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One Shot Goal

Updated: May 26

5/22/2020 - 5/25/2020


The holiday weekend was here, and it almost caught me by surprise. I did not realize it was a 3-day weekend until Wednesday. I was ahead on hours for the week; so, I slipped out a bit Friday morning and made the weekend a little longer.


Migration has practically flown the proverbial coop, here in Indiana. I was not out birding very long this morning, but in the couple hours I was out, I did not hear or see a single migrant. Everything was either resident or a bird that breeds in the state.


I knew I did not have much time on Friday; so, I stayed local. Eagle Creek Park had finally opened back up to car traffic, and I decided to drive in and check things out. Standard story. The birding was better the day before. Everyone I met said that the park was loaded on Thursday. Well, it was nice to be out anyway. There were some migrants around, but the nicer weather pulled them up into the treetops.


I was pretty excited about my plans for Saturday. Pre-shutdown, I had been to The Crest to look for Henslow's Sparrows. They are a favorite of mine. I love the prairie up there and its golden colors in early spring. Last month, it was with great disappointment that I arrived there and found that most of the area had been mowed. Fast-forward about a month, and I was back. I wanted to see how the prairie was coming along and check to see if any Henslow's had setup residence in the unmowed parts. I was really excited to hear one as soon as I exited my car. In a place that normally hosts a dozen or so birds, I had two or three singing. I guess I will settle for that. Song and Field Sparrows were singing as well. Prairie Warbler was present in a couple places. I had a pair of Yellow-breasted Chat, a couple of migrating Alder Flycatcher, an Orchard Oriole, and even a couple of Summer Tanagers in the area. This is, of course, aside from the usual Eastern Bluebird, Red-winged Blackbird, etc. The prairie itself did not look so good. I expected the mowed portion to be flowering. It was a flat, lawn-green. Maybe the weather is keeping it at bay. As for the unmowed portion... Bradford Pear trees are taking over. This portion had been mowed two years ago, and it gave the trees the start they needed. This is where the sparrows were, and this meant photographing them in the top of ugly, invasive trees. I really miss the beauty of the old prairie up here. I will have to go elsewhere for sparrow shots later this year.


Sunday... well, I was hoping for a good day. After several disappointing efforts this season, I was just hoping for a few decent shots of something. What I got were some personal bests of a couple species. It is hard to complain about that! I was, again, at Eagle Creek Park, and I was birding an area that I have never birded before. While driving through part of the park, I suddenly heard a Kentucky Warbler. It is hard to tell how many times I have written that call off as Carolina Wren, but I was positive it was a warbler I was hearing. I parked and even managed to find the bird in the open a bit. Across the road, I could hear some White-eyed Vireos and decided to try and track them down. One of the one I was hearing immediately disappeared, but I had another pair that were feeding low in a small island of honeysuckle. This allowed me to follow them as they bounced from one side to the next; before moving off to the next island. While trying to shoot them, I heard a call come from next to me. It immediately caught my attention, but I needed it to call again to place it. About 15 agonizing seconds later - Mourning Warbler. It was about 10 foot away. I immediately located it, and it, shockingly, bounced up into some vines for a quick burst of photos. And then if flew off. The last I saw of it was a bright yellow but disappearing into a thick wall off honeysuckle. And, honestly, that was the highlight of the day. I did find a Pileated Woodpecker nest with two very noisy and large youngsters. I had an Eastern Wood-Pewee that almost used me as a perch a couple times, too. He just did not seem to mind that I was there. I also found a second Kentucky Warbler and located a Hooded Warbler that was reported earlier in the morning.

I finished the day by trying to track down an Acadian Flycatcher. I love their explosive call, and I do not have many photos of them. I tracked one down over by the rowing club headquarters. It had just squabbled with another flycatcher and was perching on an open branch. It was a bit higher than I like, but I made do. While here, I ran across a strange insect I had never seen before. It was about an inch long and looked odd. I bent over to check it out, and it stopped and stared back up at me. I found that really strange and backed up a bit. I grabbed a few quick photos for identification (not easy with a lens that requires you to be at least 14' away from the subject) and moved on. American Oil Beetle (aka. "blister beetle") was the consensus. It produces a liquid that causes irritation and painful blisters if if gets on your skin. Glad I gave it some room.


After several early mornings of birding and a hot bike ride in the middle of the day on Sunday, I was pretty tired. I had planned to drive down to Goose Pond to look for grassland species. When the alarm went off at 5 AM, I shut it off. Instead, I headed out to Fort Ben for a quick walk. Every time I head out, I have a goal. It is a small goal, but I do not always achieve it. I want to take at least one shot that I would be willing to show someone else. The picture does not have to be anything fantastic. I do not care if it is a stunning migrant warbler or a common Tufted Titmouse. I just want the shot to look good. With only a couple hours total at Fort Ben today, I almost missed. Toward the end of my time there, I ran across a Baltimore Oriole feeding in some vines in a sycamore tree. I sat there and watched for quite a while. The bird was so buried, it took me a while to even figure out it was a female. But the light was good, and there were several ways this could turn out well. There were many ways, of course, that it could not. Eventually, she popped out of the vines, perched, preened, and sang a couple times; just not in a good spot. I waited. After a little more searching through the tree, she hopped down in to some much lower branches overhanging the water and stuck her head in the nest that I had totally overlooked. She posed atop the nest, and I met my goal for the day.


With another spring in the books, it is time to look forward to summer. It is my least favorite season. I am a cold weather fan. I will spend a few weekends tracking down grassland species. After that... I do not know. Travel plans are still off the table, for us. Stay tuned. I will figure something out.


By the way, since you have made it this far, now might be a good time to introduce you to a new project I have started. It is a little different way to explore some of the places I have birded and a few of the photos I have taken there. As a matter of fact, it is called Explore. You can check it out through the link in the menu above, or you can use this link. I plan to update it more as I travel more, and I have a few trips from the past couple years that I plan to add, as well. I hope you enjoy it. It has been a fun exercise.


Also, one last thing. If you enjoy this site and have not left a comment before, please feel free to leave me a comment on the Feedback page. I would appreciate it.


Thanks for reading,

Mike



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