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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.