“On The Road”

Well it was another successful trip up to Lake Erie for spring migration this year. The weather was typical as you’d expect with very windy conditions and either too hot or cool temperatures. I traveled up early last Tuesday, arriving by 8 am, and staying till Friday late morning. This year was a little different than in years past. In the past I’ve stayed in local hotels either in Port Clinton, or Oregon. We’ve also stayed in the lodge at Maumee Bay State Park, and one of the cabins in years past. This year I camped, just like one of the first times I visited with my older son. And with my senior discount I was able to camp for the 3 nights for $50.00, which isn’t bad, considering it had electrical hookups. I ran an extension cord into the tent so I could run a fan on those hot days, plus I needed to recharge my cell phone overnight. And since I wasn’t planning on any cooking, coffee was a must have in the morning. So my wife came up with the idea of taking our Kuerig along to make my morning coffee. Brillant!

Breakfast was coffee, a banana, and a granola bar. Lunch was a PB & J sandwich and trail mix. All I had to do then is eat out for my dinner. Birding on a budget.

Home Sweet Home

In years past I would get to the boardwalk early enough to beat the big rig photographers before they set up house either on the tower, or the walkway up to the tower. This year I just couldn’t get there early enough. It was always the same group of people, set up in the same spot every day.

For the most part my morning was spent on the boardwalk at Magee Marsh till either the crowd of people drove me off, or the birding slowed down. So if I wasn’t at the boardwalk I was at either Metzger Marsh, Ottawa N.W.R., or the back roads looking for wading birds in some of the sky ponds in the farm fields.

Both Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos seemed more common than in years past. Normally I’d struggle to get the Black-billed, however this year it was an easy “tick”.

 This Screech Owl was found towards the end of the Estuary Trail.

The nest box where this little guy was found is on the boardwalk at Maumee Bay State Park Nature Trail. And just to the right and above overlooking everything was…

a red phase Eastern Screech Owl.

Flycatchers made an appearance in a big way while I was there. All the ones I was able to identify I did by their call. So when I took a photo of one if I didn’t hear it call, I left it as a unidentified flycatcher.

 Another bird I didn’t have to work to hard in finding was a Snowy Egret. Every year it can either be a hit or miss bird, however this year one could always be found along the causeway as you drove towards the parking lot at Magee Marsh.

This year there was a treat for everyone. A very cooperative Black-crowned Night Heron. Easily spotted from the boardwalk on a daily basis, it was nothing to take a few dozen photos of this beautiful bird as it stalked for food.

Another bird I’ve had a bit of luck finding, usually along the drive of Metzger Marsh at one of the pull-offs, are Common Gallinule. I find them such striking birds.

Pretty reliable in the past few years are Sandhill Cranes. For the most part I’ve heard them as the feed just out of eye sight, but this year I was able to catch a couple in flight while I was stopped on the causeway.

  However the real reason the majority of birders come to Lake Erie, and this special spot in particular are the warblers. This year did not disappoint with 21 species seen. For me anytime I can reach 20 or more warblers during my stay here I feel blessed, and this year was a good year. Maybe not for the quality of the photographs, but for the birds it was great.

 The ever present Yellow Warbler

Mourning warblers seemed particularly plentiful than in years past, with female being spotted from the observation tower. Sorry for the poor quality, these skulking birds are tough in even the best conditions.

I think a front came through while I was there because it seemed that the Black-throated Green and Canada Warblers appeared in good numbers.

I know, for some reason I have really bad luck when it comes to both the Canada and Blackburnian Warbler in getting a clear photograph. I’ll just keep trying till I get a good one. I hate auto-focus.

Of course you would have to tilt back your head with a stick in the way. Nothing comers easy.I’m definitely a better birder than photographer.

Magnolia Warbler

 Not as striking as the males, the female Magnolia warblers were a little more cooperative for us inconsistent photographers.

And as expected the Prothonotary Warbler stole the show. Always present since they breed here, their clear song can be heard all over the boardwalk, and they tend to sit still long enough for people like me.

And considering how windy it was, even the birds found it difficult to keep their feathers in place.

You would think that the Yellow Warbler was the most common warbler species here, but I think it’s the Common Yellowthroat.

Northern Parula

I think the first song I heard as I stepped onto the boardwalk was of a Northern Parula

This was one of my photographic nemesis birds, the Bay-breasted Warbler. Now they may not be the best of quality, but I’m really pleased.

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Wilson’s Warbler

But not everything was warbler believe it or not. I was able to capture some decent shots of some of the other inhabitants.

Red-eyed Vireo

If for some reason you need a Baltimore Oriole for your life list, this is the place to find them. They’re everywhere.

This male Wood Duck was tied up at one of the ponds at the golf course at Maumee Bay. I think I made a inadvertent pun.

Wait a minute, that’s no bird!

Trip List

  1. Eastern Meadowlark
  2. Canada Goose
  3. European Starling
  4. American Robin
  5. Common Grackle
  6. Mourning Dove
  7. House Sparrow
  8. Brown-headed Cowbird
  9. Killdeer
  10. Cooper’s Hawk
  11. Barn Swallow
  12. Tree Swallow
  13. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  14. Purple Martin
  15. Cliff Swallow
  16. Chimney Swift
  17. Red-winged Black Bird
  18. Ring-billed Gull
  19. Herring Gull
  20. Common Tern
  21. Gray Catbird
  22. Eastern Phoebe
  23. Carolina Wren
  24. House Wren
  25. Great Egret
  26. Snowy Egret
  27. Black-crowned Night Heron
  28. Green Heron
  29. Double-creasted Cormorant
  30. Trumpeter Swan
  31. Bald Eagle
  32. Red-tailed Hawk
  33. Northern Harrier
  34. Blue Jay
  35. Orchard Oriole
  36. Baltimore Oriole
  37. Warbling Vireo
  38. Red-eyed Vireo
  39. Philadelphia Vireo
  40. Eastern Wood Pewee
  41. Least Flycatcher
  42. Willow Flycatcher
  43. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
  44. Acadian Flycatcher
  45. Olive-sided Flycatcher
  46. Eastern Kingbird
  47. Indigo Bunting
  48. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  49. Northern Cardinal
  50. Downy Woodpecker
  51. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  52. Gray-cheeked Thrush
  53. Swainson’s Thrush
  54. Lincoln’s Sparrow
  55. White-throated Sparrow
  56. White-crowned Sparrow
  57. Song Sparrow
  58. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  59. Horned Lark
  60. Mallard
  61. Wood Duck
  62. Semi-palmated Plover
  63. Least sandpiper
  64. Dunlin
  65. White-rumped Sandpiper
  66. Pied-billed Grebe
  67. Common Gallinule
  68. Common Nighthawk
  69. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  70. Black-billed Cuckoo
  71. Cedar Waxwing
  72. Northern Flicker
  73. Wood Thrush Rose-breasted Grosbeack
  74. Eastern Bluebird
  75. White-eyed Vireo
  76. Eastern Towhee
  77. Eastern Goldfinch
  78. Sandhill Crane
  79. Screech Owl
  80. Peregrine Falcon
  81. Marsh Wren
  82. Yellow Warbler
  83. Common Yellowthroat
  84. Northern Parula
  85. Magnolia Warbler
  86. American Redstart
  87. Nashville warbler
  88. Blackpoll Warbler
  89. Cape May warbler
  90. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  91. Black-throated Blue warbler
  92. Black and White warbler
  93. Tennessee Warbler
  94. Wilson’s warbler
  95. Bay-breasted warbler
  96. Prothonotary Warbler
  97. Mourning Warbler
  98. Black-throated Green warbler
  99. Blackburnian Warbler
  100. Canada Warbler
  101. Connecticut Warbler
  102. Palm Warbler
  103. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  104. American Woodcock

New Yard Birds…WHAT?

Yesterday I just got back from 3 1/2 days at Magee Marsh and surrounding local hotspots, and still need to sort through my thoughts and photos. However in the mean time a quick update on an exceptional day at home prior to leaving for Lake Erie country.

First off while getting the car loaded with my camping gear I heard a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, which in itself isn’t particularly rare or new to my yard list, just unusual.

Now remember that for a bird to make it onto my yard list it has to be seen or heard from my yard. Make sense right? Pretty simple. So it was while I was taking a break from packing I heard a bird song that’s very familiar. So familiar I couldn’t fathom it being real at first.  But it kept up a few more times confirming it to be a Prothonotary Warbler. Now’s there a bird I never thought would be anywhere close to my house, but there it was singing in a nearby patch of woods. Unbelievable!

It was shortly after that I caught out of the corner of my eye a bird landing in the top of a nearby tree. A few moments later it flew down and landed on the telephone lines right in front of my house and started to feed.

Eastern Kingbird

The Kingbird only hung around for a few minutes till it decided to feed somewhere else. I’m hoping it will stay around what with the empty lot across the street that back ups to where the Prothonotary was singing from. Time will tell.

Isn’t spring migration fun?

Morning at Shawnee Lookout

If only I could be awoken by the song of the Wood Thrush, then I think life itself would almost be perfect.

It’s song is soft, melodic, a woodland flute.

The Wood Thrush marks the beginning and the end of each day as it’s song never wavers.

With the return each spring these beautiful birds returns my soul and slows my pace as I wander in the forest.

With some birds, we work to remember their particular song…

but the Wood Thrush is forever in me.

Notes From The Field

Back in the summer of 1998, the city of Loveland Ohio cut the ribbon on a new 21 acre nature preserve bordering O’Bannon Creek, a tributary for the Little Miami River. And for the last 19 years this little gem right in the heart of Historic Loveland has almost become a forgotten spot for the birding community. I’m one of the guilty considering how I close I do live, with this being just my 3rd, or 4th time I’ve birded this nice patch of woodlands. So with an evening free with some unusally warm weather I ventured forth for a spot of birding.

For being such a small wooded lot, when you’re by yourself it instantly becomes larger than the 21 acres. I really didn’t know what to expect, but neither was I surprised by the birds I discovered. However when you go birding in the evening birds on a whole sytart to quiet down a little. Northern Cardinals, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmouses, American Robins were the most vocal. Even when I sit on my own front porch in the evening these birds are the most vocal.

This is a well maintained nature preserve through volunteer efforts by both the Boy Scouts and local groups. the trails are well marked and mulched with signage throughout the preserve telling you  where your located. A wooden bird blind with feeders is always nice to checkout even if the feeders were empty tonight.

A Cooper’s Hawk flies just ahead and above me, and lands quietly in a nearby tree. I pause to watch to see if a ambush is coming. The hawk seems content just to wait, but I wasn’t and moved on.

An Eastern Towhee catches my eye in the thick undergrowth. I “pished”  a few times to see if it would pop out for a photo.     Silly human.

As I walked the trail that parallels O’Bannon Creek I finally hear a Wood Warbler. An ascending trill with a hiccup at the end. Now I don’t know about you but when early spring arrives this is the time to dust off my warbler songs and reacquaint myself with these beautiful birds, especially before I head off for Magee Marsh in May. More and more species are arriving all the time and birding by ear for these warblers is key for proper identification when their foraging out of sight.

I stopped and waited for it to sing again. Northern Parula. I felt so stupid.

 

First of the Season

If you’ve been around birding or birders for any length of time. you may have noticed this abbreviation, FOS, or First Of the Season. Normally seen during Spring migration as birds either pass through an area or stay to nest, yesterday I had several FOS as Jon and myself set out into the field.

As much as I tried to get any photo of birds yesterday, it turned out to be pretty futile. They were either too far away, unseen, or moving too much to get any picture. So a quick run down of my FOS from areas in and around the Tri-State including Shawnee Lookout Park, Lost Bridge, and Kilby Road Park.

  • Warbling Vireo
  • Semi-palmated Plover
  • Palm Warbler
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Northern Parula
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • House Wren

Notes From The Field

It was a beautiful Sunday. Much like Spring’s in the past it started out on the cool side, and as the sun rose even higher into the sky, so did the temps. The Ohio Valley is really beginning to shed its’ Winter bareness with more flowers blooming every week. My own yard work is starting to ramp up as bushes need to be pruned back and dead branches picked up in the yard before I mow. Plus the vegetable garden needs to be tilled and prepped before any seed hits the soil. As busy as folks get this time of year, there’s always time to get in a little birding before the yard work consumes the rest of the daylight.

One of my favorite parks to go birding is Magrish Preserve. This small preserve borders the Little Miami River just upstream from the confluence with the Ohio River, and can really be a good migrant trap. With all the recent rain we’ve had the Little Miami River has left its banks and a good portion of the park in under water. So I’m on high ground doing some casual birding as I stroll around the area trying to keep my feet dry.

Surprisingly it’s pretty quiet. I approach a group of 3 or 4 Cedar trees and I start to notice a group of 6 Golden-crowned Kinglets feeding on the berries. I become entranced with the Kinglets and spent a good portion of my time just watching these hyperactive little birds.

Now this next picture isn’t of a Golden-crowned Kinglet, however while I was at California Woods after leaving Magrish Preserve, the annual Eastern Pheobe pair were putting on quite a show. This may be be my best photo this year so far.