It’s Been Hot Out

Indiana has been baking in a heat wave for what seems like the better part of a month. Although I have neglected this blog during that time, I have taken a few sweaty bike rides.

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Dickcissel

The common theme has been Dickcissels. Dickcissels everywhere. Dickcissels at the airport. Dickcissels perched in random trees by the side of the road like the one above. Dickcissels at Eagle Marsh. This has been the summer of the Dickcissel. I have seen more Dickcissels in June of 2018 than I have in the rest of my life combined.

DICK

The State Bird

If you really, really want to see a Dickcissel, though, just go to any farm field with utility wires strung alongside it.

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Grasshopper Sparrow

On one particularly Dickcissely stretch of road south of town, I found some of their friends. Chief among them were numerous Grasshopper Sparrows, which are always a good sparrow to have around. They were also hanging out with Savannah Sparrows, which were the first ones I saw since my trip to Ouabache State Park, meaning I officially got them back on the green list for the year (which is up to 128, thanks for asking).

SPSA

Spotted Sandpiper

Another bird on the same stretch of wires with all of the sparrows and Dickcissels was this guy. I know Spotted Sandpiper is the goofy uncle of the sandpiper family, but this behavior was just taking it too far.

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Red-eyed Vireo

With as hot as it’s been, I have mostly been able to tolerate short bursts of birding from the yard. This Red-eyed Vireo was new for the yard before the weather became unbearable. In the 16 months we have been in our current home, the yard list is now up to 62 species.

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Baby Robin

The yard birding has also benefitted from the bird bubbler, which one day hosted a long-staying juvenile American Robin. It found the water source and then just sat in it. For like half an hour.

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Parents just don’t get it

But like all the things that youth think are cool, once its mom found the fountain, the baby was all of a sudden less interested.

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Pond Siblings

Fortunately for me, my kids are still young enough that they like the same stuff I do. Earlier in June while Jaime was in Toronto, I had several days alone with the kids. The best one among them was the day that we went to Fox Island, which is usually a birding destination for me by myself.

Pond Walter

Nuthatch

Pond Alice

Chirper

They loved it. Or at least wading in the quasi-nasty pond. Walter also felt inspired to add a few birds to his own personal life list. The outdoors are pretty great!

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Birds with Kids

Birding has come in short bursts recently, usually in the morning for an hour or so before everyone else is up. With cold temperatures all weekend, this actually proved advantageous for seeing migrants close-up. Bugs aren’t flying when it’s frosty out, so everyone was close to the ground. I got over the century mark and then some on my green list, something that didn’t happen until July last year.

So with great success on Saturday, I took a more relaxed approach to the birds today and did so with company.

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“I want to see a starling, Dad.”

Walter and I took a ride around Foster Park with the explicitly stated purpose of seeing birds, and he was pretty cool with it. At less than three years old, he can identify crows by sight and usually points them out before I can get to them. He will also tell you that his favorite bird is the Rested-bread Nuthatch.

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“There is an alligator. It’s crawling around up there.”

He would excitedly ask “where?” every time I tried to point out a bird. He also asked me to launch him into the river (his idea, not tried). Needless to say, our list was small but the outing was a lot of fun.

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Our Setup

I will take this time to plug the Burley Honeybee, which is an awesome trailer if you also have small people that you want to take out some time.

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American Redstart

We did actually see some birds, too. American Redstarts are bountiful this year.

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Northern Flicker

A loud group of guys teed off behind this flicker, which was foraging on the golf course and not caring.

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Red-eyed Vireo

The footbridge at Foster came up big again, with a Red-eyed Vireo at eye level and arm’s length. I played around with the flash on my camera and thought this shot came out interestingly.

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Rose-breasted Grosbeak

There were other kids around this weekend, too. A super awkward-looking first spring Rose-breasted Grosbeak was hanging out in our yard. Just look at this picture. From the hideous molt to the old-man eyebrows to the electric line and vinyl siding behind, this is a disgusting photo, and I like it.

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Bunneh

Another kid of sorts. This bunny lives in the hostas by our garage and comes out two or three times daily, which is just enough to make one go “squeeee!”

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Combo

Squirrel for scale.

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Eastern Chipmunk

And while we’re talking about tiny mammals. It seems like any time chipmunks are mentioned or observed, someone will talk about the best and most novel way to murder them. A few missing strawberries are not that big of a deal in my opinion. Even Walter agrees.

Birding Fatherhood

Over the weekend, I birded for the first time since Walter has been here. It took a couple of weeks, but things have finally settled down enough to the point where Jaime and I are able to do some of our old things. For me, that meant a trip to Franke Park on Saturday morning.

I missed quite a few passerines on spring migration due to the chaotic changing around of our life, so I was hoping to add at least a few new ticks to the year list, and I succeeded. I ran into a flock of Warblers, Vireos, and Chickadees in the middle of the woods and was able to pick out a few species before some, ahem, gentleman’s unleashed dog came crashing through the underbrush, jumped up on me, and scattered the birds.

#141 Cape May Warbler

#141 Cape May Warbler

This Cape May Warbler was the first year bird of the day for me, bringing my total to 141. I was confused by this species’ fall plumage and couldn’t make up my mind at first, but the presence of the white wing patch as opposed to wing bars sealed the ID.

#143 Black-Throated Green Warbler

#143 Black-Throated Green Warbler

The only other new Warbler for me for the year was this Black-Throated Green, good for year bird #143 (Swainson’s Thrush was #142 and only made a brief appearance for no photo).

Warbler Duo

Warbler Duo

Black-Throated Green was a very popular individual and even spent some time discussing accent colors with this Black-and-White.

Red-Eyed Vireo

Red-Eyed Vireo

Also among the flock was this Red-Eyed Vireo, which at first I didn’t recognize because I am so used to seeing them as little specks calling from the tops of trees. This guy was frolicking under the canopoy, however, and gave me the best look (and photo) of the species that I have ever had.

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk

Not all birds seen were small, however. This Red-Tailed Hawk was basically right next to my car as I was leaving. You can’t see it in the grass, but this fellow was chowing down on a snake.

Since my birding time in the field has been limited as of late, I have spent more time in the backyard, with son in one arm and camera in the other, trying to document some of the birds closer to home. I spent about an hour sitting on our patio a couple of weeks ago documenting the denizens of Grosbeak Gardens:

American Goldfinches

American Goldfinches

House Finch

House Finch

Pam

Pam

White-Breasted Nuthatch

White-Breasted Nuthatch

And a final bird of note was one seen at Metea Park, where Jaime and I were married exactly two years ago on August 6 and went again this year on our anniversary. He was behaving much more like a Goldfinch than a Woodpecker:

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Franke Park

I like Franke Park in Fort Wayne. It offers a wooded stream with a pond, fields, and successional forest. I always have a good day when I go, so I’m not sure why I don’t go more often. Also: it is right next to the zoo, so sometimes the animals there make weird noises that can be heard from the park, confusing any birders in the area. I had three new year birds today, not including the species of Waterthrush that I was unable to identify and a bird that I saw only momentarily but am 99% sure was a Mourning Warbler. But I am doing this thing right, so I am not counting either of those.

American Redstart

American Redstart

I started off with some pretty great views of this male American Redstart. The orange is for Jaime.

#118 Red-Eyed Vireo

#118 Red-Eyed Vireo

The first year bird of the day was #118 Red-Eyed Vireo, who was busy warbling from the top of a tree that thankfully had no leaves, or he would have been difficult to spot. I have heard several of these guys previously, but I decided early on that I am only counting bids that I actually see (which is why I haven’t added Common Nighthawk yet, despite several of them buzzing over the house this week).

#119 Canada Warbler

#119 Canada Warbler

If you have ever wanted to see the back of a Canada Warbler, you’re welcome. I was able to get some great looks at this bird (#119 and lifer), including the trademarked black necklace, but he turned around as soon as I took this photo and then flew away into the understory. This is what Canadas look like from the front, eh. In case you were wondering, I also saw Canada Geese.

#120 Bay-Breasted Warbler

#120 Bay-Breasted Warbler

Another partial-warbler shot. This is bird #120, Bay-Breasted Warbler, and he doesn’t appear to have a head (thanks, leaf). At least I was able to get the primary field mark.

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!)