6/19/2020 - 6/20/2020
By Thursday night, I had my hours for the week in, and I decided to take a little time on Friday morning to do some birding. I did not have much in mind; just some time at Eagle Creek Park to shoot some hummingbirds. It is a bit early in the season for large hummingbird numbers, and the feeders were not overly busy. I snapped a few shots, but things just were not working out. I headed over to the seed pile to check it out. There is also a Red-headed Woodpecker nest nearby that I wanted to check out. There was not much going on at either location. I could hear the babies in the nest, but it is very high up. I dropped some seed at the pile, but the sun was pretty strong by then. The pictures were not great. So, I ended the day by not meeting my standard goal - take one picture you would show someone every time you go out.
Saturday morning started early. I wanted to look for Sedge and Marsh Wren. My chosen location was "The Burn" or Lye Creek in Montgomery County. I arrive just before sunset. As I put on my mud boots, a Song Sparrow kicked up and perched in a small tree to sing a few refrains. "Blue light" pics always look a bit odd to me, but I snapped a couple quick shots, anyway.
Shortly after, the sun crested the horizon; just below a bank of clouds. It was a huge, blood-red globe looming over the trees. I had not seen a sun like this since being in the Pantanal in Brazil. You shoot what you got; so, I snapped a few shots of the sun with my 600mm. The compression makes the sun look a bit distorted, and the color never comes out quite right. But, it was a beautiful sight.
And that was about the highlight of the morning there. I walked a good portion of the place, following the gator (ATV) tracks, and had zero wrens. Lots of Dickcissel and Red-winged Blackbirds. A single Eastern Meadowlark. A few Common Yellowthroat and calling Ring-necked Pheasant and Northern Bobwhite. The surprise bird was a lone Spotted Sandpiper that put up in the air briefly and disappeared in the grass. The best photos from there were a series taken of a Dickcissel in Poison Parsnip; another invasive. Why are all the invasives poisonous? At least this one is prettier than the hemlock, of which there was plenty there also.
The morning was still young when I finished there; so, I headed over to Prophetstown in an attempt to get some photos for the day. I was hoping to find the Henslow's in the Virginia Spiderwort, again. No luck. It was a little after 8 AM by the time I arrived there, and the day was already heating up a bit. So, I am not totally surprised that the place was a little slow. I did have a couple Blue Grosbeaks wandering the prairie. Dickcissel, of course, were abundant. While I did not have any Henslow's in the area I had them last time, I did have one over near the parking lots. That makes two that I heard in the time I was there. Numbers seem low this year. I did see at least three Sedge Wren there. One was pretty active and flying from various perches. I could not tell if the bird was building a nest or feeding young. It would root around in the base of the grasses for a bit and then fly to a nest location and disappear for a minute. I could not tell if it was carrying food or nesting material on these runs. Afterwards, it would pop up and sing for a bit and then repeat the process. The three birds I saw were spaced about 25 yards apart all in a single strip of grasses. I am surprised this is enough space for them.
By 9:30, it was time to call it a day. The sun had grown hot, and the harsh light was setting in. On my way out, I was admiring the tall, yellow flowers growing throughout the are and thinking how nice it would be to have a bird perched on top of them. As I drove by the farm entrance, I heard a Dickcissel call and saw it perched on top. I turned the car around and found a safe place to park. I followed some rules and broke some. First, the rule I try to always follow - take the shot you have before you move for a better one. I snapped some distant shots from the side of the road. The bird was singing and ignoring me. The rule I broke is a personal one for Prophetstown. Do not get off the trail at Prophetstown. I know that chiggers can be really bad there, and I do not want to tempt them. [It is worth a side note here that I just found out this morning that park staff asked another photographer to exit a field he was standing in while photographing. To his credit, there is no signage or literature prohibiting it, but he as asked anyway. I have personally seen a number of people in various fields there.] Anyway, I broke my (and unwittingly the park's?) rule and stepped into the field for a closer shot.
The plant is called Common Mullien. I looked it up once I got home. It is a native plant. I do not know if the thistle plants in the background are. I know we have some invasive thistles. The Poison Hemlock, as noted before, is not native.
Since we are talking invasives, a small bit of trivia: The blue flower that grows along the roadsides in summe, which I grew up knowing as "blue cornflower"? Well, it's actually called Chickory, and it, too, is an invasive. You learn something new every day.
Thanks for reading.