Monday, February 28, 2011

Robert's Imaging: Marsh Madness

Short-eared Owl-roosting in the grassland

Over the past month or so Robert's Imaging, a camera store in Indianapolis, had been setting up a photography workshop at Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area. The timing was meant to coincide with the Sandhill Crane migration which worked out perfectly as there were 12000+ cranes using the property. David FitzSimmons (a sigma pro photographer), Brad Feaster (the Goose Pond property manager), and I were to lead the 34 participants around for photography opportunities.

Sandhill Cranes foraging in a corn field.

On Friday I headed over to Goose Pond to do some scouting with Dave. After a little while we realized how difficult it may be to get close to the Sandhills. Eventually we made it over to Beehunter Marsh, which I thought might be the best spot for us. It turned out fairly well with quite a few Sandhills flying by overhead. After that we drove up the old farmhouse road at Beehunter and were happily surprised with 6-7 Short-eared Owls roosting close to the road. We figured this would be the best area for the group the next day.

A big flock of Snow and Greater White-fronted Geese.

On Saturday before the workshop started at 8am, I drove through parts of Goose Pond. There were around 10000 Sandhills in Beehunter and about 2000 roosting in Goose Pond. After a short talk by Dave at the Carnegie building in Linton we organized into groups and headed out into the field. Dave and I both took our groups Beehunter. By the time we arrived there were less than 100 Sandhills where a couple hours ago had been 10000+. We decided to try for the Short-eared Owls next and struck out.
Sandhill Cranes in flight.

Over the rest of the afternoon we found some fairly cooperative Sandhills, some ducks and geese, among a few other species. We then went to a field for two Whooping Cranes which were a very exciting sighting for all involved. We finished up at the end of the day back at the Short-eared Owl spot. Luckily one was still hanging around. We got very lucky when one of the owls perched up on the top of a short tree in the field in close range. Everybody enjoyed this great opportunity to photograph an owl.

Whooping Cranes


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Brief Birding in Mexico

While on a family vacation in Cancun, my wife and I were able to break away for a morning of birding in Puerto Morelos at Jardin Botanica Dr. Alfredo Barrera. We were not sure what to expect as we rode in the cab on our way from the Hotel Zone down to Puerto Morelos. There is little information available about this site other than it is known to be a pretty good birding location. We pulled into the dirt parking lot and saw the little hut that serves as the main gate. The cab driver offered to stay and wait for us for no extra charge, so we took him up on the offer. The man working at the garden was very nice. After paying our entrance fee, he gave us a map of the property and also let us borrow some bug spray to keep the biting insects away!

As we headed into the park, I quickly found a bird moving on the ground. Instead of one of the hoped for local birds, it was an Ovenbird. This trend continued as we found quite a few species of warblers throughout the morning. Just a little ways down the path, we found one of our highlights of the whole day. A group of spider monkeys was in the tree right above us! We were able to watch them for more than 5 minutes as the played in the trees and one even came down to get a drink from a tub of water!

Adult Monkey with a Baby

We continued around much of the property finding very few birds other than ones that would fly away from us and remain unidentified. A flock of parrots flew over but I was unable to get my binoculars on them, so they remained unidentified as well. About halfway around the loop trail, we came upon a lot more movement. Most of the birds got away before I was able to identify them, but a Black Catbird was spotted. I was feeling a little disappointed as we got close to the end of the loop when suddenly there were birds everywhere! The first bird I identified was a Yucatan Vireo, and shortly after that we saw a Yucatan Jay. Two endemics in a row!

We spent the next 45 minutes working to identify all the birds that we could that were congregated around an ant swarm. One ant bite and 5 lifers later, I was very happy with the outing. I think we might have gotten more species had I been more careful and not gotten biten by one of the ants!

Ivory-billed Woodcreeper

We headed back to the taxi with no new birds but lots of iguanas and a couple of really cool butterflies including the one below.



Monday, February 14, 2011

Greater White-fronted Geese

With some warmer temps in southern Indiana over the last few days some of the waterfowl returned. There is quite a bit of open water on Lake Monroe now and with the next week of warm temps the ice should decrease and the waterfowl diversity should increase. Over the weekend 12 Greater White-fronted Geese arrived on Monroe. These were my first white-fronts for Monroe County. Some other noteworth species were Horned Grebe and Greater Scaup along with many Common Mergansers and Common Goldeneyes.

11 of the 12 Gr. White-fronted Geese.

A closer view . . .