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Chasing a Celebrity

6/16/2024


Just a quick post about a chase to southern Indiana this morning to view a Brown Booby. A couple of weeks ago, a Brown Booby showed up at Spring Mill SP. This bird has garnered a lot of attention since it showed up and has even made the news. My dad had heard about it.


I was out of town when the bird first showed up, and work/obligations kept me from chasing it sooner. Thankfully, the bird was still being seen today. This is the second state record for this species. This bird is a lost juvenile that has found a favorite perch over a well-stocked pond in the park. The bird has been seen there daily since it first showed up, and commonly flies a few circuits of the pond throughout the day to do some fishing. There is a convenient, large dock jutting out into the pond, and this makes it easy to observe the bird. While we were there in the morning, the lighting would be much better in the evening. Activity in the evening may be a bit slow, though.


My brother and I arrived at the park at 7:00 AM; not realizing the gate to the nature center did not open until 7:30 AM. We waited with a small line of cars and were eventually admitted. From there, it was an easy walk to the pier - even if we went out of our way initially. The bird was preening across the water at its favored perch. It was pretty restless, and we assumed the activity meant the bird was going to feed soon. Not long afterwards, it took wing. It would head to one end of the pond or the other and fish for a bit. Then it would make a pass past the dock to head to the other end of the pond. At times, the bird flew directly over our heads. It is hard to realize how large and long-winged this bird is until it flies right over you. It is a very graceful and acrobatic flier. The bird fished twice while we were there; catching a small fish on his first loop around the pond.


This bird is a juvenile. To say it is off-course is a bit of an understatement. This bird normally inhabits the waters surrounding the Caribbean Islands and the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Central America. It is hard to say how it ended up here. The bird's feathers look a bit beaten in spots. Some of the primary and secondary feathers show a bit of wear. The feathers in the tail, in particular, look very worn. So, maybe a storm blew the bird off course, and it wandered until it came here? My (inexpert) opinion is that the bird does not look overly well. General reports are that it is feeding well, but it appears to be suffering a bit. It was first pointed out by another birder, but the bird appears to be quite agitated. While perched, the bird is never sitting still, and, therefore, never really resting. It bobs around on the perch a bit and loses its balance often. It was reported to have fallen off its perch at least once yesterday. Today, it seems to have slipped off, again. Looking over the photos, it appears the bird is being harassed by gnats.

If you expand and view the photo above, you can see several of them around its head as it is scratching. I am not sure if they are biting him our just crawling on him and distracting him. In the couple hours we were there this morning, the bird was not seen every just resting. I am not sure what this means overall. I would think the constant irritation does not bode well for the bird. On the other hand, we were told that the pond was stocked this spring, and there appeared to be plenty of fish about. If it could solve its bug issues, maybe it will be comfortable for a while.


It was good to see the bird, and I hope it survives and eventually moves on. This is my 336th bird seen in the state of Indiana, and it was a fun one. I was even happier that it was an easy chase.


Thanks for reading,

Mike



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