Monday, June 22, 2009

First Indiana State Record: Roseate Spoonbill

As I got up at 4:45am on Saturday to head to Goose Pond FWA, I had a feeling that I would have a fantastic day of birding. As it turns out, I was not mistaken. I arrived on the property at 7:30am and quickly started finding some of the awesome summer residents. There were Blue Grosbeaks singing from the telephone wires as well as many Dickcissels. I could also hear numerous Northern Bobwhites doing their “bob WHITE” calls and Eastern Meadowlarks singing beautifully.

While trying to get to the first unit that I planned to bird, I ran into a major problem. The road was completely flooded over from both directions and was way too deep for me to drive across. I quickly changed my plans and headed to a large pulloff along SR-59 to see if I could find any of the rarities that had been reported. Right as I pulled up, I noticed a large group of Egrets feeding in the marsh and immediately noticed 3 smaller egrets among the 40 or more Great Egrets. Once I got my scope out and put it on the group, I was able to see the beautiful orange coloration on their heads, necks, and backs. This allowed me to identify them as Cattle Egrets.

Just after looking at the Cattle Egrets, I found my first rarity of the day when a single Fulvous Whistling-Duck flew over SR-59 and landed in GP16. This was the first time I had seen this species in Indiana and only the third or fourth time I had ever seen this bird. Unfortunately, it landed deep in the marsh out of sight. I continued on to the parking area by the new tern island where I meet up with Lee Sterrenburg and Jeff McCoy, two well-known Indiana birders. Although Lee had to leave shortly thereafter, Jeff and I spent the rest of the morning birding together.

Since the tern island is not yet complete and it sticks out a long way into the marsh, we hiked out to the end of the island to get a better view. We were looking specifically for the ducks that had been seen and reported as possible Mottled Ducks, and we did find the four individuals in question. They were at quite a distance, but I am personally not convinced as of yet that they are truly Mottled Ducks. I would have to see them at much closer range to be sure.

Just before we were about to head back to the parking area, three terns flew into view. The first one I saw was a Black Tern but the other two were smaller and white. After a quickly study of the two terns, we identified them as Least Terns, a very good record for the property. As we watched them fly away from us, they were joined by a third individual and possibly a fourth.

We then headed back to SR-59 to search for the Roseate Spoonbill. As we set up our scopes and started to scan, Jeff found the spoonbill sleeping behind some reeds. Over the next 15 minutes, the bird woke up and started to walk around and feed. It then took flight, giving us some awesome views. It settled back into a large bush in plain sight for all that had gathered to see. This individual is the first state record for Indiana and has been on the property for about three weeks now.

For the five and a half hours that I spent on the property, I had almost 50 species, including most of the resident breeding birds. I highly recommend that every that has the opportunity visit this property.


Mark Alan Meader said...

7:55(second from the top) wins it for me.. nature is a fickle subject, isn't she? Good that you take the time to sit and observe the changes... just a few minutes can make such a difference. I guess you learn lots of patience shooting wildlife:)

Mark Kreider said...

Great commentary and photos! I was raised in Indiana and so know some of the territory you're birding.
After 30 yrs. in NYC we are now on the North
Fork of Long Island. I was struck by the fact that you are a business major interested in nature and birding and this gives me great hope for the future of our globe... a business/nature mind is a great combination!!