Just Like Clockwork

Just like it is when the Bobolinks return to Voice of America Park every spring as I talked about in my last blog post, this is also the time for the Dickcissels (Spiza americana) to make it’s annual return to Fernald Preserve. The beauty of Fernald Preserve isn’t it’s past as a uranium enrichment facility, it’s the fact that they’ll never built a soccer field or any other sports field or home development on the property. Which in turn leaves it for our breeding grassland birds, like the Dickcissel.

Very vocal this time of year they’re easily seen sometimes as they perch near the top of vegetation. As in years past they can be seen, but usually from a distance which can make getting a photo difficult as the results can be really grainy.

This year I was a little luckier as both female and males were more cooperative with people being close by.

The female Dickcissels seemed to tolerate us humans better than the males and they got particularly close. I’m really pleased with this photo.

Voice Of America

I remember the first time I visited Voice Of America Park like it was just last month. It was probably around the time I made the decision to bird full time, as opposed to only when it’s nice outside, or I’m on a trip, or something like that. I had jumped in with both feet, and I was chasing anything and everything that was new. And that evening long ago is still imprinted in my memory.

I had just checked our local birding List-Serv and read that birders were see lots of Bobolinks at Voice Of America Park. By then Kathy was used to having me dash off chasing birds and tonight wasn’t any different than another time. This was a life bird for me and I didn’t want to miss out on the action so off I went.

30 minutes later I’m driving around the outside of the park trying to find the main gate since I’ve never been here before, that’s when I see several Bobolinks flying over the park fence and across the road. Now it’s getting exciting. Then I notice a dead bird in the middle of the road. I pull over to the side and walk back to see it’s a Bobolink. My heart sank. I carried the bird to the side and laid it in the brush, got into my car and eventually found the gate.

There’s an area in V.O.A. park that’s a protected bird area and that’s where I found them. They were everywhere. It was a beautiful sight. It was such a wonderful thing to see that I brought my best friend Phil back a few days later so he could tick off Bobolinks and the many Henslow Sparrow’s that were nesting there as well. It was such a nice patch of pristine grassland habitat for these birds.

As years pass more and more of the birds habitat was disappearing. The park board giving in to the youth athlete organizations and their need for more sport fields. And as we lost more grassland, we lost species. I haven’t heard a Henslow Sparrow in years, and the decline of the Bobolink population was apparent as well. For the past 2 years I’ve not seen any Bobolinks at V.O.A. until just recently.

Reports started to come in this Spring of Bobolinks showing up at V.O.A. again. I had to go over and see for myself. It took less than a minute when I spotted my first one. This is encouraging.

After spending several hours hiking around the area I came to the conclusion that they seemed to be hanging around this one area. And after some fancy calculating I figured there were 4 males and maybe 2 females from what I could see.

Now I’ll probably return in a few weeks to check on them and see if they’re still around or maybe I see more. Anyway you look at it, I was very pleased as I drove off towards home.

Rare Bird Alert

Now it has been awhile since I chased a bird, however yesterday evening while relaxing on my front porch I happen to to see the Facebook post of 6 Black-bellied Whistling Ducks at Gilmore Ponds Metro Park in Butler County Ohio. Well maybe I should have chased them when I first read the post, but being rather comfortable at the time I thought it could wait till the morning. Somehow I thought they might stick around for the night.

So this morning after a couple cups of coffee I headed off to Gilmore Ponds. Now this isn’t a life bird for me, but a pretty rare one nonetheless considering their range. Now Gilmore Ponds doesn’t have a very big parking lot, just enough for maybe a dozen cars. Well when I pulled in it was at the limit.

Well as you’d expect there were plenty of birders looking for them. It seemed they moved during the night. But about 30 minutes later someone noticed that they flew in from somewhere and settled back onto the same log they were sitting on yesterday.

“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.