Tuesday, May 1, 2012

An April Big Day in Indiana

Last Thursday, the Wild Birds Unlimited Team conducted our big day for the Amos Butler Audubon Society's annual Birdathon. Our team consisted of Jim Carpenter (founder of WBU), John Schaust and Brian Cunningham (WBU Corporate Office), my brother Eric, and I. Due to the early date, we decided that doing our big day in southern Indiana would give us the best chance for high species total. We all arrived in Bloomington around 6:30, checked into our hotel, had pizza and a couple of beers, and then tried to catch a few hours of sleep.

We all woke up at 2:30 and were out in the field by 3am. At our first stop, we quickly head Whip-poor-will and Chuck-will's-widow. We added a bonus Common Nighthawk and heard our first Barred Owl of the day. After adding a few common species to the list, we moved on to our next stop to try for Screech-Owl. Although we did not find one, we did hear a Yellow-breasted Chat and our first Great Horned Owl. After a quick stop to try for Woodcock, which we did not get, we headed to our place with the best chance for a Screech-Owl. It didn't take long before one flew only about 3 feet over our heads and started calling only a few yards off the road!

Barred Owl  - One of our first birds of the day
We had found all the night birds that we were hoping for so we decided to give the Woodcocks another try. Unfortunately, right when we got out of the van, Jim realized that his phone had fallen off his belt. We tried calling it to see if it was in the car but it was not. I was dreading a long search for the phone but luckily his iPhone has an app called Find My iPhone which located the phone and gave us a point on a map to begin our search. In all I think it took us under five minutes to find the phone!

After a quick trip into town to get some coffee and breakfast at McDonald's, we got in position at Paynetown SRA on Lake Monroe for sunrise. Here the birds started to come at a fast and furious pace. By 9am, we were up to 90 species and feeling pretty good about how the day was going. Our biggest surprise of the morning was a Merlin that passed very quickly overhead. It was also nice to find both Lesser Scaup and Red-breasted Mergansers on the lake.

American Redstart - One of the 22 species of warblers found on our big day

We birded our way through Yellowwood State Forest on our way to Lake Lemon. Little Africa provided us with a few new species but the highlight of our time at Lake Lemon were the two Pacific Loons that brought our total to 116. We had exhausted all of our possibilities around the Bloomington area so we headed on to Goose Pond.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story later this week!

-Rob

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