Notes From The Field

Caesar Creek State Park

There were white-caps on Caesar Creek Lake today. Scanning the water from the end of Harveysburg Road the wind was a cold slap in the face that was needed to wake me up this morning. It was a bitter start to the day, and with the fury of the wind blowing in your face it made birding difficult to say the least. My spotting scope would vibrate on the tripod from the wind blowing. I needed two hands to hold it still. AAHHHHH, winter bird watching at it’s best!

It’s been awhile since I’ve hit the hot spots around the lake, and today was as good a day as any. I really do love this lake and the wildness about itself on days like today. Birds were scarce on this first of many stops around the lake today, so after giving the lake the twice over it was on to the next stop.

At the end of Old State Route 73 there is a gate that won’t let you drive any further. There’s a control building that the Water Works Department uses that has something to do with the water tower located nearby. However as you walk past the building, and down this paved path, it takes you right to the waters edge and the beach directly across. Being in close proximity to Harveysburg Road this is one of my “must stop and look” locations.

Canada Goose with American Coots near the Youth Pond.

I was making my way towards the beach in another attempt to locate the Franklin’s Gull that eluded me the other day. By this time the sun was starting to warm things up despite the winds persistence to keep the wind-chill below the human comfort zone. At the beach, with the wind more towards my back I noticed 3 figures bent over their spotting scopes silhouetted against the back drop of the trees. In the parking lot I recognized one of the cars, but not the other 2. As I approached them from behind the person in the center of the group turned around and greeted me. Rick Asamoto, John Habib and Mike Busam are talented and skilled birders and this will be a treat to buddy up with them. Having birded with them several times in the past they seemed glad to include me. It’s times like this that us novice birders try to absorb as much knowledge that they dish out.

They were scoping out a large flock of the resident Ring-billed and Herring Gulls trying to ascertain if this one lone bird was the California Gull that was supposedly spotted here the other day. It pretty much became a moot point as the birds scattered as we tried to get a different view of them.

Rick, John and Mike’s plans were similar to mine, hit as many hotspots as you can. So the next stop was across Rt. 73 and Furnas Shores Boat Ramp. As we pulled in we were directed into the parking lot instead of straight down the boat ramp by a couple of guys who were manning a check point for a Cross-Country race. That’s when we noticed runners exiting the woods and re-entering it after this check point. The effort to get to the waters edge took longer than we were there. No much happening, so on to the next stop. The Visitors Center to warm up and use the facility.

A male Purple Finch enjoying the feed at the Visitor’s Center.

A White-winged Scoter has been seen from the observation platform that overlooks the dam for several days, and we weren’t disappointed as we re-located the bird swimming with a Lesser Scaup at the base of the dam.

The distance from myself to the Scoter and Scaup is roughly 330 yards. I love Google Earth and this feature.

As I stated in my post from February 22nd when I spotted the 2 Surf Scoters at Harveysburg Road, one of the field marks to differentiate between to 2 Scoters is a small area of white that appears on the wing. This can be really difficult to view if the Scoter is just swimming. You have to wait till either the bird flies away or rears up and flaps it’s wings.

This picture was taken from a different vantage point. Across from the Observation deck at the Visitors center there is a picnic grove with it’s own observation deck with a closer view of the dam. You can also walk right down to the waters edge, so the above picture is about 250 yards from the bird. You can see the bold white mark right behind the bill. A Surf Scoter’s white mark is a little less white.

So I waited till I could get a good diagnostic picture of the Scoter showing some white on it’s wing. This took awhile. I hated to leave the group but I really wanted this picture. On several occasions the Scoter would rear out of the water and flap her wings, which really showed off the white secondaries. However I did get lucky with just 2 pictures, despite their crappiness, which shows some white.

A great diagnostic picture of the white spot on a folded wing.

Here’s a good view as the Scoter lifts her wing to preen.

 It was getting close to noon when I left the park to meet with some birders. I recently found a bird watching group on the web that sparked my interest. It’s called The Cincinnati Birders Meetup Group. Web sites are formed across the country as a way to meet like minded people using this “Meetup” format. So if you have any interest or hobby, their is a Meetup group for you probably in your area. So today I made an arrangement to meet anyone from the group who wanted to view the now famous Long-eared Owl of Hisey Park. I think the weather scared them off, so after several minutes waiting in the parking lot at the McDonald’s in Waynesville, it’s back to the lake and hook back up with Rick, John and Mike at Harveysburg Road again.

This time Mike was gone and Kathi Hutton, another birding friend, was there. The wind was still strong out of the Northwest, and being in such an exposed area we quickly scoped out a lone Common Goldeneye and a small pod of Black Ducks and Mallards.

Onto my last stop for the day which was the boat ramp at the camp ground. From this vantage point we’re able to see the last large basin of the lake before it narrows down further north near the Young Road boat ramp.

A Herring Gull in the middle of a group of Ring-billed Gulls.

It’s from the camp ground boat ramp that we were able to spot our 2nd Scoter for the day. We spotted a 2 Surf Scoter swimming with 2 Lesser Scaups in a real choppy lake. The next few pictures may not be the best, but they were enough to make a proper ID on the Scoters.

This picture you can really tell how much chop was on the lake caused by the high wind. But you can see the faint white marks on the face and how they differ from the marks on the White-winged Scoter.

It was time to leave unfortunately, John Habib was heading over to Spring Valley and I wanted to go, but alas not today. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a 40+ bird day in the winter, so I was very pleased with today’s count.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Canada Goose
  2. American Coot
  3. Pied-billed Grebe
  4. Mallard
  5. American Black Duck
  6. Greater Scaup
  7. Lesser Scaup
  8. Hooded Merganser
  9. Common Goldeneye
  10. Surf Scoter
  11. White-winged Scoter
  12. Great Blue Heron
  13. Killdeer
  14. Bald Eagle
  15. Turkey Vulture
  16. Red-shouldered Hawk
  17. Cooper’s Hawk
  18. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  19. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  20. Downy Woodpecker
  21. Northern Flicker
  22. Belted Kingfisher
  23. Common Crow
  24. Northern Cardinal
  25. Tufted Titmouse
  26. Carolina Chickadee
  27. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  28. Dark-eyed Junco
  29. Song Sparrow
  30. White-throated Sparrow
  31. Purple Finch
  32. Ring-billed Gull
  33. Herring Gull
  34. White-breasted Nuthatch
  35. American Goldfinch
  36. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  37. Blue Jay
  38. American Robin
  39. European Starling
  40. Mourning Dove
  41. Carolina Wren

One response to “Notes From The Field

  1. Good job identifying the Scoters!

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