Monthly Archives: February 2011

Notes From The Field

Since I had to forego my trip to the Oxbow this Saturday because my oldest son came home, and we needed to take care of some business while he was home. I instead went to Grand Valley Preserve this afternoon with hopes of catching some good duck action.

It did turn out to be a pretty nice day despite the threat of more storms and heavy rains later tonight. The temperature was in the 50’s and the place was as busy as I’ve ever seen. There were even a couple of kayakers on the large lake which spooked the ducks quite a bit. Folks were out enjoying the weather walking their dog or fishing.

Another superb view of the lake.

Even though the large lake had some really good waterfowl in it, it was the back lake that held a higher concentration of ducks. Being a smaller lake the ducks tend to congregate here.

I decided to walk down to the edge and get a closer look and to see if i could get some pictures without spooking any of them. I came up to them from the lower right side behind a mound of dirt. They didn’t seem to mind me being there so I did get off a couple of picture.

After I left this spot I went for a short walk on one of the trails to see if I can pick up any song birds. As in the past not too much luck when it comes to song birds. Maybe it was because it was later in the afternoon or the amount of people with dogs walking around. Whatever reason, ducks were the bird for the day.

The last time I was here it was really cold with this trail snow covered.

I did catch this Song Sparrow singing it’s little heart out.

I felt that this trip was a success, despite the lack of song birds. We did have a very good variety of ducks, and more Common Goldeneye Ducks than I’ve seen in awhile. Plus a good many Horned Grebes. I was pleased with the day. Just not long enough. Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Hooded Merganser
  2. Canada Geese
  3. Ruddy Duck
  4. Red Head
  5. Gadwall
  6. Pied-billed Grebe
  7. Horned Grebe
  8. Common Goldeneye
  9. Coots
  10. Lesser Scaup
  11. Greated Scaup
  12. Ring-necked Duck
  13. Bufflehead
  14. Turkey Vulture
  15. American Wigeon
  16. Killdeer
  17. Northern Cardinal
  18. Song Sparrow
  19. Carolina Chickadee
  20. Red-tailed Hawk

A Birder’s Haiku

Dedicated to the birder, as we start our week.

Dark afternoon sky

The air still, roll of thunder

Crow calls the warning

A Birder’s Haiku


Dedicated to the birder, as we start our week.

On Northern winds, the

bite of Winter’s edge

brings the Redpolls to my seed

Notes From The Field/Caesar Creek and Beyond

Waking up with a start from a deep sleep, I jumped out of bed at 8:30 with the need to go birding. I really didn’t have any set plans on where I was going till I got up. Let’s keep it local and go to Caesar Creek to see how much it’s still iced over. Grabbing my gear and the breakfast of birders, coffee and chocolate doughnuts, I’m on the road. First stop my favorite location. Harverysburg Road.

As you might assume, it’s still frozen over.

Even Merganser Bay was still frozen over.

You know how people will always look up to look at an airplane as it flies over. For me, I’ll always look up when Canadian Geese fly over.

After I left Harveysburg Road I went over to the beach and North Pool boat ramp area. Other than a few Geese sliding into the water from the ice, as the next picture shows. The only other item worth mentioning was all the duck decoys still left over from hunting season.

Since there was nothing happening here, it was time to go to the Visitors Center to check out there feeders. They usually keep the feeders stocked, to we will get some good birds here from time to time. I meet up with a couple of photographers taking some bird photos. They weren’t very good when it came to bird ID’ing, nor am I any good when it came to photography. However while we were there we did find some fabulous stuff. Here are some of the bird highlights.

Poor image of a Dark-eyed Junco

White-breasted Nuthatch

Female Purple Finch

A closer image of the Female Purple Finch

For me this was the picture of the day. A Male Purple Finch. He looks like he was dipped into Raspberry Sauce. There was another male as well, but not as purple as this one was.

The suet really draws the woodpeckers, like this female Downy Woodpecker.

Another Female Downy Woodpecker.(NOTE: If you click on this picture it will enlarge, and if you put the cursor over the woodpecker and click again, it will enlarge enough to see that the female woodpecker has a band on it’s left leg.)

The highlight of my time spent at the Visitors Center was what happened next. I kept hearing a hawk crying deep in the woods by the overlook area. I heard this a couple of times, however when I went to look I couldn’t locate anything. Except the last time. I noticed movement in the trees about 50 yards away pretty much at eye level to where I was. Well it wasn’t just one hawk, it was two hawks, or should I say two Red-shouldered Hawks. The best part was that they were mating. Which would explain the commotion that was going on before. Even thought he mating didn’t last very long, I did call these 2 photographers over to have them take some pictures while the the 2 love birds perched, glowing in the aftermath. For me, I felt like a voyeur. It’s not everyday you see something like this. Shortly there after you could see them soaring above us as they flew away. Unfortunately, no pictures.

Next stop was the nearby nature preserve area. This place was also quiet when it came to birds.

Observation tower in the nature preserve area.

There were a couple of ponds in the area that weren’t iced over. Even with no ice, there was no waterfowl present in either pond.

I’ve always wanted to check this area near the Visitor’s Center which is an open field with long grass, with some Evergreens running along one side.

Other than a handful of Northern Cardinals kicking up the leaves in the under-brush and a few Song Sparrows flitting around the long grass, nothing too unusual. Next stop was Caesar Creek Gorge Nature Preserve.

But first a Turkey Vulture licking it’s feathers after munching down on some rancid Deer meat.

It’s was Spring last year that brought me here. And my first Prairie Warbler. This time I don’t know what to expect. This is a rather secluded preserve with a well marked loop trail which is a nice hike. There is a little bit of up and down terrain, but nothing a normal person couldn’t navigate. The water that flows out of Caesar Creek Lake flows through here. Considering the steep embankments that run along the river’s edge, it’s no wonder that this area is prone to flooding. However today, the river is running at normal levels and the trail is manageable.

The trail as it winds through the forest.

The many textures you might come across as you wander the woods.

Bird life was a little sparse here as well except for the woodpeckers. Here I noticed 4 different species of woodpeckers, which is self-evident by the next picture. I saw a number of these as I hike through the woods.

The river starts to widen as you progress along the trail.

By this picture you can tell how this preserve gets it’s name.

A neatly stacked pile of river rock someone had constructed. It reminds me of when Kathy and myself went to Mackinac Island. As you travel around the island you would see stacks of rocks were visitors would leave there own little monuments.

The long walk home. And as my last surprise for the day a Great Horned Owl called. Very unusual to hear during the light of the day.

I really was a wonderful day. Even though I spent a little too much time outside, the time spent in nature will help ground you, as you go into the coming week. Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Common Crow
  2. Tufted Titmouse
  3. Carolina Chickadee
  4. Eastern Bluebird
  5. Turkey Vulture
  6. Pigeon
  7. Canada Goose
  8. Blue Jay
  9. Downy Woodpecker
  10. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  11. Dark-eyed Junco
  12. Northern Cardinal
  13. Red-shouldered Hawk
  14. Ring-billed Gull
  15. Common Grackle
  16. American Gold Finch
  17. Purple Finch
  18. White-breasted Nuthatch
  19. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  20. American Kestrel
  21. Song Sparrow
  22. Hairy Woodpecker
  23. Pileated Woodpecker
  24. Great Horned Owl
  25. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  26. Red-tailed Hawk

# 266: Iceland Gull

New Richmond has been beckoning me for the past few days since an Iceland Gull was spotted on Saturday. With a minor alteration in my schedule, I left work a little early and made a bee-line to New Richmond.

With work keeping me steppin’ an fetchin’ for most of the day, it was difficult to get the adrenalin flowing for this bird chase. I arrived at Skipper’s Marina a little before 3 pm and started scopes the area around the dock. With the wind being so gusty there was nothing in the air nor any gulls on the dock or in the water. After several minutes scanning the river, I noticed a small raft of gulls down stream from where I was standing. Driving down to where Steamboat Marina, sitting about halfway out into the Ohio River was the Iceland Gull, with about 15 Ring-billed Gulls. Even though I was planning on taking a picture of the raft of birds, they decided differently, and flew off down stream. Alot of driving for one bird, but it was worth it.

The picture below is of the Iceland Gull seen on the Ohio River, however it was taken by Laura Keene just a few days ago.

West Chester Highlights

With the promise of sunny skies and temperatures above freezing, I couldn’t ask for a better Winter day to go birding. Up bright and early at 6 am with a pot of coffee and hopes that the clouds will start to roll back and let the sun shine in. I don’t want to leave too early, I’ve found that even the birds aren’t up his early. And since I wasn’t going very far, it gave me time to wake up.

Today’s agenda, Ellis Lake, West Chester Wetlands, Gilmore Ponds, and Voice of America Park. I had just been to Ellis Lake last Sunday to follow up on a sighting of Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings. This week however I was going to explore some more at all locations.

Sunrise at Ellis Lake.

I decided to start with Ellis Lake/ West Chester Wetlands since it’s closer to home. I arrived at around 9:00 am with hopes of seeing a massive flock of Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs. Then reality set in like a slap in the face with 20 MPH winds whipping across the fields. Not to much was flying.

I looked out over this field for about 30 minutes as the morning shadows were racing across the newly plowed field.

This dike, which is about 8 feet above ground level, runs from the parking area to the railroad tracks. It divides the field in the previous picture, from the Ellis Lake area, which is on the right. On both sides of this dike, there was a good many sparrows. They stayed very hidden and hardly sang. I was never able to get a close enough look to make a positive ID.

The Ellis Lake and West Chester Wetlands area has a paved path for people to use. However they had the path blocked towards Route 747, the way I wanted to go. Something about utility work, or some such nonsense. It’s Saturday, and I don’t believe anyone will be working. So off I go. The path runs parallel to Union Centre Boulevard which is on the Southern side of the wetlands. With the history of the Miami-Erie Canal running through here as well as it being used for it’s ice production. The diversity of this area is in such sharp contrast to the urbanization of West Chester.

One of the small streams running into the wetlands.

About the time that I was going to turn back and head into another direction, I came upon this old stone foundation. If you stood in the center, the stone wall would be over your head. I’m not sure what was here, but I sure would like to find out. I have a feeling though it held back this.

As far as the eye could see through the trees, a frozen swamp-like expanse. As I stood there looking over this picture, I wondered if it ever dries up in the Summer. Considering how much water is sitting here, I would think not. This would be a hot spot for Prothonitary Warblers. They love areas like this.

After leaving the wetlands, I cut across country to follow a old mowed path around Ellis Lake. I can imagine how this would be filled with different species of ducks and other wading birds. Anxious to come back when the water thaws out, attracting these species.

The path eventually came to a dead end. I was given a choice of an ice crossing or turning back. No guts, no glory I say. Made it across with little or no cracking of the ice. Whew!

As the sun rose higher to the noon sky, you could feel the warmth upon your body as you shed the layers of your outer clothing. Watching as the flowing water ate away it the edges of the ice.

After I lefty here, I made my way to Gilmore Ponds.

I’ve never been here before. I’ve heard of such good birding in this area I’m kind of ashamed of myself. Especially since it’s closed. That’s right closed, due to the economic times and voter rejection of Metropark Levies. However, Butler County voters did pass the recent parks levy, but the fate of this park is still not good. I don’t feel that it will be reopened,as do other birders. That’s too bad, this place is incredible. I felt like ta thief sneaking onto this park. It pretty much has the same history as Ellis Lake and the wetlands. Used as a part of the Miami-Erie canal and also has ice production along time ago. I only scratched the surface as I walked along unkept trails, past decaying observation decks.

The time and effort put into constructing and installing these Bluebird houses, as we watch them being swallowed up by overgrown vegetation.

This was my last picture of the day, because I ran out of memory on my memory card. This is one of the fields at Gilmore Ponds, and if you look real hard at the end of the field there is a large, above the ground bird blind. I didn’t go into it, but I’m probably sure it’s not too safe, considering the run  down nature of the rest of the park.

Butler County Metroparks still has Gilmore Ponds listed on it’s web page. I will include it as a link for anyone interested. Just click on the “blue” lettering to take you there.

My last stop was Voice of America Park. I had 2 reasons to go there. One to pick up a new park pass, and the second was to do a little more birding. Remember if you’re not a resident of Butler County, the pass is $10.00.

With the recent passing of the park levy, some of the money is going top be used to expand into the I.B.A. area of the park. I guess we can’t have enough baseball or soccer fields. I don’t think they give a shit about the Henslow Sparrow habitat they’ll be encroaching upon.  A very rare bird, that relies upon this kind of open, long grass habitat to breed. I still remember last year, when Phil and myself went there to see if we could spot any. A real hard bird to see. They love to skulk around in the grass and sing. You hear them before you see them. However, one did perch upon a long piece of grass and sang for us for about 15 minutes before it flew off. As we left and it was getting dark, you thought you were surrounded by these special birds. This could be there last spring here if they decide to take too much of there habitat away. That’s why this Spring i will be visiting this area a couple times a week to catch them before construction begins, hopefully.

Well needless to say Voice of America Park was rather quiet this afternoon, with hardly any birds to speck of. So it was off to the shed for me and the Bird-Mobile. Birds for the day include:

  1. Canada Geese
  2. Lapland Longspur
  3. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  4. Northern Cardinal
  5. Brown Creeper
  6. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  7. White-throated Sparrow
  8. American Robin
  9. Carolina Chickadee
  10. Pigeon
  11. Mourning Dove
  12. Common Crow
  13. American Kestrel
  14. Red-tailed Hawk
  15. Rusty Blackbird
  16. Downy Woodpecker
  17. Horned Lark
  18. Cooper’s Hawk
  19. Turkey Vulture
  20. Northern Flicker
  21. Northern Mockingbird