Early Spring Stuff

Way back in March (almost two months ago now, holy cow) I received an email from the USGS with a certificate attached inside:

COHA Certificate

It was for the report of the banded Cooper’s Hawk I found in New Mexico!

Banded Cooper’s Hawk

The government shutdown ended, and so they were able to tell me that this lady was at least 6 years old and had been banded in nearly the exact same place as I saw her in January. My first banded bird report!

Later on, I did in fact go birding again locally, even though it’s been ages since I updated this blog. I have been dutifully 5MRing with some nice results thus far.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

In early April I went to the Purdue woodlot to enhance my year list. A number of the earliest of spring migrants were passing through. It seems as though Ruby-crowned Kinglets like the one above, their Golden-crowned brothers, and several other species all appear together at once. Seeing one is a good sign that some of the others are also around.

Hermit Thrush

The Hermit Thrush is one of this group of collaborative migrants. It has been a pretty good year for them, with one even making a brief stay in my backyard for a new addition to that list.

PFW Woodlot

I always thought that the PFW woodlot would be great habitat for Winter Wrens. The forest floor is strewn with leaf litter and fallen logs. On the day of my visit I specifically tried to find this bird, since it too travels with the ones above, and because I had never seen one at this particular location.

Winter Wren

Bingo! Don’t you love it when your hunch turns out to be right? This is a new bird for my Purdue hotspot as well as my 5MR.

Not an Owl

I thought that the tree cavities would also make good hiding spots for owls. But the only ear tufts I found in one turned out to be something else. Oh well, can’t win them all.

Black Morph Squirrel

The other interesting mammal I came across was this dark morph Fox Squirrel. This color variation is common north of Allen County, even to the point of being the expected phenotype in many areas, but they are still not very numerous in Fort Wayne.

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Speaking of squirrels, an Eastern Gray Squirrel has been hanging out in my yard for the past week. These are even less common here than the dark ones. It is a new species for my house! They are smaller, quicker, and much more wary than their beefy Fox Squirrel cousins.

American Red Squirrel

While we’re on the subject of Sciuridae, I had another new squirrel addition to my 5MR last weekend on a visit to Franke Park: several American Red Squirrels. It seems like as squirrel size decreases, attitude increases, and these guys prove the rule. I now have six squirrel species in my 5MR this year, including another sighting of Southern Flying Squirrel that may be colonizing an oak tree in my yard!

Baltimore Oriole

Now that the arboreal rodents are out of my system, I will talk a little more about the next wave of early migrants, which included this Baltimore Oriole on my Franke Park trip. This guy was scenically eating nectar in the flowers of this ornamental tree, so I had to stop and watch.

Hooded Warbler!

The true purpose of my trip was to try and get my first warblers of the year. It was disappointingly quiet, but I did hear a Yellow Warbler on my way in and not much else. I expected at least to stumble across the ubiquitous and classic early eastern warbler the Yellow-rumped, but there were disappointingly few birds around. However, as I hiked around the pond a little yellow guy zoomed close by my feet to offer itself as the winner of the First Warbler Seen Of The Year: a Hooded Warbler!

Hooded Warbler

Look at this handsome dude! I had only ever seen one previously almost seven years ago, and not in Allen County. So count it for new patch bird, new 5MR bird, new green bird, and new county bird! It gave me some great looks too, probably because it was much more concerned with the Blue Jays harassing it than it was with me. I am taking this as a good sign for things to come yet this spring!

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Not at Home and Close to Home

My job frequently has me traveling to far flung corners of Indiana and occasionally other states. This past week put me in Oakland City, Indiana, otherwise known as home to the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge. You know what I had to do.

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Patoka River NWR

I only had about an hour to kill before I got back on the road, but thanks to local advice from Facebook, I was able to hit a productive spot.

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Snakey Point Marsh

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Ducks

Most of my views were about like this (how many species of ducks in the photo above?), which leaves little of use photo-wise for this blog, but it did allow me to really flesh out my Gibson County list. Actually, I did a lot of birding paint-by-number in weird little rural counties that I would otherwise have few reasons to visit. Those of you eBirding since last summer know what I’m talking about.

Indiana Map

My Indiana Map

There they are in all of their light-orange-to-red glory. This has got to be some sort of clever trick by the Cornell folks to get people to eBird more. Give them a snappy color-coded map to fill in with all kinds of bird sightings. Driving through Owen County? Don’t forget to add the pigeons you saw at the gas station and the Red-tailed Hawks sitting on every other fencepost. I added probably 100 county ticks on my state map from my route from Fort Wayne (brightest red – 186 species) down to Evansville (opposite corner) and back. I can’t wait for the day when there’s no more gray left on this map.

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Bird ID Quiz

Closer to home, I had a couple of hours to get out of the house yesterday. As I was preparing my bike to ride out to Eagle Marsh, a trio of American Crows started raising hell in the spruce trees behind my house. I assumed they had found my resident Barred Owl, but I decided I would take a look to find out just in case it was something better. This was about as good of a look as I got until the dappled brown lump turned its head and showed me that it was actually a Great Horned Owl, which is yard bird #70! I was worried that Grosbeak Gardens would forever be stuck at 69 species, because it will only be my yard for a couple more weeks. I will give it a proper goodbye in the next post.

Invigorated (and having spent a not insignificant part of my birding time in the back yard), I ditched the bike plans and instead walked over to Foster Park for what will probably be one of its last times as my local patch. I hung out with the common folk, and it was nice.

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Brown Creeper

I don’t know if it’s me or the park, but I always have an incredible time with the Brown Creepers. I think I have said before that you can just about pet them at Foster Park if you want to. Here is a close-up of a Brown Creeper ear.

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American Robin

American Robins look and act cool. They hunt with ruthless and deadly efficiency. But they are really common and their movements constantly make you think that a less obvious migrant just landed on the ground over there. Oh well. This one did ferocious battle with an annelid (and won).

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Winter Wren

Ever since a storm a few summers ago blew down a bunch of trees by the river, Foster Park has been thick with Winter Wrens in the late winter and early spring. This fellow was irritated that I was walking through his space, but he provided me with the best look and photo of his kind that I have ever had.

I will miss Foster Park a lot. I will still be able to visit it, but it will take the better part of an afternoon to get there and back from my new place. Although it might end up being worth the trip, because it is by far the best place to find Yellow-throated Warblers and Barred Owls in the county from what I have seen. In the meantime, I will have to find a new local patch. I’m looking forward to that, though!

Yank… Yank Yank!

It’s been a long time! In between getting a new job and thoroughly wrecking my bike, I have seen some birds.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

While eating a cinnamon roll, making coffee, and holding a baby this morning, I glanced out the window to see a Red-Breasted Nuthatch on the feeder. Later on in the day while “doing yard work,” I managed to get a serviceable photo after being alerted to its continuing presence by a series of pleasant “yank yank yanks.” He was busy flying back and forth from the feeder to the fence to the spruce trees and appearing to stash seeds. I hope this means he is preparing to settle in for the winter, or maybe this is just an impulsive habit that irruptive nuthatches posses?

White-Breasted Nuthatch

White-Breasted Nuthatch

And here is the other Indiana nuthatch for good measure. There are a couple of guys trying to get the state bird changed to WBNU, and I think I support them.

Winter Wren

Winter Wren

The trees by the river at Foster Park that were downed by the storms this summer and the accompanying brushpiles that accumulated around them must make great habitat for Winter Wrens, because I missed them entirely in the first part of the year, but they are out in force now. I even had one in my yard. This has got to be one of the hardest birds to photograph due to its size, secretive nature, and obscuring and dark habitat preference. I am really pleased with what I managed to get.

Golden-Crowned Kinglet

Golden-Crowned Kinglet

Despite how much more common they are, this was the best I could do with Golden-Crowned Kinglet. A flock of about 20 was mocking me all throughout the park.

Osprey

Osprey

So about that bike wreck. It happened on my way to Eagle Marsh a few weeks ago. I got pretty banged up, but continued on my way anyway. A guy has got to see some shorebirds, amiright? Or at least an Osprey.

Pied-Billed Grebe

Pied-Billed Grebe

The trip also gave me my first encounter of the year with Pied-Billed Grebe. All of these above birds leave me at 130 species on the motorless list!

Raccon

Raccon

On my way back from the bike wreck, I encountered this raccoon.

Life is no way to treat an animal.

“Life is no way to treat an animal.” -KV

But it was looking for a scenic place to spend its last hours. So it goes, Mr. Raccoon. So it goes.

Birding Raleigh

Jaime and I traveled to my parents’ house to celebrate my mom’s birthday and Easter last weekend. As always, there were many great birds to be had. My parents have provided ample landscaping, feeders, and water features to attract many birds. In between the many dozens of meals that we ate, I spent a considerable amount of time on the deck and looking out the kitchen window, jealously plotting how to landscape our future yard (closing later this month, fingers crossed) to be a similar haven for these small, wing-ed beasts. Behold!

Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Chickadee

It was totally appropriate to be watching Carolina Chickadees in the state of (North) Carolina. Also: it takes an architect’s talent to select a feeder that is both this visually pleasing and also effective at nourishing the avian fauna of the suburban Triangle region. Well played, dad.

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

I’m having deja-vu all over again. Carolina Wren? In Carolina? It can’t be! Author’s note: I found it amusing that despite being one of the smallest birds of the yard, these fellows were first in pecking order, giving much larger Towhees and Cardinals the boot when they demanded some vittles.

House Finch

House Finch

House Finches (or Pink Birds in our household) were the most common feeder enthusiasts chez Majewski. This gentleman knows what is proper as he allows his lady friend to dine first.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

This American Goldfinch was shedding his brown winter plumes for a new yellow get-up. And he, like countless others, could not be dissuaded from the clean lines of modernism.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbirds aren’t so shallow as to be easily had by the prospect of a free meal.

White-Crowned Sparrow

White-Crowned Sparrow

And somehow Casa di mi Padre remains the only locale where I have ever seen a White-Crowned Sparrow despite their supposed commonality. Come on, Indiana, you’re falling behind.

Winter Wren

Winter Wren

Not all birds were found quite so easily. Jaime and I made a trip to a local park with a walking path around a lake. A Winter Wren was working some tree roots and caught me off guard. I had to stalk it for a few minutes before getting this mediocre photo. It was by far the best bird of the weekend, and another missing from my Indiana list. While not rare, I will go out on a limb and declare these to be uncommon.

It was a great trip for many reasons besides just birds. But, this weekend the task at hand is Swallows, which are beginning to appear up here in Fort Wayne for the spring. My goal is to get to 100 birds by the end of April. Go!