Sunday, May 22, 2016

Monday 9th May...USA Day 1.

Hello all, long time no see.

The lack of blog posts has been down to me being away on holiday for the last couple of weeks, so I am about to start a series of posts from this trip. Each day will be a separate post, then, normal service will be resumed.

 Monday 9th May 2016.

This morning the not-so magnificent seven comprising ....

Bob Biggs
Richard Dunn
Les Robson
Andy McLevy
John Todd
John Rutter
and me,

....headed off to Newcastle to fly, via London Heathrow, to Chicago for 11 days catching up with the American spring migration across Ohio and Michigan. As this was mine and JWR's first trip across the pond we were looking forward to many new species, not least, those brightly coloured warblers they have across there.

Our journey was quite uneventful as we sailed through customs at both ends without problem. We collected our  hire vehicle, a Ford Transit 12 seater mini-bus, though not before adding a few new birds to the life list. Outside the Budget Auto's office we had 10+ Chimney Swifts, 10+ Common Grackle, 4+ Red-winged Blackbird and 6+ Mourning Doves straight into the notebook.

We had about 70 miles to drive to our digs in Chesterton mainly along huge freeway systems. We were glued to the windows for birds, seeing our first Great Blue Heron, Red tailed Hawks, Caspian Terns, Bald Eagle, Turkey Vultures and American Crows of the trip, all lifers for me other than the tern. We were eager to get out for some proper birding so we finally stopped at Indiana Dunes State Park to fit in a couple of hours, just to kick things off, you understand...

Despite being quite cold and wet after rain, a car park behind the closed centre, was lifting with birds, almost all new species for me and John -
1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, 1 Solitary Sandpiper on a tiny puddle, Sora flushed from the path side, 4+ White crowned Sparrow, 1 Savannah Sparrow, 1 Song Sparrow, 1 Downy Woodpecker, 1 Red bellied Woodpecker, 3 Blue Jays ( wow! they're blue, mind), 1 male Indigo Bunting ( even more blue than the Blue Jays), several American Robins and Red winged Blackbirds, 5+ Gray Catbirds and 1 male Eastern Towhee.

Male Downy Woodpecker, like our Lesser spotted, but much commoner...
 We drove a short distance down to the beach over looking Lake Michigan, a vast body of water, like the sea but calmer where we wandered the wooded car park edges and shoreline. Time was pressing but we found our first warblers here - Back and White Warbler, 3+ Palm Warblers, 1 Orange Crowned Warbler, 1 Chestnut sided Warbler, Yellow rumped Warbler all moved through very quickly. Also noted were Eastern Phoebe, 3+ Caspian Terns, 1 Chipping Sparrow and a Raccoon. I  was excited about this and was hoping to get one of these masked critters on the trip, but wasnt too sure how easy they would be. Now we get one on day 1. Excellent.

Black and White Warbler, a very tricky bird to photograph, they never sit still...
We arrived tired, but happy with events, at the Best Western Hotel at Chesterton near by. A glance at a large weedy looking pond immediately outside showed 2 American Coot, 2 Wood Duck, 1 male Canvasback, 1 male Blue winged Teal a Bank Swallow and a male American Kestrel.

All of this on day one... this is going to be a great trip...

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