Notes From The Field

It was a cool, overcast morning as I set out this Sunday morning for a little birding. I had my sights set for Gilmore Ponds which would get me home around lunch time after circumnavigating the park. A nice walk-able park with plenty of water and open grassy areas.

Gilmore Ponds butts up against the old Miami-Erie Canal, so it’s low lying nature makes for loads of standing water after a rainy day. Through some terrible decision making by Butler County politicians with little or no conservation mind-set, the park is suffering. It usually boils down to the need of the county and money, and in this situation it’s the parks that suffer. A few years back this park was closed to the public and individuals would sneak on (myself included) for some birding. But’s it’s open now through the passage of recent tax levies, and for the most part everyone is happy.

This is great Eastern Bluebird habitat and I noticed a family busy feeding and setting up house at the various Bluebird houses scattered around the park.

This is also a great park if only for it’s Great Blue Heron rookery. Every year it varies in sizes and the total amount of nests. Usually after violent storms we’ll loss some nests, which is normal, however this year we seem to have plenty.

Gilmore Ponds is also one of my go-to places for Rusty Blackbirds. A few years back Jon and myself were witness to hundreds of Rusty Blackbirds and they foraged along the edges of a flooded wood lot. Now to sort through all the Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles and Starlings can be daunting, I finally came upon about a dozen feeding along the edge of one of the larger ponds. Getting near for a photo proved difficult, but I was able to squeeze off this terrible photograph.

With those yellow eyes it really looks like an angry bird, but  I just love these birds.

On my way back towards the parking lot I came upon a very small pond. No more than 12 feet across this pond must be spring feed because even during dry spells it always has water. As I got closer I noticed flitting about a Eastern Phoebe feeding, my first for the year.

A much better effort.

All told a pretty good effort of only half a day. I recorded 40 plus birds with nothing too surprising. A nice leisurely walk in a park. Just what the doctor ordered for the start of my vacation.

Notes From The Field

The first day of Day Light Savings Time and it’s time for a little birding despite the cold weather. Even though I took my camera with me I wasn’t in a very photographic mood. I just wanted to wander around at Armleder Park for a couple of hours and do nothing more than some casual birding. No hurrying from one place to another. No ticking off as many birds as you can in a single day. Spotting a common bird can be just as exciting as seeing a rarity. Spring is almost here and there will be exciting times ahead when it comes to birds.

All the normal birds were seen except for my first of the year Greater Yellowleg. For a cold March morning this is a pretty good bird.

The size and the up turned bill is a dead give away. Quality is poor, however considering the distance I took this shot, it’s not too terrible.

Cooper’s Hawk

Notes From The Field

The weather has been nothing short of phenomenal here in the Ohio Valley. Friday we were hovering around the low to mid 70’s, and come Saturday after this weather front passed through the temps bottomed out.

Yesterday morning Jon and myself drove to the Brookville Lake area in Indiana, in 30 pluis miles and hour winds and at times snow squalls. The weather was brutal and the birds were really laying low. Other than a pair of Hooded Mergansers on the lake there wasn’t anything else on the lake. Since the lake was a bust we resorted to driving the farm roads looking for field birds. Black Bird flocks, Horned Larks and Lapland Longspurs and Sparrows were our targets as we drove slowly on the grid like roads that criss-cross the flatness of this area of Indiana.

At one time we were pretty sure we spotted a Brewer’s Blackbird in a small flock of mixed Common Grackles, Rusty Blackbirds, Starlings, and Red-winged Blackbirds. But we soon lost track of the bird after the flew to some trees close by. With Indiana being on the furthest eastern edge of their migration route this bird was a good contender for a Brewers, however not being able to relocate the bird keeps us from ticking it off.

img_5710_1

At one point we spotted a small group of about 10 Canadian Geese and low and behold here was this lone Greater White-fronted Goose. The whole group was really nervous as I tried to get close for this photo. I snapped off a few quick ones so not to spook them any more than need be.

Frozen to the core we called it quits in the early afternoon.

New T

shirt

I don’t have that many bird watching T-shirts, so when I saw this one I just had to buy it. I love it, and to the point.

Notes From The Field

Long Branch Farm

For being the first week in February you couldn’t ask for a more beautiful day to take a hike in the woods and do a little casual birding. The sun was rising on a cloudless blue sky with temperatures already above freezing, with highs today to reach in the lower 40’s. Reminiscent of early Spring, than a month and a half left of Winter. A friend of mine showed me a picture of the Crocuses that are ready to bloom. Oh well another Winter without snow.

Today I was off to Long Branch Farm about 7 miles from my house. Donated to the Cincinnati Nature Center in 1973 by Neil McElroy (former CEO of Proctor and Gamble and Secretary of Defense) this 642 acre park has 4 miles of hiking trails, ponds, streams, deciduous forests and fields.

img_5660

Most of the birds seen today were your typical ones you’d expect to find in an area like this. Song Sparrows were abundant as I wound my way through mowed paths with thick thorny thickets lining both sides.

img_5664

img_5665

The trail ran on, then into the woods it went. With temperatures still cool enough overnight, the trails were still frozen with good footing, which helps keep the old boots from being too muddy.

img_5673

Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmouse, Red-bellied Woodpeckers were everywhere. Occasionally high in the tree tops you’d spy some Golden-crowned Kinglets, but nothing spectacular. Which was fine with me.

Until…something small and dark darted across the path right in front of me. With something this size and coloration I immediately thought Winter Wren. As typical behavior with Winter Wrens they like to stay hidden in the undergrowth, that’s until I was able to “pish” the bird into the open.

img_5678

img_5689

img_5699

For me this was a great bird, considering how elusive they can be. They’re always around if the habitat is right, it’s just being at the right place at the right time.

img_5701

As I was walking out of the woods I came upon a gravel road with some agricultural fields running adjacent to the road. I caught sight of these 2 Red-tailed Hawks and thought we have a juvenile and a adult just by the clean, lack of distinct streaks on the breast.

I can’t wait till Spring, this place should be hopping with birds.

January 100 Species Challenge

Well it’s finally over, and I have some good news and some bad. The good news I saw more birds this January than I have for the last 2 years. The bad news is that I never reached 100 species, which honestly doesn’t surprise me. Weather wise it’s been one of the wettest January that I can remember. Normally a little rain won’t keep me from birding, but after a while you have to say enough is enough.

I got out a much as I could except for the weekend I visited my daughter in Michigan. It was a lost weekend for birding but I’ll trade any birding trip for any time I can spent it with my daughter. All told I spotted 83 birds with Turkey Vulture as the last bird for the month.

Next year I’ll be retired and I do expect a better performance with the added free time during the week. I may not hit 100 species but sometimes it’s not just about reaching a goal, it’s being out in nature enjoying what I love to do. I may chase a few more birds further away from home, I’m just not going to be mental about it.

Time to relax and enjoy what brought me into birding in the first place.

img_5648I have this “Go-To” spot for Horned Larks during my January Challenge, and it didn’t disappoint this year.