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:

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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.

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Mallard

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.

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Birds and Kids

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

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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.

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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.

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Kids and a Rosebeast

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

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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.

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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.

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Chipping Sparrow

The sparrow train continued with Chipping, too.

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American Robin

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Foster & Fox

That would make a great name for a British-style pub, no?

Over the last two weeks my primary birding destinations were Foster Park and Fox Island. Some of the highlights:

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Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrows are incredibly common early spring migrants, but I am loving my new camera.

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Yellow-throated Warbler

This Yellow-throated Warbler at Foster Park was foraging in the same tree as a Brown Creeper. Disorienting, to say the least. The juncos and creepers hung around into last week, but an outing today netted none of the strictly winter birds.

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Eastern Phoebe

I turned my bike toward Fox Island today and came up with a pleasing three dozen species. One of them was the above Eastern Phoebe imploring you to tread lightly. Earth Day vibes all over this one.

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American Pipit

It was great to have about half a dozen warblers plus a few more new migrants, but the most surprising birds of the day came before I even got to the park. A tractor was plowing a field along the road, and some Killdeer and robins were gorging on the bugs that were getting kicked up. I somehow managed to catch sight of two smaller dirt-colored birds way out in the field with them, and they turned out to be American Pipits. This is only the second time I have seen this species, and it was not on my radar at all as a possible green bird! This one plus the others I got today bumped my list up to 80 on the year.

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Garter Snake

I happened across an expert local birder at Fox Island who I hiked with for about an hour. He thankfully put me on to a ton of things I would have missed otherwise (hello, Pine Warbler!) He also managed to identify this snake for me as a Garter Snake. I probably should have known that. Thanks, Rodger!

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Eastern Comma

While birds were numerous, they were less than cooperative for photos. Thank goodness for butterflies. I was actually able to call this Eastern Comma in the field thanks to the reading up on them I did last summer.

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Who gives an [expletive] about an Oxford Comma?

It also helped that the namesake punctuation mark was easily visible on the underwing.

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Spring Azure (?)

Not as easy was this supposed Spring Azure. I will take corrections on this one. Final thought: if you use birder banding code on butterflies, this one becomes SPAZ, which is very fitting.

April Annuals Arriving

After what seemed like an excruciatingly long winter (or maybe I am just reading too many bird blogs from people out west), good things are finally happening in my corner of the Midwest.

Spring

Spring

I birded a long stretch of the St. Mary’s River over two days this past weekend, and my birdometer turned satisfyingly. As of today, the motorless list is up to 61 species, and we haven’t even gotten into the thick of migration. In no particular order, here are some highlights (aka the birds I actually got pictures of).

Wood Ducks

Wood Ducks

Wood Ducks were pairing off up and down the river, making their pathetic little squeaky call all over the place.

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrushes are skulky bastards. I managed to catch one by surprise.

Sapsucker Camo

Sapsucker Camo

Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers are not birds that I think of as being particularly well camouflaged, but this one was putting on a convincing act as a peeling scale of bark.

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrows were chipping.

Yellow-Throated Warbler

Yellow-Throated Warbler

I love it when my first warbler of the year is not Yellow-Rumped. The many large Sycamore trees along the river provide ample room for Yellow-Throated Warblers, and I came across a flock of four birds all jockeying for position in the branches and singing loudly. Yellow-Throated is my favorite warbler for looks, habits, attitude, and because it was one of the first birds I learned to identify by song.

YRWA: Take 1

YRWA: Take 1

The only other warbler around was the expected Yellow-Rumped. A nice bird in its time and place, so I tried to get a photo. One thrill-seeking bird sallied for gnats right in front of me, totally oblivious. At one point it dove straight for my face, caught a bug, then banked 90 degrees to avoid a collision. I tried to get a photograph of this obliging bird. Take 1: backlit.

YRWA: Take 2

YRWA: Take 2

Take 2: stick in the face.

YRWA: Take 3

YRWA: Take 3

Take 3: stick in the face.

Some birds won’t be photographed. I am leagues away from the crushing shots others can pull off, but I at least like my photo documentation not to look like witness protection program participants. Add to these shots about a dozen more hopelessly blurry photos.

That’s all for now. I expect to have some really good stuff in about three weeks, when I will be spending three days camping in the woods on the Lake Erie coast, hopefully up to my eyeballs in warblers. Stay tuned!

Miscellaneous Indianapolis

Since pretty much every day this week has cracked triple digits on the thermometer, I have stayed indoors as much as possible. I imagine that even if I were to head out to one of the local parks, I wouldn’t see much. So here are some random photos from around town that I took earlier this year that haven’t been blogged yet:

Yellow-Throated Warbler

Yellow-Throated Warbler

This Yellow-Throated Warbler was singing its heart out at the Broad Ripple Art Center back in April.

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

So was this much more conspicuous Carolina Wren.

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

This Chipping Sparrow was hanging out in Holcomb Gardens at Butler University back in April, too.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Back in October, Jaime and I were at the 100-Acre Wilderness of the Indianapolis Museum of Art and saw this Great Blue Heron.

Hermit Thrush

Swainson’s Thrush

We got a pretty good look at a usually reclusive Swainson’s Thrush that day, too.