Monthly Archives: June 2011

A Birder’s Haiku

Dedicated to the birder, as we start our week.

A Pacific Loon

far from the birds Western home

a welcome visit

By Phil Burgio

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Notes From The Field

Miami Whitewater Forest/Shaker Trace Wetlands & Fernald Preserve

It was a cool morning as I headed out to go birding. I left home about 6:00 am in hopes to make it to Shaker Trace Wetlands at Miami Whitewater Forest before Sunrise. With light traffic on both I-71 and I-275, I made exceptional time getting there. However the Sun was up further than I would have liked, and it was starting to bake the back of my neck as I made my way towards the area where a Least Bittern had been spotted a month ago. Last week Jonathan reaffirmed that a Least Bittern was seen in an area that has the unusual name of the “Bat House”. What I found out was that it was a structure that the Boy Scouts constructed and I guess bats have a tendency to hang out there. There’s not much to the structure now. Cattails grow inside, and you couldn’t stand in it even if you wanted to. With the amount of rain we’ve had, the wetlands have taken over what might have been dry ground under the shelter.

A couple views of this vast expanse of wetlands.

One of my intentions today was to do a little more digiscoping. And one thing I’ve found out when using a point-n-shoot digital camera without a viewfinder is that I’m having a difficult time focusing on the subject. Trying to look at the subject with only a LCD screen, and focus where the image is sharp is starting to frustrate me. Since I use the focus knob on my spotting scope to focus the image, to have the option to look through a view finder would increase the quality of my pictures greatly.

These banks Swallows are easily identifiable by the dark V-shape necklace across the breast.

Next to the Least Bittern, a Yellow-breasted Chat was by far the most entertaining, and hardest to get a picture of. At one point as I looked through my spotting scope, a Common Yellowthroat and the Chat were next to each other. But lo how my heart sank when I couldn’t get the shot off. Nor could I get a picture of the Chat. I truly believe if I had a DSLR I wouldn’t miss some of these shots.

Common Yellowthroat

The Least Bittern was a real treat. A birding acquaintance spotted the Bittern just last month in this location I was heading to, by the Bat House. I took my I-Pod in hopes to get it to call. On 2 occasions I heard faint calls that I believe was the Bittern. As I was about to turn back and head down the trail, the Bittern flew across the trail from one side to the next, and then disappeared into the cattails. I guess that’s all I get, but it was enough to add this bird to my Life List.

After spending over 2 hours there,  I then back tracked to Fernald Preserve.

My hopes here were the same. Get some good pictures. I wanted to get some shots of Grasshopper Sparrows and Dickcissels. The last time I was here was during the Audubon Society field trip, and those 2 species were very active. However during the drive back to the Welcome Center I noticed a Belted Kingfisher posing for me.

The group leader for the field trip was a guy by the name of Paul Wharton. And it just so happens that he was out at Fernald today as well. So I hooked up with him as we did a little but of birding before we left. The Dickcissels were very cooperative when it came to holding still for their picture. I did get a few pretty good shots, but none of the detail that I’m looking for.

Male Dickcissel belting out a tune.

All told I spent about 4 hours total at both places, and had a marvelous time despite the fact that it’s the Summer Doldrums. If given more time I would have added several more birds to this list.

So without further delay, here are the notable birds for the day:

  1. Eastern Wood Pewee
  2. American Robin
  3. Common Yellowthroat
  4. Northern Cardinal
  5. Mute Swan
  6. Mourning Dove
  7. Carolina Wren
  8. Eastern Goldfinch
  9. Chimney Swift
  10. Tufted Titmouse
  11. Song Sparrow
  12. Red-winged Blackbird
  13. Field Sparrow
  14. White-breasted Nuthatch
  15. Gray Catbird
  16. Carolina Chickadee
  17. LEAST BITTERN-LIFER
  18. Indigo Bunting
  19. Barn Swallow
  20. Bank Swallow
  21. Willow Flycatcher
  22. Great Blue Heron
  23. Green Heron
  24. Mallard
  25. Northern Flicker
  26. Yellow-breasted Chat
  27. Purple Martin
  28. Dickcissel
  29. Grasshopper Sparrow
  30. Turkey Vulture
  31. Brown-headed Cowbird
  32. Eastern Towhee
  33. Downy Woodpecker
  34. Northern Mockingbird
  35. Killdeer
  36. Chipping Sparrow
  37. Yellow-throated Warbler
  38. Belted Kingfisher
  39. Tree Swallow
  40. Red-tailed Hawk

Notes From The Field

Boone County Cliffs

With the threat of rain, with thunder and lightning a real possibility, nothing says Father’s Day more than a bird outing to Boone County Cliffs. I meet up with my friend Jonathan Frodge at Cincinnati’s Public Landing, where he jumped into the bird-mobile for the 30 odd minute drive to the park. With the window of opportunity narrowing with the impending rain, we hurried over to start our day. The drive over  was uneventful, until we turned onto Middle Creek Road. This a one of those 1 1/2 lane country road with a scattering of houses and barns, with dense vegetation on both sides for most of the drive. This road would be great just to walk and see what kind of birds you’d spot. However today, we wanted to hike the cliffs.

The overcast skies, and being early in the morning made for a dark forest to walk into. The trail was slick with mud as we made our way up hill.

It was real difficult to visualize the birds today. For one thing, they weren’t singing like i would have expected. The forest seemed too quiet for me. Also they were hard to see in the canopy. You would have to walk a little bit, then stop and listen and look for movement. This was the nature of today till it started to rain. We were there for no more than 90 minuted till it started. As you well know, birding is a listening, as well as a visual activity. So when you have problems seeing the birds because of one reason or another, you start to depend on you hearing to help you locate birds. Well when it starts to rain, the noise of the rain falling through the trees and smacking into the leaves, it makes a lot of noise, and subsequently makes it harder to hear the birds sing.

We had pretty good luck by ID’ing birds by sight and sound. However with the rain coming down harder, and not wanting to get my binoculars any more wet than  they already are, we made more of a concentrated effort to get out of the woods. The trail we were descending  was beginning to turn into a stream, and this made for a slippery slope. I had already fallen once, and didn’t want to do it again. We popped out of the forest a short time later, feeling a little disappointed in the fact that we couldn’t have stayed longer.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Barred Owl
  2. Wild Turkey
  3. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  4. Acadian Flycatcher
  5. Eastern Goldfinch
  6. Pileated Woodpecker
  7. Wood Thrush
  8. Eastern Towhee
  9. Baltimore Oriole
  10. Scarlet Tanager
  11. Worm-eating Warbler
  12. Kentucky Warbler
  13. Hooded Warbler
  14. Eastern Wood Pewee
  15. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  16. Carolina Chickadee
  17. White-breasted Nuthatch
  18. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  19. Blue Jay
  20. Red-eyed Vireo
  21. Indigo Bunting
  22. American Robin
  23. Northern Cardinal
  24. Brown-headed Cowbird
  25. Common Crow
  26. Great-crested Flycatcher
  27. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  28. Chimney Swift
  29. Cliff Swallow
  30. Common Grackle
  31. Mallard

A Birder’s Haiku

Dedicated to the birder, as we start our week.

I pay the vendor

open the cage of birds

they fly away in melody

by Narayanan Raghunathan

“On The Road”

Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney Hollywood Studio

Well I’m back from my whirl-wind trip to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We all had an excellent time, even in the blazin’ heat, and afternoon showers. I’m not going to bore you with the details of the trip, or show a lot of vacation pictures. This blog wasn’t to be used that way. However, like I said in my previous post when I told you that I was going to Disney World, I was going to bird watch. Binoculars and field guide were going into my pack, because that’s what I do. And it paid off with 4 new life birds.

Even though this wasn’t a birding vacation, so to speak, these sightings were viewed either while I was traveling back and forth in some mode of transportation, or at one of the theme parks.

  1. Great Egret
  2. Cattle Egret
  3. Double-creasted Cormorant
  4. Black Vulture
  5. American White Ibis
  6. Boat-tailed Grackle
  7. Common Grackle
  8. Northern Mockingbird
  9. House Sparrow
  10. Purple Martin
  11. Green Heron
  12. Common Nighthawk
  13. Carolina Wren
  14. Northern Cardinal
  15. Tri-colored Egret
  16. Great Blue Heron
  17. Mallard
  18. Mourning Dove
  19. Fish Crow
  20. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  21. Anhinga-Life Bird (Spotted twice while the bird was flying)
  22. Loggerhead Shrike-Life Bird (Viewed while in bus leaving the airport sitting on street lamp post)
  23. Eurasian-collared Dove-Life Bird (First spotted flying, then lighting on street light in front of Cinderella’s Castle, where it sat for several minutes)
  24. Swallow-tailed Kite-Life Bird (This beautiful bird was flying low over lake at EPCOT)

Notes From The Field

Kilby Road Ponds Preserve/ Fernald Preserve

To rise bright and early to go birding has become almost second nature for me, even when I hardly got any sleep last night. I was up at 5 a.m. just like it was a regular workday, showered, dressed, caffeinated, gear gathered, topping off of the bird-mobile with go juice, and on the highway with a donut in my mouth by 6:30. Agenda for the day, meet up with the local Audubon Society for a morning of birding.

Kilby Road Ponds Preserve was a recent aquisition by the Hamilton County Parks for the sole purpose of keeping it in it’s natural state. With parcels on both sides of Kilby Road the park encompasses several hundred acres. This morning we hit both sides of the road, and had pretty good luck.

A view from a rise looking across some of the grass land the park wants to keep in it’s natural state.

This lake is owned by a gravel company which still operates here, hence it’s private property. From this view we were able to spot a Common Loon  on the water. Kind of unusual for this time of year.

Going across the street towards the Whitewater River, you enter an area that was once working gravel pits. They are now full of water and sustain all sorts of wildlife. The trial around this area totals about 3 miles and you’ll go by 5 good size lakes that were once gravel pits.

After spending about 2 hours here, it was time to head over to one of my favorite places to bird.

Joining the group today of 10 birders was Gary Stenger. Gary used to work at Fernald and now he is the local amateur expert on all things Fernald. As a matter of fact he still remembered me from when we put on the Bird Study Merit Badge Workshop earlier in the Spring. Very nice guy and very knowledgeable when it comes to birds and where to find them. A good many of the birds we spotted at Kilby Road, were also present at Fernald. We covered most of the grassland habitat behind the Visitors Center, including a trail that was off limits to the normal visitors. That’s the perk for having Gary along, we were able to visit with a family of Hooded Mergansers on a pond you normally couldn’t see from the trail that’s open to the public. With the way the land rolls and undulates, we would come upon a hidden pond that has Willow’s growing around the edge. If you were on the public trail, you would never know it was there. This was a special treat for the group to be able to go into restricted areas.

All told, we spent about 4 hours birding, before we went our separate ways at 12:00. However before we left I was able to get a fairly decent picture of a Dickcissel, which were fairly common at Fernald.

Dickcissel

Notable birds for both locations include:

  1. American Robin
  2. Mockingbird
  3. Common Grackle
  4. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  5. Turkey Vulture
  6. Morning Dove
  7. Mallard
  8. Canada Goose
  9. Cooper’s Hawk
  10. Great Blue Heron
  11. American Kestrel
  12. Barn Swallow
  13. Tree Swallow
  14. Eastern Meadowlark
  15. Belted Kingfisher
  16. Red-winged Blackbird
  17. Field Sparrow
  18. Grasshopper Sparrow
  19. Dickcissel
  20. Killdeer
  21. Bank Swallow
  22. Gray Catbird
  23. Lark Sparrow
  24. Spotted Sandpiper
  25. Rock Dove
  26. Common Yellowthroat
  27. Bell’s Vireo
  28. Song Sparrow
  29. Common Loon
  30. Indigo Bunting
  31. Northern Cardinal
  32. Baltimore Oriole
  33. Orchard Oriole
  34. Yellow Warbler
  35. Eastern Goldfinch
  36. Brown Thrasher
  37. Common Crow
  38. Mute Swan
  39. Yellow-throated Warbler
  40. Red-tailed Hawk
  41. Eastern Kingbird
  42. Willow Flycatcher
  43. Blue Grosbeak
  44. Green Heron
  45. Hooded Merganser
  46. Purple Martin
  47. Blue Jay
  48. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  49. Northern Flicker
  50. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  51. House Wren
  52. House Finch
  53. Cedar Waxwing