Sunday, August 29, 2010

Migration has started!!

It's been a successful birding weekend here in the heartland. My first surprise, Thursday morning, was when I went out on my morning break at work and saw a Wilson's warbler flitting around the trees by the pond. Sunwiggy and I saw a Wilson's back in 2005 at Parklands, and I'd just been wondering when I would ever see one again. And there it was! It really made my day, especially since I work in a "customer service" type position, and I'd just dealt with a very unpleasant person moments before. There was a time, back in the day, when I'd go smoke a cigarette after such encounters. Seeing a cool warbler is a much nicer way to de-stress. Unfortunately, they won't appear on command!

Yesterday morning I joined the JWP Audubon group for a bird walk in Ewing Park. For those who don't know Bloomington that well (or at all), the park is a small urban park, with trees, fields and a stream, which is known as one of the best birding locations in town. Being an introvert, I'd don't join in group activities very often, even though birders on the whole are very friendly people. But I've decided, this fall, to make more of an effort to go on the group walks, for several reasons: one, to be a more ecologically conscious birder, since the walks are in-town; two, to help take my birding skills to the next level by listening to veteran birders; and three, since no birder is an island.

The walk was nice. I met some old "friends" in the McLean County birding community, and some new friendly people; and I also confirmed my IDs of some warblers in their confusing fall plumage. We saw black-throated green, magnolia and chestnut sided warblers, plus a red-eyed vireo.

Afterwards I went through a stroll through Tipton Park, since that has been my urban birding spot for the summer. The emptiness and quiet was so striking.... I did see three green herons, which was cool, but after a summer of hearing and seeing song sparrows and red-winged blackbirds, their absence was striking. It might still seem like summer...but the seasons are changing.

Today I went to Comlara, for a lovely solitary bird walk. I saw most of my birds in the first half hour, right around the visitor center, including a Baltimore oriole stuffing its beak with pokeweed (poisonous to humans) and several Philadelphia vireos. It was not a very scenic location...some of the birdiest spots I've seen have been the least attractive, and some of the most memorable places have had so few birds. I also saw downy woodpeckers, a red-eyed vireo, black-capped chickadees, chipping sparrows, an ovenbird, and another black-throated green warbler, all in that general area.

The length of the walk I'd intended was cut short by the soaring temperatures, another hot summer day. But before I left, I stopped and checked the mudflats exposed by our very dry month for "peeps." Bingo! It was like a sandpiper workshop. I was sweating a bucket whilst staring through my spotting scope under the noon-day sun (a ninety degree sun at that): killdeer, solitary sandpipers, least sandpipers, semipalmated plovers, pectoral sandpipers and semipalmated sandpipers. Occasionally I'd think, WTF sandpipers, do you HAVE to look so similar??? But I sweated it out and moved my scope slowly from bird to bird, until satisfied I'd ID'ed each one. Someone else was there with a scope, but he left before our paths crossed. I always wonder when I see another birder in passing: do they ebird? Would I recognize the name? Whoever it was, alas, will remain anonymous....

A good birding weekend!


  1. Sounds like peep heaven! I don't know where the peeps go in the U.P. So far I've seen 3, count them, 3 solitary sandpipers! Wish we were birding together. I'd love to see the green herons (and that great horned owl you saw!) Mom

  2. I do miss the "usual" shorebirds, now that I live in an area with swamps & marshes instead of formal "shores." Sounds like you had a nice time. :)