Thursday 16 May 2019 72 °F
Today was my second day touring the Indiana Dunes Bird Festival with Kim Habel & Susie Nies. In the morning we took a guided tour to Dupont Natural Area which is unique because this preserve is owned by private property & closed to the public. It contains possibly one of the greatest strongholds of breeding wetland birds in Indiana, and that was stunningly obvious this morning.
As you can see, the morning started off well with a close view of an elusive VIRGINIA RAIL:
Then, I shouted “LEAST BITTERN!” as one flew across the waterway in front of us, but unfortunately it dropped into the reeds and wasn’t relocated.
The tour group walked through the swale & hemimarsh habitat carpreting the preserve, where we found a BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER, one of many:
And then the guide pointed to a far-off AMERICAN BITTERN flying away from us — this is their last breeding stronghold in Indiana, so it was super cool to see not only this individual but three of these!
First-year male ORCHARD ORIOLE; after their first year, they turn to a beautiful dark crimson color:
Then this guy found and caught an Eastern Garter Snake, one of two seen this morning:
I got a chance to hold it, the first time I have held a snake since I caught Northern water snakes as a little boy in Michigan.
Female SCARLET TANAGER:
Male EASTERN BLUEBIRD:
SORA, another fun wetland species to find and photograph:
GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER:
BLUE-WINGED TEAL — Dupont is also the only place in Indiana where these guys reliably breed, I believe:
SANDHILL CRANE adult and juvenile, hopefully without plans to anchor or dredge:
Our guide pointed out this beautiful wildflower that apparently grows only in undisturbed soils, which is the other cool thing about Dupont. The landscape in the preserved section of the property was never developed, so (apart from frequent controlled burns) it has not been altered from its completely natural state.
Female BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER:
Then, somebody pointed out a nightjar roosting in a tree beside the trail and it turned out to be an EASTERN WHIP-POOR-WILL, awesome to get this good of looks after observing this species in action last night:
This male BLACKPOLL WARBLER gave the group pretty nice views!
Indiana Paintbrush, another Indiana-rare flower relegated to the northwest corner of the state:
GREAT BLUE HERON:
After the tour of Dupont, Kim, Susie, and I had the option of searching for a Clay-colored Sparrow that had been seen at some location in northern Indiana but it was a bit out of the way for us. We decided to forego the idea and headed to the Great Marsh in the Dunes State Park instead. One of our first birds was this NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD, a fairly good bird for this far north:
Then, I heard the “Grunk! Grunk! Grunk!” call of a VIRGINIA RAIL from the marsh to the left of the trail, and upon playing its song it came running up to us.
It was incredibly stealthy and fast among the marsh grasses:
Male YELLOW WARBLER:
Male EASTERN TOWHEE:
WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS entertained us, playing on the trail ahead:
Seeing yet another SORA was a treat — Great Marsh was certainly living up to its name.
I couldn’t believe my luck when I returned to the parking lot and layed my eyes on this CLAY-COLORED SPARROW! We decided not to chase the other one discovered at the festival this morning, and lo and behold, we find one on our own — what luck!
I spent a relaxing afternoon back at Kim’s house in Michigan where we spotted this male INDIGO BUNTING:
This evening we birded the Galien River Walk in nearby New Buffalo, Michigan which was beautiful as there was a boardwalk trail that ended up winding through the tree canopy and overlooking the river.
A male BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER was the first bird we saw!
Female HOUSE FINCH:
Male BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER:
Overall, it was quieter this evening though seeing a Blackburnian is always a nice treat.
Bird-of-the-day will be an *unprecedented three-way tie* between the sleeping Eastern Whip-poor-will, the athletic Virginia Rail, and the surprise Clay-colored Sparrow. Runner-up to the Least & American Bitterns. Lots of great species to choose from! Stay tuned for more fun adventures in Indiana tomorrow!
World Life List: 971 Species