Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Years Birding

To start the new year off right, Eric and I headed up the Lake Michigan today. Our target was the recently reported Slaty-backed Gull that is a second state record. We left home at 6am and arrived at the Whiting Refinery Beach at about 8:45. Over the next 45 minutes, we watched many gulls and ducks but the Slaty never arrived. We decided to try another location just down the road but again had no luck. Although we were beginning to wonder if the bird was even still in the area, we drove over to another park to the west to try our luck one more time. After another hour of searching, we decided that it just must not be around today. But that is not to say that our trip today was a waste!

On our first three stops described above, we had many new species for the year. It was my first birding trip of 2011, so almost every bird I saw was a year bird! Some of the best birds on our first stops were Thayer's and Glaucous Gulls and a large variety of waterfowl!

As we headed east along the shore, we made a stop at the Port of Indiana. There were lots of ducks in the area but the highlight was a pair of juvenile Black-legged Kittiwakes! We had great scope views, and I was happy to add that species to my Indiana Year List.

After a quick drive through Beverly Shores to look for Northern Shrike (we did not find one), we made our final stop at Washington Park in Michigan City. We were looking for two birds that had been recently reported, and we were not disappointed! The first duck that Eric put his scope on was the Long-tailed Duck that has been hanging out in the harbor. We ran into another birder who told us that he had just seen our other target bird only 10 minutes before we got there, so we hurried over the area in the park where it was seen. We found the bird within 30 seconds of getting out of the car - a Purple Sandpiper has taken up residence inside the protected harbor and is not afraid of people at all. The shots below were taken from a distance of about 15 feet!

Purple Sandpiper

Purple Sandpiper

Overall it was an great day with some awesome birds. I can't wait to see what else this year has in store!
-Rob


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