Kentucky Birds on the Ohio from Indiana

Last week I was traveling along the bottom of Indiana for work. I had an overnight stay in Clarksville, which is just across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky. I went out early in the morning to bird at the Falls of the Ohio. This part of the state is interesting in that anything in the water is technically in Kentucky. So I added a new state to my eBird map!

The Falls

The Falls of the Ohio

The Falls are the only natural impediment on the otherwise totally navigable Ohio River. So a long time ago they were dammed. The only falls now are from water streaming over a controlled spillway.

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Ohio Riverbank at The Falls

The best birding was on the Indiana side of the river. With winter high waters bringing in lots of debris, there was ample cover for the birds.

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White-eyed Vireo

I was hoping to tally up a list of resident birds and early migrants to start a solid Clark County list. But I was surprised fairly quickly by getting a lifer White-eyed Vireo. This bird has been an annoying nemesis for me, and it was the most common bird remaining for me to see on my Indiana eBird targets list. That distinction now belongs to Northern Bobwhite.

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Nashville Warbler

Being almost 200 miles south of home, there were several early migrants around that have not yet made an appearance in Allen County. This Nashville Warbler was one of them, along with several Northern Parulas (parulae?).

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Song Sparrow

Song Sparrows, however, are something that can be enjoyed year-round anywhere in the state. This one begged me to photograph it, but it strangely wasn’t singing.

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Black Vultures

Black Vultures are common in Indiana, but only when you get into the hills in the southern third of the state. A pair watched me inquisitively as I made my way back to the car.

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Lost Binoculars

Even with a lifer, the most interesting thing I saw during the morning ended up being a pair of binoculars about 30 feet up in a huge tree growing in the middle of the river. I figure they were thrown in a fit of anger by a birder who failed to lifer a White-eyed Vireo like I did. Either that or they were found by some kids who decided to see how far they could chuck them. But it’s probably the first one. In any case, I posted photos of my outing to the Birding Indiana Facebook group, and this photo by far got the most likes along with some other theories on how they came to land here.

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Eared Grebe

The Falls were not the only birding I did on my trip. The previous day, I drove the entire length of Interstate 69 from northeast to southwest through Indiana. At about the midway point in Hamilton County there had been a long-staying Eared Grebe at a retention pond next to a hospital right off of the highway. I decided to stop since I was driving within half a mile of the location. Initially I feared it had flown as I scanned the large pond and didn’t see anything besides Mallards. But then the bird popped up out of the water perhaps 20 feet from me and proceeded to just float there. This grebe was also a lifer for me, and probably the single best combination of both easiest chase and best view.

I have now seen four species of grebe in Indiana in the course of one month without visiting Lake Michigan. That feat is pretty difficult to accomplish even if you are trying for the grebe quadfecta in this state. The Red-necked Grebe that I found in March ended up being a bigger deal than I originally thought, with folks posting it to the rare bird alert (which I didn’t realize it was eligible for). eBird tells me that people even chased it from as far away as Indianapolis, which is pretty cool. Yay grebes!

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City Sparrows

If you have never been, Indianapolis is a surprisingly cool city. There is plenty to see, eat, and buy downtown and in the surrounding neighborhoods. I was there on Monday for work, and I could probably be forgiven for stopping in one of its parks to enjoy the beautiful fall day.

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Downtown Indianapolis

Of course, there were birds around, too.

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Clay-colored Sparrow

Specifically, this bird was around. Clay-colored Sparrow was a lifer. And yes, I did see it in the same place where the first photo was taken. The washed-out background of the sparrow photo is the limestone of the Indiana War Memorial just a few blocks from my old office.

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Field Sparrow

Finding this single bird in a small urban park was made much more difficult by the presence of Field Sparrows. The Clay-colored was associating with a small flock of them, and the poor looks they were giving me didn’t allow me to differentiate between species. I spent an hour chasing them around the park as the group flew from tree to tree, when finally, right when my parking meter was about to expire, they all finally perched out in the open on tall decorative grass in a concrete planter. With the sun at my back, I found my target bird.

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Song Sparrow

The most numerous sparrow was Song Sparrow, kind of like the most numerous person around was the conspicuous Pokémon Go player. For a moment I thought about approaching one of them and waxing philosophical about how they were looking for virtual animals and I was looking for a real one right in the same place. But it didn’t happen. Instead, I went up to two other guys with cameras to ask them if they saw the sparrow. They turned out to be German tourists who were taking pictures of the buildings, and, shockingly, the phrase “Clay-colored” does not translate very well from English.

Shout out to the guy with the long lens who I hollered at out of my car window, though. He actually was a birder and let me know that CCSP was still hanging around before I began my search.

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Red-breasted Nuthatch

In other news, I spent some time last weekend trying to get decent shots of my Red-breasted Nuthatch flock. I have had at least two birds at the feeder for the past month, and they have gotten used to me to the point of not caring. Walter and I even tried to hold seed out in the hopes they would land on our hands, but I guess they aren’t stupid despite their confidence.

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Red-breasted Seed Stasher

I am not a huge fan of feeder shots, so I used a binder clip to attach a spruce branch to the feeder hoping that the birds would land on it prior to getting a morsel. No dice. But I did find a branch in my Japanese maple tree where they were cramming seeds under the bark, so I sat for a while with camera fixed on that spot and got something pretty serviceable. Bonus points for nuthatch tongue!

January Birding in the Midwest

Is a mad dash to get a few dozen species right at the beginning of the year and then a whole bunch of slow progress to tick off the random birds here and there that you miss. On a cold but sunny Sunday, I took a 20+ mile ride to both Fox Island and Eagle Marsh to chase a few less common birds (Purple Finch, Rough-legged Hawk) but mostly just ended up watching common fare. I did add two new species to the green list, though: Song Sparrow and Barred Owl.

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Song Sparrow

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American Tree Sparrow

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Hairy Woodpecker

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Blue Jay

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Red-tailed Hawk

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Virginia Opossum

Novembirds

Greetings again reader(s)! After a month since my last birding outing, I know that my “big year” has become laughable, but I have had to balance my life with other things, such as having nonsense conversations with Walter (who is now 3 months old), being busy with a promotion at work, attending a way cool UU church, and listening to the new Arcade Fire on vinyl (happening now… I especially dig ‘Joan of Arc’ and ‘Awful Sound’). Despite this other life I lead, I got out to Eagle Marsh today and had a fruitful day with the birdies.

#146 Herring Gull and #147 Dunlin

#146 Herring Gull and #147 Dunlin

This is basically all I had to look at, but there are two new year birds in this photo! The Herring Gull (#146) was one I was worried I would miss out on entirely this year. Up until today, it is probably the commonest resident Indiana bird that I had not seen. The larger, browner bird in front of the Ring-Billed Gulls is a first-winter Herring. Way behind the gulls in the background are a bunch of little peeps running around. Those are Dunlins (#147 + lifer). This is the best I could do photo-wise, so you just have to trust me here.

#148 Wilson's Snipe

#148 Wilson’s Snipe

The final new bird of the day was one that I almost overlooked amongst the Dunlins: Wilson’s Snipe (#148 + lifer)! You can’t see much in this super grainy photo, but the absurdly long bill gives him away.

Since my field days have been limited, I have been birding Grosbeak Gardens (aka the back yard) much more frequently lately. Some highlights:

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

Dark-Eyed Junco

Dark-Eyed Junco

Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Chickadee

I have since learned that the Chickadees floating around the yard (and much of Fort Wayne, actually) are Carolina, not Black-Capped. Apologies for the error. Additionally, everyone has been happy in the yard recently (especially the Carolina Wrens) with the installation of a new suet feeder (not pictured).

Sparrow Fest 2013

Instead of going off to some exotic location to single out a specific bird, I went to Eagle Creek here in Indy this morning. I had intentions of bulking up my year list, but since it is still outstandingly cold and most of the water in the reservoir was frozen over, things were pretty slow. It was, however, a great day for sparrows:

#026 White-Throated Sparrow

#026 White-Throated Sparrow

#028 Fox Sparrow

#028 Fox Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

The Fox Sparrow is life bird #183 for me! I also had a few other year birds today: #024 American Goldfinch, #025 American Coot, #027 Northern Shoveler, and #029 Pileated Woodpecker.

Sparrow Party

Sparrow Party

I’ll leave you with a shot of the whole gang together. From left to right: Song Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, and Northern Cardinal (which you might already know is not a sparrow).

 

 

 

 

Eagle Creek – 6/2/12

Migration season is over, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t have a productive birding outing. I went back to Eagle Creek Park today to see what I could come up with. I ended up with 38 species seen (I was able to visually identify every bird that I heard!), including one lifer:

Willow Flycatcher

Willow Flycatcher

The Willow Flycatcher was my lone lifer of the day. It is one of several nearly visually indistinguishable species within the genus Empidonax, but I was able to listen to this one singing long enough to commit the song to memory and look it up when I got home for a positive ID.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Warblers are tricky to ID and even more difficult to photograph, but not the Yellow Warbler. The obvious plumage and sheer number of these at Eagle Creek allowed me to get a decent shot.

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

The Cedar Waxwing is my all-time favorite bird. This one is participating in one of my all-time favorite activities.

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

This is a Song Sparrow.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

And in an encore performance from last weekend, another Northern Cardinal, just because it was there.

Full list (in order of appearance):
1.) Mallard
2.) Canada Goose
3.) Carolina Wren
4.) Brown-Headed Cowbird
5.) Northern Cardinal
6.) Downy Woodpecker
7.) White-Breasted Nuthatch
8.) American Crow
9.) Blue Jay
10.) Red-Bellied Woodpecker
11.) Indigo Bunting
12.) Cedar Waxwing
13.) Carolina Chickadee
14.) Mourning Dove
15.) American Goldfinch
16.) Gray Catbird
17.) Yellow Warbler
18.) Rock Dove
19.) Common Grackle
20.) Barn Swallow
21.) Song Sparrow
22.) Double-Crested Cormorant
23.) Red-Winged Blackbird
24.) Willow Flycatcher (lifer!)
25.) Chimney Swift
26.) Baltimore Oriole
27.) American Robin
28.) Wood Duck
29.) Brown Thrasher
30.) Tree Swallow
31.) Northern Rough-Winged Swallow
32.) Red-Eyed Vireo
33.) Tufted Titmouse
34.) Great Blue Heron
35.) Hairy Woodpecker
36.) Eastern Wood Pewee
37.) House Wren
38.) Prothonotary Warbler