a female Downy), so he listed that instead. And now my son’s official self-initiated life list is at one species! I couldn’t be prouder. We are officially a two-generation birding household.

Birding by Bike: A How-to

Step 1: Ride a bike.

Step 2: Observe birds.

I had planned in my head this grand series of blog posts about how to most effectively bird by bike. But after thinking about it, I realized that nobody needs that. All you need to do is do it at least once, and if you like it, great! Then keep doing it.

I think we all fall into the trap of hyper-competitiveness that is made worse by the internet. I could tell you about how I have honed my strategy in bike-birding and what I think is the best way to do it. But you are not me, so it doesn’t matter. If your bike has two wheels (or more! or less!) then that is all that matters. Well, that and observing birds. You don’t need fancy gear. Inflate your tires and put on a backpack to carry your binoculars and some granola bars. Here is the equipment you need to bike-bird:

1.) A helmet.

2.) Binoculars, probably, but only if you want.

Again, I was going to list the accoutrements I have purchased in my two-and-a-half years of full-blown bike birding, but that would just seem like another barrier to entry for someone thinking about giving it a try for the first time. The biggest hurdle to get over when choosing to bird by bike is not equipment or physical fitness, but FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out.

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Swainson’s Thrush

Find a local patch as soon as you can, and bird the hell out of it. You won’t have the time or the energy to bike across town to the known hotspots that throw off eBird rarities. The Swainson’s Thrushes won’t care. I found this one and many other common migrants at a random woodlot close to my new house back in May. Eventually you will not even think about that potential Alder Flycatcher that may or may not be out at the marsh 15 miles away; instead you will be thinking about what you can find next at your local patch. It took me a long time for this to sink in, but once it did I enjoyed birding a lot more. The birds at Foster Park (and now the California Road Woodlot) were my patch birds, and therefore MY birds. I found them. It felt good. And I didn’t have to buy gas.

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Yellow-breasted Chat

Eventually, you will want to leave the local patch. But since you have gotten good at bike birding, it won’t be as big of a deal if you need to ride an hour to get to a specific place. And that’s where you will get some really good birds to add to your list, like the Yellow-breasted Chat that I saw today at the Dustin preserve when I visited again to reconnect my green list to the flat tire I suffered three weeks ago.

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Yellow-throated Vireo

So yes, flat tires and things will happen. You will encounter unpaved roads, gravel, and roadside trash that will force you to invest in a decent hybrid bike, tools, and a repair kit. You will eventually want that stuff anyway, because you will want to go farther and farther in fulfillment of finding new birds for the green list. But that happens way later. It happens after you have seen a bunch of Yellow-throated Vireos. It happens after you have bike birded for the first time.

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Turtle

You will be able to stop on a moment’s notice to look at cool stuff crossing the road, like small turtles with leeches stuck to their backs. Or slam on the breaks because you heard a sparrow way out in the grass by the road, and because you are on a bike, you can actually hear it and count it. Eventually, you will get to the point where you don’t like driving to birds any more.

Try bike birding once! You will like it. It is good for you. It is good for birds. Yay!

Acres Land Trust – Bird Blitz 2017

On Saturday I participated in the inaugural Bird Blitz held by the Acres Land Trust. Acres is a great non-profit organization that exists to preserve exceptional examples of natural areas in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan, and they have dozens of nature preserves scattered throughout those states. The Bird Blitz was a fundraising event for them that also doubled as a way to conduct a bird census of their entire network of preserves. Throw in a cool shirt designed by the Yonder Clothing Company, and I was all-in.

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Dustin Preserve

Volunteers were asked to register for a specific property, and I requested to count at the Tom and Jane Dustin Nature Preserve so that I could participate in the festivities by bike. It is about 12 miles north of home in Huntertown, Indiana, and it also conveniently doubles as the Acres main office where the post-blitz tally and after party was held. This was the first time I experienced “birding” and “after-party” in the same instance. The pizza was good!

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Trail

The Dustins willed their property and home to Acres, and it has become a habitat of reclaimed farmland, hardwood forest, and steep bluffs overlooking Cedar Creek. The terrain is actually quite steep, and it is much different than most other birding locales in northeast Indiana. This was my first time at the preserve, and even though migration has settled down, the day was hot, and I birded in the late afternoon, I racked up a pretty good species list.

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Blue-winged Warbler

The best bird, and by far the most surprising, was a stunning male Blue-winged Warbler working the edge of the meadow area. I was not expecting to add any new warbler species to my green list in June, but that’s what this was.

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“Bee-buzz!”

He appeared to be on territory, and I watched him for quite a long time. Other new pick-ups for the year included Yellow-throated Vireo and Black-capped Chickadee. I have written before that Fort Wayne falls squarely in the overlap zone of Carolina and Black-capped Chickadee, with most birds being Carolinas. But Huntertown is far enough north that the resident chickadee is Black-capped, and their vocalizations told me as much.

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Little Wood Satyr

I had one lifer during the day in the form of a Little Wood Satyr. Its habitat preference mirrored that of the Blue-winged Warbler.

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Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

There were also loads of Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, this one with only one swallowtail. I want to say this is my favorite butterfly, but that would be like someone saying their favorite bird is a Northern Cardinal. It’s too obvious of a choice. But look at it!

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Eastern Wood-Pewee

Even if Eastern Wood-Pewees were gaudy, you would still never see them. I have probably heard 100 of them for every one that I have actually seen. That is probably because I don’t stop to look for them after I hear them singing, but this one was breaking character to forage way down low in the trees.

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Cedar Creek

The Blitz event was great, but I would be happy to return to Dustin again for just plain birding. I will have to return, actually. As the evening ended I departed on my bike and headed home. About 100 feet from the preserve office I started skidding and wobbling uncontrollably on the gravel driveway. I looked down and saw that my rear tire was totally flat. I found the hole pretty easily, but I stupidly had nothing to fix it with. Thankfully my father-in-law was up to the task of picking up me and my stranded bike and brought me home. Thanks, Dave!

So right now I am disconnected from the end of my green list by 12 miles of riding. I picked up three new species (for a year-to-date total of 131) that I refuse to leave off, so I will have to ride back up to Dustin now that I have fixed the bike and then ride back home to resume adding species to the list. Thankfully this didn’t happen a month earlier or I would be missing species by the day. I already have more green birds in June than I did last year, but it’s still a bit frustrating. In any case, that incident will inspire the next couple of posts I have scheduled about how to bird by bike.

Big Green Day 2017

On Wednesday, most people in my office went down to Indy for pre-500 festivities. Since that is not my thing at all, I decided it would be the perfect day to undertake a green big day, which is something I have been wanting to do for a while. Last year I did a day-long ride, but I wasn’t strategic about maximizing the number of species, and I definitely did not prepare well enough. So I put a plan together and got everything ready the evening before.

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Provisions

Pictured above: my binoculars (Vortex Diamondback 8×42), camera (Nikon Coolpix P600), notepad, pen, house key, driver’s license and credit card for emergencies, two dollars in change to pay the Fox Island admission fee, a pair of extra socks, sunscreen, bug spray, bike lock, hat, sport bottle, a big thing of PowerAde that was in my fridge for like a year, three liters of water, three Cliff bars, a bag of trail mix, and two peanut butter sandwiches. Not pictured: my phone and a multi-tool. Oh, and also my bike. All of this fit into my trunk bag and panniers and wasn’t really that difficult to lug around all day.

Last year on my long ride I went just about as hard as I could in between birding stops to maximize time, and it ended up costing me. I hit a wall in the early afternoon that was due to a combination of a lack of calories and dehydration, so this supply list was built mostly to keep that from happening again. I decided to pace myself, take it easy on the rides, and do a lot of birding while actually on my bike.

I left home just after 4:30am on Wednesday with my plan being to make it to Fox Island before sunrise to rack up as many singing migrant passerines as possible, and then do mop-up duty on grassland and marsh birds at other nearby locations as needed. I netted my first bird of the day, a singing American Robin, while I was still in the garage, and my first new green bird came just a few minutes into my ride as I heard a calling Common Nighthawk over my neighborhood. As I rode through downtown heading toward Fox Island, I continued to build my list with surprising additions of Yellow Warbler and Gray Catbird singing vigorously in the pre-dawn. I made it to the towpath trail near Eagle Marsh and then got a county bird as an American Woodcock peented from somewhere far off in the grass. Things were going well, so naturally I ditched my planned route all together.

Eagle Marsh

The sky was all purple, there were people running everywhere…

I instead stopped at the east end of Eagle Marsh to listen for what would be my only shot at rails and bitterns. I struck out on those, but I picked up several year birds and enjoyed a pretty great sunrise.

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Why did the crayfish cross the road?

The most interesting thing I found was a rather large crustacean crossing the gravel driveway right next to my bike. I am not sure what this fellow was doing, because there was not much water anywhere around him. I have never seen a crayfish on dry land before. I left Eagle Marsh and continued on toward Fox Island in daylight.

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Wild Turkey

The first really good bird that I saw was a lone Wild Turkey foraging in a freshly plowed field. I stopped to take a photo and inadvertently got a pickup truck to slow down and see what I was looking at. This is my first green turkey.

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Turkey Vultures

Further down the road I found some more turkeys of the vulture variety. I don’t usually see them perched on the ground, so I stopped again to admire. By then it was about 7:00, and another mile down the road I was at Fox Island, and I changed plans again. It was posted that the park didn’t open until 9:00, and although it would have been totally easy for me to just bike on it, I felt very guilty about even thinking of doing that. I have birded with the caretaker who lives on-site, and I figured that would be a pretty crummy thing to do to him without first asking permission, so I stopped to consider my options. I checked the weather, and that helped me plan my next move.

The wind was supposed to pick up considerably in a few hours, as in blowing at a constant 20 miles per hour with gusts up to 40 miles per hour, and it would be coming from the southwest which was the direction of all of my other planned stops and the opposite direction of home. If I took time to bird here now, I would have to ride face-first into that wind for the rest of the day, and I did not want to do that. So I started riding that direction to get to my furthest point as soon as possible, and then ride with the wind at my back all the way home.

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Grasshopper Sparrow

I didn’t have to ride far before new birds started showing up. Backtracking out from Fox Island, I heard a Grasshopper Sparrow and stopped to watch for it. It hopped up onto a sign for my first ever view of this species. This is a bird I definitely would have missed if I was in a car. Continuing my ride, I heard at least two more calling in various places during the morning. Pro-tip: bike birding is great for finding Grasshopper Sparrows.

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White-tailed Deer

I saw a whole lot of deer out in the open country as I worked my way southwest toward the airport.

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Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlarks were similarly numerous and are birds I have never photographed before. It is pretty enlightening to see how common these birds actually are considering how infrequently I encounter them from my usual birding spots closer to the city.

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Spotted Sandpiper

Along the way, I found a Spotted Sandpiper sharing a flooded field with a bunch of Semipalmated Plovers. All were new green year birds, and shorebirds were a big hole in my list last year so it was good to pick them up.

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Orchard Oriole

Around 9:00 I made it to Arrowhead Prairie way down in the southwest corner of Allen County. I immediately heard a Henslow’s Sparrow along the roadside there for my first really great bird of the morning. I couldn’t locate where it was singing from, but my consolation were several singing Orchard Orioles, the first ones on my green list in three years.

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Field Sparrow

I took a break at Arrowhead and tallied my species, which numbered 52 without looking for any of the famous woodland migrants. A huge flock of Field Sparrows kept me company.

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Fox Island

I made it back to Fox Island about an hour later, and by then the wind had really started to pick up, plus I had been riding almost constantly since 4:30, so it felt good to get off my bike and use some different muscles. The wind was great to keep the mosquitoes at bay, but it made hearing birdsong somewhat difficult. The ever increasing temperature didn’t make things any easier, either. But I had several target species to find, including my only real chance for Pileated Woodpecker and some great habitat (pictured above) for Prothonotary Warbler.

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Toad

I struck out on both targets as well as almost all other possible additions to the list. I managed only five warbler species the whole morning. I resigned myself to looking at other things. Thankfully, I had a “then suddenly…” moment.

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Black-billed Cuckoo

A cuckoo flew directly in front of me and perched pretty much right over my head. I expected it to be my first of the year Yellow-billed, but instead it was a lifer Black-billed! This quickly became the best bird of the day and gave me back some of my original optimism about the day.

Re-energized, I set out into the brushy prairie area of the park to try for one more possible specialty before departing. I played tapes of Yellow-breasted Chat to try and find that target bird. I got a response when a much larger bird popped up out of the bushes. Northern Mockingbird! This was a county bird for me. They are nothing to write home about downstate in Indiana, but they get exceedingly scarce the further north you go.

Having spent about four hours at Fox Island, the afternoon was progressing rapidly, and the wind was brutal with temperatures close to 90. This made for some weird birding. I was at 72 species with some really great and unexpected ones, but I was still completely lacking in common birds like Carolina Chickadee, House Finch, and every raptor.

Especially grateful for my earlier decision to play to the wind’s advantage, I headed northeast to Eagle Marsh for the second time. Riding mostly with the wind, the few turns I had to make against it were insane. On one stretch, I had to pedal as hard as I could downhill in low gear just to actually move. But when I turned my back to it, I blasted down the roads at almost the speed of traffic.

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Dunlin

There was almost nothing happening on the mudflats except for some hilarious backwards-flying swallows trying and failing to deal with the wind. I managed only one new bird, Dunlin, but it was a dapper alternate bird and one that I missed last year.

Deciding to pick off my remaining possible birds one-by-one, I left Eagle Marsh and headed toward home via Foster Park. I managed to snag the always reliable Yellow-throated Warbler there, with one singing despite the heat. Then I rode the greenway back toward downtown to try and get a few more common birds on the list.

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Magnolia Warbler

The only interesting thing I found on the greenway was a deceased Magnolia Warbler. Thankfully I did see a live one at Fox Island, and this one had no obvious signs of mortality. I suppose a cyclist could have hit it?

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My final route

I made it home around 4:00 and managed to pick up two more species in the yard over the course of the evening: House Finch and Red-tailed Hawk, which ended up being my last bird of the day. In all, I covered 57.5 miles over the course of the day and ended at 77 species. I got some really good finds like the cuckoo and Henslow’s Sparrow, but I missed some embarrassingly easy ones like Carolina Chickadee, Green Heron, Great Egret, and American Kestrel. But the mark has officially been set for Allen County if not Indiana, and I have every intention of beating this number next year. Although I hope someone else does it first.

A really good May morning at Fox Island could land close to 100 species, and that is without any other stops. I don’t feel like weather was a disadvantage, though. If nothing else, my fuel and hydration strategy worked perfectly, and I felt no ill effects from physical exertion during the day or in those following.

The Life of a Cardinal

Disclaimer: This is another post about yard birds. And the yard birds in question are cardinals.

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Mama Pam

Our yard has a Northern Cardinal nest in the bushes along the edge of our back yard. The kids enjoy watching the pair, named Jim and Pam (as are all male and female cardinals anywhere, respectively). Even Alice, who is 21 months old, can proclaim “Jim!” when the male lands on the bird bath.

These birds have had a hell of a time in the month we have lived with them. It all started with the grosbeaks, who were here for three days but fiercely bullied all comers away from the feeders. This was good news with regard to our House Sparrows (who also have a colony of two nests on our front porch that have blown down three times between them), but it seriously strained the abilities of our Jim and Pam.

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House Wren

Throw in a House Wren (unnamed) whose territory seems to overlap entirely with that of the cardinals and will chase away any and all birds who get too close to him, and you have quite the stressful situation.

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Cardinal Nest

To top it all off, in investigating the nest while the parents were both away I noticed that one of their dear brood seems to be a cowbird. The young’un in the back of the nest may be decrying this, or it may just be begging for another helping of arthropod. In any case, Jim and Pam are raising a child of their own as well as a foster child in this hellacious suburban wildlife environment, and they are dealing with it admirably…

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Oh snap.

While at the neighborhood park this past weekend, Jaime, the kids, and I discovered three raccoon babies all doing various raccoon-y things in different corners of the park. For the first time, I broke into the “animals are wild, they aren’t pets like Emma the Dog, etc, etc.” speech with Walter. This seemed to go over well. Until the next evening when one of them showed up in the cedar trees alongside our house. The kids lost their minds.

We tried to restrain Walter and Alice from running up to the raccoon while simultaneously encouraging them to observe the wildlife. Then it dawned on me what the little beast was really up to. A red blur flashed into the cedars at the same instant.

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Jim the Cardinal sizes up the threat

Jim had exactly the same thought as I did. He zoomed in from out of nowhere to let the raccoon (bottom right) know that he was there (top left). Jim stood his ground for a few moments, trying to decide how much the raccoon actually knew.

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Secret Nest Location

This photo is immediately to the right of the one above it. The cardinal nest is midway up the vegetation directly in front of the utility pole. For a minute, it seemed like the clumsy young raccoon was just going to blunder into traffic, and it actually fell out of the cedar tree and landed on its head. But then it did a 180 and headed right for the bushes.

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The action builds

At this point, it was obvious that the raccoon knew there was something good to be had, but it couldn’t quite figure out where. This is when Jim really sprang into action. He flew down to the raccoon’s level and unleashed a devastating series of “chip chip chips” in its general direction. For a moment I thought he might go full Killdeer and feign injury to draw the predator away, but he was honest about his status as defender of the nest, and with erect crest he continued to hop around issuing warning calls.

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The plan is working

The plan worked to perfection. The raccoon became much more interested in the bright red thingy making noise, and it followed Jim far into the neighboring yard and out of sight. It did not come back.

Jim and Pam meanwhile earned a well-deserved break, and within minutes of the all clear they were both leisurely eating back at the feeders.

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Gray Catbird

Or least they were until the catbirds ran them off. What a life to be a cardinal in this day and age.