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It Finally Feels Like Fall

10/12/2019 - 10/13/2019


I woke up early Saturday morning and scraped ice off my windshield. It seemed odd; especially since I had not even grabbed a jacket on the way out of the house. It's good to finally have some colder temps.


I arrived at Goose Pond FWA near Linton, IN around sunrise. There was a light frost on the weeds, and I was anxious to start birding. It's officially "orange sparrow" season. I don't know if this is an official term, a colloquial phrase, or what. It's used by everyone I know, though. We get four species of Ammadramus sparrow here. Two of the family nest here: Henslow's Sparrow (one of my favorite birds) and Grasshopper Sparrow. The other two are passage migrants: Nelson's Sparrow and LeConte's Sparrow. These latter two are primarily orange-hued; hence the term "orange sparrow". Of the two, Nelson's arrives in the state first and is followed shortly thereafter by LeConte's. While Nelson's passes through entirely, there are several cases of LeConte's overwintering in the state. It was with this in mind that I stepped out of my car and began searching for these elusive little orange birds.


The area was filled with Swamp Sparrows. There were probably upwards of 50 along the road. I had a handful of Savannah, as well. Oddly, I had very few Song Sparrow. In the end, I found one Ammadramus species, but it was the green-hued one, Henslow's Sparrow. I wish I could have gotten a picture. I love their fall plumage, and I don't have a picture of one in that plumage. Other birds of note were a single Common Yellowthroat (oddly the only warbler of the day), several Sedge Wren, a flock of about 100 Greater White-fronted Geese flying in to the area, and a pair of American Wigeon.


Not the best photo, but I love how the bug is hiding under the blade of grass right in front of the Swamp Sparrow. It'd be a good photo if the bird didn't have that seed stuck to its bill. Part of the challenge of shooting sparrows.

Sunday did not go as planned/hoped. After a poor night of sleep, I bailed on my plan to head to The Burn to look for more sparrows and grabbed a little extra rest before heading to a couple local parks. My consolation plan was going to be looking for Chipping Sparrows and Orange-crowned Sparrow at Daubenspeck Community Park. From there, I was going to head to Eagle Creek Park and see if the colder weather was finally going to bring some birds in to feed on the dogwood berries that are pretty much untouched this year.


I arrived at Daubenspeck at sunrise and waited a few moments for the sun to start hitting the prairie. I could see a lot of activity and finally headed out to track some birds down in the improving light. My excitement died pretty quickly after realizing that most of the sparrow activity in the prairie grass was House Sparrows.

I searched the park but came up a bit empty on anything of note. Lots of American Robins and a few Cedar Waxwings were feeding on some juniper berries. Flickers were flying about. I had a single Indigo Bunting. The highlight was a cooperative but badly positioned Blue-headed Vireo. It's one of my favorite birds; so, in spite of the terrible lighting, I snapped a lot of shots. The bird was perched along a trail that put the bird about 90 degrees to the sun. A shadow from another branch was covering part of the bird. This is about the best I got of the bird. Hoping to see some more yet this Fall.

Eagle Creek Park continues to struggle with migrants. Phoebe, Yellow-rumped and Palm Warbler, and a single Chimney Swift were the highlights. I was home before noon.


I'm looking forward to some more sparrow hunting. They are not all the cooperative, but I love trying to shoot them.


Thanks for reading,

Mike



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