Birding in Calhoun County and beyond
Wow, it's only been 3 weeks since the last post?!?!? It has been a mad rush to see as many birds coming through the county as I could. A few obstacles thrown in the way also as the Rubicon was out of action for a couple of weeks. Not to get ahead of myself, I'm pretty sure I've burned off my birding mojo in those 3 weeks (more like 2 weeks).
May 8th finally brought me an Indigo Bunting at Woodland, and a random stop South of the Airport on Stone Jug Road netted me a Virginia Rail answering calls. Extremely lucky as conditions around most of the county don't seem to impressive for the rails this year. There have been no Sora at Woodland this year and the marsh trail at Binder Zoo has been flooded over. I'm hoping that doesn't portend for my attempts at Marsh birds this summer (and for the Marsh Survey).
May 11th started nice with a FOY American Redstart in the yard. Not long after that I received a call at work from Doug McWhirter. He had some Common and Black Terns on Duck Lake. A good hour drive from where I was, and 6-8 hours from me being able to get out of work to see them!! I finally managed to get up there just before 5:30, and Leah Dodd had not only those Terns but also some Forster's Terns in the scope. Mike Cook soon joined. The Terns were extremely active and some counts by us, and Linda Ar (who was unbeknownst us was on the other side of the lake) were somewhat inconclusive on the Common/Forster's split. I came away with 5 Black Terns, 3 Forster's Terns, 5 Common Tern's and 3 Common/Forster's. Unbelievably 3 Calhoun County lifers, and the Black Tern was a lifer period. 23 Mile Road Flooded field also gave me some FOY Least Sandpipers, surprisingly. Conditions still aren't great there for shorebirds. Lots of grass, and there is some construction going to happen there.
May 13th proved to be another big day for me. In fact my biggest May day in the County at 74 species. It took quite a few locations but I snagged a Magnolia Warbler, finally. The Closed Cereal City landfill paid off for Henslow's Sparrow for Dan Toronto, and for me with my best shots of one yet. 23 Mile Road and O DR N has been reliable for Bobolink and they didn't disappoint this time. Duck Lake still had some Common Terns on it, and the boat launch had a FOY Blackpoll Warbler. The Duck Lake WTP gave me the best bird of the day though. A late, dark-morph Snow Goose hanging out with some Canada Geese. I was really worried I wouldn't get one of these this year.
May 14th was a little less impressive, but did get me a FOY Canada Warbler that I knew would be a bit tricky to get. Ovenbird, and finally a Red-eyed Vireo were at Woodland Park also to get me to 169. May 15th Woodland Park gave up a long-distance calling Black-billed Cuckoo, Black-throated Blue Warbler, good looks at Wilson's Warbler and a lifer Mourning Warbler.
Cliff Swallows finally showed up at Fairview/Homer WTP on May 16th. The Cliff Swallow put me at 174 for the year, 1 ahead of my pace from 2014. I was lucky enough to catch a couple of them resting along the edge of the upper lagoon. I made my first trip to the Zoo only to find the marsh trail flooded. The trails there gave up FOY Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Wood-Pewee (finally) and Veery. May 16th also started the hunt for a County first Worm-eating Warbler.
May 17th began the slow down for FOY, with a late, and heavily molting Broad-winged Hawk flying high over Woodland, and at least 1 Waterthrush. I initially thought the Waterthrush was a Louisiana since my quick glimpse of it showed a rather light face. The song gave it up as a FOY Northern Waterthrush. A bird I thought I might end up having to stakeout in the fall. This did manage to be the first day in which there were multiple birds in view at a time, instead of 1-2 and then quiet. It did manage to be a very good morning overall at Woodland with 69 species seen while I was there. Of those 69, none of them were the Worm-eating Warbler though. Also not among those 69 was a Hooded Warbler that Daniel Toronto and Leah Dodd had, but I never got a good enough look at. I had a/the bird but between the backlight and it moving around I could not call it.
May 18th I met up with Daniel Toronto at Harts Lake. Dan had a theory that Eastern Whip-poor-wills might be in the area there. We managed FOY Common Nighthawks flying low over the lake. About 5 minutes after some playback we had 1, possibly 2 Eastern Whip-poor-wills calling from the South side of the lake. The Whips were the first eBird reports in the County, and lifers for me. The Nighthawks also got me to 180 for the year.
May 19th I managed some great looks at an Olive-sided Flycatcher at Woodland Park. Another bird I thought was going to be hard to come by this year. It was obvious though that migration was settling down. Other than the 17th most of the days have been 1-2 warblers at a time. This settling down caused me to head to Homer on the 21st to see if some shorebirds were coming in. It did not let me down, with 2 Semipalmated Plovers and a Dunlin along the rocky edges. I was also worried about the Dunlin this year as the shorebird habitat just isn't there right now, and I know we won't have 16 species show up this year again.
May 22nd I finally snagged the Philadelphia Vireo at Woodland Park. I got a quick look at it flying with a Red-eyed Vireo. Yet another bird that I was nervous about being able to get this year. Which leads to today, the 28th. 6 days after my last FOY bird Homer gave up a Semipalmated Sandpiper, and Least Sandpiper. This put me at 187 for the year. Well ahead of where I was hoping to be....
However I have really missed on a lot of birds here lately. I had my gap to overall down to 9 at one point, but sit at 14 birds sighted that I haven't found yet. Not including 2 reports of Yellow-breasted Chat. One at Woodland, and one today at Whitehouse Nature Center. In May I have missed
Being greedy, I'm holding out hope I can get to 190 by the end of this month. It still will be challenging to get to 200 by the end of the year. Looking at the birds I'd still need to pick up, they are not going to be easy. I'll be focusing on the Flycatchers; Acadian and Alder should hang around through the summer. Barred Owl looks like it will require some Owling nights. Hopefully Dickcissels show up again this year, and some Marsh birds show up also. Good chance on the 190 in the next 3 days, but have to be able to get out there.
My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)