Family Birding

The birding has been good lately, with my new house an ideal launchpad to hotspot Franke Park. I have been twice in as many weeks and have pumped up my green list to 98 species. Photos, however, have not been easy to get this spring. Here is the best (and only) one from those trips:


Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

The yard birding has been superb, too. And the whole family has been involved. It all started a few weeks ago when we added Mallard to the list. We had Mallard as a yard bird at the old house, but only as a flyover.



These were different. Jaime spotted them in the yard underneath our feeders one evening at dinner, and things just weren’t the same after that for the kids.

Kids + Ducks.JPG

Birds and Kids

The ducks did laps around the house as the kids chased them from window to window. Dinner was put on hold.

Jaime's RBGR.JPG

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

A similar thing happened today when a small flock of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks arrived at the house. While I was at work, Jaime proceeded to text me updates on the comings and goings of these charismatic feeder birds. She also took several great photos, like the one above.


Rose-breasted Grosbeaks

We had at least three individual Rosebeasts appear all at once. And they seem to be thick all over the state as of today.

Kids + Grosbeak.JPG

Kids and a Rosebeast

And again, the kids got in on the action, too.


White-throated Sparrow

The yard has also played host to a variety of other birds, and the list is already up to 35 species, several of which have been sparrows.


White-crowned Sparrow

White-throateds have been common and consistent all spring, but today the surprise was a White-crowned. WCSP is a bird we never had on our old yard list.


Chipping Sparrow

The sparrow train continued with Chipping, too.


American Robin

We’ve also had thrushes, like this puffed-up male American Robin.


Gray-cheeked Thrush

A more interesting thrush appeared last weekend. I assumed the skulker in the bushes was a Swainson’s Thrush, but a more careful look revealed its negative field marks: no strong eye ring, no buff-colored face, and no warmth to the rest of the bird’s grayish feathers. Good for Gray-cheeked Thrush! I have only seen a couple of these birds in the county, and I missed them entirely last year. This individual was a strong addition to the yard and green lists.


Nashville Warbler

Another high-quality migrant passing through the yard was a Nashville Warbler. Or is this a female Canada Warbler? I had to double-check that this was in fact a Nashville by referencing the gray hood continuing under the beak, as opposed to the yellow from the breast reaching up to the beak on a female Canada. That is not a field mark I have ever had to notice before, but the strength of the eye ring screaming “Canada” required it.


Downy Woodpecker

Not all birds are that tough, though. Downy Woodpeckers are gluttons and will pose nicely so long as the suet is flowing. This female gave little regard for manners as chunks of it flew from her saturated feathers.


House Finch

Rounding out the photos is a sorry male House Finch showing some nasty swelling around his eyes.

That’s all for the mostly run-of-the-mill. At the end of April, I was running ahead of my listing pace for the last two years, and that is even considering that migration here has been somewhat late with a lot of rain and wind keeping birds south. My next big outing will be on May 17th when I plan on undertaking a Big Green Day. I have never done anything like that before, so it will be fun to see how many species I can rack up by bike and how high I can grow the list. Stay tuned!

Take a Walk

I took a walk with my camera today, not really intending to do any serious birding.


Blue-gray Gnatcatcher fledgling

Foster Park’s resident Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were successful in their nesting attempts this year. Here, an individual waits for its angry black unibrow to grow in.


Blue-gray Gnatcatcher fledgling

I have always found these birds some of the most maddening to try and take a picture of. But the job was made easy by tons of fledglings sitting around on branches, begging to be fed. Also: if you thought the sound of a calling adult Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was comical, the sounds of a begging juvenile BGGN are so much more so.


White-breasted Nuthatch fledgling

Nuthatches were also having babies.


Gray Catbird fledgling

So were the catbirds.



I have almost tripped over the sheer number of baby groundhogs that call the riverbank and trails home, but they were not out today. This adult was not amused.


Hackberry Emperor

Making a solid claim to being the oldest animal at the park was this heavily worn and seriously faded Hackberry Emperor. So much life experience for one tiny invertebrate. I have to wonder what the chances are for any individual butterfly to actually get to this point. One in a million seems way too large.

Early Migrants

Jaime and I were back in Indianapolis this weekend to pack up all of our worldly possessions in anticipation for our move to The Fort. But I still managed to get in a trip to Eagle Creek, and I am certainly glad that I did. I ended up with 10 new year birds, including a life bird, some of which were migrating early enough to be considered “rare” by eBird:

#082 Black-and-White Warbler

#082 Black-and-White Warbler

My first Warbler of the year was a variety I was not expecting: Black-and-White. As far as I can tell from what has been reported, this fellow may be one of the first to be seen in the state this year.

#083 Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

#083 Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

A swarm of Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers were feeding with the Black-and-White Warbler, representing my next FOY (first of year).

#084 Yellow-Rumped Warbler

#084 Yellow-Rumped Warbler

My next Warbler was the one that I expected to be first. Yellow-Rumped Warblers are just about the only Warbler expected to winter in Indiana.

#086 Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

#085 Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

Continuing the theme of small, color-named birds is the Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, who was also participating in the mixed foraging flock. Their Golden-Crowned bretheren were also there but not as willing to pose for photos.

#086 Pine Warbler

#086 Pine Warbler

My third Warbler for the day was of the Pine variety. There were several floating around the woods by Lily Lake, but this female was the only one who would stay still long enough to be photographed. Males are bright yellow.

#087 Hermit Thrush

#087 Hermit Thrush

I am not usually very good at identifying the brown woodland Thrushes, but this Hermit Thrush posed quite nicely to show off its reddish tail, helping me greatly with identification.

#088 Blue-Winged Teal

#088 Blue-Winged Teal

Switching gears from passerine birds, here are some Blue-Winged Teal, which are some of the last Indiana ducks I am missing for the year. They also represent a pretty decent run of photographs of consecutively-numbered year birds for me (in case you hadn’t noticed, we just got #82-88 without skipping a beat).

#090 American Bittern

#090 American Bittern

The final new bird of the day, no doubt the best, and also a lifer, was this terrifying American Bittern. Do not look directly into its unblinking, demonic eye.

(New birds that were not photographed include #081 Double-Crested Cormorant and #089 Eastern Phoebe.)

Skiles Test Park – 6/23/12

I had never heard of Skiles Test Nature Park until recently, and I have now gone there on consecutive weekends. My first trip yielded two lifers (Common Yellowthroat and Field Sparrow) but no photos. My trip yesterday yielded no lifers, but some decent shots of the things I saw the first time. A fair trade-off.

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

The Common Yellowthroat is a new world warbler that is common and has a yellow throat. They were everywhere at Skiles. I would hear them whistling from deep inside of a bush or behind 15 feet of leaves and branches, only to see them as they flew to the inside of another tree at approximately 700 miles per hour. This resulted in two things on my first trip: no photograph, and a frustrated determination to go back and wait as long as necessary to get a good shot. On trip number two, I only had to wait about 5 minutes before one showed itself out in the open. This is actually the only photo that I got, and thankfully it is clear enough that I am now satisfied.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

The Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher is an old world warbler that is blue-gray and catches gnats. Much like the Common Yellowthroat, they also fly around at 9,000 miles per hour but don’t mind being out in the open as much, so thankfully I got an okay photograph.

Field Sparrow

Field Sparrow

The Field Sparrow is a sparrow that lives in fields. It was also probably the most common bird I had never seen before this past week.

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

The Cedar Waxwing does not live in cedar trees and does not have wax on its wings. I know I put up a picture of one recently, but since they are the best bird ever, here’s another.

Here is everything I saw:
1.) Brown-Headed Cowbird
2.) Red-Winged Blackbird
3.) American Goldfinch
4.) White-Breasted Nuthatch (vocalization only)
5.) American Robin
6.) Carolina Wren
7.) Red-Eyed Vireo (vocalization only)
8.) Eastern Towhee (vocalization only)
9.) Northern Cardinal
10.) Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
11.) Gray Catbird
12.) Downy Woodpecker
13.) Mourning Dove
14.) Carolina Chickadee
15.) Northern Rough-Winged Swallow
16.) Cedar Waxwing
17.) Chimney Swift
18.) Common Yellowthroat
19.) Great Blue Heron
20.) Willow Flycatcher
21.) Field Sparrow
22.) Barn Swallow
23.) Tufted Titmouse (vocalization only)
24.) Indigo Bunting
25.) Eastern Wood Pewee (vocalization only)
26.) Baltimore Oriole