Warm weather brings waterfowl our way

Warm weather brings waterfowl our way

March so far has brought warm spring-like weather, with none of the winter storms that sometimes come our way late in the winter. This weather also has brought an influx of birds, especially ducks and geese, but also some other early arrivals. Blackbirds seem to be everywhere, killdeer are calling from wet areas and woodcock are displaying throughout the area. The first tree swallows also are back.

Here in Northern Indiana, we have enjoyed watching both long-eared and short-eared owls. At least two long-eared owls have spent most of the winter in a pine windbreak close to a house and barn. The owls have been quite easy to see and appear to have gotten used to having birders staring at them. We assume they will head north soon but were still present on March 11.

Only a few miles away, up to seven short-eared owls have been roosting in a small pine grove. These owls are best seen at dusk when they begin hunting in nearby grassy fields. We watched them two nights in a row, enjoying their typical flight as they flew back and forth over the fields until darkness finally made it difficult to see.

A golden eagle and a northern shrike are being seen at times east of Goshen, but more often than not, birders miss them. Redpolls are still hanging around at several locations, and a few evening grosbeaks showed up lately, probably heading back north after spending the winter south of us.

The three-month spring birding challenge is underway here in the Goshen area. Eight teams are trying to find as many birds as possible during March, April and May in the seven-county Meadowlark Area.

Our team visited Place Trail Marsh last week. This excellent wetland is located west of Goshen and south of South Bend. Birding there involves a long walk to the huge marsh. Large flocks of greater white-fronted geese and smaller numbers of tundra swans are the main draw for birders. At dusk, thousands of sandhill cranes come in, along with waves of blackbirds. There also are lots of ducks and small numbers of snow geese in the area. Later in the spring, this marsh is a good place to find both species of bitterns, plus marsh wrens and sedge wrens.

Another spring location is the Rome City Wetlands, located south and east of Goshen. This is another large wetland that usually hosts a flock of white pelicans, as well as many ducks, geese and other waterfowl. As many as 100-plus mute swans are sometimes joined by tundra or trumpeter swans.

Reports from the Bobolink area recently include a brant in Richland County, the first osprey arrival and both yellowlegs. The painted bunting continues in Sugarcreek, as well as the black-headed grosbeak west of Killbuck. Check the rare bird alert for updated information on these and other Bobolink area birds: 574-642-1335.

Good birding.

Bruce Glick can be emailed at bglick2@gmail.com.

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