Thursday, March 4, 2010

Caterwauling Barred Owls and other noteworthy birds from this week

I was out on the Indiana University (IU) cross country (XC) course Monday evening listening for American Woodcocks. I was standing at the edge of the woods, facing the IU XC grasslands. While listening for the woodcocks I had the good fortune to experience a rare treat: a pair of Barred Owls caterwauling, not too far away in the woods! This is quite different from the usual semi-spooky and sedate "who-cooks-for-you" call. It is an unearthly, raise-the-hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck, ghostly caterwauling. I'm glad I knew what it was ahead of time, or else I might have chickened out and headed home post haste and missed the woodcocks. The owls' caterwauling really does sound that spooky!! :-)

Some other highlights from the IU XC course this week, in no particular order:

* Several Rusty Blackbirds on the IU XC course today, perched in a tree. They didn't stick around long...they were gone when I passed the area on the way back...must have been just passing through. BIGBY species #74 for 2010. Second first-of-year BIGBY species this week (Monday's woodcocks were #73 for the year).

* Had a Peregrine Falcon flyover on Tuesday, heading in a southerly direction. Might have been the same bird that occasionaly harrasses the K-Mart pigeons on Bloomington's east side. Only my second Peregrine sighting of the year.

* Yesterday I saw a Northern Mockingbird actively trying to find insects. It would perch on an IU XC course sign and abruptly drop down into the grass. It would sometimes run through the grass, occasionally flapping its wings, as if in pursuit of some snack. This is the first time this year that I've seen this behavior from mockingbirds. Up til now they've been forlornly eating unappetizing-looking dessicated fruits. Gotta be a sign of spring!! :-)

* Yesterday morning there was a large flock of Blue Jays on the IU XC course mobbing, well, nothing. Maybe 20 Blue Jays, racously loud, in one tree. It was typical mobbing behavior, except there was nothing there but Blue Jays. They even flew away in a group as if chasing something, but there were no birds/animals trying to elude them. Maybe it was the Blue Jay equivalent of a fire drill?

* Today while returning from the XC course I heard one or two Red-winged Blackbirds singing their "konk-a-ree" songs as if claiming territory. This was in the large overgrown field at the southwest corner of the intersection of Pete Ellis Drive and East 10th Street on Bloomington's east side. That's the first time I've heard that song this year...a sure sign of spring!!!

* Flyover Killdeers have been pretty much of a constant the past couple of days (and evenings). Not a lot of them, but I will hear them every couple of minutes. Haven't seen any on the ground yet, but they are definitely on the move...another good sign of spring.

* Finally, Common Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds (and possibly other "blackbirds") were moving overhead this morning to the north. Not huge flocks, but I was hearing their calls on a regular basis. One more good sign of spring!

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