Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bobolinks(!), late Orange-crowned Warbler, late White-crowned Sparrow

Interesting day in the neighborhood yesterday and today.

First, the late birds:

* I encountered a very late Orange-crowned Warbler yesterday in the woods next to the Indiana University cross country course. Brock’s average southern Indiana departure date for this species is May 14, and Brock’s record late date for southern Indiana is May 17. I heard the bird first and, knowing this was probably kinda late, I spent 15-20 minutes tracking it down for a successful visual ID. This was also a first-of-year bird, and BIGBY species #151 for the year!

* There was also a very late White-crowned Sparrow foraging under my feeders all day Friday. Brock’s southern Indiana departure date is May 11 (i.e., 90% of the WCSPs already should have passed through by then) and the southern Indiana late record is May 23 (tomorrow). I’ll definitely be putting out feed on the ground the next few days to encourage him to stick around!

Now, on to some other highlights:

* Bobolinks!! When I stopped to check for possible nesting Savannah Sparrows at my usual SASP checkpoint I flushed a male Bobolink out of the grass not ten feet away from me, followed by a female. My second sighting this spring, and only my fifth Bobolink sighting on the XC course in five years, all occurring since IU changed its mowing policy two years ago. While these five sightings were of birds in obvious male plumage, I may have seen several females this spring. For a couple of weeks I’ve been trying to identify a “mystery sparrow” in this patch of grass. It just dawned on me after reviewing Bobolink photos that this “mystery sparrow” is a female Bobolink. Wonder if they are nesting there? That would be cool!!

* The Savannah Sparrows are still present in their usual location. I’m assuming they are nesting, which would be the first time I’ve recorded a SASP nest site in five years of birding the XC course. Pretty neat!

* I checked the Killdeer nest again. There were three eggs Thursday. There was a fourth egg present Friday. It’s kinda funny...the closer you get to a Killdeer nest, the less the adult looks like a Killdeer. I got within ten feet of the nest Friday AM, and the adult was practically tying itself in knots trying to look like an injured bird. You never realize how many buff-colored feathers Killdeers have until they’re deep into contortions and feigning injury to lure you away from the nest. Then they seem all buff-colored.

* A very accomplished Northern Mockingbird on Friday AM! At one point during its song it sounded more like an Eastern Phoebe than a Phoebe does. :-) Also did great impersonations of a Pewee, Carolina Wren, Common Yellowthroat, Blue Jay, etc. Very fun bird to listen to!

* More Eastern Bluebird fledglings on the XC course. It does my heart good. The nearest bluebird boxes are a half mile away and they are not maintained. It’s good to know that bluebirds can hold their own naturally against starlings, house sparrows, etc.

* Had my first Great Crested Flycatcher *sighting* of the year today along the west edge of the southern section of the XC course. I’ve been hearing them calling from across the IU golf course, but this is the first one I’ve actually *seen* this year.

* So far this spring there has been just one Common Yellowthroat singing on the XC course. When I got there this AM there were four additional birds singing! I’m thinking they might be later migrants, as Brock’s spring departure date for migrants isn’t until May 26. But who knows, maybe they’ll stick around for the summer. * There were a couple of Turkey Vultures on the ground on the XC course this morning feeding on the remains of a dead cat and a large dead snake. Vultures look pretty huge when you see them up close! I think the cat was ambushed by a coyote Thursday night, and the snake was probably killed late Friday AM by a mower mowing the running trails on the XC course. The snake was in several pieces.

* Finally, I think I’ve located a Baltimore Oriole nest site. There’s been a bird singing in the same area daily for several weeks. It’s in a small patch of woods on the IU golf course, just west of the tee for the 7th hole. I think I’ll start looking for the nest next time I’m there.

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