Monthly Archives: January 2012

Notes From The Field

Grand Valley, Riverside Park, Armleder Park

Ice storms have a tendency to change even the most thought out plans. Needless to say our plans to travel to Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area has been put on hold till better weather. However it didn’t stop our valiant group, consisting of Phil, John and myself from venturing out once the road conditions improved. We kept it local so as not to press our luck. Even at the 11 o’clock hour the roads out in my neck of the woods were still crappy, but we made good time as we meet up with John at Grand Valley. As you might recall I was there on the 15th and we had excellent waterfowl activity. Not the case today as pickings were pretty slim. However I was able to click off a few images of our National Bird.

We scoped out both North and South pools of the lake, then took a walk in the Camp Dennison Nature Trail. Footing was treacherous as we watched our feet more than the birds. It didn’t matter anyway, there wasn’t too much activity in the woods so we made our way back to our vehicles and motored our way to Riverside Park in Newtown. John had heard that there was a Cackling Goose sighted there, and being so close we were there in no time.

As we pulled into the parking lot to our right there are some soccer fields and about 60 Canada Geese feeding. Cackling Geese our not very common and I’ve only seen them a couple of times. And those times they were on the water and pretty far away. So with 3 sets of eyes scanning this flock we re-located them pretty quickly.

This is a closer view of the above picture. As you can see the Cackling Goose has a much shorter bill and a shorter neck. They’re just a miniature version of their larger cousin.

Feelin’ pretty good with ourselves with this discovery, we made our way to Armleder Park for our last stop. Phil has never been here before, and even with the icy conditions we thought no better time than now to check it out. Everything was iced over, even the mud as we hiked back to the bean field. It was at the bean field we discovered where all the Ring-billed Gulls gather when the weather turns. a huge flock was gathered on the opposite side of the water.

We walked the southern portion of the park, staying on the grass along the paved path since the asphalt was a skating rink. The last thing we need a for someone to fall and break a hip. I know how they fix them, and it’s not pretty!

Sparrows were the highlight of Armleder as were the 4 Eastern Meadowlarks we spooked up on the way back to our cars. We ended the day around 2:30 with a pretty good day considering. We didn’t set any new records for total birds seen, but really, it’s not just about the birds.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. American Coot
  2. Pied-billed Grebe
  3. Bald Eagle
  4. Greater Scaup
  5. Mallard
  6. Bufflehead
  7. Hooded Merganser
  8. Ring-billed Gull
  9. Rock Dove
  10. Canada Goose
  11. Cackling Goose
  12. American Tree Sparrow
  13. Song Sparrow
  14. Savannah Sparrow
  15. Lincoln Sparrow
  16. White-crowned Sparrow
  17. Red-winged blackbird
  18. Eastern Goldfinch
  19. Great Blue Heron
  20. Eastern Meadowlark
  21. Killdeer
  22. Carolina Chickadee
  23. Tufted Titmouse
  24. Common Crow
  25. Northern Cardinal
  26. Northern Flicker
  27. White-breasted Nuthatch
  28. Red-tailed Hawk
  29. American Robin
  30. Mourning Dove

Spotlight On Ohio Birds

YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER ( Sphyrapicus varius)

Family: Picidae

Order: Piciformes

Description: 8 1/2″  (22cm)  Adult male has a mainly black and white body plumage but note barring on back, wings, and tail and white patch on wings. Breast is black and underparts are otherwise grubby pale yellow with streaks and bars on flank. Head is well marked by red throat (which is bordered black) and crown, white stripe running below eye and curving around to breast and white strip behind eye. Adult female similar but throat is white.

Voice: Call is a nasal mewing “me-ah”. Drumming a distinctive slow irregular tapping, easily imitated be tapping on a tree with a stick.

Habitat: Breeds in young forests and along streams, especially in Aspen and Birch. Winters i n a variety of forests especially semi-open woods.

Nesting: Clutch size is 2-7 white eggs. Nests in the cavity of trees or dead branches.


FYI’S: The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker will drill 2 different types of holes. A round one that extends deep into the tree and a shallower rectangular hole.

They will use human-produced material such as street signs and metal chimney flashing to amplify their irregular tapping.

It is the only eastern North American woodpecker that is completely migratory.

Resource material provided by:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology/


The Banded Bird

I don’t consider myself a very good photographer, just an average one who happens to get lucky every now and then. And I guess that’s the only way you can explain the luck I’ve had when it comes to being at the right spot when it comes to capturing banded birds on film, or should I say SD card. And the right spot for me is at the Visitor’s Center at Caesar Creek State Park.

The first bird I was able to photograph where you can see a visible band is from February 19th of 2011. It was a female Downy Woodpecker climbing up the branch where one of the feeders hangs from.

As you can see the band is one her left leg. I didn’t realize that I photographed a banded bird for several months. It was only after photographing the next 2 birds and seeing the bands on them was I able to discover the band on this Downy Woodpecker.

The Tufted Titmouse above, and the White-breasted Nuthatch below, were photographed on November 12th of 2011. As you can see the Titmouse has the band on it’s left leg, and the Nuthatch has a band on it’s right leg.

Now if you follow this blog with any regularity you probably read my post from this last Sunday where I combined two field trips into one post. And if you looked closely you also noticed that 2 of the birds photographed while I was at the Visitor’s Center were banded, but 2 different species altogether. Now what are the chances of this happening.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker has a band on it’s left leg, and if you look real close you can make out a couple of numbers.

Now what I find exciting about this dark-eyed Junco, other than the band on it’s left leg, is the fact that Junco’s are our winter birds. Was this bird banded this year, or is it a returning bird. I don’t know, but I was surprised to see this Junco with one.

I don’t know what you call it. I call it dumb luck when you’re able to photograph a bird with a band. However when you’re lucky enough to do it 4 more times, maybe I’m in the wrong business.

Upcoming Events

Just finished checking the calendar for any new field trips on Cincinnati Bird Club web site, and it looks like I hit pay dirt. If you’re looking for a group field trip for these winter months, these might fill-the-bill. For more information on these field trip go to

January 21st @ 8:00 am/ Camp Dennison Gravel Pits (Grand Valley) & Little Miami River

January 29th @ 8:00 am/ Mitchell Memorial Forest

February 25th @ 8:00 am/ The Oxbow

February 26th @ 8:00 am/ East Fork State Park

Notes From The Field/ # 312

Melvin Quarry Pit & Roxanna-New Burlington Gravel Pit

I was half way through my first cup of coffee this morning when I got the “Twitch”. I was reading over my e-mails looking for a reply from Jason Cade in regards to the Roxanna-New Burlington gravel pit, when I noticed that Rick Asamoto posted to the Ohio Listserv. Rick normally doesn’t post unless it’s something good. Opening the e-mail my eyes went straight to the 2 words that’s been on my mind for some time, Tundra Swans.

My second cup of coffee was in my travel mug as I made my way towards Wilmington and points beyond. As you pass through Wilmington on Rt. 22 & 3 going East, the Melvin Quarry is 3 3/4 miles from the Rt. 73 interchange. I parked in the small Methodist Church parking lot and walked to the back of the church property towards the fence where the quarry is. Hundreds upon hundreds of waterfowl filled the gravel pit. With most of everything frozen over these deep gravel pits attract more than enough birds. I don’t know which were more prevalent, the Canada Geese or the Mallards. Rough estimates were over 300 for both species. I didn’t like my location so I switched to a pull off around the corner and set up my gear and started to scan where I couldn’t see before. That’s when I found the Snow Geese, all white.

The best view I could get were through the trees.

Then I spotted them…

The wind was howling by this time and trying to hold the scope still was difficult at best. The wide open and flat ground north of Wilmington doesn’t deflect the wind as I pulled my hat down tighter and zipped my coat up the rest of the way. Then they started to swim to the right out from behind the trees.

Then out into the open as I snapped off picture after picture.

After leaving Melvin I made my way to the Roxanna-New Burlington gravel pit. I heard that Cackling Geese as well as a couple of Sandhill Cranes were there. The highlight of this trip wasn’t the waterfowl but a Pileated Woodpecker flying across the road as I turned of Rt. 42 on Roxanna-New Burlington. Once again more Canada Geese than anything else. But all-in-all a good  morning with a new life bird.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Tundra Swan
  2. Snow Geese
  3. Canada Geese
  4. Mallard
  5. Redhead
  6. Ring-necked Duck
  7. American Black Duck
  8. Pileated Woodpecker
  9. Bufflehead
  10. Common Coot

Notes From The Field/ January 14 & 15

Hisey Park, Caesar Creek State Park, Mounds Station Park, and Grand Valley

This has been a very busy birding weekend so far, and I thought that I’d combine both yesterday and today’s results into one post.

Saturday I started the day not as early as I normally do, leaving the house around 9 am with some set thoughts on where I was birding today. My first stop was Hisey Park to see if I could get a closer view of the now famous Long-eared Owl. This time I was going to digiscope the owl so I wouldn’t have to get too close and disturb the bird any more than it already has. Re-locating the owl was no problem, it was trying to photograph it. I took several shots from a very bad angle and after getting home and looking at them I decided to delete them from the hard drive.

After leaving Hisey Park I made my way to Caesar Creek to check out the normal places despite the fact it’s still duck hunting season. That would explain that there were more decoys than real ducks. I did find a brave little Bufflehead as I hiked towards the bluff that looks over the lake off of Ward Road.

Driving from Ward Road to Harveysburg Road I scared up a group of Horned Larks that were feeding along the side of the road. They moved into this field where I snapped this picture.

Harveysburg Road had hunters holed up in their blind, and after seeing their decoys set up, I avoided going down there and stirring them up. Next stop was the beach and hopes of anything on the water. No luck, however it was at this time when I noticed that my freshly re-charged battery for my camera was almost out of power. The only explanation for this could only be the cold. And believe me it was cold and windy around the lake. Now I’m frustrated and decided to head back home and recharge the battery and go back out later. Which was kind of nice to get home, and some lunch and recharge myself.

Then it was back on the road to the Visitor’s Center to practice my digiscoping technique, or lack of technique. I arrived at 3 pm, went through the lobby and said “hello” to the ranger on duty, and proceeded to set up my gear around back where they have some feeders set up.

There were numerous birds at the feeders and the action was constant as I settled in a took lots of pictures, with only a few making the blog.

Northern Cardinal

Dark-eyed Junco

Eastern Towhee

This bird was a little more challenging to identify. It looks like just another Little-Brown-Job, but after doing some investigating and the use of my field guide I came to the conclusion it’s a female Purple Finch. When you don’t have Purple Finch’s here year-round, you forget.

Today was going to be a shorter day with a definite stop to pick up a back-up battery, especially with our trip to Killdeer Plains next Saturday. I don’t want to deal with a dead battery and a epic bird needing it’s picture taken.

My first stop was Mounds Station Park, a new park under development which has a very large lake that’s now an abandoned gravel pit. Most of it was frozen over except the far end where all the ducks were crowded into.

That black shape is a Double-creasted Cormorant. This bird is about 500 yards away.

Well I was able to determine where all the Mallards in the county go on a Sunday. There were about 300 Mallards on this lake with about 1/3 less that number of Ring-necked Ducks. After leaving the park I went to check on our resident Bald Eagles. No sign of them. So it’s back on the road to my next stop Grand Valley, but on the way a large dark shape catches my eye. So I stop and and pull out my gear and snap off a shot.

Black Vulture

Grand Valley was grand today, with lots of waterfowl to look at.

I love the view of the lake from this vantage point. This is the southern part of the lake and it’s mostly frozen, where the northern section wasn’t.

American Wigeons

An awful picture of a Hooded Merganser displaying.

The resident Ring-billed Gulls.

Why is it whenever I want to take a great picture, the ducks fall asleep. This is a group of Redheads and the white one is a Greater Scaup.

I finished off the day a little after 1 pm and some really nice finds. Now off to Best Buy for a new battery.

Notable birds for the weekend include:

  1. Pied-billed Grebe
  2. Horned Grebe
  3. Bufflehead
  4. Canada Geese
  5. Mallards
  6. Gadwall
  7. Black Duck
  8. American Wigeon
  9. Common Goldeneye
  10. Hooded Merganser
  11. Common Coot
  12. Redhead
  13. Ring-necked Duck
  14. Ruddy Duck
  15. Greater Scaup
  16. Song Sparrow
  17. White-throated Sparrow
  18. American Pipit
  19. Eastern Bluebird
  20. Common Crow
  21. Long-eared Owl
  22. Red-tailed Hawk
  23. Horned Lark
  24. House Finch
  25. House Sparrow
  26. Purple Finch
  27. Carolina Chickadee
  28. Tufted Titmouse
  29. Dark-eyed Junco
  30. Northern Cardinal
  31. Downy Woodpecker
  32. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  33. Yellow-bellied Woodpecker
  34. Eastern Towhee
  35. Turkey Vulture
  36. Black Vulture
  37. Mourning Dove
  38. American Robin
  39. Killdeer
  40. White-breasted Nuthatch
  41. Eastern Goldfinch
  42. Blue Jay
  43. Pine Siskin
  44. Carolina Wren
  45. Double-creasted Cormorant
  46. Northern Mockingbird