Eagle Marsh

Birding has played second fiddle to life this summer, but I got out to Eagle Marsh on Sunday. I had a few species on my mind that I wanted to see, but when I got there it was obvious that the sheer number of individuals would be the highlight. Post-breeding dispersal is on in the Midwest.

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Red-tailed Hawk

The first bird to catch my attention was a young, begging Red-tailed Hawk that sounded remarkably like a Ring-billed Gull.

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Swallow Flock

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Swallow Swarm

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Purple Martins

As I hiked down the Towpath Trail, I became increasingly aware that there were thousands of birds around. Most of them were swallows, and of those, 99% were Purple Martins. Two huge flocks were congregating on electrical transmission towers at either end of the preserve, with uncountable birds buzzing and swooping around in between. I estimated at least 500 martins to trip the eBird filter, an accomplishment always good for a birder badge of pride. I have seen most of the other swallow species flock like this in late summer, but never PUMAs. A good half looked like first summer birds.

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Northern Rough-winged Swallow

A few other species mixed in with the flock, mainly Barn Swallows. But I was able to pick out a small group of Northern Rough-winged Swallows clustered to themselves off to one side of the power lines.

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New Impoundment

I hiked up the trail to the newly created levee that forms the “continental divide” between the Mississippi and Great Lakes watersheds. When this was completed a year or two ago it made a new impoundment between Eagle Marsh and the neighboring Fox Island preserve to the south (the trees in the photo above are in Fox Island).

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Common Gallinules

I spent some time scanning the new impoundment to see what might be around. The water was much too high for shorebirds, but a somewhat unexpected sighting was a family of Common Gallinules, with mom and five chicks. I have only seen one other bird in Allen County before, so it is cool to know they are breeding here!

Viceroy

Viceroy

Eagle Marsh is a pretty good stopover for Monarch butterflies, and the Little River Wetlands Project holds an annual Monarch Festival there each year. So it was a little surprising to see so many Viceroy butterflies out and about. In addition to their smaller size, the stripe through the hindwing is the best way to tell Viceroys from their bigger sisters.

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Great Blue Heron

Try as I might to tread softly, I kept startling Great Blue Herons from either side of the levee. If I were to guess what the devil sounds like, Great Blue Heron calls would be a good bet.

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Heron Feather

One of them angrily dropped a feather as it fled before me. Here is my size-13 cankle for size comparison.

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Double-crested Cormorant

Before I left, I stopped to observe a fishing Double-crested Cormorant. Plenty of these birds were around, but a group of his buddies on a partially submerged log did not yield any increasingly common in Indiana Neotropic Cormorants.

It was such a nice day that I took a long detour home to look for Blue Grosbeaks. I didn’t find any, but I did get my waaaaaay overdue first of the year American Kestrel. It plus the martins and gallinules meant three new green species, bringing my total to 131 for this year.

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Recent Local Additions

The last two weeks I have birded my new local patch at the Purdue campus hoping to add to my green list with early spring migrants. In the process, I significantly added to it as a hotspot since I wasn’t really birding it last spring after I moved in nearby.

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Double-crested Cormorant

One of the first birds I saw on my first outing there was a lone Double-crested Cormorant high in a snag on an island in the river. These guys are plentiful in the county, but I have not seen very many along the rivers. They usually appear at the water treatment plant or the larger pools at Eagle Marsh.

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Pied-billed Grebe

The other FOGY riverfowl was a Pied-billed Grebe. I am not sure how these birds have not evolved into grotesque, portly, flightless gluttons. It seems as though every time I see one it is cramming a fish the size of its head down its throat.

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Golden-crowned Kinglet

There were dozens and dozens of Golden-crowned Kinglets in every tree. They were also a new addition to the property for me. I decided to try and catch a photo of the fast little buggers. I only managed one shot, but it turned out okay!

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Fox Sparrows

Also checking in for the passerines were more Fox Sparrows than I have ever seen in my life. That is not an exaggeration. There were at least three dozen of them in the brush by the soccer complex, with a great many of them singing.

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Fox Sparrow

With as numerous as they were, none would pose for a good photo. Still, this is a bird I have for whatever reason only seen in one previous year’s green list, so it was an exciting time.

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Washout

A week later I returned for more list building. The weather had changed significantly from the previous week, with torrential rains breaking just enough for me to bird for an hour or so on Sunday. The downpour was enough to wash out the road, but the birds loved it.

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Teal Buddies

The first neat thing that I saw were two ducks in the river. A male Green-winged and a male Blue-winged were hanging out together, following each other around closely with no other ducks nearby. Teal bros stick together, I guess. Both duckies were FOGYs and new birds for the patch.

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Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Here is one of a couple of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers that were working in the arboretum. It was yet another new bird for me at this particular location.

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Northern Flicker

Many, many Northern Flickers were also out to represent the woodpeckers, with the species being a FOGY the week before.

With all the new additions my annual green list is sitting at 68 species. I also think I have seen the true potential at Purdue. I birded it intermittently last year but will definitely be spending more time there this spring. It is also less than a mile from my home, which is nice. Speaking of birding close to home, I have finally jumped on the Five Mile Radius (or 5MR) bandwagon.

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My Fort Wayne 5MR

Here is my circle, centered on my Fort Wayne home. eBird says I have seen 137 species inside of this five-mile radius. That dates back to my sightings from before I moved last year, but for ease of counting and also to better show what can be seen in the radius, I decided to make mine retroactive. It includes many miles of river, Purdue, Johnny Appleseed Park, Franke Park, Lindenwood Cemetery and Nature Preserve, the water treatment plant, and Deetz Nature Preserve. I also catch the very northern tip of Foster Park to ensure I will be able to get Yellow-throated Warblers! The only thing missing is marsh habitat, but I hope to be able to find at least a few small patches in my future explorations.

Waterfowl

When it’s below freezing but sunny like it was this weekend, it is usually a good thing for waterfowl at the city water treatment ponds which don’t ice over. I added six new species to the green list, which felt good since my hunch paid off and also because my outing to Fox Island last week netted zero new birds for the year.

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Double-crested Cormorant

Riding the greenway along the river, my first interesting sighting was a bird mixed in with the Canada Geese. Double-crested Cormorant is not a bird I would usually expect to associate with typical waterfowl, but this one was swimming along with all of the others. It made an interesting size comparison. A diving Pied-billed Grebe was also a nice early surprise.

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American Black Duck

At the ponds, there were also some mixers-in with the abundant geese. American Black Duck is a bird I don’t see very often. This pair plus Northern Pintail made for two species that I missed last year, and it is good to have them back on the list.

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Gadwall

Gadwall are not ducks that I see on land very often. I don’t recall ever seeing their speckled underbellies before. From afar, they are smudgy gray and black. But at close range they are actually good looking birds!

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Greater White-fronted Geese

Earlier in the week I was driving back from an appointment and decided to seek out a flock of Greater White-fronted Geese that had been reported from just outside the city limits in a famously productive field. As I turned onto the appropriate road, a flock of about 60 birds flew low over my vehicle for an impressive entrance of a life bird. Not green, but I will take it.

This winter seems to be the winter of the goose in Indiana. Snow and Greater White-fronted are common in the western half of the state but not so much in the east. However, this year both species are making a huge push all over it. Ross’s Geese, an uncommon state bird in general, also seem to be much more abundant than in years past. I have read that this is a trend that is getting stronger, so we’ll see how common these birds become in the near future. In my lifetime I have seen five Snow Geese, this singular flock of Greater White-fronteds, one Ross’s, and zero Cackling.

In other news, I have launched the other nerdy project that I have alluded to on this blog before: another blog, History of a Home. If having two blogs on extremely esoteric subjects doesn’t make me cool, then nothing will.

Honeymoon Birding

This past Monday minus one year, I got to marry the woman of my dreams! Not only does she put up with this bird obsession of mine, but she actually embraces it, too! As anyone who attended our wedding can attest, there were birds involved. Is that love or what?

Stuff!

Stuff!

As I am sure you are all surprised to hear, there was also much birding going on during our honeymoon to Maine. Observe!

Common Eider

Common Eider

Common Eiders were everywhere! Including the dockside bar that we went to before our sunset cruise in Portland Harbor one night. One of them was so trashed that she came right up to our table, removed everything from it, and demanded that she take our picture all the while telling us how much she hates Tom Brady and people from Massachusetts in general.

Double-Crested Cormorant

Double-Crested Cormorant

Though frequently seen in Indiana, Double-Crested Cormorants also abounded in Maine. We ran into this one at Wal-Mart, where we grudgingly had to go (twice) because we forgot to pack beach towels and I broke my flip-flops.

Herring Gull

Herring Gull

We got lost on our way to see Lenny the Chocolate Moose one day, so I had to stop and ask this Herring Gull for directions.

Osprey

Osprey

This Osprey forgot to keep putting on sunscreen because it was so cold with the wind blowing off the ocean, and it ended up getting really ridiculously sunburned.

Great Black-Backed Gull

Great Black-Backed Gull

This Great Black-Backed Gull paid $20 for a margarita and was so mad that it stole a pen from the bar when it paid its bill so that it could get even.

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

This Semipalmated Plover drove us around all week in a seafoam green Ford Focus.

Sanderling

Sanderling

Sanderlings finally convinced Jaime to eat a lobster… after an afternoon of pub crawling around Portland.

Rock Dove

Rock Pigeon

Rock Pigeons served us some excellent pastries at a French cafe downtown.

A Flock of Seagulls

A Flock of Seagulls

On our last day, we were so tired that we just decided to veg out! It was a great trip!