Birds with Kids

Birding has come in short bursts recently, usually in the morning for an hour or so before everyone else is up. With cold temperatures all weekend, this actually proved advantageous for seeing migrants close-up. Bugs aren’t flying when it’s frosty out, so everyone was close to the ground. I got over the century mark and then some on my green list, something that didn’t happen until July last year.

So with great success on Saturday, I took a more relaxed approach to the birds today and did so with company.

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“I want to see a starling, Dad.”

Walter and I took a ride around Foster Park with the explicitly stated purpose of seeing birds, and he was pretty cool with it. At less than three years old, he can identify crows by sight and usually points them out before I can get to them. He will also tell you that his favorite bird is the Rested-bread Nuthatch.

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“There is an alligator. It’s crawling around up there.”

He would excitedly ask “where?” every time I tried to point out a bird. He also asked me to launch him into the river (his idea, not tried). Needless to say, our list was small but the outing was a lot of fun.

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Our Setup

I will take this time to plug the Burley Honeybee, which is an awesome trailer if you also have small people that you want to take out some time.

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American Redstart

We did actually see some birds, too. American Redstarts are bountiful this year.

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Northern Flicker

A loud group of guys teed off behind this flicker, which was foraging on the golf course and not caring.

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Red-eyed Vireo

The footbridge at Foster came up big again, with a Red-eyed Vireo at eye level and arm’s length. I played around with the flash on my camera and thought this shot came out interestingly.

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Rose-breasted Grosbeak

There were other kids around this weekend, too. A super awkward-looking first spring Rose-breasted Grosbeak was hanging out in our yard. Just look at this picture. From the hideous molt to the old-man eyebrows to the electric line and vinyl siding behind, this is a disgusting photo, and I like it.

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Bunneh

Another kid of sorts. This bunny lives in the hostas by our garage and comes out two or three times daily, which is just enough to make one go “squeeee!”

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Combo

Squirrel for scale.

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Eastern Chipmunk

And while we’re talking about tiny mammals. It seems like any time chipmunks are mentioned or observed, someone will talk about the best and most novel way to murder them. A few missing strawberries are not that big of a deal in my opinion. Even Walter agrees.

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Franke Park

I like Franke Park in Fort Wayne. It offers a wooded stream with a pond, fields, and successional forest. I always have a good day when I go, so I’m not sure why I don’t go more often. Also: it is right next to the zoo, so sometimes the animals there make weird noises that can be heard from the park, confusing any birders in the area. I had three new year birds today, not including the species of Waterthrush that I was unable to identify and a bird that I saw only momentarily but am 99% sure was a Mourning Warbler. But I am doing this thing right, so I am not counting either of those.

American Redstart

American Redstart

I started off with some pretty great views of this male American Redstart. The orange is for Jaime.

#118 Red-Eyed Vireo

#118 Red-Eyed Vireo

The first year bird of the day was #118 Red-Eyed Vireo, who was busy warbling from the top of a tree that thankfully had no leaves, or he would have been difficult to spot. I have heard several of these guys previously, but I decided early on that I am only counting bids that I actually see (which is why I haven’t added Common Nighthawk yet, despite several of them buzzing over the house this week).

#119 Canada Warbler

#119 Canada Warbler

If you have ever wanted to see the back of a Canada Warbler, you’re welcome. I was able to get some great looks at this bird (#119 and lifer), including the trademarked black necklace, but he turned around as soon as I took this photo and then flew away into the understory. This is what Canadas look like from the front, eh. In case you were wondering, I also saw Canada Geese.

#120 Bay-Breasted Warbler

#120 Bay-Breasted Warbler

Another partial-warbler shot. This is bird #120, Bay-Breasted Warbler, and he doesn’t appear to have a head (thanks, leaf). At least I was able to get the primary field mark.

Broad Ripple

Jaime left for work at 2:30am this morning, so instead of getting up with her to go birding early like I usually do on Saturday, I slept in. After bringing her some breakfast from Haoglin Cafe, I decided that I would still make a quick local trip to see if any warblers were hanging out in Broad Ripple. The Broad Ripple Arts Center has some great riparian habitat on the south bank of the White River. I came up with 18 species in only an hour. Here is my eBird list.

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

This is what is known in the birding world as a “diagnostic photo.” What that means is that the photo is terrible, but shows enough of a bird’s field marks for a positive ID of the subject. I saw a Magnolia Warbler last week for the first time during my warbler overload, but it was good to see another one today just to confirm that I wasn’t making things up in my lifer euphoria of the moment. The “diagnostics” here show the streaked yellow breast, gray wings, and white wing bar for an easy ID.

American Redstart Female

American Redstart Female

As I was tracking a Red-Eyed Vireo (seen before it was heard, for probably the first time ever), this female American Redstart flew into view. Not as brightly colored as the male, but the yellow patches on the side made this a relatively easy ID.

Jaime, the best wife ever, has agreed to humor me and go birding with me tomorrow! I am thinking it will be a good day to check the activity at Holliday Park. I will probably update again after that and see if she is ready to start her own life list yet!

Almost skunked

Not literally. That is the term that I have picked up from other birders when there isn’t much to see. I was out at Eagle Creek by 6:00 this morning hoping to be there bright and early for any owls still up and moving and for when the shorebirds decided to start their day on the mudflat. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to see besides the regulars.

Then, right when I was heading back to my car, a black and orange streak whizzed by my head. I had already seen several similarly colored Baltimore Orioles, but this bird was much smaller, warbler-sized. That narrowed it down pretty easily: American Redstart!

American Redstart

American Redstart

This is a bird I had never seen before other than on the pages of my Peterson guide. It was very nice ending the day with a lifer, especially since I had to work for this picture after the initial sighting. The bird hid itself pretty well in thick tree cover but was taunting me by singing its song that Peterson describes as zee zee zee zee zwee (it turns out that this description was actually helpful for me to identify the bird). After combing the treetops in the area where the zeeing was coming from, I saw it dart out and cross over the path again. It eventually settled in the tree pictured above, which made it easier to see and allowed me to get one passable photograph.

After about 15 minutes of stalking the Redstart with binoculars, I was approached by two other birders who looked to be much more expert than I with their probably several-thousand dollar cameras. They asked me what I had, and they were very excited when I pointed it out. One of them said it was either staying on its summer grounds really late or migrating pretty early.

I guess the progression of bird migration goes shorebirds then warblers then ducks. If today was any indication, the warblers are about to start coming back through Indy very soon, because there were almost no shorebirds and my one lifer was very unexpected.

My day list is on eBird.