Friday, September 26, 2008

A Big Day: Part 2

We quickly headed to Dunes State Park and located a small migrant flock adding a few needed birds. The birding was slow and we only added a few species but when we arrived at the nature center we quickly picked up a bonus Red-breasted Nuthatch. We made our way west along the lakefront without too many birds. One highlight was seeing a Common Loon flying over our car, the only loon we had all day. We also saw an Orange-crowned Warbler which we had not expected but other birds were few and far between.

Ring-billed Gull, a very common bird on the Lake Michigan shores.

We had about 15 less species than we had wanted to have at this time and we knew we were going to have to come up big somewhere along the way just to break 160. We had some luck the day before at some flooded farm fields in the middle of the city so we made our way over there to see if anything had stuck around. We were not disappointed in the least; we quickly found many species of waterfowl. We picked up a couple of bonus birds including Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, and Redhead. Our highlights here not only consisted of waterfowl, we quickly found one Bobolink and a few Dunlins. Our spirits soared at this point in the day when we realized that 170 species was now a good possibility.

As we headed south to the area that we started the day at midnight, we picked up a quick lunch and tallied up the birds we had seen so far. We arrived at a large grassland called Kankakee Sands, at about 2:00 in the afternoon. We were really lacking shorebirds and had found a small wet spot in a field with many shorebirds, unluckily for us this small puddle had dried up and not much was left. We were able to pull out a Semipalmated Plover and American Pipit. We then walked out into one of the marshes and picked up a few more shorebirds and our only Ring-necked Pheasant. We also picked up many common grassland birds that do not occur along the lakefront.

At this point we headed to the area that we had camped to start our day. Most of this area was very quiet but we were able to add Common Moorhen and a few other expected birds. The sky had started to cloud up at this point and we could definitely see that there was going to be a threat of rain so we cut our time a little short at Willow Slough FWA. We had very few shorebirds and knew that if we were going to end with a good number of species we would have to fill this hole. My idea was to try to get to a location about an hour or so south of us with enough time not only to find some shorebirds but also get some easy southern songbirds. On our way we needed to stop for American Golden-Plover which we quickly found. Golden-Plovers are shorebirds but unlike many other shorebirds these guys like to hang out in fields. Most other shorebirds much prefer mudflats. While we were driving out of this are we saw our only American Kestrel of the day.

The rain hit, it had started pouring while we were still driving to our next location. With the look of the storm, we figured that it would not let up for a long time to come. We had to make a decision at this point, try to bird through the rain or head for home and hope it stopped by the time we got there so we could pick up a few more birds. We decided on the latter and by the time we were nearing Indianapolis it was just sprinkling. We ended our day very slowly with a Carolina Chickadee and a Semipalmated Sandpiper, the rain had held us back from the potential number of species we could have seen, but we ended with a respectable 161 species.

Every year around 325 different species of birds are seen in Indiana, we had found about half of those in one day. But to understand this number you need to understand much more about birds. First off many birds are here during only one season, making many birds impossible on a single day in May. There are also many birds that occur only once or twice a year, for the most part you can count all of these birds as misses as well. Some birds that live in Indiana only live in the southern forests making it very difficult to see them if you are doing your Big Day in the northwestern part of the state. You may ask “Why don’t you do the Big Day in the southern part of Indiana?” Many birds are much more likely to be seen in the northwestern part of the state than in the southern part of the state. However more bird species are present in the northwestern part of the state in May than any other part of the state at any time. So seeing 170 or more species in one day in Indiana is an extremely good total.

All of this craziness is done for the Amos Butler Audubon Society. We raised over $25,000 last year for conservation purposes. If you would like to donate to the cause, there is a link on the side of the page to a site where you can donate. Donate in the name of the Accidental Shrikes, which is my team.

1 comment:

Chad said...

Makes my little 45 bird big day seem extremely minute.