Early Spring Stuff

Way back in March (almost two months ago now, holy cow) I received an email from the USGS with a certificate attached inside:

COHA Certificate

It was for the report of the banded Cooper’s Hawk I found in New Mexico!

Banded Cooper’s Hawk

The government shutdown ended, and so they were able to tell me that this lady was at least 6 years old and had been banded in nearly the exact same place as I saw her in January. My first banded bird report!

Later on, I did in fact go birding again locally, even though it’s been ages since I updated this blog. I have been dutifully 5MRing with some nice results thus far.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

In early April I went to the Purdue woodlot to enhance my year list. A number of the earliest of spring migrants were passing through. It seems as though Ruby-crowned Kinglets like the one above, their Golden-crowned brothers, and several other species all appear together at once. Seeing one is a good sign that some of the others are also around.

Hermit Thrush

The Hermit Thrush is one of this group of collaborative migrants. It has been a pretty good year for them, with one even making a brief stay in my backyard for a new addition to that list.

PFW Woodlot

I always thought that the PFW woodlot would be great habitat for Winter Wrens. The forest floor is strewn with leaf litter and fallen logs. On the day of my visit I specifically tried to find this bird, since it too travels with the ones above, and because I had never seen one at this particular location.

Winter Wren

Bingo! Don’t you love it when your hunch turns out to be right? This is a new bird for my Purdue hotspot as well as my 5MR.

Not an Owl

I thought that the tree cavities would also make good hiding spots for owls. But the only ear tufts I found in one turned out to be something else. Oh well, can’t win them all.

Black Morph Squirrel

The other interesting mammal I came across was this dark morph Fox Squirrel. This color variation is common north of Allen County, even to the point of being the expected phenotype in many areas, but they are still not very numerous in Fort Wayne.

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Speaking of squirrels, an Eastern Gray Squirrel has been hanging out in my yard for the past week. These are even less common here than the dark ones. It is a new species for my house! They are smaller, quicker, and much more wary than their beefy Fox Squirrel cousins.

American Red Squirrel

While we’re on the subject of Sciuridae, I had another new squirrel addition to my 5MR last weekend on a visit to Franke Park: several American Red Squirrels. It seems like as squirrel size decreases, attitude increases, and these guys prove the rule. I now have six squirrel species in my 5MR this year, including another sighting of Southern Flying Squirrel that may be colonizing an oak tree in my yard!

Baltimore Oriole

Now that the arboreal rodents are out of my system, I will talk a little more about the next wave of early migrants, which included this Baltimore Oriole on my Franke Park trip. This guy was scenically eating nectar in the flowers of this ornamental tree, so I had to stop and watch.

Hooded Warbler!

The true purpose of my trip was to try and get my first warblers of the year. It was disappointingly quiet, but I did hear a Yellow Warbler on my way in and not much else. I expected at least to stumble across the ubiquitous and classic early eastern warbler the Yellow-rumped, but there were disappointingly few birds around. However, as I hiked around the pond a little yellow guy zoomed close by my feet to offer itself as the winner of the First Warbler Seen Of The Year: a Hooded Warbler!

Hooded Warbler

Look at this handsome dude! I had only ever seen one previously almost seven years ago, and not in Allen County. So count it for new patch bird, new 5MR bird, new green bird, and new county bird! It gave me some great looks too, probably because it was much more concerned with the Blue Jays harassing it than it was with me. I am taking this as a good sign for things to come yet this spring!

February Features

My February birding hasn’t been very exciting lately, but I have still had time to go to Foster Park a few times and hang out with some cooperative birds.

COHA.JPG

Cooper’s Hawk

For the past three years in a row Cooper’s Hawk has made its appearance on the year list in the third week of February. Strange coincidence for a bird that is common year-round, or is there something to be said about this time of the year? This one was grasping something pretty tightly in its talon before it flew off.

HETH 1.JPG

Hermit Thrush

I stared down this Hermit Thrush on February 12th. I know that a few of these birds overwinter in the area, but this still seems like a very early date. I usually don’t pick mine up until April.

HETH 2.JPG

Hermit Tush

The date alone was a good enough field mark to identify this bird, but if there was any doubt here is its nice rufous tail. I usually think of Hermit Thrushes as skittish and wary, but this one seemed unconcerned with my presence. Maybe it carried this attitude in regard to the time of year too. It didn’t care that it was cold and early.

BRCR.JPG

Brown Creeper

Keep on creeping, Brown Creeper.

EABL.JPG

Eastern Bluebird

Streaky brown birds are in style during winter in the Midwest. Eastern Bluebirds eschew this wisdom, however.

ARSQ.JPG

American Red Squirrel

American Red Squirrels are either getting more common in the park, or I am getting better at spotting this fellow. Still uncommon and a nice year mammal.

HETH 4.JPG

Untrue to its name

And I’ll be damned if the Hermit Thrush wasn’t forgoing its hermit nature and actually following me. It was practically forcing me to observe its bright pink legs. What are you, a thrush or a Blackpoll Warbler x Black-necked Stilt hybrid?

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!

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.)