Two Thirds Plus Three

On Sunday I rode out to Eagle Marsh to play mop-up duty on shorebirds. Of the possibilities, the two Yellowlegses were the most obvious outstanding omissions from my green list.

Continental Divide

Continental Divide

In the last year and a half there was some serious earthwork at Eagle Marsh. Some of it was to repair infrastructure damaged from flooding, some of it was habitat restoration, and some of it was to control invasive Asian Carp. Eagle Marsh is on the last line of defense for the Great Lakes, with the fish reaching the property but no farther. The newly opened Continental Divide trail meanders along high ground in between the two watersheds, with carp on the Mississippi side but not the Great Lakes side. Spillways between levees have chain link fences projecting over the high water mark to physically prevent the fish from making the jump.

BEKI

Belted Kingfisher

Even with such high stakes, this Belted Kingfisher was not interested in following anyone’s rules. Punk.

BAEA

Bald Eagle

Meanwhile in the other watershed, I wondered if the possibility of a clumsy eagle dropping its dinner over the berm could be the proverbial straw on the camel’s back?

GBHE1

Great Blue Heron

The birds didn’t seem to bother with such questions. As always, it was all about food. Usually skittish, this Great Blue Heron did not care at all about how close I was.

GBHE2

The definition of potential energy

It slowly crouched into a striking position and waited patiently as fish rippled around in the water.

GRYE

Yellowlegs

The heron had much more patience than I did. While it watched for lunch, I turned my camera to the mud behind it to try and get one of those Lesser/Greater Yellowlegs comparison shots. This is the best I could do. But both birds were had, so they officially gave me a new green year personal record and only two thirds of the way through the year. Woo!

GBHE3

Lunch

Meanwhile, the heron made its catch, the action of which I missed. It didn’t appear to be a carp either. Bummer. At least it was a substantial meal.

LEYE

Lesser Yellowlegs

So back to shorebirds I turned. I could not turn any of the Yellowlegs into Stilt Sandpipers, and try as I might, I could not turn any of the Leasts into Semipalmateds.

EAKI

Eastern Kingbird

So in an uncharacteristic move for Eagle Marsh, I got distracted by passerines. A small flock of young kingbirds bravely defended their tree from a Cedar Waxwing.

PHVI

Warbling Vireo

But they totally didn’t care about this bird. In my field notes I wrote this down as ‘vireo sp.’ Then I convinced myself it was a Tennessee Warbler. Following that, some spirited discussion on Facebook had a couple of experts whose word I trust very highly call it a Philadelphia Vireo which would have been a county bird. But the final verdict, I believe, is Warbling Vireo. Even with those dark lores, the overall coloration and shape of the bird make it the most boring possibility.

GRHE

Green Heron

A bird with no possible conflict of identity was this Green Heron.

AMMI

American Mink

The heron was hunting the exact same stretch of water as a sneaky American Mink, which was the last thing I saw before heading home.

I mounted my bike and started riding home on the towpath trail, but then I remembered that I still had an uneaten Cliff bar with me. I pulled over and as I was eating a weird song erupted out of the brush very close to the trail and to my right. I recognized the song which sounded like a DJ scratching records, but it took me a moment to place it. Bell’s Vireo! Talk about a right-place-right-time bird. I managed this cell phone video to catch a little bit of the song (if you can hear it over the shrillness of the insects). BEVI is regular but uncommon in Allen County, with only a handful of records each year. I had heard this species twice before at Eagle Marsh, but it was totally off my radar as a possibility on my ride that day. This was definitely a bird only made possible by biking, since there would not have been reason for me to be in that area if I drove.

RSHA 08.24.17

Red-shouldered Hawk

The weekend was incredibly productive even from home, where a Red-shouldered Hawk was sitting on a utility pole across the street when I got home from work on Thursday. This yard bird was also new for the green list this year, meaning that it plus my three additions on Saturday give me 146 species, and it’s still only August. I could count up the four most glaring holes in my list to put me at the ever-elusive 150 mark, but I don’t want to jinx it. Let’s just say that most wanted #1 rhymes with “Fileated Hoodpecker.”

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New Local Patch

I have been settled into my new house for about three months now, and that means (most) of the paint touch-ups, furniture assembly, and emergency repairs are done. So I get to bird! The first thing for me in that regard was to find a new local patch. I had an outstanding one right next to my old neighborhood in Foster Park, so I am used to a high quality of patch birding. I did not take this decision lightly. After consulting Google Maps, considering how long it would take me to get there, and how conducive it would be for green birding, I arrived at the only logical choice.

Local Patch

My New Local Patch

Gaze upon it! It is the western half of the IPFW campus, pronounced “IP-fwah,” short for Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne, and one of my wife’s alma maters (Go ‘Dons!). Yes, I made it an eBird hotspot, but the reviewer decided that a better acronym would be IUPUFW in the same style as IUPUI, (pronounced “Ooey-pooey“) one of my alma maters and short for Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (saying ‘university’ twice is really important).

My house is in the neighborhood just south of the bottom-right corner of the map above. The greenway trail follows Anthony Boulevard north right into the heart of campus, and it is less than a ten-minute bike ride away from me.

[Begin Stephan voice.] This patch has everything: the St. Joseph River, restored meadows, lots of edge habitat, and a big ol’ woodlot.

Swamp.JPG

Tiny Swamp

It also has a legitimate swamp in it with water literally right up against, and often flooding, the road next to it. It is also tiny, like less than a quarter of an acre tiny, but it provided me with at least one FOY bird in Green Heron this year.

St Joseph River.JPG

St. Joseph River

The big draw is the river. It is very wide here with lots of little inlets and banks in a fairly natural state. When the water is low, it exposes lots of mudflats which I am hoping will be a boon for shorebirds pretty soon.

Bridge.JPG

Cool Bridge

It has a pretty great bridge as part of the trail system, and Cliff and Barn Swallows are all over the place on it. It also provides a great vantage point from which to scan the riverbanks in all directions.

CONI.JPG

Common Nighthawk

Being part of a relatively recently build college campus, there are lots of gravel rooftops in the area, meaning Common Nighthawks are abundant at this time of year. With as many as were flying around I actually tried to get a decent photo of one for the first time ever, and I don’t think I did too bad.

EAKI.JPG

Eastern Kingbird

Most of the area in between these features is a big complex of athletic fields, fittingly called The Plex. The trees around them create great edges for all manner of birds, and tonight when I visited the passerines du jour were high numbers of Eastern Kingbirds, a bird I had never seen in the city limits before. So that was cool.

Don.JPG

Don the Mastodon

I will be sure to keep you all apprised of the birding opportunities here. I think this area holds great potential. Just tonight I picked up another FOY in Sharp-shinned Hawk to put my green list at 135. Fifteen more species and five months to go to hit the elusive 150, and I have faith that IPFW can help me do it!

…And We’re Back!

Sorry for the suspense, everybody. I know you have been checking this blog daily, maybe even hourly, to see if I did make it to 100 birds in Indiana by the end of April. Well, with buying a house, moving, shoving couches through windows, cutting box-springs in half, putting together lawnmowers, and grilling chicken, things have been pretty busy. We also just got internet service today after a week-and-a-half without. But now I’m back in the blogosphere. And the answer to the question you have been dying to know is that, yes, at the last hour, I did make it to 100 birds (102, actually).

#099 were two Black Vultures seen soaring above Johnny Appleseed Park in Fort Wayne. I was able to spot them because they were flying with a group of Turkey Vultures.

#100 was a Savannah Sparrow seen at Fox Island, and it was a lifer! Unfortunately, I could not get a photo.

#101 was a Baltimore Oriole, first spotted by Jaime, also at Fox Island. She has an eye for orange birds.

#102 Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

#102 Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

#102 was this Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, seen on the same trip to Fox Island. I managed to get a photo of everything on him except for his rose-breast.

#103 Solitary Sandpiper

#103 Solitary Sandpiper

The first year bird in May was #103 Solitary Sandpiper seen at Eagle Marsh.

#104 Eastern Kingbird

#104 Eastern Kingbird

Also on the Eagle Marsh trip was #104 Eastern Kingbird.

#105 Scarlet Tanager

#105 Scarlet Tanager

Moving on to Franke Park, I had a great #105 in this male Scarlet Tanager, which is always one of my favorites.

And to bring things to the present, the most recent bird was #106 House Wren seen while walking through our new neighborhood.

I hope to have a more thorough update this weekend, because I still only have 3 warblers on the year. Plus, our backyard is much better at attracting birds than the small patch of grass we had in Indianapolis.

Election Day at Eagle Creek

As government employees, Jaime and I get Election Day off. So Jaime used the occasion to plan a celebratory graduation adventure day that consisted of, among other things, seeing The Avengers and going to lunch at the Historic Steer Inn. But for me the highlight of the day was 3 relaxing hours of birding with my wife at Eagle Creek Park on the west side of Indianapolis. I thought I had a productive day this past weekend, but today beat it easily: 30 species seen, including FOUR lifers.

It also marked the first time I encountered a truly rare bird. Well, we didn’t actually see it. But we did run across dozens of people scanning the islands of the bird sanctuary’s lake, scouring the flocks of roosting Double-Crested Cormorants for one solitary Neotropic Cormorant among them, which is only the second individual of that species ever recorded in the state of Indiana. Even without logging one of those, I had a great birding day nonetheless. Here are some pictures.

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager (lifer!). After being really pumped about seeing my first Summer Tanager on Saturday, I was high-fiving Jaime when I completed the set with this Scarlet Tanager, who we probably would have missed if not for the tip from a fellow birder there for the Neotropic Cormorant. We also saw this little guy’s wife, but I couldn’t get a photo of her.

Black-Throated Green Warbler

Black-Throated Green Warbler (lifer!). I am still enough of a novice that pretty much any Warbler I can definitely ID is a lifer for me. This guy was no exception, and Jaime and I watched him for about 15 minutes. We were only able to identify him after consulting Roger Tory Peterson when we got home.

Orchard Oriole

Orchard Oriole (lifer!). I only got to take one photo of this guy before he flew off. Good thing it turned out great!

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler (lifer!). Enjoy this photo of a Prothonotary Warbler’s butt. This was my last lifer of the day, and his ID was again secret until we got home. I would like to note that he was much more orange in the face than the field guide would have lead me to believe.

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole. Since I’m on a theme of orange birds.

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole. As an added bonus, we were able to spot a female in her nest!

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird. I’m now officially out of orange.

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird. I like these guys a lot.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow. Iridescent and turquoise, a pair of these guys may or may not have attacked us as we got too close to their nest box.

Official tally for the day (in order of appearance):
1.) Mallard
2.) Canada Goose
3.) American Crow
4.) Red-Bellied Woodpecker
5.) Northern Cardinal
6.) Blue Jay
7.) Yellow-Rumped Warbler
8.) Brown-Headed Cowbird
9.) Carolina Chickadee
10.) Great Blue Heron
11.) Downy Woodpecker (vocalization only)
12.) Black-Throated Green Warbler (lifer!)
13.) American Goldfinch
14.) White-Breasted Nuthatch (vocalization only)
15.) Tufted Titmouse
16.) Double-Crested Cormorant
17.) Scarlet Tanager (lifer!)
18.) American Coot
19.) Yellow Warbler
20.) Song Sparrow
21.) Baltimore Oriole
22.) Gray Catbird
23.) Orchard Oriole (lifer!)
24.) Red-Winged Blackbird
25.) Cedar Waxwing
26.) Tree Swallow
27.) Eastern Kingbird
28.) Mourning Dove
29.) Prothonotary Warbler (lifer!)
30.) Eastern Bluebird