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It is that time of year, again. Sure, migration is upon us and... well, I am unsure of what to say about it. More on that in a bit. What I am referring to is tick season. The ticks are numerous this year. If you are out in the woods, or even at your local park, it would be a good idea to check for ticks when you get home.

It probably goes without saying, but I put myself way ahead on hours for the week at work. This bought me the opportunity to head out Thursday morning for a bit of birding. I headed down to Morgan-Monroe SF. I had big dreams of catching up on a few state breeders. In particular, I was hoping for Hooded and Kentucky Warblers. I do not have a lot of photos of these species. They are not easy. I headed to my usual location but did not have either species. I found my Hooded singing at the top of the road where I initially checked, but the bird would not pish in for photos. It flushed high and bounced back-and-forth across the road up in the trees. I had hoped the car would work as an effective blind. Same luck with Ovenbird. I drove to a different area and had Kentucky Warbler singing nearby. The bird was working closer when a truck pulled into the lot near me and wanted to know if I was hunting turkey. We talked for a minute, and I let him have the spot. I needed to head home, anyway. The morning was not a complete bust. Surprisingly, I had a cooperative Cerulean. They have always been curious birds, but this one stayed low for some photos as it bounced around and sang. Happily, this was one of several that I heard this day. I was also lucky enough to find a feeding Worm-eating Warbler. A curious Blue-winged Warbler rounded out the morning. It bounced in, looked around and left before I could get too many shots.

Saturday really did not go that well. Earlier in the week, I had looked at the forecast. Saturday was going to be decent. Sunday was going to see some rain. I think I had last checked the forecast on Thursday. I left Indy around 5:30 AM and got to Brown Co. a little after sunrise. At least I think it was sunrise. It was cloudy, a bit windy, and there was scattered rain in the area. It was way too dark to be shooting in the forest. I hiked around a bit and finally headed back to the car. It was not getting lighter anytime soon. I headed over to Stillwater to look for birds. The area there is a bit more open and brighter, and it was birdy. I had three Prothonotary Warblers singing in close proximity of each other along the river, and I managed to get a few photos of one of them. As I was shooting, the sun came out. The weather was playing games with me. I jetted back over to my starting location and headed back into the woods. At least it was shaded. I had gone from not enough light to too much bad light; it was after 10:00 AM, by this point. It clouded back up a little and shooting would have been good, if there was anything to shoot. The area was filled with Hooded, Kentucky, Blackburnian, and Tennessee Warblers, earlier. There were also Ovenbirds and a Black-and-white Warbler around. Now... I had some singing Tennessee and a few Red-eyed Vireo. Everything else was quiet. I pished around without any luck. Dejected, I headed back to the car. As I was driving off, I noticed something crawling on my hand. My first tick of the year, and it was a lone-star nymph. You know, the ones that cause the red-meat allergy. This would be the last thing I need. I pulled over and went over my clothing as best I could. I found a second nymph - a deer tick.

By this point, the weather had clouded up quite a bit, and I decided to give things one more shot. I headed over to Crooked Creek to look around. I immediately heard a Kentucky Warbler calling from nearby. An Acadian Flycatcher was in the area, too. As usual, the warbler call I could not quite place turned out to be an American Redstart. I half-hid behind some bushes and was able to get some shots of the Kentucky Warbler. It popped into some nearby bushes and then slowly worked its way to the top of a perch and sang. I headed back to look for the flycatcher and redstart. No luck with either one. I turned to walk to the car and noticed some movement in some dead grasses. I was surprised to see a female American Redstart gathering nesting material. She was having a bit of a tug-of-war with a strand, and I was able to grab a few shots of the action. Unhappy with my morning but thankful for what I got, I headed home just before the skies opened up and poured rain.

I changed out clothes and checked for ticks at home but did not find any. That evening, I grabbed the memory card out of my camera to download photos. While culling shots, I felt something crawl on my back. Sure enough, another nymph tick. This one was the smallest of them all; about the size of a pencil lead. The only thing I can think of is that it was on my camera. It had stayed on the camera the entire drive home, held on while I carried the camera inside, and then waited on it the entire evening until I picked it up. I was just happy I noticed it.

Sunday was going to be "the day". I excitedly headed out the door to Eagle Creek Park and pulled into my first spot to the sound of silence. There was hardly anything calling. A few Tennessee Warblers and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. I checked a couple more areas. Not much. I ran into other birders. They had nothing. The park was not the place to be this morning. After checking the usual spots, I checked the unusual spots. I finally got lucky and found a pocket of warblers. I slowly birded the area with Scott Enochs and added birds one at a time: Tennessee, Magnolia, Parula, Chat, Lincoln's Sparrow, American Redstart, Catbird, and Golden-winged. The Golden-winged was a complete surprise. A female Parula had pished in. She disappeared into cover and then I looked up to see another warbler. It quickly disappeared, and I asked Scott if that was the Parula, and he said, yes. Then he relocated the bird and shouted out that it was a Golden-winged. We birded on down the road a little bit and had a Willow Flycatcher calling from in the woods. Across the road, in an open marshy area, a Swainson's Thrush was hunting bluebird-style, from the cover of a small willow. The irony of this juxtaposition was not lost on us. We also found a Downy Woodpecker nest, here. It is practically at eye-level. I will have to check on this next weekend.

I birded around a bit more, but I did not have much luck. I should have stuck with my friend, Scott, as he went on to find a Mourning Warbler. This brings me back to my earlier mention about migration. I had a birder ask me if migration was late this year. I had no idea how to answer. It is a weird year. Things are more-or-less on-time. There are a lot of oddities, though. One is the female Redstart that is already here and gathering nesting material. Until that morning, I had not even seen a Redstart this year. The female Golden-winged seems early. The Mourning Warbler was definitely early. For all the early birds, other things like Cape May are just starting to show, which is about right. There were, apparently, a few Black-throated Blue around earlier in the week, but it is not the influx I would expect at this time of year. Bay-breasted had not arrived yet. This weekend was May 5th, and the park was dead. I know migration is always a bit of a roller coaster. But this was unusually dead. I am just not sure what to say. Migration is early/late/on-time and extremely slow all at the same time. In a single word, it is a mess. Let's keep our fingers crossed that things pick up this week. There is a lot of rain in the forecast, and that is not going to help our cause.

Thanks for reading,





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