Monthly Archives: July 2011

Notes From The Field

Caesar Creek State Park & Spring Valley Lake

Yesterday my itinerary was to go birding at various locations in and around Caesar Creek and Spring Valley. One of the purposes was to see how high the water level was at the Northern end of the lake. When the level is low, a wide expanse of mud flats are exposed, which then makes for great viewing of migratory wading birds. With all the Spring rain we had, and how high the lake was, I’m sure the Army Corp lowered the lake level. But by how much, and to what extent I’ll soon find out.

  As you can tell by the above picture that the water level is still pretty high. Last year when I came here those bare trees out in the water on the left were sitting on mud. So you can imagine how large an area these mud flats cover. The water level being what it is now doesn’t surprise me since recreational boating is still in full swing. All sorts of water craft were criss-crossing the lake all day while I was there. It’s from this vantage point I was able to spot 3 Great Egrets and 4 very curious Prothonotary Warblers that got within 10 feet of me.

Great Egret

Since I had to drive past Spring Valley Wildlife Area to get to this particular part of the lake, I thought I’d stop by Spring Valley down where the lake is. The Loveland Bike Trail passes 100 yards from the parking lot, and it was on the part of the bike path that in the Spring myself and a couple of other birders were able to call in a Virginia Rail.

As far as the eye could see, the lake was covered with lily pads. All the way to the tall grass and cattails that make up the marsh portion of Spring Valley in the distance.

And all the lily pads were covered with these beautiful white flowers.

Red Admiral butterfly

After leaving Spring Valley I came across this field of Sunflowers.

Another place I wanted to return to was the nature center. I hadn’t been there since the early Spring, and because they have some very nice trails and away from the boat noise. Even though the birds weren’t plentiful, the spider webs were. It was pretty obvious that no one had walked here lately, with the dozens of webs that stretched across the trail.

After leaving the nature center I wanted to check out this old abandoned road that dead ended somewhere hopefully near the lake. Caesar Creek Lake is dotted with old roads like this before they flooded everything to create the lake. I know of several and this one is new to me. It was only one lane with dense trees and vegetation on both sides. In a couple of places along the road you can see a trail head that disappeared into the woods. And just as I thought a dead end where the lake is. However what took me by surprise was the water lillies. They were big. Probably 2 to 3 feet across, and in bloom as well.

Looking out towards the lake.

The view back towards the cove and if you look closely you’ll see a foot bridge for a trail that crosses the water.

The area where I parked was full of Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies. Here is a small group that weren’t spooked by me getting this close.

Last stop for the day was the Visitors Center to see if the feeders they have there were attracting anything. I think they have the same idea as I do. We don’t feed in the Summer. There’s plenty of food for them to make it through. From the observation deck overlooking the dam, I snapped off a couple of pictures.

If you click on the picture and make it bigger you’ll notice a larger gull with a yellow bill. That’s a Herring Gull, and the other 3 are Ring-billed Gulls. 2 adults and 1 juvenile.

Double-crested Cormorant

Ended the day when heat and hunger took over at about 3pm. Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Great Egret
  2. Great Blue Heron
  3. Green Heron
  4. Canada Geese
  5. Blue-winged Teal
  6. Double-crested Cormorant
  7. Herring Gull
  8. Ring-billed Gull
  9. Killdeer
  10. Turkey Vulture
  11. Cooper’s Hawk
  12. American Crow
  13. Belted Kingfisher
  14. Northern Cardinal
  15. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  16. Mourning Dove
  17. American Robin
  18. Eastern Goldfinch
  19. Eastern Towhee
  20. Tufted Titmouse
  21. Carolina Chickadee
  22. Song Sparrow
  23. Field Sparrow
  24. Chipping Sparrow
  25. Downy Woodpecker
  26. House Wren
  27. Carolina Wren
  28. Northern Flicker
  29. Prothonotary Warbler
  30. Common Yellowthroat
  31. Yellow-throated warbler
  32. Northern Mockingbird
  33. Red-winged Black Bird
  34. Indigo Bunting
  35. Gray Catbird
  36. House Finch
  37. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  38. Eastern Bluebird

A Birder’s Haiku

Dedicated to birder, as we start our week.

Sunlight sways on

crowns of leaves~a Crow

traverses the sky

The Stokes Field Guide To The Birds Of North America

I own several field guides that use photographic plates for bird identification. And furthermore, if you’ve read any of my past reviews, you probably know by now that I’m not a big fan. I prefer the artistic rendition, even though some artists are better at their craft than others. But that’s another story altogether.

If I remember correctly, my second field guide I ever owned was “The Audubon Society Field Guide To North American Birds” (Eastern Region). That was my very first field guide where photographs were used. I also own “The Audubon Society Master Guide To Birding”. That’s 3 volumes, and a big improvement over my other Audubon field guide. This massive set is used more for reference than practical field work.

With that said, why would I go out and purchase “The Stokes Field Guide To The Birds Of North America”, their latest work? The reviews. They have been nothing but outstanding. “A must have for any serious birder”. “Even if you’re not a serious bird watcher, the photography speaks for itself”. “The best work the Stokes have ever done”. Those are the kind of remarks I’m reading. So with all the praise still embedded  in my thoughts, I used my Border’s gift card and ordered it online.

Well after owning this field guide for a couple of months now, I must admit that Don and Lillian Stokes have put together a remarkable piece of work. Weighing in at 2 3/4 LBS this is no little book. Even though the dimensions are perfect for a field guide, it’s when you look at it from the side is when you realize that there’s more to this book. It’s 1 1/2″ thick. It’s not a book, it’s a brick. But what a brick. Packed with 3,400 photos this field guide will amaze you with stunning photographs covering all birds of North America.

As with all field guides, it always starts with the “How To Use This Field Guide” section. All the pertinent information needed so you won’t fumble your way through the book. This section is then followed by “Photo Key To The Parts Of Birds”. This is always nice to know when you read a description of a certain bird what a malar stripe is before hand.

The beginning of the field guide is short and sweet, without a lot of fluff, just the facts. Then comes the meat of the book. Over 780 pages divided into 23 different sections. And these sections are color coded, so if you know which color  the Vireo’s are under, this will help speed the process of finding the Vireo’s. Also in the beginning of each section they provide some helpful tips to aid in identifying certain species in general.

The description  for each species is very thorough, especially when it comes to describing the birds shape. It will describe the shape in general, then goes into detail if it’s a juvenile, male of female, and in the case of gulls, all the different phases that you might run into if your looking at, let’s say a Thayer’s Gull. You’ll get photographs and descriptions of the Thayer’s Gull as an adult in Summer and Winter. Then if that’s not enough, photographs and descriptions of them in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd winter plumage. Both in flight and on the ground.

This is how the whole book lays out for the reader. It’s very user friendly, with the exception of the small range maps, which are hard to see even if you have good vision. However they are acceptable since they use color to differentiate between Summer, Winter and year round range. With each photograph, they add this small feature which I found to be helpful. They add the state and the month of the year the picture was taken. Also whether it’s an adult male, or female, or a juvenile.

One aspect that the Stokes use in describing a particular species, is the flight pattern of the bird. I don’t think I own a field guide that describes how a certain species flies. Most field guide will touch upon the flying habits of certain birds if it’s relevant to the species, such as woodpeckers. But I would say with certainty, that they touch upon each species flight pattern, and raises the bar for future field guides.

The one thing that I thought was misleading was the bonus CD. If you look at the cover of the book it states, “Bonus CD with more than 600 bird sounds”. There are only 150 different species listed on the CD, so just remember that all birds have more than one voice. So if you’re thinking that your getting over 600 different bird species tracks, think again.

To sum this review up, I’d give two big thumbs up. I’m really glad I was able to add this to my library, and would recommend this book to anyone. And at $24.00 list price, how can you go wrong.

Notes From The Field

Beaver Creek Wetland Wildlife Area North/ Koogler Wetland and Prairie Preserve/ CEMEX Preserve

It’s a good thing that I was able to sleep in yesterday, because when the alarm sounded at 5 am this morning it took some effort to get up and get going. However with the coffee done and cinnamon rolls from IKEA waiting for me, I was able to struggle to my feet. With gear gathered and a second mug of Joe, I was out the door at 5:45 for my drive to what I expect to be a very good day of birding. Today’s destination is the Beaver Creek Wetlands.

I was surprised by the fact that it didn’t take long to drive there. It probably took less than an hour to get to my first stop, Beaver Creek Wetland Wildlife Area North. I pulled into a rather inconspicuous gravel parking lot which had no sign to tell you which park your at. The night before I did a Google street view of the road and knew what to expect. This is the only sign you’ll find in the parking lot.

With the humidity and my cold camera, you can see the results.

With a subdivision on my left and a wide open, heavily vegetated, fields on my right, the birds were very active this morning. I followed some nice mowed paths and made my way towards the back and away from the car noise.

2 bush-hog width trails.

I knew from Google map that there was a small pond towards the back, and that’s where I was heading. Getting to my destination always takes me longer since I have to stop and look at countless birds along the way. There were several paths that lead you to a dead end, which I’m not sure why, but any way here’s one that leads you towards nowhere.

Butterflies were everywhere, and they didn’t want their picture taken either, except this cooperative Tiger Swallowtail.

I finally found my way back to the pond, or should I say dried up pond. It’s a relatively shallow pond and I’m sure with the heat we’ve had lately, it wouldn’t take much to dry it up.

Even though it may look dry, there were life forms. The one time I should have lugged my spotting scope with me, I missed out on a Least Sandpiper, and a Semipalmated Plover.

On the way back to the bird-mobile I was able to get only a marginal close-up view of a Willow Flycatcher.

I’m traveling West on New Germany-Trebein Road, and looking North towards the Fairborn Marsh West, which has no public access as far as I know. I’m sure this habitat can support all sorts of birds, unfortunately you can’t get close enough to see.

While driving to Koogler Wetlands I stopped and digiscoped this Red-tailed Hawk.

It was here at Koogler Wetland and Prairie Preserve I meet with some volunteers from the Beaver Creek Wetlands Association who were planning on doing some trail maintenance from what I could tell. I talked with Jim Amon, a Technical Advisor for the B.C.W.A. We talked about birds an other parks in the area, when he noticed that I was prepared for this particular park. Prepared as in boots that stand up to mud and water. Well the trail was no more than a narrow, one lawn mower width path. The path starts out winding it’s way through some woods then breaks out from the trees and then this is where it starts to get wet. On more than one occasion I almost had my boots sucked off my feet. Well when they say wetlands, they mean wetlands. The last thing you want to think about when you’re birding is your footing. So needless to say I was looking down more than looking for birds. The I made it to the boardwalk they told me about. And by the way the weeds and grasses were invading the boardwalk, you weren’t going to be able to see much of it soon.

Looking back from whence I came.

Looking forward towards my goal.

A nice mowed path with woods on one side, and wild flowers on the other. My next stop before I went home was Siebenthaler Fen, however Jim Amon recommended that I go to CEMEX Reserve. A park with a large body of water with good wetlands, and not too far of a drive.

By this time the sun was up and the heat was on. So I wanted to make this a short trip. There’s a loop trail that goes around the lake, so I headed out. If I had known what I know now, I would have probably have skipped this park. There’s a lake alright, but there’s no way to get close. And maybe that’s a good thing, but it got to the point that birding was secondary and getting back to the bird mobile was priority. I need to come back in the Spring or Fall and give it a fair evaluation. I was burning up, and tired, and thirsty. Not a good combination.

A couple of views of the expansiveness of CEMEX Reserve.

After about 5 hours in the field I decided to call it quits, and head home in the comfort of my air-conditioned bird-mobile. I feel like I only scratched the surface of this wonderful place. There are so many other places to go and explore that I’m sure I’ll be back. It was a A+ kind of trip.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Canada Geese
  2. American Robin
  3. Eastern Goldfinch
  4. Mourning Dove
  5. Common Grackle
  6. American Crow
  7. Gray catbird
  8. Northern Cardinal
  9. Summer Tanager
  10. Carolina Chickadee
  11. Tufted Titmouse
  12. Blue Jay
  13. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  14. Chimney Swift
  15. Field Sparrow
  16. Song Sparrow
  17. Savannah Sparrow
  18. House Finch
  19. American Woodcock
  20. House Wren
  21. Indigo Bunting
  22. Dickcissel
  23. Eastern Kingbird
  24. Common Yellowthroat
  25. Yellow Warbler
  26. Prothonotary Warbler
  27. Eastern Wood Pewee
  28. White-eyed Vireo
  29. Red-winged Black Bird
  30. Willow Flycatcher
  31. Acadian Flycatcher
  32. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  33. Eastern Towhee
  34. Northern Flicker
  35. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  36. Downy Woodpecker
  37. Great Blue Heron
  38. Turkey Vulture
  39. Kill Deer
  40. Least sandpiper
  41. Semipalmated Plover
  42. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  43. Cooper’s Hawk
  44. Red-tailed Hawk
  45. Barn Swallow
  46. Bank Swallow

Spotlight On Ohio Birds

Yellow-throated Warbler-Dendrocia dominica

Family: Parulidae

Order: Passeriformes

Description: 5 1/2″ (14 cm) Gray, un-streaked upper parts, bright yellow throat and chest. White belly, black and white facial pattern, heavy black streaks on sides.

Voice: A series of clear ringing notes descending in pitch and increasing in speed, then rising abruptly at the end. Teeew-Teeew-Teeew-Tew-Tew-Twi

Habitat: Forests of Pine, Cypress, Sycamore, and Oak, in both swampy places and in dry uplands.

Nesting: 4 purple spotted greenish eggs in a nest of grass and bark strips, lined with hair and feathers. They are often constructed in clumps of Spanish moss or Pine needles.


FYI’S: The Yellow-throated warbler is one of our most common Summertime Warbler.

With the nickname of the Sycamore Warbler, this beautiful bird has a preference for Sycamore trees that are bordering creeks and rivers.

Yellow-throated warblers will start moving South during the 2nd and 3rd week in August. The last migrants will leave between September 22nd and October 3rd.

There have been reports of some very late stragglers visiting feeders even in January, however these are very rare occurrences.

Resource material provided by:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology/

The Birds of Ohio by Bruce G. Peterjohn

Field Guide Review

With trying to keep A Birder’s Notebook updated with all the latest, I’ve been a bit lax in doing my reviews on some of my field guides or other bird related books. So if you haven’t noticed by now I’m planning on my next review on one of my latest guides titled “Stokes Birds of North America”.

For me this will be a melancholy review, for this was one of the last books I purchased at Borders Book Store. And if you haven’t heard by now, Borders has gone out of business. And with it, do I dare say, the end of books as we know of. The smell of a book. The stiffness as we open a new book for the first time. The anticipation to turn the page to see what happens. All for a piece of plastic and some circuitry. We may not feel it now, but we will soon feel the loss.