Kentucky Birds on the Ohio from Indiana

Last week I was traveling along the bottom of Indiana for work. I had an overnight stay in Clarksville, which is just across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky. I went out early in the morning to bird at the Falls of the Ohio. This part of the state is interesting in that anything in the water is technically in Kentucky. So I added a new state to my eBird map!

The Falls

The Falls of the Ohio

The Falls are the only natural impediment on the otherwise totally navigable Ohio River. So a long time ago they were dammed. The only falls now are from water streaming over a controlled spillway.

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Ohio Riverbank at The Falls

The best birding was on the Indiana side of the river. With winter high waters bringing in lots of debris, there was ample cover for the birds.

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White-eyed Vireo

I was hoping to tally up a list of resident birds and early migrants to start a solid Clark County list. But I was surprised fairly quickly by getting a lifer White-eyed Vireo. This bird has been an annoying nemesis for me, and it was the most common bird remaining for me to see on my Indiana eBird targets list. That distinction now belongs to Northern Bobwhite.

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Nashville Warbler

Being almost 200 miles south of home, there were several early migrants around that have not yet made an appearance in Allen County. This Nashville Warbler was one of them, along with several Northern Parulas (parulae?).

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Song Sparrow

Song Sparrows, however, are something that can be enjoyed year-round anywhere in the state. This one begged me to photograph it, but it strangely wasn’t singing.

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Black Vultures

Black Vultures are common in Indiana, but only when you get into the hills in the southern third of the state. A pair watched me inquisitively as I made my way back to the car.

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Lost Binoculars

Even with a lifer, the most interesting thing I saw during the morning ended up being a pair of binoculars about 30 feet up in a huge tree growing in the middle of the river. I figure they were thrown in a fit of anger by a birder who failed to lifer a White-eyed Vireo like I did. Either that or they were found by some kids who decided to see how far they could chuck them. But it’s probably the first one. In any case, I posted photos of my outing to the Birding Indiana Facebook group, and this photo by far got the most likes along with some other theories on how they came to land here.

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Eared Grebe

The Falls were not the only birding I did on my trip. The previous day, I drove the entire length of Interstate 69 from northeast to southwest through Indiana. At about the midway point in Hamilton County there had been a long-staying Eared Grebe at a retention pond next to a hospital right off of the highway. I decided to stop since I was driving within half a mile of the location. Initially I feared it had flown as I scanned the large pond and didn’t see anything besides Mallards. But then the bird popped up out of the water perhaps 20 feet from me and proceeded to just float there. This grebe was also a lifer for me, and probably the single best combination of both easiest chase and best view.

I have now seen four species of grebe in Indiana in the course of one month without visiting Lake Michigan. That feat is pretty difficult to accomplish even if you are trying for the grebe quadfecta in this state. The Red-necked Grebe that I found in March ended up being a bigger deal than I originally thought, with folks posting it to the rare bird alert (which I didn’t realize it was eligible for). eBird tells me that people even chased it from as far away as Indianapolis, which is pretty cool. Yay grebes!

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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!