Archive for the ‘Birds and Their Stories’ Category

Click Image for Greg's Blog

Fellow Indiana Artisan, Greg Adams, drove out to Mount Comfort, Indiana, to visit with snowy owl I wrote about yesterday.  I don’t want to steal his thunder and write his story.  I suspect it will show up on his blog.

The owl was much more active during his visit.  Nice shot, Greg!


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Janet Creamer, Indy Parks Naturalist, visited the same Snowy Owl that I did on the same day.  In fact, from looking at her photos I think we were there about the same time.

She writes:

Snowy Owl near Indianapolis

This weekend, many people were treated to looks at a true rarity to this area and a gorgeous creature, to boot, –a Snowy Owl! Those of you who are Harry Potter fans may be familiar with his owl, Hedwig. Hedwig is a Snowy Owl.

Read the rest here.

Dan Gorney, President of Amos Butler Audubon Society shot this fantastic photo on Saturday.

The Indianapolis Star Ran the following:

Snowy owl takes up residence at Indianapolis Regional Airport

Written by
Bill McCleery

Birders in Central Indiana got a rare treat this month – a chance to watch a snowy owl that took up residence on the grounds of the Indianapolis Regional Airport, located off Mt. Comfort Road in Hancock County.

Read the remainder here.

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Click Photo for eBird Report on Snowy Owl Sightings

My family drove to nearby Anderson for breakfast at the Toast, an area diner.  We arrived and ordered our breakfast.  While sipping coffee and planning our day I checked my Facebook notifications.  A birding friend’s status shared that she was going to Mt. Comfort, Indiana n to confirm a sighting of a snowy owl.

Snowy owl sightings in central Indiana are not unheard of — one visited Diamond Chain in downtown Indianapolis in the last ten years — but they are very rare. (The Diamond Chain sighting has always been a little bittersweet to me.  I wasn’t networked with other birders and read about it in the paper the next day.  I was teaching at a school directly across White River from the chain factory.)

I went on with breakfast speculating how great it would be to add a snowy owl to my life list.  I pondered driving from Anderson with my family, but we all had Christmas preparations and cleaning to do.  They would like to see it, but I didn’t want to take them away from their work if it wasn’t a sure thing.

I checked the Indiana Audubon Society webpage to see if others had been reporting the owl. (They had.) My Birdeye Ap on my Iphone did not report any sightings.

I took the family home and ran out to look for natural materials for carved bird mounts.  Though warm it was raining and I became less than excited about tramping through the woods looking for the right oak branch.  I also didn’t want this to be Diamond Chain all over again.  I didn’t want to spend the next few years thinking, “What if…?”


I made a quick run out to Mt. Comfort (about 25 miles) to see if I could spot the snowy.  My friend, from facebook, gave a very specific location.  “West of the blue building behind the fire house [At Mt. comfort Airport]”.

I found the spot and scanned it with my binoculars.  There were several white draincaps posing as owls, but no Snowies in sight.

I drove around several adjacent fields,  I was pretty sure a huge white bird would stand out against the muddy fields.  A few other cars were winding around slowly.  It was clear that many had gotten the word.

After driving around I decided to make one more pass by the fire station.  A car crept up behind me and I pulled over to

"V" Marks the Snowy, between Four Yellow Posts. Click Photo to Enlarge

let it pass.  It did, almost reluctantly (perhaps they thought I would lead them to the bird) and pulled into the fire station parking lot.  In a back corner I spotted a lone car with a spotting scope set up behind it.

The gentleman with the scope pointed to the bird.  It was a bit anti-climatic.  It was only about 50 feet inside the airport fence, sitting on the ground with its back to us.  It was raining fairly hard and miserable for all — the bird and the birders.  We all fixed our scopes on it and watched for 10-15 minutes.  It did occasionally turn its head and look at us with its not-very-owlike almond shaped eyes.

I took some photos, but did not notice until I returned home that the camera was set wrong.  I did shoot one with my phone in which a small white dot is (maybe) visible.

According to ebird snowy owls are being reported south of their range across the continent signalling a periodic irruption year.  Look for more snowies this winter.  This may be just the beginning!

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I’ve had waterfowl on my mind.  I’ve been carving bufflehead, loons, coots, and grebes.  I shared a show with Bruce Neckar yesterday and he had been drawing the same.

This morning I got my first chance, this fall, to really spend some time in the field.  I circle Morse Lake (NW of Noblesville) and really panned the waters wioth scope and binoculars.  The list isn’t long, but many of the birds I was seeking were there.

1.Common Loon (One was calling)

2. Swans (Not identified.  Left my field of view and never were spotted again)

3. American Coots

4. Buffleheads (One of my favorites)

5. Mallards

6. Common Crow

7. Pied -Billed Grebe

8. Horned Grebe

9. Double Crested Cormorant

10. Canada Goose

11. Ring Billed Gull

I had heard reports of mergansers and scaup.  I didn’t see them.  I’ve a break from school this week and will keep looking!  I want to do a little upland searching, too.

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Double Crested Cormorant on Summit Lake

This is my year for migrating waterfowl.  I’ve tried to find rafts of interesting ducks, and kin, over the last several years and have never spotted more than an occasional pair.

I’ve three things going for me this year…

1)  My friend Greg knows waterfowl and has been sending me reports of his sitings.  Over a couple of days we spent a few hours driving over his best and favorite waterfowl haunts.

2)  I’ve a week off of school during Thanksgiving week.  This is prime waterfowl migration time.  In the past I’ve had this break in mid-late October — beautiful time of year — but the migrant songbirds have left and the waterfowl haven’t begun to move.

3)  I’m developing an understanding for why and when waterfowl migrate and how the weather effects this.  I’m watching air temperatures to the north (freezing lakes send birds south) and wind direction (birds flying south hate headwinds.  A strong wind from the south send them to the water.

I found this tidbit this morning on Notes for the Field, a blog written by a like minded birder in southwestern Ohio.

“One of the things I’m forcing myself to do is study weather maps to help me determine when will be the best time of migrants. For the ducks that are migrating South this time of year they would prefer to travel with a tail wind than a head wind. So as the cold front passes, the low pressure area, with it’s counter-clockwise movement, was bringing the wind out of the North. And with it maybe some ducks.”

I’ve also been reading waterfowl hunting magazines.  I enjoy the traditions of great lightweight boats, duck calling, oilcloth field gear and setting decoys.  I do have some difficulties with comments about how delicious a roasted wood duck can be with mashed potatoes and carrots.

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Purse Seining near Boothbay, Maine

I’ve posted twice already today, but I couldn’t pass up this piece when it came across on Twitter.

When I was growing up in coastal Maine fishermen claimed specific coves to fish pogey (menhaden?).  They would come in on a late night high tide and encircle a school in a purse seine.  A drawstring closed the bottom trapping the fish.  Later, often in the daylight, a boat would come alongside the anchored seine remove the fish with smaller nets.

Waterfowl, particularly double crested cormorants (locally known as shags or coots), and seals would visit these nets and eat their fill.  It was not unusual for fishermen to shoot a few birds and leave them floating in the nets to warn away other thieves.  Seals were never shot, in my experience, as the penalties for injuring (or even touching) seals was well known.  I often wondered how they got away with shooting birds.

Twenty-five years later I have a bit of a response.

From 10,000 Birds:

Owning A Fish Farm Does Not Mean You Can Kill Birds

By Corey

This is the lesson that Seaside Aquaculture owner Khan Vu has hopefully learned after being charged, found guilty, and sentenced under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  Both Vu and the company were ordered to pay $40,000 to the Texas Park and Wildlife Foundation and a $5,000 fine and put on eighteen months probation after being found guilty in federal court.

Read the rest here.

There’s another, more personal, chapter to my cormorant and the fishermen story.  I’ll share that, some other time.

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I spent a great deal of my younger years on the central coast of Maine.  I grew up loving the bird birds of the region, black ducks, puffins, great blue herons (then unknown in Indiana), terns, gulls and loons.

I’ve wanted to carve loons and it’s been suggested many time.  I’ve not because I’ve felt strongly, for various — and probably trivial reasons, that I needed to focus on Indiana birds.  I knew that loons were common migrants through our area, but I had never seen them.

On my two trips to Troy, Ohio this weekend Greg Adams showed me some hot birding spots in Henry County.  Around Summit Lake we saw red tailed hawks, a bald eagle, coots, pie-billed grebes, double crested cormorants and a trio of loons in winter plumage,

This week I’ll be pulling my loon drawings and get to work making chips and sawdust.

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