Saturday, April 30, 2011


After watching the radar for migrating birds last night I figured it would be a pretty productive birding today. Species diversity wasn't spectacular but it is a little early in the year for great diversity. There were however large numbers of the species that were present.

Over the past few days the rain has stopped but the floodwaters are as bad as they have been so many areas around Bloomington are still not birdable (is that a word?). So I birded a small portion of McGowan Road and throughout Yellowwood State Forest which has not been as affected by the flooding.

A beautiful Cerulean Warbler.

I saw 21 species of warblers without really trying for some of the easy breeders which I missed (such as Pine and Yellow). Blue-headed Vireos finally made an appearance with three individuals on the morning. White-throated Sparrow numbers are very good and I also had my first Lincoln's Sparrow of the year. Orange-crowned Warbler and Northern Waterthrush were my only first of the year warblers.

The same bird as the above picture. This Cerulean was very cooperative and stayed fairly low in the trees.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What a Difference a Week Makes

When I woke up this morning to pouring down rain, I seriously considered cancelling my plans to bird in Bloomington again. Boy am I glad I didn't do that! I left my apartment at 7:20am hoping that I had left in time to not get stuck in rush hour traffic, wrong again! Due to the enormous amount of rain that we have received, the left lane of 465, the main loop highway in Indianapolis, had flooded and had to be shutdown making rush hour a nightmare!

I finally arrived in Morgan-Monroe State Forest just after 9am and immediately started to pick up new year birds! Along Bryant's Creek Road along I found 8 new species for the year including a flock of 5 American Redstarts, Hooded Warbler, Baltimore Oriole, Gray Catbird, and an early Swainson's Thrush!

American Redstart

My next stop was at Griffy Lake to look for the recently reported Ross's Goose. It took me awhile but I finally found it on the far west side of the lake that is visible from the parking area for the hiking trails!

Right after finding the bird, I got a call from my brother Eric saying that he was done with classes for the day. I picked him up at his house and then headed to Paynetown and Cutright on Lake Monroe. We added a few species at Paynetown but both locations were severely flooded which limited access for birding. Both of our next stops were extremely flooded as well so we went to a backup plan.

We spent the next 2.5 hours birding along, T.C. Steele, Gilmore Ridge, Deckard Ridge, and Crooked Creek Roads. We ran into a couple good flocks of warblers and one simply amazing mega flock! The mega flock included my first of the year Tennessee, Bay-breasted, Nashville, Cape May, Blackburnian, and Cerulean Warblers!

Just as we were about to call it a day, I noticed a flycatcher in a bush along the side of the road. Much to our surprise, it turned out to be a very early Acadian!

The day ended with 31 year birds bringing my total for the year in Indiana to 187!


Sunday, April 24, 2011

15+ Warbler Species

This weekend the warbler migration really picked up. The past couple of weeks most species have been in 1s and 2s but this Sunday I had lots of most species. Some of my foy (first of year birds) included Green Heron, a couple shorebird species, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Great Crested Flycatcher, and a few warbler species.

Many warbler species moved in strongly on Saturday night. I had 19 species and there are a few other species around as well. The tanagers are back in small numbers as well and more diversity of flycatchers should start showing up in the next week-especially Least Flycatcher.

There is actually lots of shorebird habitat around Bloomington this spring due to the flooding around Lake Monroe. The best field I found was at the start of Friendship Road but there wasn't much diversity. Most roads around Lake Monroe have at least some flooding so many areas are inaccessible.

Summer Tanager-This bird stayed in this same tree from the start of my hike until the end of the hike.

Hooded Warbler-Very tame bird that sat out in the open and sang his heart out.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A State Bird and a 13 Warbler Day

I have not been able to get out birding as much as I would like recently, but the last couple of days have allowed me some spare time and awesome birds. Last night at about 6:15 a friend of mine called to say that he had a recently reported Yellow-headed Blackbird in his scope. I hurried over to Lebanon, about 30 minutes away, only to find that they had last seen the bird about 10 minutes prior to my arrival. We searched all of the areas that it had been seen frequenting with no luck. We decided to try something new so we walked up on some train tracks and headed towards some corn stubble. At first, we still could not find it but then the bird suddenly flew in from out of nowhere! I took a few shots before it disappeared again apparently not to return as it was not seen today.

Yellow-headed Blackbird

After an exciting night of thunderstorms, I got up early and headed to Bloomington to look for Ruffed Grouse and as many warblers as I could find! I picked up my friend Mary Lou on the way and made it to Bloomington by 8am. We planned to start out looking for a Ruffed Grouse on T.C. Steele Road but it turned out that the storms had flooded the road and I would have to find another way in. I decided to give Crooked Creek Road a try and was happy to find that it was not flooded and as a bonus, we found a Blue-winged Warbler on the way over. We found several warbler species along Crooked Creek including Parula, Yellow-throated, Pine, and Ovenbird.

When we got to Crooked Creek SRA, we picked up a lot of species really quickly! There were at least three Prothonotary Warblers, one of which came within about 5 feet of us. My first Yellow Warbler of the year appeared close by as well. As we started to head back to the car, I heard my first Prairie Warbler of the year and was able to quickly locate the bird before it flew off. Right as we were about to get back in the car, Mary Lou found a few birds that turned out to be Warbling Vireos right about my car.

We continued on to look for grouse and heard a Black-and-white Warbler along the way. We parked at the corner of T.C. Steele Road and Deckard Ridge Road and got out to look for Ruffed Grouse. It was not long before I heard a female calling in the distance. We were unfortunately not able to locate the bird. An unexpected bonus was a pair of Worm-eating Warblers calling back and forth across the street from the grouse!

We had trouble getting to any other other birding sites on the north side of Lake Monroe due to flooding so we headed on to Lake Lemon. It was very slow birding there except for hundreds of swallows and my first Palm Warbler of the year.

It ended up being a great day with 13 warbler species and many other first of the year birds.

Eastern Phoebe - There are many phoebes back in Indiana!


Friday, April 15, 2011

More Migrants

Luckily there were plenty of bright warblers to brighten this dreary day in southern Indiana. Two of my favorite warblers made their return- Blue-winged and Hooded. There were also quite a few other migrants including a decent number of shorebirds at Stillwater Marsh, a couple vireos, and my first Orchard Oriole of the year. Lots of swallows made their way into the state as well.
A leucistic Common Grackle - he was pretty cool looking.

The highlight of the day - Hooded Warbler. He never sang but gave a chipped note the whole time I watched him.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring Migration!

Lots of migrants have been streaming into Indiana over the past few days which has led to some great sightings. Over the weekend I went home and had time to bird The Burn in Montgomery County and at Eagle Creek Park a couple of times. The highlights over the weekend were Smith's Longspurs and Northern Goshawk. Blue-headed Vireo and 4 species of warblers were also noteworthy.
Spotted Sandpiper-at the beach at Paynetown SRA on Lake Monroe

Since we had storms all night on Sunday I figured some unusual birds could be found on Lake Monroe today. There weren't too many uncommon birds but quite a few species that arrived in Indiana a little earlier than usual. My first was Yellow-throated Vireo, this is 10 days before my first Yellow-throated Vireo last year. I also had White-eyed Vireo in the same area which is about right on time for date of arrival.
Yellow Warbler-one of at least three present in the campground at Paynetown SRA.
Once I moved on to Lake Monroe, I had Spotted Sandpiper which is a little earlier than my average first sighting of this species. My only unusual bird of the day was a female Surf Scoter that was in a small flock of shovelers, teal, Ring-necked Ducks, and Redhead. This is an uncommon bird in the interior of Indiana but is fairly common along Lake Michigan. In the same area I also had at least 3 Yellow Warblers which is about 7 days earlier than I usually see it in the year.
A Northern Cardinal that liked checking himself out in the mirror on my car.

What was supposed to be an hour break from writing a paper today, quickly turned into a few hours of birding . . . at least I think it was worth it.

Get out and enjoy spring migration while it lasts!


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Venture, Santa Barbara and the Quest for Island Scrub-Jay

We spent our last couple of days in California just north of Los Angeles in Ventura. We started our first day in Venture Harbor searching for shorebirds. We were able to quickly find a couple of Black Turnstones but they were pretty far away. As we moved around the park towards the breakwall, we found a large group of Western Grebes and we were able to pick out one Clark's Grebe in with them.
Western Grebe
As we scanned from the base of the breakwall, we found a large group of shorebirds on the other side of the harbor. We figured out where we could park to get closer and decided to head that way. Once over there, we realized there was a much bigger group of shorebirds on the rocky shore than we had realized from a distance. The group included Whimbrel, Black Turnstone, Surfbird, and Wandering Tattler.

Black Turnstone (left) and Wandering Tattler (right)
For the rest of the day, we headed up in the mountains outside of Santa Barbara. After a great lunch in Santa Ynez, we started our search for Yellow-billed Magpie. It took us quite a while to find our first magpies but after our first sighting, they became quite common.
Yellow-billed Magpie

Yellow-billed Magpie

The next day, we board a boat to the Channel Islands out of Ventura Harbor. We were going in search of one bird, the Island Scrub-Jay. The Channel Islands are the only place in the world that you can see this species that is closely related to the much more wide spread Western Scrub-Jay.

We attempted to watch for seabirds on the way out to the islands but the seas were so rough that it made it very difficult to stand up. We watched from our seats and did pick up a few good birds including Xantus's Murrelet and Pigeon Gillemot. We finally arrived on the island, much to the delight of the many sea sick passengers, and started looking for the jay. It took Eric less than ten minutes to find the bird and point it out to me and a couple of other birders. We started to take the hike lead by the naturalist but it was conducted at such a fast pace that it was not conducive to birding and we turned around about ten minutes into the hike. We got many great looks at the Island Scrub-Jays while we waited to head back to the main land.

Island Scrub-Jay

The seas were much calmer on the way back to the harbor which allowed us to get better looks at a lot of the seabirds. Once back in port, we started our drive back to San Diego for our flight home the next day.