Saturday, December 26, 2009

Nature's Ornaments!

Pileated Woodpecker... Salamonie. I LOVE this picture! To see one of these amazing birds is one thing, to get a good picture is another - especially with my camera.

We wait all year for the most colorful event of the season - Christmas. We wake up the next day when things are seemingly back to normal willing to wait another year for a repeat event. Not me, not this year. Christmas lasts longer. Not just the 25th. The below pictures represent nature's natural ornaments that we are blessed to enjoy anytime we wish as long as we take care of them! Why wait until Christmas to enjoy our gifts?

Northern Cardinal... Salamonie... Wow! Who could not love this bird?

This past Saturday, I was able to spend some time birding with my best friend John and his wife Megan at the Salamonie Reservoir and State Forest for what turned out to be a terrific morning of birding. Species count was minimal but we did have some good birds - bright birds, including: Pileated Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Eastern Bluebird, and Northern Cardinal. Some other highlights included: Bald Eagle and Wild Turkey.

Blue Jay... Salamonie. I have wanted a nice Blue Jay pic for a while now and I would now say that I got one. Can you believe that this was taken through a window? As much as I love all birds, I am becoming very partial to Jays. I love their personality and how they demand attention!

Northern Cardinal... Salamonie. With a drab background, even a female Cardinal shines like a star! Very nice!

On top of spending some time with John and Megan I was also able to spend some time visiting with my very good friend Marvin McNew, Head Interpreter for the Upper Wabash Reservoirs. I worked for Marvin several years ago and loved every minute of my employment. There are very few genuinely nice people in this world and he is definitely one of the rarities! A great guy!

Winter Waterfall... Salamonie State Forest. Just another reason to appreciate God's touch! All you really have to do to appreciate the natural world is to open your eyes!

Tree Sparrow... Salamonie. Perching proud!

Wild Turkey... Salamonie. I can remember about 13 years ago when seeing this bird was very rare in the area. Now, fortunately, they are everywhere.

American Goldfinch... Salamonie. Even in the winter when these birds lose most of their yellow, they are still very striking, especially on a cloudy day.

Saturday was a great day. Good friends, beautiful birds, and fantastic scenery! I love birding!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Don't Forget the Reason's for the Season!

Eastern Bluebird... Marion, IN
It is so hard to believe that we are only a few days away from Christmas. I remember when I was a kid, Christmas could not get here fast enough. The days moved so slow, especially after Thanksgiving. Each day was more boring than the next just waiting for the day of opening presents to arrive. It always did. We opened our presents and were generally dissatisfied with the overall outcome. Hundreds of days of waiting for only a few minutes of material pleasure. Never any real fulfillment.
Fox Squirrel... Marion, IN
So, with these thoughts in mind, I set out to do a little birding in a local park near my parents house this past weekend in my hometown of Marion, IN. Matter Park. Overall, its a nice park. Small. The Mississinewa River runs alongside the park and there's a good number of mature trees throughout with some new landscaping. Much of which is very good for birds.

Northern Cardinal... Marion, IN

It was a bit chilly outside and the ground was covered with about two inches of fresh snow. It was quite and calm. The very first sound I heard when I got out of the van was that of the White-breasted Nuthatch. A sound that makes a winter walk official.

Red-tailed Hawk... Marion, IN

As I walked through the park and started seeing so many of the common birds that we all love such as the Carolina Chickadee, Northern Cardinal, and Downy Woodpecker I began to think about how blessed we are to have these birds in our life and how much joy they have personally brought to me over the years. Each bird that I have ever had the privilege to see has always instantly erased any negative tension that I was holding onto at the time. Birds are a natural remedy from anything materialistic and negative. They provide endless enjoyment, give instant gratification, and cost absolutely nothing. Not a dime. These were gifts that were given to us as flying decorations for the Earth that we live on.

Eastern Bluebird... Marion, IN
So as I continued to wonder about the blessings that surrounded me, I thought about all the hustle and bustle that was going on outside of the park. The craziness that so many of us (me too) live for in order to prove our appreciation for somebody else by buying them something that they probably don't really need. Have I, have we forgotten what the season is supposed to be about? We buy, buy, buy for our family and friends to say thanks for being a part of our lives but are we forgetting about the things that are there for us no matter what?
Cedar Waxwing... Marion, IN
Christmas time is the time of year that we are to give thanks not only to our family and friends but to everything around us that is precious. For me, I think of the birds and what I can do to pay them back for all they have done for me. Birds fight the odds each and every day of their lives. The heat in the summer, the cold in the winter, and the predators under the bushes. It can't be easy being a bird!
So what can you do for the birds this Christmas? How about...
Joining a conservation group that protects birds...
Nature Conservancy (
National Audubon Society (
Put out some Suet and/ or Peanuts
Warm your birdbath
Buy a bird feeder for a friend
Buy a child a field guide and a pair of binoculars...
The list goes on and on....
Cedar Waxwing... Marion, IN
So what are you going to give back to the natural world this Christmas? What are you willing to do to say thanks for everything that you have enjoyed this year? What can you do to alleviate a little stress from a struggling bird this winter? Something? Anything?
And last but certainly not least...
Please give thanks for all that we have to the real reason for the season. The origin that makes all the nature that we enjoy possible.
Happy Holidays My Friends!

Friday, December 18, 2009

CBC, December 16, Goose Pond, Greene Sullivan State Forest

Short-eared Owl.... Hawthorne Mine, Indiana. This bird was no doubt the star of the day. Although several great birds showed up for the counts, the healthy population of this bird in the Hawthorne Mine area is always a Crowd Pleaser!
Northern Flicker... Greene Sullivan State Forest
Wednesday, December 16, 2009 was my second time participating in the Goose Pond CBC and just as with last year, I am happy I did. I could go on an on about not only this property but also the habitats that surround the property. This place is a bird lovers paradise! You have the Wetlands of Goose Pond, the nearby forest of Greene Sullivan, and the local Hawthorne Mines that host a variety of raptors including large populations of Short-eared Owl and Northern Harrier.
Red-headed Woodpecker... Greene Sullivan State Forest

Greene Sullivan State Forest

The day started out a chilling 15 degrees but quickly warmed up to just below freezing. Once my friends and I were assigned our area, we were off to count the birds. Our particular area did not produce many species at first, in fact there were times I wondered if any birds existed at all in our section of the property. They finally did show up and we were blessed with such species as Whooping Crane, Wilson's Snipe (lifer), Swamp Sparrow, American Kestral, Northern Harrier, Belted Kingfisher and a copious quantity of Tree Sparrows. At least 150 in our section alone!

The work of a local Beaver... Goose Pond, Linton, IN.

Goose Pond FWA... Linton, IN. If you were a bird, wouldn't you want to be here?
We birded from about 8am to noon and then met the group to recap the days findings with the rest of the CBC participants. At lunch the tally was about 100 species. Not too bad. Missing species were discussed and then we were off to find some of our missing birds. One bird missing, the Brown Thrasher was spotted by our group at the State Forest about an hour later. Several other of the missing species were also found throughout the remainder of the afternoon. The day end count, I believe ended between 104 and 106 species!

Tufted Titmouse... this bird, along with about 5 others were a blast to watch flipping up leaves for food. My presence didn't seem to bother them at all.
Once we left the State Forest, we were off to the Hawthorne Mine area in search of Northern Shrike, Short-eared Owls, and any other present raptors. Unfortunately, we did not find any Northern Shrikes but did witness an amazing show of Short-eared Owls as well as some other cool raptors like Red-tailed Hawk, Coopers Hawk, and Rough-legged Hawk.
We ended our day at dark and headed home. We were all very tired but extremely pleased with our day. Next CBC for me will be at the Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary in Connersville, IN on December 27. I can't wait.
For more information on the Christmas Bird Count, please click the link on the right side of the page.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Happy Hour in Northern Indiana!

You have to see it to believe it! I have heard about about the amazing Sandhill Crane gatherings at Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area in Medaryville, IN for many years but never (for unknown reasons) made the 2 hour drive to see exactly what it was all about. That is until Saturday, December 5 a day that can best be describes as a "Happy Hour" for Cranes.

This unique place is a resting spot for spring and fall migrating Sandhill Cranes each and every year. Like clockwork, the Cranes show up during their migration to rest and feed at the property and in the nearby cornfields. The biggest part of the daily spectacle is in the early morning at sunrise and about 1 hour before sunset. It is at these times that the cranes fly in to this one area to greet each other by the thousands. Literally, thousands! They fly in from all directions and at times there are so many on the ground, in the sky, and coming in for landings that it becomes overwhelming - in a good way!

Peak numbers of Cranes are typically in November. This year the Cranes peaked on November 24 at 14,500! During our visit, I would guess there were between 7 - 10,000 Cranes! Along with these amazing numbers, you also get the fantastic sound effects! These birds are so noisy is almost comical. It is definitely a great social event. Check out the below video.

Sandhill Cranes can be found throughout North America and are between 41-46" tall with a wingspan between 73-77". They usually weigh between 7-10 pounds. They are a large, gorgeous, noisy bird that is extremely social and is typically seen in large flocks.

Making the trip to see this amazing congregation of Cranes was well worth it. The only thing I regret was that we had not made the trip much sooner. My family and I had a great time seeing these birds and I know it may a positive impact on each of my kids. There isn't a movie or video game out there that could replace what we seen at Jasper Pulaski on
December 5, 2009!
To find out more about Sandhill Cranes please check out the following links!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

News from My Windowsill! They Keep Me Tropical!

I haven't had much time to get out and bird lately so I thought I would post some pictures of some Orchids that are currently blooming in my windowsills. As the weather gets more and more winter like, these awesome plants keep in the tropical mindset. They keep me dreaming about my next trip to South America - hopefully sooner than later. I took these pictures on 12/1.
SLC. Love Castle 'Kurenai'

Phalaenopsis (Moth Orchid)... Unknown name

Phalaenopsis 'Fortune Beauty' Cordova Fortune Bubba x Golden Bee

BLC. Sanyung Ruby 'Kuang Lung' AM-AOS

Sakura Angel 'Nana'... A few more that should bless me toward the end of December

Indiana State Bird

Indiana State Bird
Northern Cardinal