Monday, April 30, 2012

Pacific Loon Identification, What do you think?

Here are some pics of the loons that we found on our big day at Lake Lemon on April 26th.  None of us have any doubts about the first bird we saw being a Pacific but our team doesn't have a consensus id on the second loon.  I didn't watch the second bird in the field for long so I don't have much to add to the photos.  It seems to have some form of a neck ring (which I haven't seen on Pacific) and more of a 'square-shaped' head than Pacific but everything else seems fine for a Pacific.  We have pictures of both together and they seem to be the same size which would support Pacific Loon.  Unfortunately the birds were distant so the id in the photos isn't straightforward. 

-Eric, and the rest of our big day team

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Yellow-headed Blackbird-Goose Pond Style

Today my Avian Conservation class at IU was able to watch a singing Yellow-headed Blackbird.  While looking for a Common Gallinule a Yellow-headed Blackbird started singing.  After making sure that one of our teachers, Jim Hengeveld, wasn't playing the song for some reason and him making sure I wasn't doing the same, we realized that there actually was a Yellow-headed Blackbird singing in the marsh.  We quickly found the bird singing on the edge of the marsh and everyone was able to watch it through a scope.

Here are a couple of pics:


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Weekend of Adventures

My wife and I spent this past weekend birding in southern Indiana and leading some hikes at the Nature Conservancy's Picnic for the Planet event at Fort Harrison State Park in Indianapolis. Our weekend started off with a long drive in the rain to get to Princeton, Indiana. On Saturday morning, we got up early and headed to Tern Bar Slough for a morning of birding. The main target of the day was a Hudsonian Godwit that had been reported recently. We followed the directions that I had to the area where the godwit had been seen and quickly realized that a little more direction would have been helpful.

We hiked around for a little over and hour and while we saw a lot of shorebirds, the godwit was nowhere to be found. We finally ran into some local birders and they informed us that we had not gone far enough down a dirt road to get to the right area. As we came up to the dike, some birders had the godwit in a scope and we were able to quickly get on it.

Hudsonian Godwit
On our way to my presentation in Dale, we made a quick stop at Monty's Station in Patoka NWR. There were hundreds if not thousands of shorebird but nothing out of the ordinary. The best bird was my first Fish Crows in Indiana.

After my presentation, we had a little extra time so we made a stop at Cutright SRA on Lake Monroe. There were tons of migrants in the area with the highlights being Orchard Oriole, Nashville and Prothonotary Warblers, and Louisiana Waterthrush.

On Sunday, my wife and I represented the Indiana Young Birders Club at the Nature Conservancy's Picnic for the Planet. I lead a couple of beginning bird hikes and many kids participated in our very popular bird quiz for a chance to a Kaufman Field Guide. During the hikes, we found a pair of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers building a nest. Everyone got to view it though my scope and were blown away by the awesome nest!

On Thursday, our Wild Birds Unlimited team will be competing in the Amos W Butler Audubon Society's annual Birdathon. The team consist of Jim Carpenter, John Schaust, and Brian Cunningham from the WBU corporate offices, Eric and myself. We will be going out in southern Indiana starting around Bloomington and ending at Goose Pond FWA. You can follow our progress on both the Wild Birds Unlimited Facebook page and on my Twitter feed here. If you would like to donate to the Birdathon visit the AWBAS website here and select the Wild Birds Unlimited team.

Look for a full report of our big day next week.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Nocturnal Bird Migration by Radar

Even if you can't get out birding too often during spring migration you can follow along online by watching radar online.  Two sites you can watch this on are, and

If you don't know how to read the radar there is a great video tutorial by David La Puma at:

This map is from last night.  You can see all the migration that was happening last night throughout the eastern US.  Many times watching radar will help you decide how to most productively spend your birding time the next morning.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Migration Moving Slowly in Central Indiana

Weather over the past several days as been extremely favorable for migration through Indiana and around most of the eastern US. I have been watching the migration on radar every night (see the NEXRAD radar here) and went out on both Saturday and Sunday mornings to Eagle Creek Park to see if I could get in on any of the action. Saturday morning was rainy but it did not stop the birds. At Starling Sanctuary, I found Yellow-rumped, Yellow-throated Warblers, Northern Parula, and Louisiana Waterthrush all singing in the rain!
Louisiana Waterthrush
On Sunday, the rain had stopped but the wind was blowing extremely hard out of the south. I had hoped that the wind would mean a bunch of new warblers but unfortunately that was not the case. The warbler species stayed pretty much the same with the exception of a singing Pine Warbler but the number of individuals was up. There were a few other migrants around with the highlights being both my first Chimney Swift and Broad-winged Hawk of the spring.

Next Thursday, both Eric and I will be participating in the Amos W Butler Audubon Society's annual Birdathon. We are on the Wild Birds Unlimited Team and would appreciate any donations that you might be willing to make to our team. You can donate by following this link. We are hoping for 150 species but it is still really early in the year and we have to hope that more of the migrants push into the area.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Warblers Have Arrived!

The last couple days I have spent lots of time birding the forests east of Bloomington.  More than 10 warbler species are back including such beauties as Prothonotary and Prairie.  Between storms this morning I was lucky enough to find an early Nashville and yesterday there was a Ross's Goose at Stillwater Marsh.  With the coming south winds migration should pick up even more over the next couple days.  The Box Turtles were also out in full force today and allowed for some nice pics.

One of the Eastern Box Turtles


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Smith's Longspur

I decided to bird "The Burn" close to Crawfordsville, IN this weekend since I came home for Easter.  My dad and I went out there early in the morning and quickly found our 2 target birds, Smith's Longspur and American Golden-Plover.  Golden-Plover was first when we found a flock of around 1000 birds in a field north of The Burn.  Next was a flock of Smith's Longspurs at The Burn itself.  I was able to get my first pictures of this species but most of the individuals of the flock were not yet in breeding plumage but there were a couple that were getting close.

Singing Field Sparrow

Smith's Longspur-almost in breeding plumage

Smith's Longspur

2 of the American Golden-Plovers
Happy Easter,

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Biggest Week Countdown - One Month to Go

As of today, we are one month from the start of the Biggest Week in American Birding (BWIAB). I announced in an earlier post that I will be one of the field trip leaders and official bloggers for the festival and will be around the area for most of the week. It turns out that I will be there from Saturday May 5th to Friday May 11th. Hopefully I can meet as many of my readers as possible so please let me know if you will be coming to the BWIAB.

The BWIAB is held in Northwest Ohio which is the warbler capital of the world. If you like warblers, you must come to Magee Marsh and the whole Black Swamp region during the month of May. I have been traveling to the area every spring for the majority of the last eight years and can honestly tell you that you will never see more warblers at such close range anywhere else.

Prothonotary Warbler

Black-and-white Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler
Thousands of people from around the country and even around the world flock to this event, but it's truly about much more than just the birding. Don't get me wrong - the birding is spectacular but what this event does for conservation in the area and the economic impact that is felt by local businesses is quite amazing. Hotels and restaurants certainly benefit from the increase in visitors, but local organizations are also having events to promote Black Swamp Bird Observatory and BWIAB. This year the Toledo Mudhens are offering a special ticket price for birders to enjoy a baseball game.  One dollar of the cost of the ticket will be donated to Black Swamp Bird Observatory. Check out this awesome flier that the team has put out. The Toledo Museum of Art is also on board with a special exhibit that is inspired by the annual spring migration and this awesome festival. The press release for this event can be found here. All of these things help to show the residents of Northwest Ohio how important it is to conserve their natural areas so that all of us birders will keep coming back and spending money.

So join all of us at the BWIAB. Whether you are a beginning or advanced birder, you will love the time you spend here. Check out the schedule of events here or go straight to the registration page here.

Can't wait to see everyone there!


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Greater Prairie-Chicken, Prairie Ridge State Natural Area

This weekend I went to Prairie Ridge State Natural Area in Illinois with my Avian Conservation class that I'm taking at IU.  We arrived Saturday afternoon and birded the area for a couple of hours.  The highlight was seeing one Loggerhead Shrike and running across a flock of 200+ American Golden-Plovers.  We also had a small flock of Rusty Blackbirds and a large flock of 50+ American Pipits.  The next morning we arrived early to view the lek of Chickens at Prairie Ridge State Natural Area.  The male chickens start displaying early and soon after the females arrive.  This ritual goes on day after day during the early spring.  After getting our fill of the displaying chickens we birded around the area again.  We ended up getting about 6 Henslow's Sparrows, one of our targets, but none allowed good views.  We also went back to the Loggerhead Shrike spot but instead of there being one, there were two calling back and forth to each other.  After searching for Brewer's Blackbirds we finally found a small flock with one female and probably a couple of males but they took flight too soon to sort through all of them.

Greater Prairie-Chicken:  this was taken a few years ago from the blinds