By Curt Burnette
Strange days. They began in May. A bold and colorful bird was spotted in the Limberlost Swamp Nature Preserve on the Jay County side of County Line Road. This yellow and black bird was a male yellow-headed blackbird, a handsome western U. S. relative of our red-winged blackbird. These birds are very common out west, but are a rare site in northeastern Indiana. Many birders (as bird-watchers are now called) came to the Limberlost to see him. This wayward fellow hung out at one particular spot singing his song of love, but since the Limberlost is not normal yellow-headed blackbird territory, there were no females of his own kind to hear his mating calls. So, after a couple of weeks of performing for a non-existent audience, he departed.
Then in early June, about a quarter of a mile away from where the blackbird had temporarily taken up residence, another unusual bird was sighted. Just outside the Limberlost Swamp preserve, in a flooded farm field, a glassy ibis was seen busily foraging in the shallow water. Glosssy ibis are common on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, but very rare for northeastern Indiana. This was only the second sighting in 40 years or so. Again, many birders came to see it, some from as far away as the Louisville area.
A couple of days into the ibis visit, it was noticed that another unusual-looked bird had appeared in the same field. This was yet a third rare bird to northeastern Indiana --a Hudsonian godwit, a bird that should have been in its breeding grounds in the Arctic. As with the ibis, the last time a godwit had been seen was about 40 years ago. Unbelievably, within a few weeks time, three rare birds had shown up in the Limberlost within a quarter mile of each other, two in the same field at the same time!
But wait, the story gets eve more unbelievable. One evening, while the ibis and godwit were still hanging out in the field, some birders watching them realized a third type of rare bird had made an appearance near them. Black-necked stilts had been seen briefly in the Limberlost Swamp Nature Preserve in May for the last three years. Two or three of them seen twice in the same year, but now they had joined the other two rare birds in the field. Three rare birds were standing in the same field at the same time, a few weeks after another rare bird had been seen just a little way down the road!
Before this happened, I would have said one rare bird sighting was unusual, two rare birds sighted at the same time in the same place was extraordinary, and three rare bird sightings in the same place at the same time was almost impossible. Add to that another rare bird sighting in the same area a short time before, and a historic flood in that area a short time after, and I would have said it was impossible for all those things to happen in that small space of time in one area. Shows you what I know Strange days indeed.
Source: Berne Tri-Weekly, Limberlost Notebook, July 2015.