Hi, I Still Have A Blog

Six months, huh? Okay, here are some things I have done since July.

Hathaway Preserve, Wabash County

In August we took a family hike at the Hathaway Preserve in Wabash County. The primary feature here is the creek cutting through the bedrock, offering impressive scenery and topography uncommon for northeastern Indiana. We caught a lot of frogs, discovered many crayfish, and got away from town for a while. Not particularly birdy, but if you are in the area it’s worth a stop just for the contrast to the surrounding cornfields.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

The yard list is now up to 90 species (and I get a cake at 100)! Several new birds showed up one day in September when a big mixed flock flew through the yard. A highlight was this female Black-throated Blue Warbler!

Blur-headed Vireo

A Blue-headed Vireo was also a pretty great surprise, although this was the only photo I could manage.

House Wren

A very late House Wren was also part of the party.

House Sparrow

One day in October, a House Sparrow with a bizarrely over-long bill showed up at the feeder.

House Sparrow

It only stayed for a few minutes and did not seem to have any trouble eating. I haven’t seen it again. Avian Keratin Disorder?

Pine Siskins

Like in much of the rest of the continent, Pine Siskins descended upon our yard in a big way. Beginning in late October (and continuing as of today), we have had a persistent flock of these ravenous granivores. My high count was 15 at once. The feeder above was built specifically for this winter’s irruption in my hopes that a bigger finch like an Evening Grosbeak would find the big platform, but these guys are welcome too.

American Robin

The platform is so accommodating that even birds not typically seen on feeders have given it a try.

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Small guys have liked it, too.

White-breasted Nuthatch

Nuthatches in general do weird things.

Eastern Bluebirds

But not as weird as our small flock of Eastern Bluebirds, which take turns alternately beating each other up over access to the feeder before doing something like the photo above.

Eastern Bluebirds

Speaking of bluebirds, we saw many at a fall hike at Metea Park.

Siskin in a Pine

New Year’s resolutions: bird more, blog more. I’m still doing my green list, but I have found it to be a bit much of a chore to track that alongside a separate 5MR list. I still love birding locally, and most of my green birding happens inside of my 5MR. But in 2021 I am going to assign myself just the one task.

More (and more recent) things soon!

A Pretty Big Week

This past week on the southwestern shores of Lake Erie was an event called “The Biggest Week in American Birding.” Held at the famous Magee Marsh, all kinds of tired migrants cram into a little bottleneck of woods before they make the trip across the Great Lakes, and views of otherwise difficult to see species are up close and personal, and incredible. I wasn’t there. But I had a pretty big week of my own.

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Harris’s Sparrow

The evening of May 2nd I left the gym to discover an email from my birding friend Angie telling me that she had a Harris’s Sparrow in her yard. First thing the next morning I went over to check for the bird and found it singing in a tree by her driveway. Life bird, and first county record! Angie’s house is inside of my 5MR, so it also counts as the most improbable bird on that list to date! Angie has done a great job of turning her back yard into a wet woodland habitat, so if this bird were to pick anyone’s house to set up shop it would be hers. But this mind-blowing sighting got me wondering how many other crazy birds turn up at people’s feeders without ever getting recognized for what they are?

Magic Tree

The Magic Tree

Later in the week I met up with another birding friend, Lorenzo, to check out Franke Park again for some spring migrants. The weather was total crap with drizzle and clouds the whole morning. But the birding was magical. Photos were incredibly difficult to come by, but to give you an idea of the birdsplosion happening, take the photo above which contains four Brown Thrashers (yellow circles) and two male Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (red circles). At one point another thrasher and an Indigo Bunting were also clustered with that group at the top of the tree. We just kept giving each other “what is happening?” looks as the birds. just. kept. coming.

SCTA

Scarlet Tanager

We got tons of first-of-the-year birds, like this mellow female Scarlet Tanager and about five of her closest friends.

BTBW

Black-throated Blue Warbler

We also had double-digit warbler species, including this unabashedly confiding (and spectacularly handsome) male Black-throated Blue Warbler who was hopping around basically at our feet. He was only the second one I had ever seen.

Bad Bird Photo Quiz 2

Laughably Bad Common Loon

As I already said, photos were basically not happening. But a couple of birds on the park’s decently sized lake made me try anyway. Two Common Loons that took off and circled low before flying away represented a long-overdue state nemesis for me! I had previously seen them up and down the United States from Minnesota to Ohio to Florida, but never in my home state. If there was any day for them to finally go down, it was this day.

Tiny Wetland

Tiny Wetland

The last place we checked, just because we figured why not, was the tiny scrap of wetland behind the BMX track at the park. I usually only bother with this little parcel of swamp if I need a Red-winged Blackbird or something. It’s tiny, barely even a pond. This photo shows literally the entire thing (as well as the raindrops on my lens).

Bad Bird Photo Quiz 1

Sora!

But wouldn’t you know it, this little postage stamp of wetlands held not one but two Soras, a Marsh Wren, and a Common Yellowthroat, all birds that I had no reasonable hope of finding inside of my 5MR and that take a concerted multi-hour effort to get to at Eagle Marsh on my bike. Not today. As we were leaving, a van of people I knew from the Audubon Society pulled up, looking pretty miserable birding from their car in the rain. They informed us that is was slow going for them and they hoped we had better luck. We did.

In all, we tallied 59 species in barely two hours of birding, and my eBird checklist is here. I added two dozen new 5MR and Green birds for the year, including an additional personal county bird in White-eyed Vireo and an earliest ever county record of Willow Flycatcher for good measure. With the crazy good luck Lorenzo and I had in the morning, I continued to keep track of the species I saw later in the day and ended up at 64 without putting too much more effort into things. I will dub this day as the Accidental 5MR Big Day. The Official 5MR Big Day is yet to be had.

BAOR

Baltimore Oriole

I’m not done! Even with the steady rain and limited birding time due to family activities for Mother’s Day, my week of birds kept getting better. My jelly feeder managed to reel in only the second Baltimore Oriole I have seen from the yard, but it was merely a sign of things to come.

CSWA

Chestnut-sided Warbler in my yard

On Saturday and Sunday, a slow-moving bird tsunami swept over my yard and crushed me. Multiple singing Chestnut-sided Warblers visited the oaks around the house, which is pretty incredible because for whatever reason they are one of the harder warblers for me to get, and I hadn’t had one on my Green list since 2015. They were harbingers of a current of warblers so strong as to be almost unbelievable. Along with Chestnut-sided, I had Nashville, Tennessee, Black-throated Green, Northern Parula, Blackburnian, and Blue-winged Warblers all singing in and around my yard over the weekend, and I probably missed a few.

SCTA

Another Scarlet Tanager

Two pretty bad Scarlet Tanager photos in the same post? Why yes, yes because this one was also in my yard. It shared the same tree with a Blackburnian Warbler, which seems to be a pretty consistent combo for me. Does anyone else seem to get Blackburnian Warbler at the same time they get Scarlet Tanager?

LEFL

Least Flycatcher

The storm finally petered out with a muted Least Flycatcher as the last new bird in the yard, but it was still a new one for the year on my 5MR (currently at 107) and Green (currently at 105) lists. In all, I added six entirely new species to my yard list this weekend to arrive at a 25-month total of 75 species.

In my last post I said I thought I had gotten a sign of good things to come. Turns out I was right, but I hope I haven’t cashed in all of my birding karma yet. 5MR Big Day coming on May 15th! Stay tuned!