If you’re like me, I tend to keep my ears open on social media and other birding outlets for anything unusual. This year is no exception as it’s turning into a eruption year for Snowy Owls. For the most part the Owls are being seen along Lake Erie, with a few exceptions. Late last week a Snowy was photographed roosting along the Great Miami River right next to the University of Dayton. The next day myself and others scoured the area with no luck in relocating the Snowy. This bird was the furthest south any Snowy had traveled so far this season. That was until Saturday.
Located on top of a parking lot light at the local Dave and Busters was a Snowy Owl. Now you would think that the female King Eider (which is a lot rarer than a Snowy) would attract more attention since the Eider is still showing down on the river, but you’d be mistaken. There’s something about a Snowy Owl that makes photographers and birders alike start to salivate. Myself, I love the bird and I’ll chase one if it’s relatively close, however I’ll observe the bird and move along. I really don’t want to stress the bird more than it’s already.
So Sunday afternoon I was off to a really busy part of town where there are more shopping malls and strip malls and free standing box stores than you could shake a stick at. Springdale Ohio, in the area where 2 major interstates come together, I-75 and I-275.
Setting my scope up high above the street below, I was able to look across the street and see down on the Costco store roof. And perched 380 yards away (I calculated the distance on Google Earth) on top of a air conditioning compressor was the Snowy.
Yesterday evening while my wife and I were visiting a local Cincinnati brewery with another couple, my Belgian Quad consumption was interrupted by my birding associate Jon with a text.
Next is how our conversation went.
Jon: Female King Eider found at Crooked Run today by Don Morse
Les: Holy Cow. You chasing it?
Jon: I would love to but not unless Samantha (wife) changes her mind. I’d like to be out there at dawn. We’ll see. Check the Cincinnati birders Facebook page- there’s photos.
Les: Saw the picture. This is worth chasing
Jon: Seems legit
Les: Let me know. I’m willing to run after it
Jon: I’m working on it…probably meet you out there early if I can get the necessary approval here. I’d bring Phoebe (child) as part of my negotiations.
Les: Kathy (my wife) said go, so I’m leaving early and try to be there by dawn.
So as you can see this is how our conversation went last evening. And yes Jon, Phoebe and myself were able to tick off King Eider as another lifer. This is the 2nd sighting of a King Eider in Ohio this year. Just a few weeks ago another one was sighted on Lake Erie, so seeing this one on the Ohio River is very exciting for all area birders.
The weather conditions on the river were very foggy, and getting sharp clear photos this morning was next to impossible. Granted I could have waited around for a few more hours, however I have stuff to get done today.
Life Bird # 448
There are 3 species of North American Scoters, the Black, Surf, and White-winged. For us in Ohio they can be a common bird seen mostly on Lake Erie. They do wander south of the lake but with usually with irregularity. Last year for instance during my January 100 Species Challenge I was able to tick off both Surf and Black Scoters at a Metropark in Dayton. And towards the end of this year the northern half of the state is seeing the most of the 3 Scoter species.
However the day before Thanksgiving I noticed a small sighting post on our local bird watching Facebook page of a Black Scoter at the beach at Caesar Creek State Park. This really peaked my interest since Black Scoters are the rarest of the 3 in my opinion. But with the holiday staring me in the face with those last minute preparations I was unable to chase this bird till yesterday.
My first stop however was Cowan Lake State Park to check out the reports of a pretty reliable Long-tailed Duck that was seen on some sediment settling ponds that were being used for all the dredging that’s going on at the lake. I dipped on the duck and later found out that it was scared off by a Bald Eagle and never came back.
So after Cowan Lake I made my way of to Caesar Creek and hope for better luck. I parked my car and approached the south half of the beach. After 100 yards I set up my scope and started to scan. Nothing as I scanned from the north to the south. The sun was still rising and the glare on the water really burned to retinas. A I continued to scan towards the new marina I saw one lone bird on the water.
This really couldn’t be the Black Scoter, could it?
As I moved closer to the lake with a better angle out of the sun I was able to get my scope on the bird. And indeed it was a Black Scoter.
I stayed with the bird for about 50 minutes as it moved the length of the beach, and me trying to get a closer photo. Despite all my efforts this distant shot was all I could get of what I think is a great bird.
From my family to all my loyal readers, have a Happy Thanksgiving. And just like 2 years ago I’d like to share one of my favorite holiday songs. I hope you enjoy it as I often do during this time of year.
For those birders who happen to read the ABA Blog on a regular basis, one of the regular posts that I always look forward to is the “Rare Bird Alert”. Each week Nate Swick updates all the rarities being seen across North America. And if you looked closely the November 3rd entry told of the 2nd sighting for Ohio of a west coast bird, a Calliope Hummingbird.
The original post of this very exciting bird on “Ohio Chase Birds” Facebook page was on November the 1st. However the bird was originally spotted 1 week prior, and considering the difficulty in giving this bird the correct ID, local birding experts with more knowledge than the home owner were called in to properly ID the bird. Rufus Hummingbird was the original ID, which isn’t out of the ordinary for Ohio this time of year, however when the bird was looked at more closely, all the field markings confirmed a first year hatch male Calliope Hummingbird.
Now this quiet, residential neighborhood that sits on a dead end street, now becomes a instant hotspot for the celebrity. And the homeowner couldn’t have been more gracious to all the birders visiting her yard. Parking she knew would become an issue, so she had pendants placed along the road so people would know where to park. A table was set up with a book so birders could sign their name and where they came from. She had yellow caution tape strung up so birders knew where they could stand and wait for the bird. She even had chairs sitting out for people. She also updated the Facebook page every morning on recent sightings. And when the rain made the path to the viewing area muddy, she laid out straw for people to walk on.
Now being a retired birdwatcher I should have ticked off this bird as soon as word went out, Delaware Ohio is about a 2 hour drive since it’s just north of Columbus. But the upcoming baby shower for my daughter kept me close to home with all kinds of prep work. This busy work kept my mind off the bird as I went about getting errands taken care of, but always checking to make sure the bird was being sighted everyday.
My time came yesterday as Jon and I drove north to chase this life bird for the both of us.
As soon as we showed up the bird was in a tree overhead, and the overcast skies gave us terrible views just before it flew off where it stayed out of sight for about 30 minutes.
On a recent trip to Ellis Lake, I came upon this beauty.
These are some of the hardest birds to spot since they only move through during migration. So our window of opportunity is small to find and locate this beautiful Nelson’s Sparrow