It. Migration. Spring migration, to be exact. We've waited. We've talked. We've obsessed. The weather was decent one day this weekend, and I was eager to get out and make the most of it. After a lot of debating Friday night, I just decided to head to Eagle Creek Park for the day.
I put feet on the pavement at "circle drive" about 5 minutes before sunrise. The birds were already very active and feeding near ground level. I found my second warbler of the year, here. Yellow-rumped Warblers were feeding in the trees. I got a few shots of some migrating Ruby-crowned Kinglets. An Eastern Bluebird stopped by, and Chipping Sparrows were everywhere.
After a bit, the activity moved on, and I headed over to the "ice skating pond". Thankfully, it was a bit sunnier over there. I do a lot of birding by ear; usually waiting for a call I don't recognize and want to track down. Everywhere I went was alive with the calls of Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Such a fun call. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were quite common, too. It's always fun to see them. One lucky birder flushed an American Bittern at the pond. The biggest surprise here was the Prairie Warbler. I couldn't quite manage a good shot of it, but it was nice to see. The other surprise was a cooperative Pied-billed Grebe. Normally super-shy, this little grebe was content to swim next to the shore and hunt for minnows in the cattails. I wish I could have got a bit lower.
I ran into a couple friends at the skating pond. While birding, Mark Welter and I decided to head up to Eagle's Crest to see what the prairie looked like this year. Last year, they'd mowed it in early spring. This year, most of the prairie is in tact; only a small section at the back has been mowed. My favorite sparrow can be found here. There is just something about Henslow's Sparrows that I find interesting. The field was alive with Field Sparrow, American Goldfinch, Eastern Bluebird, and Tree Swallows. After a few minutes of walking, we finally heard the signature hiccup-like call of a Henslow's. We found it popped-up in some weeds and got some shots.
Mark had to head off to work; so, I slipped back over to Eagle Creek. I went back to circle drive with plans to walk around a bit and maybe look for Red-headed Woodpecker. That never happened. Instead, I ran across a group of birders. I'd already spotted the Northern Parula and Black-and-white Warbler in the area, but another birder had found Pine Warbler feeding in the grass. We walked over to look for the pine and immediately stumbled on it. Amazingly, it flew up in a tree right in front of us for about 5 seconds and then disappeared. I was not fortunate enough to get an in-focus shot. This pretty much summed up my experience for the day. I had some great opportunities. I blew a lot of them by missing focus. I think I need to work on some strength training. Especially since my shoulders are quite sore today. All that aside, I had some interesting luck with the pine. After everyone else wandered off, I hung out in the area and slowly investigated. After about a half hour, I gave up and was walking back to my car. I stopped to look at a Chipping Sparrow and realized the pine was about 15 foot away. Later, after I'd lost it again, I was watching some bluebirds from under a pine tree, when the bird flew out from a limb directly over my head. As much as I saw it, I only ended up with a single decent photo. Sometimes, that's just the way it goes. I did get a decent picture of one of my favorite warblers, though. Black-and-white Warblers are stunning.
The day was wearing on, and the forecast of "mostly cloudy" was just not proving true. The sun was shining somewhat strongly, and the light was going bad quickly. In a final push for the day, I headed back over to the skating pond. I checked the spots that were active earlier, but things had quieted down. Tired, I walked over to the picnic table to sit down for a minute before calling it a day. I noticed a quick ripple in the water as I sat down and, scanning quickly, just glimpsed a Sora popping into the cattails. I was tired; so, why not wait. Given enough time, I knew it would eventually come back out. In the end, patience paid off, and I got a few shots I was happy with.
It was 2 o'clock by the time I finished at the skating pond. Tired, dirty, and hungry, I headed home. Spring migration is just getting started, and I'm anxious to get out for some more photos before it passes us by.
P.S. As I wrap this up, I just noticed my FOY (for the yard) Yellow-rumped Warbler just popped into the buckeye tree. Dark-eyed Junco are still feeding on the ground, and Chipping Sparrow are calling in the neighborhood. I do love Spring.
Thanks for reading,