The Locals

My travel schedule has been a bit nuts lately, with trips for business, family, and of course birding taking me through many places over the last several weeks. I am home for a while now though, so it is back to local birding and building the motorless list some more. Here are some of the things I have seen in and around Fort Weezy recently.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

A May without warblers would be a sad thing indeed. Not to worry. The Midwest’s strong suit is alive and well, and this Palm Warbler was making use of its namesake with all of the many date and coconut palms growing wild in Indiana.

Louisiana Waterthrush

Louisiana Waterthrush

Waterthrushes are some of the most underrated warblers. Any bird that acts in no way like the other members of its family is alright by me, and this Louisiana Waterthrush was doing just that by putting on a decent sandpiper performance. LOWA is also a life bird for me, motorless lifer #4 for the year. I also lifered sans motor this week with Blue-Winged Warbler. The motorless list is up to 77 as of today, and 100 looks more attainable all the time. I am still missing embarrassingly common things like Killdeer, Great Egret, and Tree Swallow.

Snapping Turtle

Snapping Turtle

I have seen some cool non-bird things recently, too. Like this ridiculously enormous snapping turtle. This thing was probably close to 3 feet long from nose to tail, no joke. I know that birds are technically more closely related to dinosaurs, but this guy gives them a run for their money.

Muskrat

Muskrat

Mammals have also been around. When they aren’t attacking your dog, muskrats are actually pretty cute.

Raccoon

Raccoon

I take that back. Raccoons put them to shame.

Chug

Chug

What better way to wash down an entire block of suet than by sticking your whole head in the nasty birdbath that hadn’t yet been cleaned out after my trip to Indianapolis?

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

What was I doing in Indianapolis, you ask? I realize this makes two consecutive blog posts with Canada Goose featured. So I will end with my other notable Indy sighting of first-of-the-year Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, signing from the middle of a downtown parking lot. Birds are weird.

May Day Bird Count

Fort Wayne’s Stockbridge Audubon Society takes part in the May Day Bird Count, where members go out and try to count every single individual bird in an area during the peak of spring migration. I signed up, knowing that I would benefit from the coordination of the count plus the experience of other birders. I was assigned to meet at Fox Island County Park in Fort Wayne at 6:30am and was met with near perfect conditions: storms rolled through Allen County the previous evening, causing night-migrating passerines to stop in their tracks and drop to the trees below, with the weather the next morning absolutely ideal for birding. This is as close to a fallout as I have ever experienced!

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

This Palm Warbler was one of about a dozen species of warbler for the morning, and this individual is the first alternate-plumaged bird that I have seen in Indiana.

Orange-Crowned Warbler

Orange-Crowned Warbler

A bird I was definitely not expecting to see was the Orange-Crowned Warbler. I have been trying not to rely too heavily on my camera recently, preferring instead to work out an ID on my own before going for photos. This is opposite of how I initially started birding, where I would take as many photos as possible, hope for a diagnostic shot, and go for the ID later on my computer. Thankfully, I employed the latter method for this bird, because it did not stay long and I wouldn’t have known what it was without this shot.

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

This blog is littered with photos of mostly-obstructed Magnolia Warblers, but I think this is the clearest shot I have ever gotten.

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole

Ditto above for the Baltimore Oriole. With as abundant as they were at the park, I am a little frustrated that this is the best photo I could manage.

Not a target bird

Not a target bird

My long-time reader(s) may be thinking that the year is almost halfway over, and I have yet to mention my 2014 goal of a “strategic year” since I came up with the idea. Well, it’s not for lack of trying. I had many forays into the frigid abyss this winter and spring hoping for at least some Rusty Blackbirds, but all I could seem to come up with were things that were not Rusty Blackbirds, like this muskrat. Most of the other strategic birds on my list are either spring migrants or summer residents, so I was optimistic today. And I got close! With audio verification from the group leader’s iPhone, I am 100% sure that I heard a Cerulean Warbler vocalizing. However, I didn’t see it, so I won’t count it. I discussed this philosophy with others in the group, and they seemed to at least understand.

If I have never seen a bird, I won’t count it on my list, even if I know I am hearing it. Once I see it, however, it goes on there, and in subsequent encounters a vocalization will be enough to go on my count for that day and location. Thanks to the well-trained ears of my group, I checked several life birds off today after waiting patiently to see who was singing: Yellow-Throated Vireo, Acadian Flycatcher, and Tennessee Warbler were had this way. Wilson’s Warbler, Orange-Crowned Warbler, and Northern Waterthrush were gotten the old-fashioned way.

How to relax after a successful day

How to relax after a successful day

Following my victory in the morning, Jaime had the excellent idea to make the most of the great weather and the in-laws as baby sitters. We rented a canoe from the local outfitter and paddled around for several more hours on the Saint Mary’s River, which is something I can’t wait to do more of. And the birds kept coming, too! We had most of the Indiana swallows, including Cliff Swallow, which was one that had been eluding me in the state.

#miami

Continuing with the year of travel, Jaime and I were fortunate enough to make it down to Miami for my sister’s graduation and to see the family, celebrate Christmas early, and all of those good things. Additionally, I am sure you would be disappointed if I didn’t spend considerable time chasing birds around and looking foolish in front of all of those gaudily-dressed scenesters, European ravers, and Jersey Shore cast members. Don’t worry, reader(s) behold:

Eurasian Collared Dove

Eurasian Collared Dove

The first significant bird was a life bird for me, the Eurasian Collared Dove. Much like most things in Miami, these birds do not originate in America. They supposedly can be found in Indiana too, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

The Cattle Egret was also a life bird for me, though they are exceedingly common in Florida. They are infamous for expanding their range very rapidly during the 20th century, arriving in the US of their own accord and spreading out from there. Again, these can supposedly be found in Indiana, but I haven’t seen any proof yet.

Mitred Parakeet

Mitred Parakeet

Another life bird were these Mitred Parakeets that had taken their talents to South Beach. Originally from Ecuador or something, these birds are feral and thriving in their new digs. They are also closely related to the Red-Masked Parakeets of San Francisco (and this blog’s) fame, but the Mitred variety has an incompletely red face.

Muscovy Duck

Muscovy Duck

The provenance of waterfowl is frequently difficult to determine when they are unafraid of humans, and I was about ready to give up on the Muscovy Ducks that inhabit the University of Miami’s campus because they are endemic to Central America. However, one of these ugly bastards had a flock of ducklings with it, which let me know that they have indeed established themselves like the parrots above. Lifer.

Magnificent Frigatebird

Magnificent Frigatebird

The fifth and final lifer of the trip was this Magnificent Frigatebird that was wheeling around the bay outside of our 15th floor balcony. These guys have a truly crazy silhouette that looks like they should be in a Batman movie.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

The award for most appropriately named bird of the trip goes to this Palm Warbler, which was sitting in a palm tree.

White Ibis

White Ibis

I do not know the scientific term for a group of White Ibis, so I will say that this herd of them was busy begging for bread crumbs at The U.

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

This Brown Pelican was photographed from our Duck Boat during the Duck Boat Tour of Biscayne Bay. It was not amused.

Laughing Gull

Laughing Gull

It was impossible to do anything without at least one Laughing Gull looking at you funny.

Unlikely Allies

Unlikely Allies

Even with all of the great birds that were seen in South Florida, perhaps the most unexpected was the Red-Bellied Woodpecker cavorting about with Monk Parakeets in a palm tree in the middle of a busy street. I guess this just goes to show you that what happens in Miami stays in Miami, unless you get photographed and put on the internet.