Friday, April 9, 2010

First week of April – 10 FOY species (and 90th BIGBY species)

The first week of April (4/1/10-4/7/10/0 turned out to be a very “springy” week on the Indiana University Cross Country course. During the last few days of March it still looked a little wintry, with only small leaf buds on the honeysuckle, some scattered violets and dandelions, and the redbud blossoms showing some faint promise. Now the honeysuckles are really leafed out, the redbuds and dogwoods are in bloom, and there’s a decidedly greenish tint to the trees as you look out over the woods.

I’ve started tallying bird species in detail now. Since the beginning of the year I’d only been noting the more interesting birds. Since April 1 I’ve been shoveling every last one of them into eBird, even the “usual suspects” that always seem to be around. I’ve decided to make April and May “Big Green Big Months”, to see how many species I can tally on foot from home. And I’m determined to break my personal “Big Green Big Day” record (74 species on 5/7/09).

My goal for this month is to exceed my previous BIGBY high count for April (not sure what that is...I need to check my records from past years). After one week (4/1/10-4/7/10) So far I have recorded 73 species in April. The daily species counts started off well, with 54 species on 4/1. But things went downhill from there, with 48 species on 4/2, 41 on 4/5, 39 on 4/6, and 33 species on 4/7.

Migration seems to be slowly picking up. I added 10 new BIGBY (and first-of-year) species for the week. My BIGBY count for 2010 now stands at 90 species. I think this puts me on track for my earliest date to record 100 BIGBY species...I just need to locate 10 more BIGBY species on or before April 28. Oh, yeah, the ten new BIGBY/FOY species were:

* Blue-headed Vireo (4/1)
* House Wren (4/1)
* Great Egret (4/2)
* Barn Swallow (4/2)
* Northern Parula (4/2)
* Pine Warbler (4/2)
* Yellow-throated Warbler (4/6)
* Worm-eating Warbler (4/6)
* Palm Warbler (4/7)
* Black-and-white Warbler (4/7)

A few other highlights:

* One of the most beautiful Eastern Bluebirds I’ve ever seen. Maybe it was the light conditions (it was a cloudy morning), but through my binoculars this bird was a vibrant indigo, rivaling the color of any Indigo Bunting I’ve seen. And his chest was a deep rich reddish brown color. Speaking of bluebirds, this seems to be a down year for them on the XC course. In past years it wasn’t at all unusual to have double-digit counts on a given day. This year I feel lucky if I see/hear 4 or 5 of them.

* Lots of Brown Thrashers. On 4/5 I pinpointed seven singing thrashers, with two only about 75 feet apart. My favorite Brown Thrasher has disappeared though. He had been singing loudly from the exact same treetop branch every morning for almost two weeks. He’s been conspicuously absent for the past few days, making me wonder if maybe he’d been snatched from his very exposed perch by an opportunistic hawk.

* On two different days I’ve had high counts of 10 Northern Flickers, foraging as a flock in the short grass of the northern section of the XC course.

* Two Northern Harrier sightings (4/1 and 4/5).

* A Red-headed Woodpecker (4/2). Very rarely see them in the vicinity of the XC course.

* A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (4/1).

* Louisiana Waterthrush (4/2).

* I’ve been seeing more Eastern Towhees than usual lately. I’m not saying there are MORE towhees than usual, just that I’m SEEING more rather that just hearing them. I’d have to say that the male Eastern Towhee is the most striking of sparrows. And I think the *female* Eastern Towhee is the second most handsome of the sparrows.

* I had what may be a personal high XC record for Field Sparrows on 4/7 – six birds, all singing.

* The Dark-eyed Juncos are still plentiful. I’ve seen them every day, so far.

* I heard/saw four Rusty Blackbirds on 4/1. Not a new bird this year, but I see them so infrequently it’s still a real treat. I love their calls.

* Finally, I saw 18(!) Eastern Meadowlarks on 4/6. My high count for the year. I think that 11 of them may have been passing through, as they were foraging together as a group. The resident meadowlarks seem too territorial right now to be hanging out in flocks like that.

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