Monthly Archives: September 2011

May the (Eastern) Bluebird of happiness…

Yesterday evening after dinner was over and the dishes were done, Kathy and myself were sitting on our front porch enjoying the last remnants of the first full weekend of Autumn. Sunday evenings in my neighborhood can be rather quiet and still. Traffic is light and the neighbor kids are in finishing up the last bit of their homework.

Directly across the street from my house sits this vacant lot. And as long as we’ve lived here the lot has always been vacant. The nice thing about this lot other than some nice green space, last night it turned into the playground for a group of at least 5 to 6 Eastern Bluebirds.

For an hour we watched as they chased each other all over the place. They visited everyone’s yard looking for bugs to eat or just to play. We watched as they flew from tree to fence to telephone pole and back again multiple times. And in the  midst of all this frivolity you can hear them calling to each other in their soft way.

As parents we’ve all taken the kids to a park and played with them, whether it’s on the jungle gym or throwing a Frisbee back and forth. I think tonight was one of those occasion where the parents took the kids out to play. Because you could easily separate the parents from the juveniles.

We’re blessed to have Eastern Bluebirds here year round, however last night you could almost see how they were bonding as a family unit one last time before they leave the nest, or the comfort of home, for good.

Being a new “Empty Nester” myself, this causes one to stop and reflect.

Notes From The Field

Shawnee Lookout Park/ Lost Bridge/ Oxbow

As I recall it’s been since Spring. That’s right, it’s been that long since I was birding till sunset, then turned around and went birding before the Sun rose the next day. Back in the Spring I did that for 4 straight days as I traveled between Magee Marsh, Ottawa N.W.R., Metzger Marsh, and various flooded fields. Today however was a field trip that was sponsored by Oxbow Inc.

My plan for the day was to rise early and head over to Lost Bridge before meeting the group at the parking lot at the Oxbow. I was anxious to see if there was any shorebird activity, since this place can be hot at times.

The drive over was overcast with fog and spittin’ rain on and off for most of the morning. With the effort needed to keep my optics dry on my bins, I wasn’t going to hassle with trying to keep my camera dry. My bins are waterproof, my camera isn’t. Which was probably a good idea since most of the day was so gloomy and gray. So this post will be without pictures. Which I think is a first.

Lost Bridge wasn’t an entire flop. Granted the only wading/shore birds I spotted were some GBHE and a lone Spotted Sandpiper, I was treated to a Cooper’s Hawk giving the business to a Red-shouldered Hawk. After spending 30 minutes there it was time to go over to the Oxbow and wait for the others.

The Oxbow parking lot is nestled in a thick of trees and when I arrived at first it was quiet. Being the first one here I had 20 minutes or so before anyone else arrived. The quiet was interrupted by a small flock of warblers feeding within the tree tops and along the tree line that borders the cement factory. It was a fast paced 10 minutes before they were gone. The timing couldn’t have been any worse, because that’s when the rest of the group started to trickle in.

Group leader Ned Keller scouted ahead to see how passable the roads were, and the news wasn’t good upon his return. Too much water was covering the roads, so plan B was to spend the rest of the day at Shawnee Lookout Park. First stop was the boat ramp area then afterwards into the park to walk the road.

The boat ramp area if you’ve never been there is just a large parking lot. And since it’s prone to flooding it’s covered with this thin layer of mud, which gets caked onto your footwear and oozes up the sides. This in turn makes walking a bit of a trick, especially for some of the elderly and middle-aged dudes like myself. We seem to be concentrating downward more than into the trees and brush.

After we scoured the area thoroughly it was into the park where the group parked about a third of the way in, and myself and another person with a van drove to the end to be used later to bring bring everyone back to their cars once we completed our walk.

We walked slowly, stopping every now and then to cover areas that had promise or a lot of activity. As usual with Shawnee Lookout the warbler activity was pretty good. The lack of sun made it difficult to ID certain species. On a day like today everything looks dull and gray, and when your dealing with C.F.W’s. (confusing fall warblers) you need all the help you can get. A little bit of sun would have help immensely.

It took us several hours for the entire trip and I think everyone had a good time. And to make matters worse the sun did come out as we neared the end. It was a welcome break, but a few hours late. As the group departed I made the decision to go back to the boat ramp, put on my Mudders, and go for a walk over to the river along this trail that runs parallel to the channel so boats can access the river. I did have some good birding on the walk over to the river, however once I reached the river things quieted down. That’s birding for you.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Osprey
  2. Red-shouldered Hawk
  3. Red-tailed Hawk
  4. Cooper’s Hawk
  5. Spotted Sandpiper
  6. Belted Kingfisher
  7. Banks Swallow
  8. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  9. Great Blue Heron
  10. Great Egret
  11. Double-creasted Cormorant
  12. Canada Goose
  13. Wood Duck
  14. Mallard
  15. Turkey Vulture
  16. Pileated Woodpecker
  17. Downy Woodpecker
  18. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  19. Northern Flicker
  20. Wild Turkey
  21. Mourning Dove
  22. Blue Jay
  23. Carolina Chickadee
  24. Tufted Titmouse
  25. Killdeer
  26. American Crow
  27. American Robin
  28. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  29. Chimney Swift
  30. Nashville Warbler
  31. American Redstart
  32. Magnolia Warbler
  33. Black & White Warbler
  34. Black-throated Green Warbler
  35. Northern Parula
  36. Bay-breasted Warbler
  37. Tennessee Warbler
  38. Common Yellowthroat
  39. Yellow Warbler
  40. Yellow-throated Warbler
  41. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  42. Swainson’s Thrush
  43. White-breasted Nuthatch
  44. Eastern Wood Pewee
  45. Eastern Phoebe
  46. Least Flycatcher
  47. Eastern Towhee
  48. Red-eyed Vireo
  49. White-eyed Vireo
  50. Indigo Bunting
  51. Gray Catbird
  52. Scarlet Tanager
  53. Gold Finch
  54. Song Sparrow
  55. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  56. Red-winged Black Bird

A Birder’s Haiku

Dedicated to the birder, as we start our week.

As blue-gray skies rise

to meet another Fall morn

black silhouettes fly

Notes From The Field

With Kathy out of town visiting Laura in Michigan this weekend, it certainly has left me with a lot of free time to go birding. So after getting off work I left for home to let the dog out for a while and gather my gear for some birding up at Caesar Creek.

I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the first day of Autumn, than to spend it outdoors. The weather started to clear up after some morning showers, and I actually thought I saw the sun come out as I made my way to the park. First stop on the way was to be the beach. With it being cooler, and wet I knew I would have the place to myself, if only the birds would cooperate.

Every once in a while I get lucky at the beach in terms of bird action. I kept my fingers crossed as I walked towards the water, only to be disappointed by finding only some Canadian Geese and the usual mob of Ring-billed Gulls.

Before I go any further along with this blog post, I just want to let you know that Kathy took her camera with her this weekend, which left me with my Canon. Which isn’t a bad thing, however I can’t digiscope any of these birds. Which leads me to the only solution, buy a new camera just so I can digiscope.

After leaving the beach I made my way over to the mudflats off of Mounds Road. This is where I really wanted to go in the first place. The last time I was here it was pretty good. So my hopes were high for some good birds this evening.

A pretty unflappable Great Blue Heron. I was very surprised that I didn’t scare him off when I approached. He never moved the entire time I was there.

I spent about an hour scanning the mudflats to pick out all the little peeps and other stuff wading around. All told I didn’t find too much out of the ordinary other than the Great Horned Owl and a Black-crowned Night Heron.

The Black-crowned Night Heron was a real surprise. First I noticed a Sharp-shinned Hawk light in the top of a dead tree. Some Blue Jays were sounding the alarm when the Sharpie dove down towards another tree in a feint dive. As he pulled up that’s when I noticed he dove towards the heron just sitting as still as can be in this tree.

You can barely see him in this picture which is zoomed all the way out using the optical zoom. The next picture, (which looks like crap) is when I used the digital zoom to get closer. If I only had my digiscope rig with me, it would had been a great shot.

I was happy anyway. This was my first Black-crowned Night Heron at Caesar Creek. It was a beautiful evening for birding, I’m so glad I went.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. American Crow
  2. Canada Goose
  3. Killdeer
  4. Ring-billed Gull
  5. Turkey Vulture
  6. Great Blue Heron
  7. Great Egret
  8. Black-crowned Night Heron
  9. Lesser Yellowleg
  10. Solitary Sandpiper
  11. Least Sandpiper
  12. Semipalmated Sandpiper
  13. Semipalmated Plover
  14. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  15. Cooper’s Hawk
  16. Turkey Vulture
  17. Cedar waxwing
  18. American Robin
  19. Northern Flicker
  20. Downy Woodpecker
  21. Belted Kingfisher
  22. Blue Jay
  23. Great Horned Owl
  24. Wood Duck

Views From A Window

Sunday my Sister and Brother-in-law invited Kathy and myself over to their house for dinner. I took my scope and digiscoping rig with me because my Brother-in-law mentioned wanting to see it. The back yard of their house backs up to some woods and they’re blessed with some good birds that come to their feeders. I was able to get some pictures, however they weren’t the quality that warrants a post, except this one.

Red-bellied Woodpecker (a.k.a. Earl)

On The Road / # 292

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge/ Magee Marsh/ Maumee Bay State Park

It was a cool and dark morning when I picked up fellow birder Jon Frodge in Franklin Ohio this Saturday. This was a 2 stage pick-up with me picking up Phil Burgio just prior at his house.  This trip to Ottawa has been in the works for some time , and now we’re all pretty excited with the day finally here. With the caffeine-generated birders on board the bird mobile, the trip to Ottawa went without incident until a closed exit in Toledo made for an unexpected U-turn and a minimal delay in reaching Ottawa. We arrived at the visitors center at Ottawa by 9:00 am.

After a quick pit-stop we started to bird the boardwalk behind the visitors center. We didn’t have to go far when we hit a honey hole of birds. There were plenty of warblers to go around for everyone. When the birding is this good you hate to leave, so we didn’t. Unfortunately for Jon we didn’t go too far on the boardwalk. And with the morning waning, and the auto tour calling our names, we opted to depart the boardwalk and head out.

Phil and Jon towards the beginning of the auto tour.

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in simple terms is MASSIVE. I can see why these auto tours are popular. It’s not that you couldn’t walk or ride a bike to some of the hot spots, but this makes it so much easier, especially if you’re hauling cameras, scopes with tripods, and other birding paraphernalia. There is a handy map which you can print off their website which has the refuge and auto tour route mapped out. It’s relatively easy to follow and depending on how many times you stop, it can take several hours to complete.

This was a common sight throughout the day, Great Egrets just everywhere.

Driving East towards one of the hot spots that’s close to the estuary, we came upon these sleeping Trumpeter Swans that were right next to the road.

After crossing a bridge that crosses Crane Creek we came upon an area that held 7 Snowy Egrets, with most of them in trees. This was the best shot I could get from that distance with my digiscope rig.

Up to this point it’s been a wonderful day. A little overcast in the morning with a little bit of a breeze, however when the day wore on the sun came out as did the wind. The temperatures were pleasant so you didn’t need to wear a jacket, unless you have problems with the low 70’s.

Prior to leaving on this trip I found out that they were planning on opening up a section of road that isn’t normally open on the auto tour. This was being done as a request so participants from the Midwest Bird Symposium could enjoy a little extra that Ottawa has to offer. We as well took advantage of this. The auto tour would normally take you between 2 impoundments by following this dike. However this time we were given access by car the ability to drive all the way around a pond called MS 5. This was a treat for all of us since this part can only be accessed either on foot or bike.

And it’s at this pond that I scored my 292nd life bird. I was getting concerned that I was going to get skunked this trip, however when Jon saw what he thought were Black-bellied Plovers, well, my heart skipped a beat for a second. MS 5 is pretty big, so it took some time before we were able to spot these rascals foraging along this mud flat close to the corner of the pond.

We dared not get any closer than this, since we were also trying to figure out if any of the other birds present were Buff-breasted Sandpipers.

(On a personal note, Jon these are the only 2 picture that were any good)

After the auto tour we made our way over to the beach at Magee Marsh. The wind was really blowing and the Sanderlings were busy feeding as they raced back and forth when the waves crashed onto the beach.

We left the beach an headed over towards the west entrance to the boardwalk. We didn’t have to walk to far before we came upon another pocket of good warbler activity. And since you never leave a good spot we stayed here for some time before we wandered down the boardwalk. The further we got the lighter the activity became. After spending some time here we then decided that our last stop for the day, since the day was wearing on, would be Maumee Bay State Park to check out the beach. Rick Asamoto who was also there at Magee to do some birding just came from there with some promising news of 2 Ruddy Turnstones. Another nemesis bird that I’ve been wanting to add to my list for a long time, now within my grasps. However not today. After scouring the beach twice all we came away with were some more Sanderlings and a very cool Lesser Black-backed Gull that Jon spotted, which was another life bird for Phil.

With the light beginning to fade and appetites growing we decided it was time to head over for some food before driving home. It was a spectacular day for birding with 2 good friends. However before we left the park while we drove slowly towards the entrance I noticed a Red-tailed Hawk sitting on a post right next to the road. Normally you wouldn’t find this peculiar, however as we inched closer the the hawk just sat there. It eventually flew to a tree when we were within a few feet, and I was able to get this picture from the car. Or was it Jon who took this picture? Either way, with the fading light, and with the hawk in a tree, lighting was difficult.

What a great parting shot.

The drive home was long and quiet as we crossed Ohio with the setting sun. We arrived home exhausted from a great day of birding, and one I will look forward to next year. Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Rock Dove
  2. European Starling
  3. Red-tailed Hawk
  4. Ring-billed Gull
  5. Killdeer
  6. Great Blue Heron
  7. Mourning Dove
  8. American Kestrel
  9. Blue Jay
  10. Red-winged Black Bird
  11. Eastern Goldfinch
  12. American Robin
  13. Swainson’s Thrush
  14. Downy Woodpecker
  15. Blackpoll Warbler
  16. Magnolia Warbler
  17. Red-eyed Vireo
  18. Eastern Wood Pewee
  19. Common Yellowthroat
  20. Black-capped Chickadee
  21. Sora
  22. Cape May Warbler
  23. Pine Warbler
  24. Nashville Warbler
  25. Tennessee Warbler
  26. Tufted Titmouse
  27. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  28. White-breasted Nuthatch
  29. Indigo Bunting
  30. Great Egret
  31. Mallard
  32. Northern Flicker
  33. Blue-winged Teal
  34. Pied-billed Grebe
  35. Black-crowned Night Heron
  36. Belted Kingfisher
  37. Cedar Waxwing
  38. Northern Shoveler
  39. Yellow=rumped Warbler
  40. Gray Catbird
  41. Marsh Wren
  42. Trumpeter Swan
  43. Philadelphia Vireo
  44. Canada Goose
  45. Carolina Wren
  46. House Wren
  47. Bald Eagle
  48. Common Grackle
  49. Snowy Egret
  50. Eastern Phoebe
  51. Greater Yellowleg
  52. Lesser Yellowleg
  53. Least Sandpiper
  54. Pectoral Sandpiper
  55. Semipalmated Plover
  56. Semipalmated Sandpiper
  57. Solitary Sandpiper
  58. Spotted Sandpiper
  59. Black-bellied Plover-Lifer
  60. Tree Swallow
  61. Barn Swallow
  62. Double-creasted Cormorant
  63. Caspian Tern
  64. Herring Gull
  65. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  66. Short-billed Dowitcher
  67. Turkey Vulture
  68. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  69. Sanderlings
  70. Warbling Vireo
  71. Hairy Woodpecker
  72. Blackburnian Warbler
  73. Acadian Flycatcher
  74. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  75. American Redstart
  76. Bay-breasted Warbler
  77. Black-throated Green Warbler
  78. Wilson’s warbler
  79. Wood Thrush
  80. Northern Cardinal
  81. Least Flycatcher
  82. Wood Duck