June Field Trip to Greider’s Woods

Greider's Woods Nature Preserve
Tri-County Fish and Wildlife Area
June 16, 9:30 am

We will visit this small area of old growth forest in search of big trees, spring flowers and spring migrant birds. We will also visit nearby Spear Lake, where we have seen Ospreys and Sandhill Cranes.

From Indian Village, located on SR 5 about three miles south of Cromwell, or 13 miles north of US 30, take CR 75 N southwest to a ‘T’ with County Line Road. Follow County Line Road about a half-mile south to the Spear Lake road. Turn west and follow the road to a small parking lot at the entrance to the Greider’s Woods trail (sign is across the road from parking.) Bring binoculars and field guide.

For more information, visit https://www.in.gov/dnr/naturepreserve/files/np-Greiders.pdf

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Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

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By Margit Codispoti

It was late November when I heard a mewing sound from a tree in my back yard. I immediately thought catbird but it was too late in the year to expect a catbird in Indiana. Then I spotted the bird on the tree trunk, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius). I had never associated the sapsucker with a mewing sound but when checking the recordings on my bird app, I verified that the cat-like call I heard was indeed a sound the sapsucker makes.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a migrant through northern Indiana and usually seen March to April and September to November. The sapsucker breeds in Canada and northern states such as Michigan and Wisconsin. Sometimes stragglers are seen in northern Indiana during Christmas bird counts.

Like other woodpeckers, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is mostly black, white and red, but as its name indicates, its underside is yellowish in color. It is somewhat larger than a downy woodpecker. To distinguish the sapsucker from other woodpeckers, look for the long white stripe on the side of its wings. On the male the red throat is the most obvious distinguishing mark. Both sexes have red foreheads and a black shield on their chest. It is usually found climbing up, down, and around tree trunks.

The name ‘sapsucker’ describes its feeding behavior. It drills a series of holes creating a ring into tree trunks and then feeds on the tree sap and any bugs that have been trapped in the sap. Sapsuckers choose tree species with high sugar concentrations in their sap, such as paper birch, yellow birch, sugar maple, red maple, and hickory.

When sapsuckers drill too many holes in any one tree, they can girdle it, cutting off the flow of sap to the branches, possibly killing the tree. This is more of a problem in northern states, but when it happens in orchards and other trees important to humans, it can be a problem.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are cavity nesters. The male does most of the work excavating the cavity over about 2 to 3 weeks. No lining is placed within the nest; the eggs are laid on wood chips left over from the excavation. There are 4-6 eggs per clutch, and incubation lasts 10-13 days. Young fledge after 25-30 days.

In addition to the mewing sound mentioned earlier, the sapsucker also has a squealing call, a repeated quee-ah, quee-ah, that’s territorial and they make a waa call when disturbed or to alert others to danger. Like other sapsuckers, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker’s drumming is slower and more irregular than other woodpeckers. Its stuttering cadence can sound like somebody tapping out morse code. In addition to trees with good resonance, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers also drum on metal surfaces — like street signs or chimney flashing — to amplify their territorial messages. The drumming is usually done by males during breeding season.

April Field Trip to Spurgeon

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Saturday, April 14th at 10:00 am

This ACRES preserve has rolling topography and old growth forest. We will look for summer residents and early migrants. For more on the site, see acreslandtrust.org.

From Ligonier, take SR 6 east 2.5 miles to CR 600W. Turn left (north) and follow the county road 2.25 miles to the parking area on the right (east) side.

2017 Christmas Bird Count Results

By Dave Hicks

TAS participated in the 118th annual Audubon Christmas Count on December 30, 2017.  The weather was not very pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 8 to 14ºF, winds up to 29 mph and wind chill down to -10ºF.  It was the coldest day of any of counts dating back to 1975.

The number of individual birds seen was rather low – only 5325 vs. 10359 for our long-term average.  Since lakes and many streams were frozen, relatively few waterbirds were seen.  Some field parties had a disappointing day.  Casey Jones commented that “We ended the day with 14 measly species when this area – with open water – would normally produce at least 30 species.”  However, the total number of species seen was surprisingly high, at 65 (plus one hybrid).  This is the fourth largest species list for TAS’s Christmas Count.

No species new to TAS were seen this year.  Some species that were rare in this year’s count (only 1 or two individuals) included Common Merganser, Northern Harrier, Pileated Woodpecker, Golden-Crowned Kinglet, Belted Kingfisher and Common Grackle, among others.  As is typical of our counts, the most abundant species included Canada Goose, House Sparrow and European Starling.  However, American Coots were rather uncommon this year, and Horned Lark and Dark-eyed Junco were more abundant than usual, perhaps because of cold weather to our north and west.  Mute Swans continue to be lower than their peak in the late 2000s-early 2010s.

Participants were Rebekah Bailey, Margit Codispoti, Al Crist, Beth Deimling, Steve Doud, Alex Forsythe, Dave Hicks, Deb Hustin, Casey Jones, Stan Moore, Jim Townsend and Nick Yarde.


  • Pied-Billed Grebe 13
  • Hairy Woodpecker 1
  • Mute Swan 73
  • Northern Flicker 4
  • Tundra Swan 1
  • Pileated Woodpecker 1
  • Canada Goose 1249
  • Blue Jay 57
  • Gadwall 4
  • American Crow 133
  • Mallard 544
  • Cedar Waxwing 25
  • Mallard hybrid 1
  • Eastern Bluebird 28
  • American Black Duck 2
  • European Starling 409
  • Redhead 67
  • Red-Breasted Nuthatch 1
  • Ring-Necked Duck 82
  • White-Breasted Nuthatch 24
  • Lesser Scaup 6
  • Brown Creeper 2
  • Common Goldeneye 42
  • Carolina Wren 1
  • Bufflehead 3
  • Winter Wren 1
  • Hooded Merganser 13
  • Golden-Crowned Kinglet 2
  • Common Merganser 1
  • Black-Capped Chickadee 17
  • Great Blue Heron 4
  • Tufted Titmouse 26
  • Bald Eagle 4
  • Horned Lark 433
  • Northern Harrier 2
  • House Sparrow 433
  • Cooper’s Hawk 4
  • Pine Siskin 2
  • Red-Tailed Hawk 19
  • American Goldfinch 45
  • Rough-Legged Hawk 2
  • House Finch 85
  • American Kestrel 2
  • Snow Bunting 57
  • Wild Turkey 35
  • Fox Sparrow 1
  • American Coot 321
  • Song Sparrow 49
  • Sandhill Crane 62
  • Swamp Sparrow 2
  • Ring-Billed Gull 6
  • White-Crowned Sparrow 2
  • Rock Pigeon 96
  • White-Throated Sparrow 5
  • Mourning Dove 57
  • Dark-Eyed Junco 360
  • Barred Owl 1
  • American Tree Sparrow 258
  • Belted Kingfisher 1
  • Field Sparrow 5
  • Red-Headed Woodpecker 3
  • Northern Cardinal 92
  • Red-Bellied Woodpecker 22
  • Red-Winged Blackbird 5
  • Downy Woodpecker 16
  • Common Grackle 1

President’s Corner

Vacation thoughts

By Al Crist

Beth and I recently returned from our annual late-summer vacation. This year the primary destinations were Vermont and the Gaspe’ peninsula of Quebec. On Gaspe’, I was able to check off an item on my “bucket list” that had been on my list for some years. I know it sounds crazy to drive nearly 1,500 miles to see a colony of seabirds, but that was the draw that brought Beth and me to far eastern Quebec.

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Northern Gannets are spectacular seabirds. They’re the largest indigenous seabird in the North Atlantic with wingspans of nearly 6 ft. Not only is their size impressive, their feeding behavior is both breathtaking and remarkable. Gannets feed on groups of schooling fish by plunge-diving. Beth and I sat on a pebble beach near our campground at Forillon National Park and watched small groups of Gannets slowly cruise the area off-shore from the beach. When fish were spotted they would abruptly begin a rocket-like dive into the water from cruising heights as high as 125 ft. As they approached the water their wings were extended backward, close to their bodies, and they entered the water as sleek arrowheads at speeds that can be as high as 60 MPH. What a show! Once in the water their dives are usually less than 10 ft., but can be as deep as 50 ft. Favorite prey include herring, mackerel, capelin, and squid.

Gannets breed in dense colonies on both sides of the North Atlantic.  On the western side of the Atlantic their breeding is confined to 6 colonies, three near Newfoundland and three in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Quebec. The most famous and accessible breeding colony is on L’Ile Bonaventure, an island a few miles off the coast, near Perce’, Quebec.  The Gannet colony on Bonaventure Island is what we came to see and it did not disappoint. Gannets remain completely at sea except for the few months spent at their breeding colonies. They begin to arrive back on Bonaventure Island in May. Incubation of the single egg each pair produces lasts about 40 days and the chicks are fed by the parents for about 90 days before they fledge. By early October they are all gone from the island. This year the estimated population on the island was 44,000 breeding pairs plus their chicks.

The French of Quebec are so civilized. After hiking for 45 minutes from the boat landing to the cliff-top colony on the north side of the island, we were greeted by a refreshment stand and a picnic area overlooking the colony. One could enjoy a snack along with a cold beer or glass of wine while viewing the Gannets only a few feet away. It was amazing. Birds everywhere; squabbling, bickering, seemingly crash landing as they flew in trying to find their few square feet of territory, birds leaving to catch fish to bring back to their chicks, chicks constantly begging for food, and the powerful smell of bird dung produced by over 100,000 birds. What a spectacle!

One of the things I most enjoy about vacations is the chance to leave everyday thoughts behind and ponder the larger questions of life and living in this modern world. Quebec was just great for this. Our cell phones didn’t work there and radio and newspapers were mostly in French. We forgot about politics, natural disasters, and all the stressful bad news that bombards us daily when at home. Rather than being stressed and, or angered by the news of the day, we enjoyed the incredible scenery and natural areas of the Gaspe’ peninsula, and were buoyed by the story of the conservation success of the Northern Gannet. Since the production of both DDT and PCBs were banned in the 1970’s, levels of both contaminants have declined dramatically in Gannet eggs, resulting in thicker shells and much improved nesting success (from less than 40% to over 75%). Gannet populations are currently increasing more than 3% per year.

And then there is the story of how Gannet chicks fledge; something I find to be truly inspirational. At fledgling stage the chicks really can’t fly. When they fledge, they make their way from the nest to the edge of the cliff, lean forward, and jump! They might flap their wings a few times, but mostly they just clumsily glide, soon splashing down in a sort of crash landing 500 to 1000 yards out in the ocean. At this point in their life, they are completely independent – no more help from mom or dad. Now that’s some “tough love”. They can’t yet fly and they have never fished and they’re on their own. They start paddling out to sea. Scientists estimate they have one to two weeks of excess body fat to live on until they begin to fly and hunt. Their wings and wing muscles must develop enough for them to begin to fly, and living off their body fat for a while will lighten them up to make the first true flight a bit easier. Within a couple of weeks, they must become adequate flyers and teach themselves how to catch fish, all by their little lonesome. Of course, most of this is instinctual, but determination is surely a big part of the process as well.

Next time you face a challenge in your life, think of what faces a Gannet chick once it jumps off that cliff! Now that’s inspiration.

Annual Picnic Report

Report from the Annual Picnic held on July 23, 2017

More than a dozen members and their families attended the Annual Picnic this Summer at Koinonia Environmental and Retreat Center near Pierceton. We shared more-than-enough food, great fellowship and stories about how unusually wet the summer had been. This also being the reason for our indoor ‘picnic’; as the wet ground and surrounds had reinvigorated the mosquito population.

 

After lunch and a quick board meeting, A few of the group braved the bugs and — armed with repellent — we kept a quick pace through the wooded portion of the property. Even still, Al’s arms are blurred in the photo (right) from swatting the mosquito clouds that wouldn’t quit.

If you haven’t attended our annual picnic before, we encourage you — and your family — to share a dish and share in the company of a group of conservation-minded folks.

Our annual picnic generally takes place in July each year and is always hosted at one of several nearby natural areas managed by Tippecanoe Audubon Society or one of our partners.

The Kosciusko County “Shorebird Farm”

by John Kendall

Northeast Indiana birders were treated to good shorebirding this summer and fall at the Wood Family Farm in Southern Kosciusko County, just west of Sidney. This site held good numbers and diversity of normally scarce shorebirds in an area that is heavily agricultural. Looking back, there couldn’t have been a better recipe for habitat. 

Northern Indiana received significant rainfall from April through July. Southern Kosciusko County received nearly 15 inches of rain from April through June, followed by a whopping 8.6 inches in July. This allowed many northern Indiana fields to flood this summer, but most are tiled and drain too fast to hold the food that shorebirds need. By late July, the rain stopped, with only 3 inches of rain falling over the next 6 weeks.

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I had been watching nesting colonies of Bobolinks, Dickcissels, meadowlarks and a few Grasshopper and Henslow’s Sparrows in this Southern Kosciusko County hayfield since 2014. In June, I noticed that the flooded low area across 900 South to the north, along CR 400 East held a large pond of several acres. In past years, there had been a few shorebirds and freshly-fledged Hooded Mergansers in July 2015. The pond had historically drained too fast, not enough, or at the wrong time. This year, there were at least 3 more ponds that had developed, draining the 100-acre hay field and discharging into the annually-flooded area (pond) that bisects 400 East. Like the flooded pond below them, these wetlands had also grown typical pond/marsh edge vegetation, staying flooded through June. Soras, Pied-billed Grebes and Mallards began nesting. The drawdown of each pond began in mid to late July. Other than Killdeer, the first date that shorebirds were observed using the site was 28 July. Initially, the pectorals and yellowlegs dominated, using the heavily vegetated pond edges first and moving later to the centers of the ponds, which became a bountiful, vegetation-free mudflat.

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Highlights included several new county-record species of shorebirds, with many birders adding several new species to their county lists. Birders visiting in early mornings and evenings were also treated to the memorable songs of Soras and Pied-billed Grebes.

Also interesting were bickering pectorals and yellowlegs amongst periodic looks at molting, bathing and drinking grassland nesters.

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As the lower pond began to dry, more peeps and plovers arrived. In late August, it became apparent that there were at least two different-aged broods of Pied-billed Grebes, totaling at least 12 individuals. The youngest group was in peril as the pond’s last 3’ of water drained in only 2 days. No Grebes were found after September 3, except for 2 at the farm pond. ¾ mile north along 400 East.

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Like other ephemeral sites of the past, the Kosciusko Shorebird Farm was an enjoyable experience, including meeting the farmers, showing them the Bobolinks and other species. Other interesting species included Turkey Vultures in the grass field, Blue Herons, Great Egrets, 2 Green Herons, a hungry Peregrine Falcon, and all the Swallow species.


Highlights from the Kosciusko County “Shorebird Farm”

species

total

max.

date

Hudsonian Godwit*        

1

1

17 Aug.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper*      

1

1

10 Sep.

Ruddy Turnstone*

1

1

10 Aug.

Wilson’s Phalarope*

1

1

8-11 Aug.

White-rumped Sandpiper

1

1

8 Aug.

Baird’s Sandpiper

4

2

23 Aug, 2 Sep.

Stilt Sandpiper

14

8

28 Aug.

American Golden-Plover

4

2

10 Sep.

Black-bellied Plover

1

1

30 Aug.

Short-billed Dowitcher

4

2

8-17 Aug.

Semipalmated Plover

18

8

30 Aug.

Semipalmated Sandpiper

8

3

23, 28 Aug, 2 Sep.

Wilson’s Snipe

4

2

26 Aug., 2 Sep.

Pectoral Sandpiper

208

140

14 Aug.

Least Sandpiper

26

13

28 Aug.

Greater Yellowlegs

22

6

14, 22 Aug.

Lesser Yellowlegs

106

50

13 Aug.

Solitary Sandpiper

31

20

9 Aug.

Spotted Sandpiper

34

12

9 Aug.

Killdeer

260

100

13 Aug.

*First county record
Sightings from e-Bird. Contributors: Annie Aquirre, Matthew Bowman, Angie Capp, Conrad Harstine, Jeff McCoy, Tanner Troyer, Debby Vincent, Stephanie Wagner, Nathaniel Wise, Nick Yarde, John Kendall

Eagle Marsh Wetland Preserve Field Trip

Saturday, March 25th at 9:30 am
Eagle Marsh Wetland Preserve (Fort Wayne)

Eagle Marsh, on the west side of Fort Wayne, is a reconstructed wetland of over 700 acres. It is a former glacial spillway owned by the Little River Wetlands Project. The ponds and marshes within this preserve are stopovers for water birds. We will look for ducks, grebes and other migrants at an opportune time in the migration season. For more information on the site and the Little River group see http://lrwp.org/eaglemarsh.php. Access to Eagle Marsh is from West Jefferson Blvd., about ¼ mile east of the intersection of US-24 and I-69. Turn south onto Olde Canal Place opposite the entrance to Lutheran Hospital. Olde Canal winds back about ½ mile to the Boy Scout Office and parking lot for the preserve. The area is open and can be quite wet underfoot; dress appropriately.