It's summer. Birding has slowed down. I had not made it out for any grassland species yet this year. I did take a quick look for Henslow's Sparrow at the beginning of spring, but I'd not been out to look for any others. With that in mind, I headed up to Prophetstown State Park yesterday.
The park hosts a huge prairie area. A lot of it is fairly inaccessible. Walking in any of the prairie is out of the question. The place is a haven for chiggers. There's a walking trail through some of the area, and I usually spend my time walking it and the edge of the road. My targets were: Henslow's Sparrow, Sedge Wren, Common Yellowthroat, Dicksissel, Indigo Bunting, and Blue Grosbeak. Of these birds, I knew the bunting and grosbeak would be the biggest challenge for photos. While I saw a couple grosbeak, they lived up to their reputation, and I did not get any shots.
I left home at 5 AM and was worried I was getting up there a little late. The timing worked out really well, and I pulled into the lot about 20 mintues after sunrise. This gave the sun just enough time to clear the treeline. I immediately stumbled upon a Common Yellowthroat that was apparently feeding young at a nearby nest. I pished a couple times, and the bird popped up nearly in front of the sun. I had to be pretty careful about where I was aiming, but I loved the shots and the colors. Not a bad way to start the morning.
Around the corner from here, a Sedge Wren was singing in a small tree.... Yes, it was actually perched in the open in a tree.
These guys have so much attitude. They also exhibit an interesting nesting behavior. They nest further north in the state in the spring. After their young fledge, they move further south and re-nest.
Just up the path, a pair of backlit shapes were flitting about. I managed to get on the other side of them to look back, and I had my third target - Dicksissel!
While shooting the Dicksissel, I heard my fourth target across the road; so, I backtracked and headed over to the edge of the road. There, I finally found my fourth target perched up on a milkweed plant; giving its strange little hiccup call. I do love Henslow's Sparrow.
After this bird, I spent a while walking down the road and looping back on the path. I'd heard a grosbeak calling over along the path, but I wanted to get on the right side of the light. Unfortunately, it was largely a waste of time. It flew as soon as it saw me coming up the path, and there was not much else in the area. I birded around for a while longer, but it started to heat up quickly. The trail was getting busier with walkers and bikers, too. I ended up staying a bit longer than I should, but I was having fun. I headed out a little before 11, but I'd really gotten most of my shooting in by 9.
I was happy that I stayed, though. Shortly before I left, I had a Henslow's singing from atop a spray of wildflowers and got some of my favorite shots from the day.
Thanks for reading,