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The Early Photographer Catches the Bird

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

5/30/2020 - 5/31/2020

While migrants are still pushing through, I have moved on. Summer is approaching. Here in central Indiana, that pretty much means one thing - grassland species. The more colorful and celebrated migrants may have mostly pushed through the state, but there are plenty of migrants that have arrived to breed for the summer.

Goose Pond is one of my favorite places to photograph grassland species. I mainly do this by car. And I only ever do it at sunrise. I was up at 4:30 AM on Saturday. It is a two hour drive to GP from my house, and I-70 is closed; so, it takes a little longer right now. Turns out there is a second road closure right outside Linton, but I did not know to plan for that one. I arrive at GP just as the sun was stretching over the horizon. I stopped to pull out my camera and roll down the windows. I was immediately greeted with the backwards-sounding call of a Bell's Vireo. I hear a lot of Bell's Vireo that morning. It's good that they are doing so well. What I did not hear much of was Henslow's Sparrow. In my time there, I only heard one. In general, the place was fairly alive with song. I basically run a Z-shaped route through the area that covers the GP 9/10/11 road, down the main highway, and then over the the "concrete bridge" area where the Least Terns (of which I did not spot any in the air, at the time I was there) are viewed. Running this route twice between 6:30 and 11:20 netted me all my expected species. I even got pics of most of my targets. Missed pics included Northern Bobwhite and Common Yellowthroat. I had plenty of the latter, but they are not much for sitting still or sitting in the open.

By 9:30, the show was pretty much over. The sun what up high, and the birds had quieted down. When a bit of cloud cover set in, I went ahead and stayed a bit longer, but I did not shoot much.

Edit: Somehow, I missed a photo on my initial post. So, it will get it's own spot, here. Fitting, and it is the best look I have ever had of a Yellow-breasted Chat. One of many I heard, but they are so shy. This guy was busy foraging and singing in this rose bush. All I had to do was pull up in the adjacent parking space and wait.

Even after a nap on Saturday, I knew I was not going to be up for another early start on Sunday. My plan was to try a local grassland area and then hit up Fort Ben on the way home. Around 7:00 AM, I headed out the door for IU Saxony hospital. There are large areas of undeveloped land surrounding the hospital. The areas have been left as grasslands in the past where you can find species like Savannah and Grasshopper Sparrow along with Eastern Meadowlark. I was quite surprised to pull into the parking lot there and find that about every inch of arable land has been cultivated. Large areas have been planted in wheat; others appeared to be soy, but I did not look too close. It didn't matter. It would be easy to think this was done to help alleviate the financial burdens caused by Covid-19, but the wheat would have been planted last winter. So, it's really just an effort by the hospital to push profit ahead of habitat. Much like what Indy Regional Airport has done. It was a pretty sad sight. I did find a few Savannah in a small untouched area. But most of it is just lifeless cropland, now.

Fort Ben was pretty slow, once I arrived. Nothing was overly cooperative for photos. I checked the oriole nest. While the male was standing guard today, he never came down to the nest. He spent most of his time chasing the hapless Cedar Waxwings that happened to land in the tree between sorties to capture one of the hundreds of insects flying over the creek. After an hour or so, I headed home and called it a weekend.

Thanks for reading,




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