Friday, September 28, 2012

More Hawk Migration

After yesterday's success with hawks, I figured I would try it again this afternoon.  From about 4-5:30 in the evening I stared up at the sky, with a few quick break for some other birds.  I didn't have as many individual hawks as yesterday but I got some excellent birds anyway.  The first two raptors I saw ended up being American Kestrels; I hadn't had that species in the yard for a few years.

Adult Bald Eagle-a group of this eagle and another adult were in view for
about 10 minutes.  This was a new yard bird and a great way to end the

A Cooper's Hawk that went over rather quickly.  Notice the straight edge
to the forewing and the prominent white tip to the tail.

Red-tailed Hawk-an interesting bird that came over.  As you can see it
is partially albino, also called leucistic.  A few of the primaries and
secondaries are completely white!  Other than that it looked like a fairly
normal Red-tailed Hawk.

One of the birds that was a nice distraction from the raptors, a Nashville

Another of the birds that was a distraction, a Philadelphia Vireo.
Raptor Totals:
Cooper's Hawk-1
Bald Eagle-2
Broad-winged Hawk-11
Red-tailed Hawk-2
American Kestrel-2
Peregrine Falcon-1


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hawk Migration Above the Yard

Warblers, vireos, tanagers, thrushes, and all topped off by many raptors.  When I first walked out the back door there were warblers everywhere!  I quickly saw 10 species of warblers including my first Black-and-white Warbler for the yard this fall as well as my first Orange-crowned Warbler this fall.  Through the early afternoon I added a few new warblers and other migrants.  One highlight was an extremely cooperative Wilson's Warbler, however, I, of course, didn't have my camera.  

Bay-breasted Warbler-on of the more common warblers this morning

Gray Catbird-There have been tons of
these throughout September.
A few later migrants also showed up in the yard this morning.  A couple White-throated Sparrows were feeding in the yard but were only around for a little while.  2 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were a very nice surprise as was a Hairy Woodpecker which is pretty uncommon in the yard.

Gray-cheeked Thrush-A few weeks back this was a new yard bird, this
fall I have seen quite a few.
In the afternoon, after the clouds had burned off, the hawk migration began.  I had two great kettles of Broad-wingeds migrate over and many other single birds migrating over.  Overall I had about 95 individual raptors.

Here is the raptor count:
Northern Harrier-2
Sharp-shinned Hawk-8
Cooper's Hawk-1
Broad-winged Hawk-76
Red-tailed Hawk-6
Peregrine Falcon-1

16 Broad-winged Hawks and 3 Turkey Vultures, a portion of the small kettle that migrated over

3 Broad-wingeds and my first Northern Harrier for the yard.

A very bad picture of a Peregrine Falcon that came migrating by, another yard bird.

Goose Pond FWA to Build Visitor Center

There was recently some awesome news announced about one of the premier birding destinations in Indiana. Indiana DNR will be building the DNR Southwest Regional Offices and Visitor Center on the Goose Pond property! The story in the Greene County Daily World can be read here:

The groundbreaking ceremony was just held with Gov. Mitch Daniels in attendance. The story of the ground breaking can be found here : The governor was also in attendance for the dedication of the property several years ago and is a huge supporter of Goose Pond.

Dickcissel - One of the resident breeders at Goose Pond
In my opinion, this Visitor Center will do great things for not only Goose Pond FWA but for the whole Greene County community as well. This will be a huge draw for birders, naturalists, and hunters alike and will create an even larger flow of money into the community than Goose Pond without a Visitor Center.  It is sad to see the misguided comments in the comment section of these articles in the Daily World. To ignore the economic impact of birders and hunters is amazing to me. While some people believe this is a waste of money and a drain on the local economy, I could not disagree more. This will be a bright spot for Greene County for years to come and could serve as a catalyst for future growth in the area. I for one will keep birding at Goose Pond and that means I will spend money in Linton for food and gas every trip.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Eagle Creek Park-Pelicans and More!

Over the past few days I have had the chance to bird around Eagle Creek Park.  There has been lots of turnover in species diversity during the week with many more later migrants coming in and many early migrants taking off.  Today many Blue Jays, American Robins, and Chimney Swifts were migrating overhead, joined by a few swallows.  

7 American White Pelicans that were at Eagle Creek Park today
Yellow Warbler from 9/23.  This is as late as I have seen one in Indiana
A first fall Blackburnian Warbler.

A first fall Blackpoll Warbler.


Red-breasted Nuthatch Irruption and Ron Pittiway's Winter Finch Forecast

The Red-breasted Nuthatches are continuing their current irruption down into the southeast United States as well as across the country.  Over the past couple weeks Red-breasted Nuthatches have become almost as common as White-breasted.  It has become strange to go birding and not see at least one Red-breasted.  Hopefully we will get a few other irruptive species this coming fall and winter.

I would highly suggest you read Ron Pittiway's Winter Finch Forecast here.  Every year he predicts how the irruptive species will move and he has a great track record.  It is a great heads-up for all birders that hope to find an irruptive species this year!  

Good luck finding one of these species!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Interview on

I was recently interviewed for the Birder's Corner on You can read the interview here: I was able to work in a little plug for both and! is owned by Perry Rosenbloom and contains reviews all kinds of binoculars. They cover a bunch of different brands and have some great general information on binoculars!


Monday, September 24, 2012

Molt in North American Birds Review

Whether you are an avid birder or a beginner, Peterson Reference Guide to Molt in North American Birds (Peterson Reference Guides) is a book that should be included in your bird book collection.  You can learn anything from feather groupings to the molting strategies of different families of birds.  This information is extremely useful for identification purposes and is also interesting for the common birder to learn.

At the start of the book, all the basics of molt are discussed in great detail.  Difficult to understand concepts such as molt strategies are discussed and the ramifications of this information is explained.  You quickly learn that molt strategies can explain more about birds than you would have ever thought.  After this the book goes into great detail about what is known of the molt strategies of all the families of birds.  Interesting facts such as what I mentioned in this post are explained in great detail!!!

If you love to learn about the lives of birds, I would highly suggest purchasing this book.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Eagle Creek and Nutty Birder's 500th Post

This morning Eric and I birded at Eagle Creek Park. We were expecting a good amount of migrants based on the weather last night and it looked like we were in for a show when we first arrived at the marina. Unfortunately the large flock disappeared pretty quickly and we were left to search the park for more migrants. While birding I was able to take some photos of a few warblers. The photos are not great but they do show both Blackpoll and Bay-breasted Warblers in fall plumage.

Bay-breasted Warbler

Blackpoll Warbler
We ended the day with 70 species total including 16 warblers.

I also just realized that our last post, Thrush Identification Quiz, was our 500th post on Nutty Birder. We have been blogging here since August 2008 and we are still going strong! We can't wait to keep providing our readers with awesome information about birds and birding!


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Thrush Identification: A Quiz

Can you identify these two species?

If you are having any trouble with the identification, take a look at this article.

Good Luck Identifying!


Friday, September 21, 2012

Birding in the San Jacinto Mountains

Today is my last day in California before I head back to Indiana. My wife and I decided to spend the last morning going up the mountain to Idyllwild. Idyllwild is up above 5,000 feet in the San Jacinto Mountains and is significantly cooler than Palm Desert where we have been staying. The highlight of my morning was getting two life birds! The first was White-headed Woodpecker, which I have been wanting to find for a long time!
White-headed Woodpecker

White-headed Woodpecker
My second lifer was California Quail. While birding earlier in the morning, we met talked with a lady at Idyllwild Park who told us about a location in a local neighborhood where she sees quail almost everyday. She didn't know what species they were but I thought it was worth checking out since I needed both California and Mountain for my life list. We didn't see any quail on our first pass through the area but when we went back after lunch, there were at least 8 California Quail!

We will be heading home tomorrow. I ended up with 4 lifers on the trip and had a wonderful time birding, golfing, and hanging out with our family!


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Birding Eagle Creek Park

I didn't have high hopes for birding this morning, the high winds and mostly cloudy conditions were not conducive for finding warblers.  So, I met Eric Malbone at the handicap road hoping that we could find some shorebirds or gulls on the flats instead of looking for passerines.  We weren't disappointed, we were able to count 23 Franklin's Gulls and 1 Forster's Tern mixed in with the Ring-billed Gulls!  There weren't many shorebirds other than Killdeer and one Lesser Yellowlegs so we headed to the marina to look for warblers and other migrants.

Many of the 23 Franklin's Gulls mixed in with Ring-billeds.  Most of the ducks in front are Blue-winged Teal.
When we got to the marina the wind was still strong forcing the migrants that were around low and creating some nice photo ops.  We were able to photograph Bay-breasted, Tennessee, Cape May, and Nashville Warblers.  We also saw Blackpoll and Yellow-rumped Warblers as well as 5 Forster's Terns that flew by.  

First Fall Bay-breasted Warbler showing just a touch of bay!

First Fall Tennessee Warbler.
Since the wind was strong we decided to check the Skating Pond since it is a little more sheltered from the wind.  And boy were we glad we did; not only did we get some great birds we were able to photograph a few species bathing on the edge of one of the ponds.  We quickly found our best bird of the morning, a female Black-throated Blue.  It never stopped moving so the pics I got were pretty terrible but we got great views!

Our best warbler of the day, a female Black-throated Blue Warbler.  This bird was moving fast through the
undergrowth so I never got a decent picture.

When we got to the backside of one of the small ponds we found a flock of birds coming down to bathe and drink in the water.  We had great views of Gray-cheeked and Swainson's Thrushes, Veery, and Ovenbird.  We also found one Winter Wren which was my first of the fall and a bit early in my experience.
Gray-cheeked Thrush-my first decent picture of this species

Ovenbird taking a bath-we ended the day with 5-6 individual Ovenbirds

Shorebird Identification: Pectoral Sandpiper

In my opinion, the Pectoral Sandpiper is the one shorebird that can resemble more shorebirds than any other species.  It's a medium sized sandpiper that is larger than the peeps but smaller than the yellowlegs, dowitchers, and other similarly sized shorebirds.   Overall, Pectoral Sandpipers look like Least Sandpipers on steroids.


As with most shorebird species, the shape is one of the most important aspects of the identification of Pecs (short for Pectorals).  Pecs are plump overall which gives them a much less elegant look than the yellowlegs.
However, they are more elongated than the peeps.  They have medium length necks but smaller heads in proportion to their body size than the peeps.  The bill is of medium length and slightly decurved, so again somewhat between peeps and the larger shorebird species.
Pectoral Sandpiper in late summer.


One of the most noticeable field marks for Pecs is the distinct demarcation between the streaking on the chest, and the clean white belly.  This sharp demarcation creates a different look than any other shorebirds and the streaking on the chest is more extensive than on any other shorebirds that may be confused with this species.  Overall, Pectorals are very uniformly brown colored through the back, head, and chest.  However, juvenile birds do show brighter caps and scapulars.

Pectoral Sandpiper-probably a female (females have less streaking on the front than males)
The most similar species to the Pectoral is the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper but it is rare in the United States and with some attention to detail can also be separated fairly easily in most cases.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Birding Sodalis Nature Park

This morning I ventured down to the south side of Indianapolis to bird with Eric Malbone in his "neck-of-the-woods" at Sodalis Nature Park.  This park is a fairly small park at only 210 acres, but it has a nice variety of habitats and even has a small 5.5 acre lake.  As soon as you step out of your car you can start finding migrant warblers; the trees surrounding the parking lot are alive with birds as soon as the early morning sun arrives.  

Black-throated Green Warbler-our most numerous warbler on the day

Black-throated Green Warbler-an adult female

Most of our warblers today were in the general vicinity of the parking lot as well as around the edge of the lake.  The trails go through some mature woodland and eventually through some nice scrub habitat that is being restored into forest.  These areas provide some great possibilities for birding and some nice nesting habitat for birds such as Prairie Warbler which are somewhat uncommon nesters in central Indiana.

Magnolia Warbler-I believe a first fall male, a cooperative individual

Northern Parula-a first fall female
We also ended up seeing many other migrant species including Swainson's and Gray-cheeked Thrush, both tanager species, and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  Our warbler list ended at 14 species.  It was a great day to experience fall migration in Indiana!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Birding the Salton Sea

Hello from Palm Desert, California!

My wife and I are currently on vacation in Palm Desert after a couple of days in San Diego. On Sunday, we decided to spend the morning birding at the Salton Sea which is about an hour and a half south of where we are staying. The Salton Sea is a huge inland body of water that was created in 1905 when the Colorado River flooded. The sea averages 15 miles wide by 35 miles long. The southern end of the sea is where both birds and birders flock. There are lots of great birding locations in this part of the sea including Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge. I have never been to any place that attracts more individual birds than this area. There are thousands of pelicans (both American White and Brown), gulls, terns, and shorebirds.

One of my favorite birds here were the numerous Red-necked Phalaropes. They were also one of the only shorebirds that would come close enough for good photos!

Red-necked Phalarope
I was also able to get two lifers in the area! There were a lot of Yellow-footed Gulls and we also found 2 Crissal Thrashers!

Burrowing Owl near the Salton Sea
I will post more about our trip later this week.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Thrush Identification: Swainson's, Gray-cheeked, and Veery

During migration, thrushes can pose one of the biggest challenges as well as one of the best opportunities to birders for learning thrush identification.  All of the species mix during migration and you can find all three of the species discussed here, right next to each other for direct comparison.  The two most similar thrushes are the Swainson's and Gray-cheeked, the other thrush species discussed, the Veery, is fairly distinct.  For the Swainson's and Gray-cheeked the identification all comes down to the face pattern.


  • rich, rufous head and back
  • limited, faded spotting
  • weak eye-ring
  • spotting and back/head color are the same
To see the photographer's photostream go to: 

Swainson's Thrush

  • distinct, buffy eyering
  • buffy chest and sides of neck
  • plain brown back and tail that match in color
  • slightly darker spotting than back/head color
BI100504-061 Swainson's Thrush
To see the photographer's photostream go to:

Gray-cheeked Thrush

  • weak eyering that is whitish
  • clean whitish background to the spotting on the chest
  • spotting slightly darker 
BI100504-037 Gray-cheeked Thrush
To see the photographer's photostream go to:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Best Field Guides for Hawks

With reports of huge numbers of migrating raptors coming in from hawk watches, I thought that it would be appropriate to write about some of my favorite field guides for hawk.

  1. Hawks in Flight: The Flight Identification of North American Migrant Raptors by Pete Dunne, David Sibley, and Clay Sutton

    • Pros: The extensive descriptions of the species in this book are extremely well done. I also like that the photos are black and white forcing you to focus on the shape and not color. There is a a new edition coming out very soon and it will be interesting to see what has been changed in the book.

    • Cons: The photos are not with the species accounts and are instead put at the end of the book. Some of the photos are also extremely poor quality and even though I'm sure it is meant to replicate a field experience, I do not like how it looks.

  2. Hawks at a Distance: Identification of Migrant Raptors by Jerry Liguori

    • Pros: If you plan on doing any hawk watching, this book is a must! In addition to very well written descriptions there are tons of photos of hawks at long distances and at multiple angles which is likely how you will see them in the field. I also really like the shots in the front of the book showing differing flight positions and also the graph showing the timing of migration for each species for both the spring and the fall. The shapes section at the back of the book is exceptional as well! This section shows 40 photos of every species from every imaginable angle.

    • Cons: I do not feel that there are really any cons to this guide.
  3. Hawks from Every Angle: How to Identify Raptors In Flight by Jerry Liguori
    • Pros: This guide shows a lot of the same information that Hawks at a Distance contains but its photos and descriptions focus on birds that are not as far away from the observer. The book also contains a great overview of hawk migration and of great hawk watching locations.
    • Cons: Just like Hawks at a Distance, I am having trouble finding anything to say is wrong with this book. Every birder should own both of these books and they are best as a set to fully learn hawk identification.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Indiana Young Birders Club Lakefront Field Trip

On Saturday morning, Rob, Nick Kiehl, Landon Neumann, Jeremy Davis, Steph Stewart, and I headed up to the shores of Lake Michigan for an Indiana Young Birder's Club birding trip.  We were hopeful for a great day due to the predicted strong north winds along the lake.  When the winds are out of the north, you have a great chance to see some bird species that usually stay too far out on the lake to see from the shore. 

One of the ever-present Sanderlings while we were scanning the lake.

Our excitement for the day became slightly diminished after spending a couple hours watching the lake had only produced a couple ducks and terns migrating past.  The bat and butterfly migration kept things somewhat interesting, and finding a washed up Sora being picked at by gulls provided much interest.  Eventually a jaeger was spotted, which at least in my opinion, was the target of the day.  It flew by close enough to get an identification of Parasitic Jaeger. 

The Sora that washed up on shore.  It was a sad sight but and interesting
bird to see up close.

After a little while longer, it seemed like that was going to be the highlight so we headed to the Hammond Migrant Trap to look for migrant passerines.  As soon as we entered the sanctuary, it was apparent that there would be many warblers.  We soon found 16 species of warblers including a couple Mourning Warblers and a Black-throated Blue, Lincoln's and White-throated Sparrows, Marsh Wren, and 3 species of thrushes.  
Our birding crew for the day!

The Peregrine Falcon that kept the shorebirds and gulls honest.

At this point, we decided it was time for a quick lunch, and it was decided we would spend the rest of the day watching the lake at Miller Beach.  This time the lakewatch paid off!  Within a few minutes we had a couple hundred Common Terns and a few Caspian and Forster's Terns flying over the lake.  After a while longer Landon spotted a group of three jaeger species about a mile away.  Eventually they flew in much closer and we were able to identify them all as Parasitic Jaegers, including one dark morph juvenile bird.

Another shot of a non-breeding plumaged Sanderling

All in all, it was a great field trip for all present!


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Eagle Creek Park-Franklin's Gull

This morning Rob and I headed out to Eagle Creek Park to see what migrants had dropped in.  The radar had been lit up all night with migrating birds and we quickly found out the bulk of the migrants were thrushes.  

After about 5 minutes of scanning the flats, the biggest highlight of the day arrived, three Franklin's Gulls.  There were also a few shorebird species, including a Semipalmated Plover. 

Can you pick out the three Franklin's Gulls?

Other highlights included a very cooperative Olive-sided Flycatcher, two Golden-winged Warblers, and two friendly Sedge Wrens.