Monthly Archives: September 2010

Outings and sightings 9/26/2010

As a birder we all have that keen sense of observation that enables us to pursue our passion. But after today’s outing the one observation that I’ve noticed is what great friends I have, and as Bogart once stated, “I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship”. Once again I want to thank Phil and my new friend Kathi for a great day of birding. So, enough of the mushy stuff, and onto the crux of the matter.

Phil and I hooked up with Kathi at about 7:30 am and proceeded to Spring Valley. It’s been several months since I’ve been there, so I was anxious to see if there was any action. And with the addition of 2 more sets of eyes covering the area, our chances greatly improve. It became obvious when we leveled off at the bottom of the downhill grade, that the drought has effected Spring Valley and it’s marsh. The trail usually holds water and even in the summer the ground is soft. Not so today. As we enter onto the boardwalk we’re greeted with this sight.

As we make our way towards the observation platform, we were on the prowl for a Sora. We weren’t disappointed. About 2/3 of the way down we distinctly heard 2 Sora’s calling in an area where the Cattails weren’t nearly as tall as the above picture.

On top of the observation platform I was able to take this photo of 2 Canadian Geese. I know that they’re far away, but without my tele-converter, this is the kind of photo you get. Which I think is kind of good.

We made our way back to hike a side trail, and without our spotting scopes, went looking for anything in particular. We were lucky, for we did locate a few warblers, but after running into a hunter, and hearing shots fired in the distance since we arrived, we decided to return to our vehicles to head over to the mudflats. Now don’t take me wrong. it wasn’t the hunters that scared us off, but the shooting can be unnerving. Plus, I don’t think birds like guns.

A short drive later we arrive at the parking area where it’s a short hike back to the mudflats. Looking up into that clear blue autumn sky, we spot a immature Bald Eagle. As Phil would say, “This is a good omen”.

The flats produced several good birds, and a wonderful viewing of a Sharp-shinned hawk. Now you have to admit it, when you look at a picture like the one above, it sure does make you feel good inside.

The following is the list for the day.

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Sora
  3. Double-creasted Cormorant
  4. American Robin
  5. Northern Cardinal
  6. Chimney Swift
  7. Tree Swallow
  8. Common Crow
  9. Red Wing Black Bird
  10. Downy Woodpecker
  11. Grey Catbird
  12. Eastern Goldfinch
  13. Belted Kingfisher
  14. Song Sparrow
  15. Carolina Wren
  16. Wood Duck
  17. Palm Warbler
  18. Red-eyed Vireo
  19. Tufted Titmouse
  20. Eastern Phoebe
  21. Mourning Dove
  22. Northern Flicker
  23. White-breasted Nuthatch
  24. Swainson’s Thrush-audible
  25. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  26. Yellow-rumped warbler
  27. Black Pole
  28. Black-throated green warbler
  29. Pileated Woodpecker
  30. Eastern Towhee
  31. Bald Eagle
  32. Great Blue Heron
  33. Ring-billed Gull
  34. Killdeer
  35. Least Sandpiper
  36. Great Egret
  37. Spotted Sandpiper
  38. Pectoral Sandpiper
  39. Black Vulture
  40. Turkey Vulture
  41. Blue Jay
  42. Broad-winged Hawk

Haiku Corner

Your one stop for a short poem.

Loons calls

My daughter drawing circles

Near the fire

Brookville Lake 9/19/2010

When the alarm went off at 5 am this morning I just had to hit the snooze button just once. Realizing the night before that I didn’t have to meet the group of birders till 7:30, I thought I had plenty of time. Pulling off the highway I decided to go into Wendy’s to recycle my coffee. On my way out again I was treated to another of God’s great sunrises and the hope of a good day.

There was about 15 of use eager to drive another 30 minutes to our destination. My passenger for the trip was a young guy by the name of Tom, who I learned from was a Zoology major who went to Miami. He now does contract work studying bats. Very nice person to ride with. He also has a connection to a professor he knows who studies Saw-whet Owls in the Oxford area. I love connections like this.

Our first stop was the overlook at the dam. And for some it was a pit-stop.

As you can tell from the sky, it’s definitely overcast and hazy by this long shot of the dam. It does improve as the day wears on. Our next stop was the beach area to see what was cookin’ in the way of shore birds. After a brief visit there we loaded everyone up and dropped off the majority of the group and left the vehicles for a nice 1 mile hike along one of the main roads in the park. This is where things started to jump. We would run  into pockets of birds that offered a lot of different species. Not just birds but plenty of butterflies, which I didn’t get one picture of. But that’s OK, I’m birding, not butterflying.

As the day wore on, and the sun was climbing higher, our hopes to spot some Raptors started to pay off. From one of our vantage points we were able to view a large area with good mud flats, which had a bunch of gulls on it. I didn’t notice at first that they took off all at once, but Ned was quick to point out that if you looked right above the mass of gulls you’ll notice 2 Bald Eagles. He said that they normally all don’t take off at the same time unless it’s an eagle that spooks them. Yet another little tidbit of info to store away. Even though I got 4 new birds today, the highlight was seeing up close a albino Red-tail hawk. Seeing a bird like that, it’s no wonder that certain cultures would believe that to be a sacred omen.

Courtesy of Allan Claybon

Courtesy Of Allan Claybon

We ended the day over at the mud flats that we were looking at in the distance when all the gulls took off. And gratefully they all returned when we got there.

As you can tell by the next picture that we’re pretty tight along this narrow road. But this offered the best vantage point, and the different variety of shore birds was exceptional.

So I would say that after about 8 hours of birding, and that includes all the driving time, we came away with a rather impressive list of birds.

  1. Chimney Swift
  2. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  3. Northern Cardinal
  4. Blue Jay
  5. Great Blue Heron
  6. Common Crow
  7. Eastern Gold Finch
  8. American Robin
  9. Double-crested Cormorant
  10. Caspian Tern-New
  11. Ring-billed Gull
  12. Belted Kingfisher
  13. Eastern Blue Bird
  14. Chipping Sparrow
  15. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  16. Palm Warbler
  17. Eastern Phoebe
  18. Northern Flicker
  19. Downy Woodpecker
  20. American Redstart
  21. Indigo Bunting
  22. Cedar Waxwing
  23. White-eyed Vireo
  24. Tennessee Warbler
  25. Black-throated Green Warbler
  26. Bay-breasted Warbler
  27. Emphid ?
  28. Red-eyed Vireo
  29. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  30. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  31. Grey Catbird
  32. Eastern Towhee
  33. Turkey Vulture
  34. Warbling Vireo
  35. Mallard
  36. Canada Geese
  37. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  38. Pileated Woodpecker
  39. Bald Eagle
  40. White-breasted Nuthatch
  41. Osprey
  42. Broad Wing Hawk-New
  43. Black Vulture
  44. Red Tail hawk
  45. Carolina Chickadee
  46. Common Tern
  47. Great Egret
  48. Bonaparte’s Gull-New
  49. Franklin’s Gull
  50. Lesser Yellowleg
  51. Greater Yellowleg
  52. Sanderling
  53. Baird’s Sandpiper
  54. Least Sandpiper
  55. Stilt Sandpiper-New
  56. Pectoral Sandpiper
  57. Semipalmated Sandpiper
  58. Spotted Sandpiper
  59. Solitary Sandpiper
  60. Northern Shoveler
  61. Killdeer

Now that’s a helluva day of birding!

Haiku Corner

Your one stop for a short poem.

Lark ascending

Clouds break to meet her

Dancing till twilight

National Audubon Society Field Guide

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Region

When it comes to the size and shape of what I feel is the perfect field guide, this is it. Not too big or too little, with wonderful color photographs of all the birds.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s dissect this puppy and see how it works. The Introduction of this guide is similar to other guides, except in the fact that they discuss the way they use photography as a visual guide, and their justification of using photos instead of an artist rendering. This guide though makes up with how they arrange the order of the birds themselves. The photos themselves have been arranged by visual principle. So what does this mean? Let’s say that your looking up a particular sparrow. They will be organized by not just their shape but also their color. If looking up a Henslow’s Sparrow, they will have Le’Conte’s Sparrow, and a Grasshopper Sparrow on the same page for a side by side comparison, since they have similar characteristics. This is how they categorize their group of photographs.

  1. Long-legged Waders
  2. Gull-like Birds
  3. Upright-perching Water Birds
  4. Duck-like Birds
  5. Sandpiper-like Birds
  6. Chicken-like Marsh Birds
  7. Upland Ground Birds
  8. Owls
  9. Hawk-like Birds
  10. Pigeon-like Birds
  11. Swallow-like Birds
  12. Tree-clinging Birds
  13. Perching Birds (which is further divided into 9 different colors)

The rest of the Introduction goes over species arranged by Family, English and scientific names. color and plumage, voice, habitat, nesting, range and range maps round out the remainder.

The next portion of the guide are the actual photographs of the birds. And yes they were right in the the quality of the pictures. They are wonderfully done, with the majority of the pictures being the male bird. Now they do show females and winter plumage birds when it’s necessary, but not with every bird. Believe it or not I do run into female birds. Now what do I do when I come across a female Blackburnian warbler? Here lays one of the problems with this guide. Another problem I’ve encountered is having to turn to the back of the guide to read the description, or look at their rather small, black and white range map (which I don’t like). And another issue I have with this guide, field marks. Let’s take for instance the Chuck-will’s-widow. The picture is superb, but the bird is blending in so well with the rest of the surroundings, it get’s lost. Nor does it show the white edges of it’s tail feathers, which is an identifier. It’s these little things that annoy me about this guide.

The rest of the guide are all the descriptions, and range maps (which aren’t even color). Now the range map is probably the worst part. I just measured the map of North America in the guide, and it measures out to be 1 inch by 1 inch. I wear reading glasses for crying out loud! They use black lines that run it a specific direction to signify breeding, winter, and permanent range. Now try to decipher that on a wet and windy day by Lake Erie. Give me color any day. At least I can tell the difference between pink and blue even without my glasses.

To wrap up this review, even though I’m not a fan of this field guide, the reason I bought it was for the color photographs. They are beautiful, and a very good reference for new birders. But with the internet these days, looking at photos of your favorite bird in various poses is only a click away. I feel like this guide has had it’s day. There are so many better guides out there, that the only reason to pick one up would be if it’s on sale, or at a garage sale. This one is definitely not field worthy. Stick with your Peterson or Sibley.

Zoar Acres 9/18/2010

I received a call last night at about 7:30 from Linda B. who’s the wife of my best friend and birding buddy Phil. She was sitting out in their back yard last night with Matt, their son, when they spotted a Cape May Warbler. Well, being migration time and one of my favorite birds, I got a little excited. So plans were made for a morning visit to Zoar Acres.

Arrived at about 7:30 and was pleasantly surprised to see Phil was up and ready to bird. We started to work the back yard pretty good, with a lot of good activity. Saw several warblers and other good species as the morning wore on. Decided to take a walk into his woods to see if there were any more warblers. He has a real nice stand of Locust trees which they seem to love.

After the back forty played out, it was time for some coffee and some front yard bird watching, and good conversation.

Finch Feast

White-breasted Nuthatch

A scary looking Northern Cardinal

  1. Eastern Goldfinch
  2. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  3. House Finch
  4. Carolina Chickadee
  5. Grey Catbird
  6. Common Crow
  7. Red-shouldered Hawk
  8. Northern Cardinal
  9. Tufted Titmouse
  10. Robin
  11. Mourning Dove
  12. Mallard
  13. American Redstart
  14. Tennessee Warbler
  15. Prairie Warbler/Palm Warbler (We’re just not positive)
  16. Eastern Phoebe
  17. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  18. White-breasted Nuthatch
  19. Carolina Wren
  20. Starling
  21. Blue Jay
  22. Song Sparrow
  23. House Sparrow
  24. Northern Mockingbird
  25. Brown-headed Cowbird
  26. Chipping Sparrow
  27. Canada Goose
  28. Downy Woodpecker

And just when you thought it was all over, we were mooned by a Buck.

During my drive home, the sun was casting such a warm glow over the soy bean fields along Zoar Road. A nice way to end a delightful morning.