” On The Road” for Life Bird #464

Treaty Line Road, Liberty Indiana

Phalaropus fulicarius, or commonly known as Red Phalarope has been kind of a pseudo-nemesis bird for me. I feel it’s the most difficult bird of the 3 Phalarope species to spot inland no matter what time of the year it is. I’ll hear about sightings of them along Lake Erie, however those sightings seem to be of birds in flight as they’re passing through during migration. Last year in the Autumn we had a particularly strong storm that came out of the north with north to south winds. A Red Phalarope dropped in at the beach at East Fork State Park for the remainder  of the day, and by the time I got there early the next day it was gone.

So needless to say searching out this particular species would be pointless around where I live, and opportunities aren’t necessarily showing up, it came as quite a surprise to read on the Indiana Rare Bird Alert that one dropped in at the mudflats along Treaty Line Road. And it doesn’t surprise me that it would be here, because this spot can be Hot, with a capitol “H”.

Having read the post Saturday evening I told myself that it’s probably just another one day wonder and it’ll be gone by the morning. But when morning came along during my second cup of coffee I read that it stayed through the night. Off I went on another chase.

The drive over was uneventful even though my stupid GPS took me all on back roads and with hardly any gas left in the tank I limped in a gas station in Liberty Indiana. A couple of minutes after hanging up the nozzle I turned onto  Treaty Line Road. You have to drive almost to the end before you’re able to view the mudflats. The lack of cars at the viewing area wasn’t a good sign. I noticed a pick-up that had turned around and was heading back. I stopped and aked if he was there for the Phalarope and did he see it. He did and then he said it had flown off. My heart sank and I felt sicker than I already was.

I was still going to check it out. It was a long drive and worth the effort I thought. David, the guy in the pick-up truck, had a familiar name and one I’d seen with postings on Facebook. We struck up a conversation while I got my spotting scope up and started to scan. It took no more than a few minutes before I was able to re-locate the bird. JACKPOT!

The bird was really far of and these 2 photos don’t do any justice to the actual bird. But it’s a far cry better than having no pictures, like the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper that I saw a week or so ago.

There’s Always A First Time

I’m a pretty avid reader of the ABA Blog, and I always love reading the Rare Bird Report. All those really cool birds that people spot and take photos of that are always in other people’s back yards, never yours. Now one bird I’ve seen reports on through the years was of the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. Usually you read about these birds while folks are birding in Alaska somewhere. Never in a million years would one show up, at least not literally, in my back yard.

This last Saturday my wife and myself were on our way to Detroit to baby sit our Grandson while our daughter and husband ran in the Detroit Marathon on Sunday. While getting settled in on Saturday afternoon I opened up Facebook at the various  birding pages I belong to, and lo and behold, someone spotted a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (ABA Code 3) at Killdeer Plains NWR northwest of Columbus. I’ve birded there before and it’s massive, covering 9,000 acres.

The predicament I was in was that I didn’t have any of my gear. No binoculars, spotting scope, or camera. Why would you carry all this when you’re just going to babysit? The bird stayed around Saturday and Sunday. and as Monday dawned I told my wife we’re taking a side trip to look for the bird. With a bird like this there were going to be plenty of birders that would take pity on me.

When we stopped in Bowling Green to grab some coffee I checked Facebook again, and sure enough the bird was still there. It took another 2 hours to get to Killdeer Plains because everything was pretty much 2 lane roads all the way there.

I found a lady who felt sorry for me and let me look through her scope, and there it was. Life Bird #463

Sorry, no pictures.

Maine 2019

Despite being out of commission with my broken ankle, I’m on the road to a full recovery. I’m still under the care of my orthopedic doctor and I’m now wearing a walking boot instead of being in a cast and using a knee scooter. And it was the best I could have hoped for as my trip to Maine was upon me. And now that I can walk around easier than before, my focus turned towards the whale watching trip out of Bar Harbor with the possibility of some new life birds.

This area of the country is drop dead beautiful! It’s vistas like this every morning from the porch of the house we rented overlooking Penopscot Bay that says it all.

The drive to Bar harbor took about 90 minutes and when we arrived at the dock the boat was already packed with people. It was a cool sunny day and as we settled in for the ride out the Captain warned us about how choppy it was going to get the further out we went. Despite the water conditions and how choppy it might get, my concern was my footing and balance while wearing my walking boot. And as it turned out getting any photograph of the birds proved to be very difficult.

My main concern was finding and identifying the birds, and getting any photo was the last. Our destination on this trip was Mt. Desert Rock and as we cruised towards this lonely island I scanned constantly for birds while holding on for dear life with one hand. And when I did spot a bird it was normally gone by the time i got my camera up.

Mt. Desert Rock

On the way towards My. Desert Rock I was able to check off Sooty Shearwater, Great Shearwater, Atlantic Puffin, Northern Fulmer, and Black Gallinule. As we circled the island I was able to locate a juvenile Great Cormorant. Large flocks of Red-necked Phalaropes dodged in front of the boat and Great Black-backed, Herring and Laughing Gulls soared overhead.

Northern Gannet

Common Murre

Common Eider

So I picked up 6 new species for my life list, which far exceeded my expectations. My list now stands at 462, and with my trip to Arizona next summer I should be able to break that 500 mark.

An Unfortunate Accident

A few weeks back I was finishing up a 25 mile bike ride on the Loveland Bike Trail. As I was pulling off the trail onto the sidewalk that connects the trail to the parking lot, my front tire went off the edge and caught the edge where the concrete meet the mulch. I tried to correct but it didn’t work. Down I went pretty hard onto my left side.

My left knee was pretty buggered up and my ankle was hurting as well. I was able to get myself up and load my bike onto my bike carrier and drive home. After parking and bringing my bike into the house i was finally able to sit down an assess my self. My ankle was swelling.

I cleaned up the best I could and drove to the E.R. To make a long story short, I have a broken Fibula down by the ankle. So as of right now I’ve been in a cast since for almost 2 weeks. And if everything goes well it should be coming off on the 22nd of this month and a walking boot applies.

So right now it’s front porch birding watching the hummingbirds fight over the feeders.

Return Visit

The First time I visited Highland County to search for the Henslow’s Sparrows a week or so ago I couldn’t have been more pleased with the number and ease which the sparrows could be observed. Walking along this one lane country road with Henslow’s singing from both sides of you was an experience I’ve not felt since they breed at Voice of America Park a long time ago. Once you tune your hearing for their small “hic-cup” song the easier it is to locate them. And wanting to experience that again, this last Wednesday I made my way back to Highland County, and this time i was going later in the day so the sun would be more to my advantage as I intended to shoot more pictures.

If you compare the photos from my last blog entry, and these new photos you’ll notice the difference as the sun was higher in the sky then in my face. Needless to say I had a ball wandering the edge of these fields creeping up on these amazing birds.

Sparrows

One of the most challenging species of birds to identify by both beginner and expert alike are the Sparrows. For so many birders they’re no more than little brown birds that if you can’t identify right off or get a good view of, they just pass it by without making any kind of effort. I myself have been guilty of this in the past, but over the years I’ve grown to love these birds and to put more effort into this class of birds more than others. As a matter of fact one of my favorite field guides concerning Sparrows is “The Sparrows of the United States and Canada”, By James D. Rising and David D. Beadle.

According to the latest version of the Sibley App there are 38 Old and New World Sparrow species in North America. For myself, I have 26 on my current life list. And with the return of summer I always look forward to the return of a few of Sparrows we can find on the rural back country road of Ohio. Namely the Grasshopper and Henslow Sparrows.

Tracking down these birds took my last Friday to rural Highland County just south of Rocky Fork State Park. On a quite 1 lane country road I wandered as Henslow Sparrows sang from both sides of the road.

Grasshopper Sparrow

Henslow Sparrow