It’s not every day that a birder finds a statewide rarity on his home turf. But, it happened to me during the first Cass County Christmas Bird Count on December 19, 2013. Here’s a short story about how I found the bird.
|Spotted Towhee by Eric Ripma|
Before the CBC I had assigned myself a local trail that was in the circle called the River Bluff Trail and some county roads. This spot usually isn't very good in winter but, I was hoping for at least a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker to add to the count. So on count day I was at the trail bright and early ready to find some birds. The birding started out pretty good, I got the adult male sapsucker right off that I had hoped for. There were a lot of White-throated and American Tree Sparrows out along the trail and meadows. Right along the trail, where a river runs parallel, I scored an American Black Duck with a flock of Mallards, which I usually don’t see on that section of the river. Since the trail is 5 miles round-trip and there was 6 inches of snow on the trail the ground, walking was tough going but, I didn't mind. Once I had birded the entire trail, I headed back through the trail again since it is one way. As I was walking, I noticed two female Eastern Towhees sitting in a bush. I was pretty excited about adding them to the count since that species is hard to get in the winter this far north. After I had looked at them, I noticed an adult male towhee nearby that had white spots on his back. I thought to myself that it looked good for Spotted Towhee - which is a western towhee that occurs in Indiana only on rare occasions. I studied the bird for a little while before it flew off. Pretty sure that I was correct on my ID, I ran down the trail to my car (which was half a mile away) to check a guide and sure enough the guide confirmed that I had just seen a Spotted Towhee in Indiana!!! I was pretty excited but, because I knew I needed to finish birding the rest of my area, I left the trail to bird more and then get the word out at lunch.
During the CBC lunch I was able to get the word out and after lunch some of the birders came with me to re-find the towhee and to document my finding. Luckily we were able to find it within a few minutes and we were able to get some decent shots of it. The bird stayed for a few more days before it moved on, allowing more birders from around the state to come and see it. Hopefully next year’s Cass County CBC will be as memorable as this one.