Thursday, December 31, 2009

Watching Birds With Family

American Goldfinch at Holiday Park

Over the Christmas holiday I was able to go to Holiday Park in Indianapolis to show some birds to my aunts and cousins. Holiday Park has one of the nicest nature centers in all of Indiana and its great bird window only makes it better. For birders it is a great place for Indianapolis because it is one of the most reliable spots for Red-breasted Nuthatches and Pine Siskins but for most people the window is exciting whether you see these birds or not. On our visit we didn't see either but the more common birds and the squirrels put on a show.

Looking out the Bird Window

I have found that taking people who are beginning birders or are just interested in wildlife to a bird window is a great way to spark more interest. Being able to see birds close up without the need to use binoculars makes it a great opportunity to just enjoy the birds.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Nutty Birder - Photo Quiz

Participate in our weekly photo quiz by submitting your answer here We post the correct answer and how we came to that identification on Monday January 4th.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Central Indiana Christmas Bird Counts

Brown Creeper

Some cold temperatures and a couple inches of snow were a great way to start the Christmas Bird Count season. Unfortunately, I was not able to make it to the Goose Pond CBC, so my first one of the season was the Hamilton County CBC on December 19. This count was the first one that I participated in several years ago, so it has always been one of my favorites (even though the species count isn't usually too high).

Rob and I started off the Hamilton County CBC at Strawtown Koteewi Park with 3+ Great Horned Owls calling. As it began to get light, we headed over to Morse Reservoir while the snow began to fall with more intensity. Once we got to the reservoir, the snow limited our visibility, and we were only able to record 2 Red-breasted Mergansers and 2 late Wood Ducks among the many geese and Ring-billed Gulls. We came back to this spot when the snow slowed down and had 45 Ruddy Ducks as well. We then went back to Koteewi to look for diurnal birds without too much luck - although we did have many American Tree Sparrows and the only Purple Finch for the count.

Dark-eyed Junco

The next day, we participated in another central Indiana CBC, the Eagle Valley count. This count includes my backyard, so when a Great Horned Owl started calling as we packed up the car it became our first bird for the count. This area includes Eagle Creek Reservoir and the great Eagle Creek Park. Rob and I along with 4 others covered an area on the west side of the reservoir called Eagles Crest. While waiting for enough light to begin, we saw one Great Horned Owl fly over and land in a distant tree. Within a couple minutes of beginning our walk, an American Pipit flew overhead giving its distinctive pip-it call. During the hike, we were able to find lots of Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers along with many Creepers and Golden-crowned Kinglets. We also saw 2 American Pipits and the only Hermit Thrush for the count.

CBCs are always fun and are a great way to help moniter bird populations, so even if you do live in a northern area where there aren't many bird species, it is a great way to spend a day.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Peru, Here I Come

This morning I received an email from Gunner Engblom announcing the winners of the contest that was mentioned in my last post. As I scrolled through the names, I was very excited to see my name included on the list. Thank you all for your support in helping me win this amazing trip. This is an awesome opportunity to help put Peru on the map as a great birding destination and to kick start a strong conservation movement there.

The dates of my trip and the locations that I'll be visiting have not be set but I will share the information as soon as it's available.

Thanks again for your support!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Monday, December 21, 2009

Help Me Win a Trip to Peru

Gunner Engblom is a birder and conservationist from Peru that also owns Kolibri Expeditions which leads birding tours in Peru. In an attempt promote responsible ecotourism that leads to conservation of local habits, Gunner has created a very unique and exciting giveaway. He is giving away guided tours of Peru. In order to win, you must help Gunner promote birding and conservation in Peru.

Peru is an amazing country that I have long dreamed of visiting. It offers incredible biodiversity but is much less visited by birders than countries such as Costa Rica, Equador, and Panama. Gunner has set out to change this. He understand the importance of ecotourists to the preservation of the rainforests and other habitats in Peru. Hopefully through his work, birders will be able to enjoy the awesome flora and fauna of Peru for years to come.

To help me win one of the tours, please follow this link and sign up for Gunner's newsletter about birding and conservation in Peru. If I'm lucky enough to be selected for this trip, I will be sure to post stories and photos from my exciting adventure in Peru!

Thanks in advance for your support!


P.S. While you are on his blog, read about some of the trips that he offers and begin dreaming of a wonderful trip to Peru.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Goose Pond CBC - Part 2

We decided that our first stop in the afternoon should be in Greene-Sullivan State Forest to look for some of the woodland birds that had been missed during the morning. We made several unsuccessful stops along the road and then headed on to Reservoir 26. We split into two group and headed in opposite directions around the lake. While my group got little other than some Junco, the other group found the only Brown Thrasher on the whole count.

Since it was getting close to dusk, we headed over to Hawthorn Mine for the Short-eared Owl show. We quickly found both Rough-legged Hawks and Northern Harriers. After about 30 minutes of driving around, the first Short-eared Owl popped up from its roost in the grasses. After several minutes, there were a dozen or more owls in the air. Some of them perch close to the road and allow for amazing photography opportunities.

Overall we had a fantastic day and 108 species were seen on the count, the most so far in Indiana this year.

Look for my post tomorrow about how to win a trip to go birding in Peru. Please help me win this trip by following this link and signing up for the free newsletter about birding and conservation in Peru.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Goose Pond CBC - Part 1

After waking up at 4:30am, and picking up our friend Chad, we arrived at the McDonald's in Linton, IN at 7:00am to meet up with our group for the Goose Pond CBC. This is the fourth year in a row that I have participated in this count and is definitely my favorite CBC each year. After a quick breakfast, we headed out to begin birding in our assigned unit. This year Chad, Stephanie, and I would be covering Unit 12 which I had not had the chance to hike through before.

Shortly after hiking into the unit, our team leader radioed that there were a few Whooping Cranes up flying and headed right towards us. Whooping Cranes are an amazing site to see, and I always feel very lucky when I get to see them. As we continued on our hike, we began to wonder if there were really any birds in our unit. As it started to get warmer outside, more and more sparrows started to pop up. Along with hundreds of American Tree Sparrows, there were a few Song, Swamp, and White-throated Sparrows. I was finally able to find one of the rarer sparrows of the day, a Lincoln's. Most of the rest of the hike was a lesson in counting the unbelievable numbers of American Tree Sparrows in our unit. Luckily, the monotony of this activity was broken when we flushed a Wilson's Snipe. This was a lifer for Chad and a great bird at this time of year.

We finished up our unit with a couple of White-crowned Sparrows in the parking lot and began driving the roads looking for more species. After a short time, we got asked to come look at 3 shorebirds that were walking on the ice in another unit. They turned out to be Least Sandpipers, which is quite rare in the winter and a great bird for the count!

We then headed on to lunch at the McDonald's in Linton. The whole group of birders meets up at 12:30 and Lee Sterrenburg, the count's compiler, reads of a checklist so that we can find out what birds were seen in the morning. We then focus on the missed species in order to add as many species to the count as possible in the afternoon. While at lunch, we started talking to our friend Roger Hedge and decided to take our groups out together to look for some of the species that had been missed in the morning.

Look for a post soon on the second half for the day featuring our trips into Greene-Sullivan State Forest and Hawthorn Mine.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Weekly News Feature - Whooping Crane Shot in Indiana

Late last week, an extremely disturbing report was sent out over the IN-BIRD list-serve. A Whooping Crane, one of the most beautiful birds I've personally ever seen, was shot in southwest Indiana during its migration south. This particular bird and its mate were part of a flock of ~19 birds migrating from Wisconsin to Florida.

What's especially heartbreaking is that this female crane is the only one to have ever successfully raised a chick in the wild and led it to Florida, according to the Birders World and International Crane Foundation's websites: "Not only have we lost one of our breeding pairs, we have lost our only successful beeding pair. Hopefully #11-02 will be able to find a new mate, but since we are still low on the female-to-male, I don't know how soon that may be." (Check out the ICF's blog post here -

Rob and I saw the group of Whooping Cranes that migrate over this are of Indiana about four years ago at Goose Pond FWA. They are truly majestic birds, and it angers us to think that someone may have intentionally killed this helpless living thing, who happens to be on the endangered species list.

To all of you who live in this area, a minimum $2,500 reward is being offered to anyone who provides information leading to a conviction in the shooting of this critically endangered species. Please contact the Indiana DNR 24-hour hotline at (800) 847-4367 or the Fish and Wildlife Service at (317) 346-7016. (Callers can remain anonymous.)

On a happier note, we will be heading down to Goose Pond tomorrow morning for the first of three Christmas Bird Counts that we're participating in this year. Look for a report and hopefully some photos later this week!


Monday, December 7, 2009

Weekly News Feature - Chicago Bird Collision Monitors and Lights Out Chicago

(My wife has asked to become part of the Nutty Birder blog team and will be doing weekly posts on birds/birding in the news. Enjoy! - Rob)

One of the new features on the Nutty Birder blog is a short weekly post discussing a recent news story. The first article we’d like to talk about appeared in the Chicago Tribune last month and highlights an all-volunteer group called the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors.

Started in 2003 and operating as part of the Chicago Audubon Society, the CBCMs patrol a two-square mile area of downtown Chicago as early as 4am in an effort to rescue downed migratory birds. As noted in the article, “With enough volunteers to dispatch a band of 8 to 12 rescuers an hour before daylight, seven days a week, mid-August to mid-November, and again mid-March to mid-June, some 40 percent of the birds are saved, their wounds tended to, feathers unruffled, let loose in the wilds. So far this fall, the count stands at some 1,500 downtown rescues.”

The group consists of folks in a wide range of professions, including (but not limited to) a speech pathologist, a musician who plays with the Joffrey Ballet, an ornithologist from Kenya, and several architects and lawyers. Even individuals who aren’t “officially” part of the organization play an important role in helping these birds. The article mentions a homeless man who keeps the CBCM’s hot line number in his pocket so he can use phones at churches to call the CBCM if he finds a downed bird.

The Chicago Bird Collision Monitors do fantastic work. Another important initiative happening in the area is a program called “Lights Out Chicago”. During migration periods, the lights in several high-rise buildings in downtown Chicago are shut off at 11pm. At one particular site, McCormick Place, bird-crash deaths have been reduced by more than half since the lights were occasionally turned off starting in 1998. On nights when all the lights are out, fatalities drop by 80 percent.

Isn’t it amazing how a few volunteers can make such a huge difference in one of the largest cities in the U.S.?

The full article from the Chicago Tribune can be found here:,0,6325117.story?page=1

To learn more about the Lights Out Chicago program, check out the Chicago Audubon Society’s website: Also included on this site is a “Tool Kit” that can help you start or become involved with a Lights Out program in your city.

Have a great week!