Sunday, January 31, 2010

100 Species in Indiana

Song Sparrow-One of the many species of sparrows that occur at Goose Pond.

With just one more day left in January I was able to reach the 100 species mark for the month. The bird that pushed me to that number was a Brewer's Blackbird. After seeing the first one I was able to find a small flock in a field close to Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area.

After the Brewer's Blackbirds I was also able to find two more species that I had not seen, Red-breasted Nuthatch and Northern Pintail.

With all the species I was able to see the most interesting very well could have been the leucistic American Tree Sparrow. It's body was completely normal but it had a completely white head.

American Tree Sparrow-bad shot but at least it kind of shows the white head.

I also birded a new area in the Goose Pond area, the Dugger unit of Greene Sullivan State Forest. This area as well as some of the grasslands just north of this unit are great places to bird if you are in the Goose Pond area. The lakes had lots of waterfowl and the habitat is very good for all the raptors and Northern Shrike.

Red-shouldered Hawk-one of the many hawks that resides in Greene Sullivan State Forest.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

SkyWatch Friday - Everglades NP

Eric took this photo in the Shark Valley section of Everglades National Park last April. This lookout tower is located at the half way point of the paved path that you can hike, bike, or ride a tram on.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Weekend Birding and IAS Board Meeting at Turkey Run: Bird Photography Weekly

This past weekend I attended the January board meeting of the Indiana Audubon Society at Turkey Run State Park. I am the new treasurer of the organization and this was my first meeting as a board member. While most of the weekend was spent getting all our plans together for the next year, I did manage to sneak in some birding!

On Saturday morning, a local birder and board member, Alan Bruner, led us on an eagle watching field trip to a local roost site. As the birds come off their roost, they fly down Sugar Creek to go fishing on the Wabash River. We were able to watch 17 eagles fly right over head as they head out for the day to feed. After a long day of meetings, we ended just in time for a group of us to drive out to a spot where a Golden Eagle is known to roost. After fighting muddy conditions and almost getting stuck multiple times, we were treated to fanatic views of a juvenile Golden Eagle as it soared around a field before heading to its roost for the night!

We started our board meetings early the next morning which was fine since the steady rain was not conducive to birding. Before the meeting, Alan told me about a spot that he had recently found a Long-eared Owl and we decided to try to find it again. A few other board members were also interested in seeing the owl so they joined us. It didn’t take us long to find a beautiful Long-eared Owl perched in a pine tree. Just as I was about to snap my first picture, the owl took off and I missed out on an awesome shot! While we continued to see the owl in flight for the rest of our hike, we never did see it perched again. This was only the second time I have ever seen a Long-eared Owl and it was a lifer for some people that were with us.

Just before returning to the parking lot, we heard a Red-breasted Nuthatch. This very friendly individual approached us quite closely and allowed me to get some good pictures despite how dark it was in the thick cover of the evergreens.

We will be making some exciting changes at Indiana Audubon. Be sure to stay up-to-date on our website at

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Nutty Birder - Photo Quiz

Participate in our weekly photo quiz by submitting your answer here We will post the correct answer and how we came to that identification on Monday February 1st.


Monday, January 25, 2010

The Last Day in the UP

The McCormick Tract

With just a little time left to bird in the upper peninsula we had a few key birds that we still had not seen. Luckily we knew we were heading into better areas for Boreal Chickadee and Spruce Grouse. After waking up early we headed west to Peshekee Grade. While driving the road to the parking area for McCormick Tract we were able to see a few good birds including Pine and Evening Grosbeak, Pileated Woodpecker, and Ruffed Grouse. Cindy, one of the birders with us, spotted one of the Ruffed Grouse across the creek in a tree. After getting out of our cars, everyone was able to get great scope views of the grouse.

One of the Ruffed Grouse.

After arriving at the parking area for McCormick Tract it was quickly apparent that there were lots of birds around. Within a couple minutes I heard a Boreal Chickadee and got a quick view of it. A few minutes later two of the others in our group got scope views of the bird. Right after I heard the first Boreal Chickadee, a flock of Common Redpolls flew in and landed at the top of roadside tree. For some reason redpolls have been scarce in the UP this winter so this small flock was exciting to see. I had told a few people in our group who had never seen redpolls that we didn't have much chance so this flock excited them more than anybody.

While planning our next move after our hike we were able to hear some Red Crossbills fly over. When we were getting ready to go, Alison, a birder from Michigan, told us they had just seen a small flock of Boreal Chickadees just up the trail. She took us back up to the spot and everybody in the group was able to see them well.

After our successful Boreal Chickadee stop we went to lunch at a small restaurant called Mt. Shasta. One of the really cool things about the UP is that at almost every restaurant there are feeders either out back or hanging around the outside. After lunch we headed to a camp where Ted, one of the birders in our group, had worked as a kid. One of Ted's friends who lives in the UP and who had birded with us all day, was able to show us around the camp.

Two female Bufflehead.

We then drove into Marquette, the largest city in the UP, to look for gulls. There were no gulls present but we were able to see a few species of waterfowl including Long-tailed Duck and our only Canada Geese of the trip. While at dinner we got a report of Spruce Grouse about an hour away so we made the decision to stop by the spot on our way home the next day.

The spot for the Spruce Grouse is called Baraga Plains. We arrived before it was completely light but within a couple miles flushed a female Spruce Grouse from along the road. We were never able to refind her unfortunately. I also heard a few Spruce Grouse just up the road from this spot but we were not able to find them either. Fortunately we did get scope views of a flock of Red Crossbills which made up for the lack of a great look at the grouse.

A Lesson Learned: Don't run in snow that is more than a foot deep because you will probably end up on your face.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Nutty Birder - Photo Quiz

Participate in our weekly photo quiz by submitting your answer here We will post the correct answer and how we came to that identification on Monday January 25th.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Birding the Upper Peninsula: Day 2 - Watery Wednesday

After our first full day birding in the Soo area we headed west to explore new parts of the UP. Our first stop was at Hulbert Bog. We had never birded along this road and weren't exactly sure where to bird so we walked most of it instead. After a while we started to notice many chickadees and eventually realized that someone drives down the road and puts seeds out on the road. There were a couple very curious chickadees so I decided to try to get them to feed out of my hand. After a couple flew towards me, thought about it, then flew away, one landed on my hand and took a nut.

The curious and hungry chickadee that visited my hand feeder.

After the fun with the chickadees we continued down the road to where someone had hung suet. We quickly had multiple Gray Jays come in and feed. The jays were lifers for a couple of people, so the looks they provided us were very appreciated.

One of the Gray Jays in Hulbert Bog.

After Hulbert Bog we went to lunch in a small town called Eckerman where Evening Grosbeaks had been reported. As soon as we pulled into Bear Butt Bar and Grill we heard the flight call of the Evening Grosbeak and soon spotted the flock of about 15-20. The grosbeaks were also lifers for a couple of people and I had never seen a male before, so it was quite an exciting sight to see.

A male Evening Grosbeak.

Bear Butt Bar and Grill-The dinner table quickly turned into the bird table.

Our final location for the day was Tahquamenon (rhymes with phenomenon) Falls State Park. This is the only falls in the UP that never completely freezes. It was quite a sight with all the ice and snow around the falls.

We ended the day in Ishpeming, eating dinner in a brewery while watching the Indianapolis Colts roll to yet another victory.


Check out more great Watery Wednesday posts here!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Birding the Soo

Most of the birding group. From front to back-Stephanie, Rob, Kathy, Cindy, Becky, Ted

What's the best way to start a birding trip? A flat tire of course. As we were driving up to the upper peninsula of Michigan we noticed that one of the cars in our caravan had a very low tire. Once it was filled back up, we continued on our way to Sault Saint Marie.

On Friday we all woke up before sunrise and had some breakfast. When we walked out to the cars, the first thing we noticed was the flat tire on Ted's car. Luckily we were able to change it quickly and start our day.

The flat tire. (Don't worry - we didn't make him do all the work.)

The spare was quickly put on and we were ready to roll.

Driving south from Soo on the backroads quickly produced a couple Northern Shrikes and the first of many Sharp-tailed Grouse. The grouse were lifers for a few people, so the lengthy scope views were much appreciated. We then drove some more backroads for owls and ended up in Dunbar Forest. A quick walk on the road produced our first Brown Creeper of the trip. Farther into the best area of the forest, everybody was able to get good looks at Pine Grosbeak and Bohemian Waxwings. We all enjoyed the constant high pitched trills of the large flock of waxwings.

One of the many Bohemian Waxwings.
Don't try to stare down an owl. You will lose.

After exploring Dunbar Forest, we found our first of 4 Northern Hawk Owls. We had heard about a little restaurant in Pickford called Snickerdoodles, so we headed there for lunch. Everyone enjoyed their meal, and we highly recommend stopping by if you're in the Soo. After lunch, we went into the Rudyard area and quickly found 3 Snowy Owls in a very short period of time. Then, while driving another side road, we ran across two Sharp-tailed Grouse very close to the road that allowed for great photo ops.

Sharp-tailed Grouse

To finish the day, we went into a dump to look for gulls. Unfortunately, only about 50 or so of the 1,000 gulls that had been reported a few days prior showed up. We also visited the power plant in Sault Saint Marie where the first state record Yellow-billed Loon had been found in late December. But as expected, we were much too late for the Loon.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Lifer for All

On our first day of birding in the UP, we were treated to many great looks of some pretty awesome birds! There were quite a few lifers had by all, but only one bird was a lifer for everyone present - a Northern Hawk Owl.

Our first Northern Hawk Owl was spotted by Eric in a tree line more than 200 yards away while we were driving at about 40 mph. While we got great looks through our scopes, we were still hoping to find one a bit closer to the road. Luckily, there was one right around the next corner about 50 yards off the road. We all got amazing scope looks and awesome pictures. The above photo was taken as this individual finally got sick of us and decided to move on before we had completely had our fill.

Other amazing birds that we saw today included Pine Grosbeak, Bohemian Waxwing, Snowy Owl, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Ruffed Grouse, Northern Shrike, and Gray Jay.

Look for another update soon!


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Birding in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Tomorrow Eric, Stephanie, and I, along with a few of our good birding friends are off to Michigan for a long weekend of searching for Boreal species! Most of us have never had the opportunity to bird in this area and are very excited about the possible lifers. Stay tuned for updates on our awesome adventure!


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Golden-crowned Kinglet Quest

Can you tell who this beautiful feather belongs to?

One of the most common woodland species during the winter in Indiana is the Golden-crowned Kinglet. The kinglet along with the Brown Creeper are some of the most interesting winter birds in my opinion. Both of these species join the chickadee/nuthatch/titmouse flocks to forage and give high pitched trills that usually give away their presence before you are able to see them.

White-breasted Nuthatch

Through the first 11 days of this year I had still not run across any Golden-crowned Kinglets. Fortunately I had seen a few creepers. Most years I see a kinglet on January 1st and on almost every day in January but for some reason there has been a shortage of them. So I thought I would give the kinglet another try now that I am back in Bloomington for school.

I started at Paynetown SRA on Lake Monroe and had seen both species of vultures before entering the park. The lake was completely frozen but the eagles put on a show. I was able to watch 7 Bald and 1 Golden Eagle on the ice eating, what I assume was, a goose. What was a feast for the Eagles quickly changed to a feast for a Coyote, that scared all the eagles away from the carcass.

After watching the eagles for a while I wandered into the woods and finally came across my first Golden-crowned Kinglet of the year. The kinglet was very cooperative and showed off his orange and yellow crown a few times.

School is good for something, Golden-crowned Kinglets.

After birding around the lake I drove north to Yellowwood State Forest to bird around Yellowwood Lake. I was able to watch more Golden-crowned Kinglets along with many other species but a Pileated Woodpecker stole the show. He was feeding just a few feet off the road and let me approach very closely.

Pileated Woodpecker in Yellowwood State Forest

Along the northern portion of the lake I was able to get two more species that were new for my year. The first was an Eastern Towhee that was calling "teee" to let me know that he was there. I was also able to see a Hermit Thrush that was foraging along an open creek.

So far in 2010 I have seen 98 species. My goal for the month was 100 which I don't think I have ever done. With only 2 species to go it should happen with plenty of time left in the month.

Nutty Birder - Photo Quiz

Participate in our weekly photo quiz by submitting your answer here We will post the correct answer and how we came to that identification on Monday January 18th.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Birding at Starkey Park

Today Rob and I went to Starkey Park in Zionsville, Indiana. Five years ago when I couldn't drive I went to this park frequently since it is very close to my house but I had not visited it for a couple of years. We went to try for the Eastern Screech-Owl that frequents one of the Wood Duck boxes but he was no where to be seen.

American Pipit along the creek.

After trying for the owl we hiked along Eagle Creek which borders one edge of the park. There was lots of bird activity and both of us were able to see a couple species that we had not seen in 2010. There was a Belted Kingfisher that was working the open water of the creek. Unfortunately we did not see her catch any prey but were able to watch her fly above the creek. Many sparrows were also along the creek including Swamp, American Tree, and Song. But the highlight of the morning was the American Pipit that was working the edge of the creek. We were able to watch it for a couple minutes while it found a few small morsels of food.

American Pipit with something for breakfast in his bill.

Good Birding-Eric

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Goose Pond FWA - SkyWatch Friday

Bald Eagle flying over Goose Pond FWA

After birding Lake Michigan on Tuesday, Rob and I headed south to Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area to look for waterfowl and raptors. We had a very exciting start when we spotted a falcon that was heading east over the highway. Luckily there was a spot to pull off the road and we were able to get binocular views of a Prairie Falcon. One or two Prairie Falcons usually winter a few miles west of this location but none had been seen yet this winter.

After seeing the falcon we decided to change our plans and go to Beehunter Marsh since the falcon was flying in that direction. We were not able to relocate the falcon but did have a good assortment of sparrows. We were able to find a small flock of Savannah Sparrows and the only Swamp Sparrow that we saw all day. We also saw a few White-crowned which is one of my favorite sparrows.

We then birded around Goose Pond FWA south of Linton, Indiana. One of the highlights was watching a Bald Eagle sitting by its nest, then flying down low over the marsh to grab some grasses to take back to use for building the nest. In the same area we were able to watch about 5 American Pipits along with many American Tree Sparrows and a few Eastern Meadowlarks. There was also a small group of Tundra Swans resting on the ice but the marsh was completely frozen.

A first winter Red-tailed Hawk

After getting some lunch we decided to bird around Greene-Sullivan State Forest (GSSF) and Hawthorn Mine. We were able to count many raptors at Hawthorn Mines with 20 Rough-legged Hawks and 19 Northern Harriers. One of the ponds at the Mine had some open water and was loaded with waterfowl throughout the day. There were many Ring-necked Ducks along with lesser numbers of Redhead and American Wigeon. We also drove south of the mine to look for Northern Shrike without luck but we did find a pond that had many Greater White-fronted Geese and one Cackling Goose.

We then spent some time birding in Greene-Sullivan State Forest with some good birds. The State Forest is an old strip mine. Some how I had still not yet seen a Brown Creeper or a Hairy Woodpecker in 2010 both of which we found in the forest. We also had a couple Red-headed Woodpeckers and a Pied-billed Grebe in one of the unfrozen portions of one of the lakes. In the evening we went back to Hawthorn and only saw 1 Short-eared Owl.

A Short-eared Owl against the evening sky.

Check out more SkyWatch Friday posts here!

Good Birding-Eric

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Lake Michigan-Birding the Indiana Shores

Today Rob and I went to Lake Michigan to look for some recently reported birds that rarely show up in Indiana. We left home at 6 in the morning and arrived at our first stop on the lake, the Port of Indiana, at about 8:30. Lots of good birds have been seen at the Port recently including 3 Western Grebes unfortunately, they were no where to be seen but there were still many birds on the water and flying around. We were able to find a recently reported Eared Grebe and also locate one Thayer's Gull amoung the many Herring and Ring-billeds. On the water there were a few hundred Greater Scaup with lesser numbers of Lessers. The Common Mergansers put on a show with around 4-500 feeding and flying around.

Redheads at the Port of Indiana

After stopping at the Port of Indiana, we headed east and visited a few other sites along the lakeshore. We were able to see a few Great Black-backed Gulls and many more common birds that I had not seen for the year including Black-capped Chickadee and Red-headed Woodpecker. At one spot we also found 3 Fox Sparrows.

We then decided to head to the western part of the lake to look for a Harlequin Duck that had been seen a few days earlier. Unfortunately it was not still in the area but we were able to see more Great Black-backed Gulls and many more Common Goldeneyes as well as both species of Scaup.

Me scanning for waterfowl and gulls at Hammond Marina.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Cold Start to the Year

The cold weather has finally arrived in Indiana as it has across much of the country. It has frozen all of the local reservoirs and water around Indianapolis. The cold weather has made the birding slow but there have been a few highlights over the past few days. I have spent a good amount of time at Starling Sanctuary on Eagle Creek Reservoir. Today while hiking along the creek I was able to hear and see a Winter Wren. These wrens love to forage along creeks that have lots of downed trees and vegetation and rarely cooperate for good looks. After I was able to watch the wren for a little while a flock of 94 calling Sandhill Cranes flew overhead. As it was starting to get late I heard the loud kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk of the Pileated Woodpecker. As I watched it fly around the trees, it went into a cavity, apparently to roost for the night.

Fishback Creek-This area is one of the best areas for breeding warblers in central Indiana.

Tomorrow I will be heading to the shores of Lake Michigan, so the cold start will only get colder.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Year's Day Birding

On January 1, Eric and I headed out early to start our year off right with some owling! We were rewarded for our efforts by have a Great Horned Owl as our first species of the new year. Shortly after hearing the Great Horned, we heard a Barred Owl calling way off in the distance. We then went searching for some Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings along a reliable country road in Marion County. We had many Horned Larks and a few Lapland Longspurs but Snow Buntings were strangely absent. Since the gate to Eagle Creek was still locked at 9:15am we headed to Eagle's Crest to look for some woodland birds. After finding very little, we headed on into Eagle Creek.

Since most of the lake was frozen there were very few ducks but we ended up finding this very tame Northern Mockingbird that allowed us to photograph it. Unfortunately, there were many branches between us and the bird but I did manage to get a few good shots.

We ended the day with 38 species which is not bad considering the extremely cold temperatures that we were dealing with.