Notes From The Field

It was a beautiful morning as Phil and myself headed North on Route 22/3 towards Highland County. With the prospect of catching up with one of my nemesis birds, a Northern Shrike, it was a no brainer that a short trip to see if it was around is worth the gas. After topping off the Bird-mobile our first stop was the whistle stop of Melvin Ohio. It’s  here behind a Methodist Church that sits a gravel quarry pond which at times holds some good birds. However not today. Mostly Mallards, Canada Geese, American Coots, and a few Killdeers was the extent of the pond today.

The rest of the drive towards our destination took us through vast expanses of fertile farm lands as far as the eye could see. Houses grew sparser as fields grew larger after we passed through Sabina. At one point just before we reached our destination we had to make a quick pull off when we thought we saw the Shrike sitting on a telephone wire. Unfortunately it turned out to be a very close look-a-like, a Northern Mockingbird. These 2 birds resemble each other in size, and coloration even down to the white tail edges that we really had to get close to make sure. When we finally arrived there was no Shrike to be found other than a Red-tailed Hawk surveying the surrounding fields and a good many Horned Larks. Our visit was brief when we packed it in and headed back to Caesar Creek S.P.

One of the first places I wanted to check out was the Young Road boat ramp. This boat ramp lays close to the mud flats at Mounds Road and offers great views of the mud flats from the other end. This is key as Spring migration starts up and the return of wading and shore birds to the lake.

The next stop is a traditional stop, Harveysburg Road. It was around 10:00 am and hardly a breeze to speak of, which leads to a very calm lake. This is a real treat if you’ve ever been here on a windy day when there is a good chop on the lake and you can hardly make out anything, especially the ducks that sit low in the water.

After setting up Phil and myself started to scan the lake, which seemed pretty empty from what we saw, when up walked Rick Asamoto and Shane Egleston, both local birders I’ve birded with in the past. As I scanned towards the North in the area of the earthen dam, I spotted a group of ducks with 3 larger white geese with black primaries. My first thought was Ross’s Geese, when Rick asked what makes you think they aren’t Snow Geese. It’s at this point that several basic birding mistakes happened. The first one is never take you eyes off the bird, which I did when I ran back to the truck to retrieve my field guide, which is mistake number 2, always have your field guide with you. Within that time frame, which was a matter of a couple of minutes, the Geese were gone. So where did they go I asked. We didn’t see them take off, we were talking, was the reply. AAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGGG. Repeat mistake #1.

The thought was that they might have gone back into a small cove out of sight since they were heading that way. So we headed off to the camp ground boat ramp, since it offered the best view into that cove and hopefully the geese. After the short drive over there I was still mulling over whether they were Snow or Ross’s Geese, even though I was leaning towards Ross’s.

Setting up the scopes we were unable to re-locate the geese, however Rick get rather excited when he spots what he thinks is a female Black Scoter. However she was pretty far away, but the field marks were real close. We were convinced that it was a Black Scoter when she flew away. She headed in the direction of where Ward Road dead ends at the lake. So it was off to Ward Road. A short hike through the woods ended on a nice bluff overlooking the lake. I had never been here before and was thrilled to have another spot to bird from in the future. We all scanned the lake for several minutes till I was able to re-locate the Scoter. Rick and myself took several digiscoped pictures with the best 2 pictures I took are below.

This picture is taken at 20x

The time had come to leave since it was getting later than we thought. So we packed it in and left Rick and Shane and headed home. After getting home and going over my field guide again I came to the conclusion that the 3 white geese were indeed Snow Geese. I discussed it with Phil and considering the size compared to the Mallards and Black Ducks that were there as well, they were too big to be anything else. Ross’s Geese are about the same size as Mallards and Black Ducks.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Common Crow
  2. Mourning dove
  3. Carolina Chickadee
  4. Northern cardinal
  5. Dark-eyed Junco
  6. Blue Jay
  7. Rock Dove
  8. House Sparrow
  9. Canada Goose
  10. Snow Goose
  11. American Coot
  12. Ruddy Duck
  13. Mallard
  14. Black Duck
  15. Ring-billed Gull
  16. Hairy Woodpecker
  17. Cooper’s Hawk
  18. American Robin
  19. Red-tailed Hawk
  20. Red-shouldered Hawk
  21. Black Vulture
  22. Turkey Vulture
  23. Killdeer
  24. Northern Mockingbird
  25. American Kestrel
  26. Horned Grebe
  27. Pied-billed Grebe
  28. Horned Lark
  29. Wild Turkey
  30. Belted Kingfisher
  31. Great Blue Heron
  32. Common Loon

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