Catching Up

Moving was a huge time (and money) sink, but I still had a very good birding time lately. Here are some highlights spanning back through the last month.

NOPI

Northern Pintail

I made a concentrated effort to bird Eagle Marsh multiple times before switching houses, because that destination is now about an hour’s ride away rather than just 20 minutes by bike. It was very productive this spring, and the newly created mitigation wetlands offered some up-close viewing for ducks I don’t often see well like these Northern Pintail.

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Red-breasted Merganser

The neighboring ponds at the Serv-All sanitation mitigation area also did well. I had my first green Red-breasted Mergansers there back in March.

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American Mink

The adjoining marshes also represent mammals well. Eagle Marsh is the best place to see mustelids in the area, with skunks and minks both abundant. This mink was entirely unconcerned with me.

RUDU

Ruddy Duck

I was also able to slay a state nemesis (finally)! I have gone out to the marsh seeking Ruddy Ducks more times than I can count, and I was never able to get one until April 1. The date and my previous luck made me think it was a joke, but this was in fact a real bird and a new addition to the green list.

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Tundra Swans

The Ruddy Duck was exciting enough that I almost missed another state (and life) bird swimming in the same impoundment. These two Tundra Swans were a complete surprise since they only pass through the county in small numbers. I admired them for a while and tried to decide if they were Tundras or Trumpeters as I hiked around the water to try and get the best vantage point. In doing so, I momentarily shared the same stretch of path with a guy who had a huge long lens and a complete camo outfit.

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Tundra Swans

The swans were totally fine with our presence, and Mr. Long Lens put his camera down for a moment, so I whispered over to him, “Tundra or Trumpeter?” He looked at me like I insulted his grandmother, then he did an about face and marched away at about 30 miles per hour without saying a word. Birding is weird.

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Belted Kingfisher

The encounter was fine, though, because I much preferred to hang out with a Belted Kingfisher anyway.

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Purple Finch

Fast forward a week, and I had a couple of hours one afternoon after our move during which I intended to ride my bike from the new house to the old and back to connect my green list and make it continuous. Fortunately for me, I also had a pretty awesome target bird to chase in my old neighborhood when a former neighbor and birding friend alerted me to Purple Finches at her home feeders.

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Purple Finches

I picked up the male right away, and within a minute or two he flew in to the feeder with a female for some up-close and highly satisfying views. A county bird, and my first time ever seeing one in male-type plumage. A huge addition to the green list.

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Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Finally we are in the present, and having connected my green list to the new house, my new yard provided its first addition in the form of a small, pleasant flock of Ruby-crowned Kinglets flitting around my pine tree. I am pretty excited about the yard. It has spruce, pine, cedar, cherry, and ash trees for plenty of diversity, and it is directly across the street from a park with a large stand of mature oaks. A week and a half in I am at 23 birds on my yard list. I will be eagerly checking out a couple of new spots that may also be good enough for the title “local patch” once migration really kicks into gear. The green list is currently at 77, and it should be exploding in numbers very shortly. I can’t wait!

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March Birding

I apologize for the delay between updates. I have become rather busy between getting a new job, preparing to move to a new city, and buying a first home. Also, Jaime and I are expecting the first chick in our nest in August. So no matter how many birds I see, 2013 will definitely be a big year.

Before making the drive to Fort Wayne to go look at houses this past weekend, I was able to make some time for Eagle Creek, and my first birding day in March proved to be incredibly successful. I finished with 31 species for the day, which is definitely a high so far this year. Eight of those were ducks, four were lifers, and one was a bona fide rarity. I now have 65 birds in Indiana this year, 15 of which have been completely new to me.

#062 Northern Pintail

#062 Northern Pintail

The lake behind the Eagle Creek Ornithology Center was like an international airport with all of the take-offs and landings of water fowl. Spring migration is definitely in full force for ducks. I was fortunate enough to see these sleek Northern Pintails for my 62nd bird of the year. They were also one of my life birds for the day.

#063 Long-Tailed Duck

#063 Long-Tailed Duck

Year bird #063 and a lifer as well was the above-pictured Long-Tailed Duck. This bird spends its summers in the high Arctic and its winters in the open ocean, so seeing one this far inland is definitely not an everyday experience. Ebird qualifies this as a “rare” bird for Indiana, and I was indeed aware of its presence thanks to the IN-Bird-L listserv. I didn’t go to Eagle Creek with specific hopes of finding it; I only decided that if I happened to see it, then my trip would be that much better. So when I pulled into the parking lot to see two other birders scoping the lake, I decided to investigate. I got busy documenting the other ducks (Mallard, Ring-Necked Duck, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Redhead, Northern Pintail, and year bird #064 and lifer Green-Winged Teal), when suddenly the Long-Tailed Duck swooped down after only 20 minutes and landed within the range of my camera’s lens. I was able to snap the one photo above right as my batteries died, which is fortunate, because the duck left only moments later. With the several times I have dipped on rarities, I was definitely in the right place at the right time for this bird.

My final lifer on the day and year bird #065 was a Golden-Crowned Kinglet, a bird I had been trying to track down all winter. I wasn’t able to get a photo, much like the above-mentioned Green-Winged Teal, but that bird ended a highly productive day. From what I understand, neotropical migrants should soon be showing themselves in Indiana, so I am looking forward to my list really taking off in the next month.