“On The Road”

VACATION

This one word that has endless possibilities and adventures. Exploring some new destination. Visiting friends and families in far off places where we normally don’t go. Sleepless nights as the departure date approaches as your suitcase stands at the ready. Studying maps and setting your GPS with all the proper way points pre-programed, has become part of our normal pre-vacation process. Loading up on all the appropriate snacks prior to that long drive has become a time honored tradition families practice without giving it a second thought.  Wouldn’t we all love a nice long vacation right about now? Well I am.

However my pre-vacation check list has a few more items that’s not normally found on other, non-birders lists.

  • Appropriate number of field guides
  • Spotting scope
  • Binoculars
  • Camera with additional batteries and charger
  • Extra SD cards
  • I-Pod with charger (bird calls)
  • Lens cleaning stuff
  • Tripod
  • Samsung tablet with charger (for recording species seen on e-Bird)
  • Birding suitcase (yes, I have one specifically for my optics, books and stuff)

This upcoming road trip/vacation will be 2 weeks in length, which hasn’t happened for a long time. It will be a combination of visiting family and friends, intermixed with leisure/ bird watching.

We’ll be starting out with a long drive to Mississippi to visit my southern side of the family. Mostly to visit my last living aunt and uncle who are both 96 years old. She is my Mother’s oldest sister, and she looks so much like her when she was alive. One of the most gentlest souls you’d ever want to meet.

Then it’s onto Destin Florida where Kathy and myself will spend a few days before traveling to Panama City to visit one of Kathy’s favorite cousins. It’s here in these 2 cities where I’m concentrating my birding efforts.

From Florida it’s off to Hilton Head South Carolina where we’ll be staying with a friend of Kathy who she worked with, who’s now retired. It’s here where I’ll contact my Hilton Head birding friend Rich for a few days of some outstanding birding along the Atlantic coast.

Our last stop will be Asheville North Carolina where we”ll act like real tourists and visit Biltmore House.

The Florida leg of this vacation will prove to be the most difficult as far as birding is concerned. You see I’ve not been to these 2 cities before and knowing where to go birding has caused me to reach out for help through Audubon websites. Our length of stays will also be rather short, which doesn’t help in familiarizing yourself with the lay of the land. Hilton Head is a different subject altogether. having been there twice already I know where to find the birds in the short time there.

Life birds I feel will next to impossible, unless I happen upon a Snowy Plover while in Destin. Most of the Florida specialties are more in the southern/central part of the state, or migration hasn’t brought them this far south. This is yet another frustrating aspect of being a birder.

I will be updating my blog as my birding adventures take shape. Alas I’m still without a means to transfer my photos onto my tablet so I can share my pictures with my readers. This will be remedied before the end of the year as I’ve found the right piece of electronics that will help me  do this.

So on the 26th, we’re off. More to come, so stay tuned.

A Birders Haiku

rock garden

The Mourning Dove calls

Sweet sounds in the afternoon

On a summer day.

By Phil Burgio

Rare Bird Alert

The Chase

As Fall migration continues on with some outstanding birds reported all over the State of Ohio, as usual us birders in the Southwest corner have to rely on traveling to scope out the better birds. We have a high concentration of birders in the Tri-state area, who know how to use social media with great efficiency. If something unusual is sighted, it’s out on the World Wide Web pretty quickly. So it came as a surprise when I read that a Red-necked Phalarope has been seen on Mirror Lake in Eden Park since Wednesday. WEDNESDAY!

Here’s a photo of Mirror Lake with the Spring House Gazebo. The 186 acre tact of land was purchased from Nicolas Longworth in 1869, which he used as a vineyard. Underneath Mirror Lake is a reservoir, and the top is a concrete lined shallow pond. During the winter when it freezes over people will use it for ice skating. Paved sidewalks all over the park make especially popular with dog walkers and joggers. Which explains why the Phalarope was so approachable.

A park employee noticed the bird a day or so ago from comments made by joggers who observed it during their daily run. So the park employee called a prominent birder in the city. And with that call the whole chain reaction help boost this bird to being our own celebrity.

A pretty small wader at only 7.8″, the Red-necked Phalarope breeds throughout all of the far northern reaches of North America. From Alaska towards Hudson Bay and points Eastward. And on a very occasion they will show up in our neck of the woods, as the below photo will attest to.

IMG_1665On August 8th, of 2012 I drove to Lost Bridge to digiscope this Red-necked Phalarope. A life bird for me at the time, this heavily cropped photo is enough to provide a positive ID, and that’s about it.

So yesterday morning while reading Cincinnati Birders facebook page, the sighting reported by birding friend Kathi Hutton that the bird was still there at 0730 was all I needed to get that “twitch” going. So last minutes changes in my plans for the day gave me several hours to drive to the city and find the bird.

Which really wasn’t too difficult considering the crowd of birders and photographers it drew. And considering how approachable the bird was, very photogenic.

IMG_1221I left a little bit of the concrete retaining wall for Mirror Lake in the photo to show how close we were able to get to the bird.

IMG_1279The reason it was so close to the wall. It was feeding as this photo shows.

IMG_1227

IMG_1249

IMG_1252For me, this was the money photo. I only wish there was a little more sunshine.

One of the concerns of the group of birders present was the condition of the bird. The bird was able to fly as I was able to witness. However later in the day the thread of Facebook was a birder noticed one of it’s legs was dangling behind as it flew. Now my hope is that it will recuperate while here, then fly away for the Winter.

“On The Road”

Deer Creek State Park and Wildlife Area

It seems like it’s been forever since I went birding. There are so many conflicting and scheduled appointments that trying to plan anything just a week in advance is next to impossible. And if you’re not out birding then it really becomes difficult to write a blog about birding. However there was always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Case in point, yesterday morning bright and early at 0700 hours. Jon arrives at my house for the 90 minute drive to Deer Creek S.P. and Wildlife Area. Situated in a very rural part of Ohio, this 8,600 + acre park has a lot going for when it comes to birding. Besides the lake and the surrounding wetlands which is ideal for waterfowl birding, you probably know by now from some of my past blog posts that it’s fabulous for those skulking sparrows that inhabit marshy/grassy southern portion close to New Holland Ohio.

It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Jon, so the long drive was perfect for us to catch up and plan our day.  Our thought was to make for the beach first thing and see if any shorebirds might be there before non-birding park visitors arrive.

IMG_1184Overlooking the lake is the lodge at Deer Creek State Park

Jon starts to scan the beach before I get close and tells me that there are Black Terns on the beach. Now this kind of excites me since the only time I’ve seen Black Terns is during the Spring at Metzger Marsh. And this was only at a distance where you see mostly black shapes feeding way out into the marsh. So I hurried back to the car and grabbed my camera (don’t ask me why I left it there) and made my way back towards the edge of the beach where I quickly found the Terns.

IMG_1176

IMG_1187As you can see by these 2 pictures how they’re not in the usual breeding plumage. There were only a few sitting on the beach, but when you scanned over the lake you saw more as they swooped around looking for food.

Deer Creek isn’t your traditional kind of state park. Granted there aren’t a lot of hiking trail in the park, however you are allowed to go anywhere you want. Most of the designated trails (which are few) is in the vicinity of the lodge north of the lake. If you plan on birding anywhere else you either have to bushwhack in, or hope the park has mowed a path through wherever you are.

As we drove from place to place during the morning, it couldn’t help but notice just how lousy birding was. There just wasn’t a lot of birds considering that it’s migration time. We would soon find out the answer as we hiked a park road back towards the wetlands/ grasslands area of the park. A green pick-up truck was driving towards us with a ranger from ODNR (Ohio Department of Natural Resources). Well it seems we came on the worst possible weekend. It was Dove hunting season and opening day for Teal, which would explain all the shotguns going off around us. And if I was a migrating bird this would be one place I’d want to avoid.

IMG_1197There may not have been tons of birds to see, but there were plenty of Leopard Frogs that would scatter from the water holes along the park road.

So with all this hunting going on this changes the complexion of how we go about birding. Do we stay, or do we go? We stayed and did the best we could under the circumstances.

IMG_1198Savannah Sparrow

Despite our best efforts we were becoming more and more frustrated with the lack of birds. And as the morning waned into the afternoon we decided to cut our loses and head back home. And as you reflect on a day like yesterday there is always tomorrow, because a bad day of birding is always better than a good day at work.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. American Crow
  2. Canada Goose
  3. Mallard
  4. Mourning Dove
  5. Osprey
  6. Red-tailed hawk
  7. American Kestrel
  8. Ring-billed Gull
  9. Black Tern
  10. Turkey Vulture
  11. Black Vulture
  12. Common Yellowthroat
  13. Magnolia Warbler
  14. White-breasted Nuthatch
  15. Scarlet Tanager
  16. Song Sparrow
  17. Savannah Sparrow
  18. Great Egret
  19. Great Blue Heron
  20. Green Heron
  21. Belted Kingfisher
  22. American Goldfinch
  23. Double-creasted Cormorant
  24. Eastern Bluebird
  25. Killdeer
  26. Semipalmated Plover
  27. Horned Lark
  28. Gray Catbird
  29. Eastern Kingbird
  30. House Sparrow
  31. Chipping Sparrow
  32. Northern Flicker
  33. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  34. Downy Woodpecker
  35. Carolina Chickadee
  36. Carolina Wren
  37. Northern Cardinal
  38. Chimney Swift
  39. Willow Flycatcher
  40. Eastern Towhee
  41. Indigo Bunting
  42. Eastern Phoebe
  43. Eastern Wood Pewee
  44. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  45. Northern Mockingbird
  46. Solitary Sandpiper
  47. Warbling Vireo
  48. Barn Swallow
  49. Cedar Waxwing
  50. American Robin

New Yard Bird

How many more yard birds would one expect by living in a normal suburban neighborhood? I think having over 70 birds for a yard list is quite substantial, however I guess there’s always room for another one. So last evening about 30 minutes after sun down while sitting on the front porch I heard a bird call from the wooded lot across the street. The Fun-In-Laws were visiting and with the general conversations that was going on I really perked up when I heard the bird call again. I hushed the noise down so I could really listen. Several minutes later it called again. A Whip-Poor-Will is a unmistakable bird when it calls, and a great addition to my yard list. Now if it will only Hang around for a while so I can really enjoy my evenings on the front porch.

New Bird Stamps

For those of you who still use postage stamps, or for those who don’t, a trip to your local post office was greatly rewarded for myself the other day. Not being able to find any stamps in the house I made my way to the post office to pick up a book so I could mail off the check for the traffic violation when I had my accident. Well when the clerk handed over these awesome stamps it made my day just a little bit better. So pick up a book or two, and maybe it will help your disposition as well if your in a funk.

I think I’m buying another book and framing them.

And another awesome thing about these stamps is that all the birds listed I’ve seen.