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.


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.


Swallow Flock


Swallow Swarm


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.


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.

New Impoundment.JPG

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).


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!



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.


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.

Heron Feather.JPG

Heron Feather

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


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.

Fort Harrison State Park

Today was my first birding day post-degree, so I spent about four hours wandering around Fort Harrison State Park in Lawrence, Indiana. It wasn’t a great day for photos, but I got two lifers (Hooded Warbler and Red-Eyed Vireo!) on my tally of 37 species identified.

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting

I saw about three times as many Indigo Buntings at Fort Harrison as I have on every other day of my life combined. The jamboree began immediately, as one of these was the very first bird I saw as I was still in my car driving to the trail head.

Indigo Bunting (Female)

Indigo Bunting (Female)

This is a female. Mother Nature is sexist.

Northern Rough-Winged Swallow

Northern Rough-Winged Swallow

Some Northern Rough-Winged Swallows perched high in a tree by a lake and were very good sports about having their pictures taken.

Red-Eyed Vireo

Red-Eyed Vireo

While on the theme of drab-looking birds, here is the lone photo of a lifer that I was able to get. This is a Red-Eyed Vireo, which I actually heard the entire day without realizing what they were because they are loud and monotonous in their song, but like to hide up in treetops and don’t have any distinguishing physical features. Finally, as I was getting back into my car one sang right above my head and stayed long enough to let me take this.

It would also like to say that since I was able to bag my first Black-Throated Green Warbler and Scarlet Tanager last week, I saw them everywhere today. Maybe my eye is now trained to spot them, but I saw two separate Scarlet Tanagers and dozens and dozens of Black-Throated Green Warblers. If this pattern holds, I will see many more Vireos and Hooded Warblers on my next outing.

Tally for the day (in order of appearance):
1.) Indigo Bunting
2.) Song Sparrow (vocalization only)
3.) Carolina Chickadee
4.) American Robin
5.) Scarlet Tanager
6.) Northern Cardinal
7.) Brown-Headed Cowbird
8.) Black-Throated Green Warbler
9.) Blue Jay
10.) Tufted Titmouse
11.) Common Grackle
12.) Barn Swallow
13.) American Goldfinch
14.) Cedar Waxwing
15.) Eastern Towhee
16.) Eastern Bluebird
17.) Great Blue Heron
18.) White-Throated Sparrow (vocalization only)
19.) Baltimore Oriole
20.) House Wren
21.) Chipping Sparrow
22.) Hairy Woodpecker
23.) Hooded Warbler (lifer!)
24.) Red-Bellied Woodpecker
25.) Downy Woodpecker
26.) Pileated Woodpecker
27.) White-Breasted Nuthatch
28.) Eastern Wood Pewee
29.) Northern Flicker
30.) Canada Goose
31.) Northern Rough-Winged Swallow
32.) Chimney Swift
33.) Red-Winged Blackbird
34.) Mourning Dove (vocalization only)
35.) Brown Thrasher
36.) Gray Catbird
37.) Red-Eyed Vireo (lifer!)