America’s Beloved Agri-Hobo


Ice Bike

I went out to collect as many species of waterfowl as I could over the last two weeks. It has been really cold in northern Indiana, so my strategy was to look for the open patches of water that are few and far between where the birds will congregate. Luckily, I now live right next to two such places since moving last spring. I felt vaguely hobo-ish riding (okay, walking) my bike somewhat needlessly through the snow. But a guy’s gotta bird green.



The first really good winter birding spot in Fort Wayne is the water treatment ponds, about a mile and a half from my house. Even with the greenway trails totally uncleared, it was worth it to trudge to this spot.


Common Mergansers

On my first trip two weekends ago I found a huge diversity of ducks that quickly elevated my 2018 green list. Included among the species were a couple of Redheads and a small flotilla of Common Mergansers. Each of these are birds I only found in one of the preceding years’ lists.


The dam at Johnny Appleseed Park

The second good place I found for duckies is Johnny Appleseed Park, which is only about half a mile from home. I visited this past weekend. People know about the water treatment plant, but this park is relatively unbirded despite having the grave of its namesake (that link was the first one I found when I googled ‘johnny appleseed grave’ and it refers to the man as ‘America’s beloved agri-hobo’ — fantastic!). So I did what I had to do and made it Allen County’s newest eBird hotspot. The dam on the river here keeps the water turbulent and unfrozen.


Common Goldeneye

Among the Mallards and Canada Geese floated two Common Goldeneye, which was a little bit exciting.


Hooded Merganser

Many Hooded Mergansers also mixed things up. This female wanted nothing to do with me.


Cooper’s Hawk

Of the five new birds I added during my visit, none of them actually ended up being ducks. This Cooper’s Hawk was probably the coolest among the collection.

Even when the weather warms up and ducks are more spread out, I will probably be more frequently visiting Johnny Appleseed Park. It’s proximity to home can’t be beat, and I need to pay proper respects to America’s beloved agri-hobo.

Magical Bird Wonderland

Today I was fortunate enough to have a meeting for work in the small city of Linton. For those of you not familiar with Indiana birding locations, Linton is the home of the Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area, also known as Magical Bird Wonderland and the state’s premier birding location not located on Lake Michigan. I made sure to arrive at the meeting extra early to get in some quality birding time. Despite the driving rain, it was a more than great day!

#054 Sandhill Crane

#054 Sandhill Crane

If Indiana does one bird well, it is the Sandhill Crane, and Goose Pond does the Sandhill Crane very well. Since its establishment, Goose Pond has actually altered the migration route of these birds, causing massive swarms of the four-foot-tall beasts to gather there in the winter. There were literally thousands, if not tens of thousands of cranes. They covered the corn stubble fields, grazing like massive herds of avian cattle. They passed overhead in wave after wave of unending V’s. The cranes here may actually be the most incredible natural phenomenon I have ever seen, and a highly worthy year bird #054

#056 American White Pelican

#056 American White Pelican

Also among the impressive flocks of birds was the continuing mass of American White Pelicans that had taken over many of the muskrat lodges in the main pool. These are a rarity in Indiana at this time of year, giving me a very good year bird #056. Not that #055 Common Grackle wasn’t also good, but I will probably not be seeing pelicans every day this spring and summer in my neighborhood.

#058 Redhead

#058 Redhead

The waterfowl kept coming with several species of ducks, many of which were lifers for me. Redheads were year bird #058 as well as life birds. I came home to show Jaime my photos, and the first thing she said was “Redheads!” I told her I was impressed that she knew the name of them, only to be informed that she was just talking about their red heads. This is an appropriately named duck.

#059 Ring-Necked Duck

#059 Ring-Necked Duck

Year bird #059 was the Ring-Necked Duck pictured above (the male is the top center bird in the photo). A few of these small ducks were hanging out in a large group of Redheads, Lesser Scaups, and Gadwalls on a very small pond.

#060 Lesser Scaup

#060 Lesser Scaup

Here is one of the aforementioned Lesser Scaup. In addition to being year bird #060 (which was my target number to get to today), they were also life birds.

#061 Gadwall

#061 Gadwall

The last bird I was able to identify was the humble Gadwall (bottom center bird above). Year bird #061 (putting me over my goal) and yet another lifer as well.

For those of you keeping track at home, you may have noticed that I skipped year bird #057. That is because I didn’t get a picture of them. However, as I was marching to the duck pond to take photos, I accidentally flushed a flock of Sandhill Cranes that was out of sight over a rise. As the birds lifted off, I saw three large white forms fly away with them. My heart literally skipped a beat as I thought “Whooping Cranes!” The total global population of Whooping Cranes is only in the triple digits, so they would have been a very exciting sight. Their rarity also contributed to my not seeing them, because the white birds in question turned out to be Snow Geese. Still exciting for me, though, because they were lifers! I ended the day with a life list of 192 species.

Goose Pond was incredibly impressive, despite the stormy weather and the fact that I missed many of the most impressive migrating flocks of waterfowl (sadly missing from my day list were Greater White-Fronted Geese and Northern Pintail). I will definitely try to make another trip back here some time despite the distance, and I will recommend that if you are even in the vicinity of southwest Indiana, Goose Pond is well worth a visit.