There we three birders stood in the bright morning sun: Steve Pancol, Gary Miller, and myself (Naturalist of the park) in the dead prairie grass. Surrounded by swallows: cliff, barn, tree; swooping, flittering, twittering, zeeing. Purple martins hovering then diving insanely at our heads. Trying to drive the intruders out of their territory. We ignored them. . .we were seeking something far more fascinating. Peering into the branches of the prairie willows that line the shore of the south ramp, we continued to search. Then we heard it! The robotic call of a sick crow, “Caaaaaw,” then “click, click, click.” A flash of yellow, a flick of white wing patches. There he was, a beautiful male yellow-headed blackbird. Far, far away from its native territory, this lone bachelor decided to call Summit Lake his home, at least for a few days. We are not sure why or how he came to be here. All we know is that we are happy he is here and are glad to give him food and lodging during his stay.
The yellow-headed blackbird is a native of the north and central western states, as well as southwestern provinces of Canada. Every once in a while this bird can be found in the very most northwestern tip of Indiana. So seeing him at Summit Lake State Park located in east central Indiana is quite a find. I hope you got a chance to see him. If not, Steve Pancol has pictures of him on his website: http://www.stevepancol.com (as of 11/3/2014 this website is no longer available).
Then we were off to see a cooper’s hawk nest, killdeer eggs, and an American bittern wading lazily through the lake in search of dinner. All while under the watchful eye of a bright scarlet tanager; with the crazy, exotic laughter of a pileated woodpecker repeating constantly in the background. All of these birds are marvelous. But for me, the yellow-headed blackbird is one for my life list.
This article was written for the Cooper Audubon Society newsletter under my maiden name, Sarah Kistler. This entire newsletter is available upon request.