Twenty-two eager birders assembled at 7:00 a.m. 26 June 2010 at the Goose Pond FWA “barn” along St. Rd. 59 south of Linton in Greene Co. This included Rosalie Richardson, Helen Hopp, Barbara Heikens, Karen Henman, Briana Bingham, Amy Wilms, Carl Wilms, Kathryn Henman, Laura Sexson, Betsy Wilson, George Wilson, Terry Ballenger, Bob Cayman, Mary Ann Cayman, Sue Uhl, Cynthia Powers, Ed Powers, Marilyn McGee, Judy Grantz, and yours truly. Lee Sterrenburg was ready with a plan of action with a strong assist from Jerry Downs as we readied for a day of birding Indiana’s premier birding area.
It was soon apparent that it was going to be a slow birding day by Goose Pond standards. There were relatively few waterbirds flying about and local passerines were very reluctant to sing. But a bad day at Goose Pond is a good outing at most Indiana locales. Lee and Jerry first led us to the bridge on 1200 W. to check out Least Tern Island. Black-necked Stilts escorted us to the bridge and back to our cars, calling excitedly as they flew back and forth over us. In all six stilts were present but little else but an adult Bald Eagle and many Double-crested Cormorants, Great Egrets, and Great Blue Herons. Roads nearby yielded American Kestrel, Dickcissels, and fleeting glimpses of Blue Grosbeak.
We returned to Hwy 59 and walked a short distance west of the double-ditches. Again birding was rather slow but was more than balanced by Lee’s interesting and educational accounts of the history of the area and how Goose Pond FWA came about. Two or three Least Bitterns made short sallies into the air above the cattails but rarely stayed up long enough for all to see. An American Bittern did likewise just to tease us even more and a Common Moorhen cackled.
Next stop was a wet field on the east side of Beehunter Marsh where a White-faced Ibis and a Black-necked Stilt with young was seen just days before. The drying field produced one adult stilt, many Killdeer, and six very early Lesser Yellowlegs, but no ibis or young stilts. Driving back through Beehunter Marsh a Northern Bobwhite weaved back and forth across the road leading us to the farm house road. A short stop yielded a singing Bell’s Vireo, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and Orchard Oriole that failed to show their faces.
We worked our way back to Units 11,12, and 13 where a Yellow-breasted Chat tormented everyone by singing close by without being visible. A pair of Orchard Orioles were observed carrying food to an apparent nest as young were heard but not seen. A female Hooded Merganser with five young was noted in the distance but was soon forgotten when Terry noted a distance raptor to the west that turned out to be an adult Mississippi Kite (great spot Terry!). Lee noted this as only the second Goose Pond record. This initiated a side trip to a nearby area where a pair of Mississippi Kites were nesting. We all were able to watch an adult on the nest in a Silver Maple tree. All were amazed at how small the nest was and reveled in its red-eye and soft gray plumage as seen through spotting scopes.
It was getting very hot and lunch time had arrived. Many participants departed, the rest ate lunch in Linton and returned for more. We decided to concentrate on grassland birds and headed to the area east of the evening heron roost. Goose Pond has perhaps the most concentrated population of Henslow’s Sparrows in Indiana which are normally considered easy to find. But not today as the prairie was eerily quiet. Finally were heard one of two but they only sang briefly and could not be located. Even Grasshopper Sparrows and Dickcissels were hard to locate. We were able to work on a singing Sedge Wren which was quite cooperative allowing clear views as it sang. A few other spots were checked with the same results – quite uncharacteristic for grassland birds which normally will sing any time of the day even in 100 degree weather.
So the trip ended, perhaps not meeting expectations which are natural when visiting Goose Pond. But everyone had a great time just seeing the tremendous wetland and prairie habitats, and who can complain about Black-necked Stilts and Mississippi Kites (on a nest no less).
After everyone departed, I just hadn’t had enough and Lee and I checked out some additional areas to the northwest. We added little but did luck onto an American White Pelican which soon lifted off and flew to the northwest.
Many thanks to Lee for his excellent leadership and Jerry for locating many of the birds we did see and hear.
IAS Field Trips Chair