Wednesday morning went pretty well on the Indiana University cross country (XC) course. Beautiful weather for birding, with a fair amount of birds singing and calling.
About half way through my walk I ran into IU grad student Stephen Friesen doing some field work for IU’s new citizen science project that aims to document bird presence and abundance on various properties on the IU campus (for more info see: http://bit.ly/9vavKY). Stephen asked me to help him ID a half dozen sparrows he had seen where the IU XC course borders the IU golf course. The birds were very cooperative, foraging in very short grass for quite a while. We both agreed that they were Savannah Sparrows.
Some highlights from Wednesday (40 species in total for me):
* Savannah Sparrows - I don’t see Savannahs much on the XC course. This was maybe my second sighting since last fall. This wasn’t a first of year (FOY) bird for me, but it’s definitely the most Savannah Sparrows I’ve seen on the XC course in one trip.
* Osprey - A flyover bird. Stephen also saw it. Not an FOY species for me, but it’s always a real treat to see one!
* Barred Owl – Calling repeatedly from deep in the woods to the north of the XC course. For some reason I think owls sound cooler when they’re calling in broad daylight.
* Red-eyed Vireo – One back in the woods to the north of the XC course.
* Nashville Warbler – 1
* Yellow-throated Warbler – 1
* Prairie Warbler – 3, singing simultaneously at different spots along the edge of the north portion of the XC course. I think that’s a high count for me at this location.
* Louisiana Waterthrush – 1
* Common Yellowthroat – 2
* Field Sparrow – 7
* Eastern Kingbird – A near miss. Stephen had one before I showed up, but I couldn’t relocate it. I’ve been looking for this species for a couple of weeks now.
While Wednesday’s visit to the XC course was pretty good, Thursday’s was better (49 species, including four new BIGBY species). Here are some highlights:
* Henslow’s Sparrow – I tried to re-locate the Savannah Sparrows that Stephen found on Wednesday, with no luck. But while I was standing there, the Henslow’s popped up out of the grass and perched cooperatively on a low forb for about a minute. I came back to this spot a couple of times later and was unable to relocate the bird. This is only my third Henslow’s sighting in five years of visiting the XC course. An FOY bird for 2010, and BIGBY species #108 for the year.
* Eastern Kingbird – After striking out yesterday, I spotted a kingbird perched on the branch of a small tree. Then I looked to my right and nearby saw two more kingbirds perched next to each other on the same XC course directional sign (bluebirds, kestrels, and Tree Swallows also like these signs). A total of six for the day. An FOY bird and BIGBY species #109.
* Blue-winged Warbler – I was standing on top of a wooded bluff overlooking Sycamore Valley (this is to the north of the XC course) listening/looking for Northern Waterthrush along the creek at the base of the bluff when I heard a Blue-winged Warbler off to the northwest. Interestingly, this is maybe 2,000 feet to the southeast of where Julia Ferguson reported a Blue-winged Warbler earlier Thursday morning. Maybe the same bird? An FOY bird, and BIGBY species #110 for the year.
* Horned Lark – A couple flew overhead while I was on my way home. BIGBY species #111.
* Field Sparrow – My second day in a row with 6-7 Field Sparrows. There were three individual birds singing on the south section of the XC course, and a couple of them singing on the north section. The other(s) were in a grassy meadow to the northeast of the XC course. I believe this is the first year that I’ve had multiple singing FISPs actually on the XC course proper. The National Audubon Society has identified Field Sparrows as one of Indiana’s top five common species in decline (see: http://bit.ly/bmY2Ha). It’s good to see that IU’s no-mow policy is providing habitat for such a species.