11/1/2019 - 11/3/2019
The weather was pretty soggy last weekend, and I did not make it out. Instead, I worked and used a little bit of that time to slip out Friday morning to Eagle Creek Park. Saturday, I headed down to Goose Pond, again. Sunday, I planned an easy day near home again but ended up heading out on a chase.
Friday was pretty unremarkable. I'd hoped to get some fall color photography in this weekend, but the wind and the rain have taken their toll on the trees. Most trees that were changing color are bare. The ones with leaves are still pretty much green - such a weird year. I drove various places around Eagle Creek Park but finally settled on walking down to Coffer Dam. There was a lot of activity in the honeysuckle bushes at the end of the road, but nothing much was cooperative. I headed home to work out the day with little to show for my time. That's the way it goes sometimes.
Saturday, I was out the door early and on my way to Goose Pond. I was hoping to find a late LeConte's Sparrow, or at least get some nice shots of birds in frost-covered plants. I did not have much luck on either front. I did not have a LeConte's. As a matter of fact, I didn't have a lot of sparrows at all. The number of birds in the area was way down from a couple weekends ago. What was left was very shy. Normally, a little pishing would bring them out from cover. Now they would just retreat further. I found it a bit odd until a little later in the morning. I'd just turned around and was heading back up the road when a large bird flew over my shoulder and landed in a tree about 30 yards up the road. I knew immediately what it was and was eager for some shots. The bird was not in the mood to cooperate and flew off into the distance. I ended up with some very bad ID shots of a bird in terrible light. The bird was a Northern Shrike, and it was hunting sparrows up and down the ditches in the area. I saw it, distantly, perch in a number of spots and even hover at one point; each time making a pass at the brush. I do not know how long the bird has been hunting the area, but it could be the reason everything is so shy right now.
I did get one "frosty" shot in before the sun melted everything. While pishing, I had noticed some movement down in some grass, but nothing ever popped out. I had wondered if it was a bird but moved on. As soon as I turned my back, I heard a wren jeer at me. I turned around and caught the little guy out in the open for a couple shots before he popped back down into cover. Such tricky and taunting little birds.
Sunday was the day after the time change. After setting my alarm for 6:30, I awoke at the old 7:30, which meant the sun would be up in a half hour. I wasn't sure I had the energy for a long drive anyway. I grabbed the camera and headed to the west side. Daubenspeck was my first stop, but it was, again, very unproductive. At least I got a picture of a bird in some fall colors; even if it's not quite what I had in mind....
I packed out after a quick hour there and headed back to Eagle Creek Park. I considered my options on the way over and decided to hit a part of the park I had not birded in a very long time. The pond area near the 56th St. entrance used to be my favorite area to bird. I knew there was a large prairie there and was hoping to get some sparrow shots. For the most part, everything was pretty skittish. But I ran into Laura Pettigrew, a good local bird photographer, and she showed me where the bluebirds would come in to feast on the fruit on a crabapple tree. While standing there, I had a good number of Eastern Bluebird, some House Finch, a Northern Mockingbird, American Robins, and even a Gray Catbird stop by. I do not know that I got the best photos, but I had a great time while taking the shots and appreciate Laura's help.
While talking to Laura, a White-tailed Deer doe came bolting by. A short couple seconds later, a 6-point buck came by in hot pursuit.
As the morning wound down, the flock of Chipping Sparrow that had been feeding in the grass slowly worked their way towards where I was standing; popping up into the brush for a few shots and giving me a couple more sparrow shots for the weekend. I do love these birds.
The day finished with an unplanned drive out to Brookville Lake. A phalorope had been spotted the previous day and was rumored to be a Red Phalorope. Sunday morning, the identification was confirmed. After I got home, and debated for a while, checked the distance to the location, and then decided I'd make the chase. Red Phalarope was still a state lifer for me. I arrived at the location around 4:00 PM. I was hoping for something decently close, but the bird was over a 100 yards away. I took some ID shots, but there's not much to them. I watched the bird feed for a bit and then decided it was time to head home. This was my 238th species for the state.
Thanks for reading,