Monthly Archives: April 2012

4th Annual Bird Study Merit Badge Workshop

Fernald Preserve

First thing is that I’d like to thank all the staff at Fernald Preserve who’s hospitality went above and beyond our expectations in allowing us to once again offer this workshop to the youth leaders in the Tri-state area. I join Phil Burgio in thanking you from the bottom of our hearts.

The weather channel called for off and on rain and thunder showers throughout the day. As with anything Scout related where the outdoors in concerned, you better be ready for rain. Phil and myself prepared ourselves with the lesson plan that was set for the indoors, but what do you do if your outdoor plans get rained out? With 6 hours set aside for the workshop we were pretty sure that there was going to be sometime during that time when it wasn’t raining and then we could get the Scouts outside.

At 9 am we started with 4 fewer Scouts than those that signed up. We usually only have 12 Scouts, and with only 8 today that was kind of nice. We also had 3 parents stay which is always a big plus. After everyone introduced themselves we started into some of the early requirements, like how to take care and properly adjust your binoculars and how birds are useful indicators of the quality of the environment.

Linda, one of the staff at Fernald helping out with some free samples for the Scouts.

With the rain still holding off we loaded everyone up into the 3 cars and made our way down to the lot next to Lodge Pond near the front of the preserve. For this Merit badge the scouts need to identify 20 different species of birds so the idea was to scope out the pond first and pick up any ducks and wading birds before walking the along side the road. The Pine Trees that line both sides of the road are great for passerines as we spotted a good variety of Sparrows and Warblers.

We slowly made our way back towards the Visitor’s Center for some lunch and finish up more indoor requirements. As we drove back we would stop and look at new birds like American Kestrel and Eastern Kingbird. With the sky darkening, we’re lucky as the rain came down in earnest while we had our lunch. This was the time the Scouts worked on bird feeders and identified different birds by their call alone.

Phil had collected old popcorn containers to use as the bird feeders the Scouts would take home with them.

It was during this time that it appeared that the rain was letting up a little
. With only a couple hours left till parents started appearing, we once again made our way outside for more bird watching. It was during this time that we discovered if the Scout was prepared or not. It started to rain lightly and there were a couple of Scouts (who will remain nameless) who looked a little waterlogged. Even though our trip was cut short we were able to pick up even more birds for the days count.

This group of Scouts were very knowledgeable and eager to participate in all activities. Despite the fact that it was cut short a little by the inclement weather the Scouts were well behaved and obedient. It’s groups of Scouts like these that make this workshop worthwhile and a great success year after year.

The bird list might differ from what the Scouts saw. Phil and myself were at Fernald early and we did a little birding before the Scouts showed up.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. American Kestrel
  2. Red-tailed Hawk
  3. Turkey Vulture
  4. Song Sparrow
  5. Field Sparrow
  6. Savannah Sparrow
  7. Grasshopper Sparrow
  8. White-crowned Sparrow
  9. Chipping Sparrow
  10. Killdeer
  11. Great Blue Heron
  12. Green Heron
  13. Canada Goose
  14. Northern Mockingbird
  15. Common Yellowthroat
  16. Palm Warbler
  17. Yellow-throated Warbler
  18. American Robin
  19. Mourning Dove
  20. Carolina Chickadee
  21. European Starling
  22. Brown-headed Cowbird
  23. Common Grackle
  24. Red-winged Blackbird
  25. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  26. American Coot
  27. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  28. American Goldfinch
  29. Eastern Bluebird
  30. Eastern Kingbird
  31. Mallard
  32. Blue-winged Teal
  33. Mute Swan
  34. Wilson’s Snipe
  35. Lesser Yellowleg
  36. Hooded Merganser
  37. Blue Grosbeak
  38. Tree Swallow
  39. Barn Swallow
  40. Northern Rouogh-winged Swallow
  41. Wood Duck

Spotlight On Ohio Birds

American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla)

Family: Parulidae


Description: 4 1/2 – 51/2″ (11-14 cm)  ADULT MALE Has mostly black upperparts, but with striking orange patches on wings and base of tail. Head, neck, and chest are black, with orange on sides of breast and flanks, and otherwise white underparts. ADULT FEMALE Has greenish gray back, wings, and tail, grayish head, and grayish white underparts; orange elements of male’s plumage are yellow. IMMATURE Similar to adult female, although some (probably females) have only indistinct yellow color on wings and some males show orange tone to color on flanks and side of breast. First-spring females like adult females; first-spring males show some adult feather details. Full adult plumage is acquired with subsequent molt

Voice: Song is a thin, sweet see-see-see-see-shweer; call is a thin chip.

Habitat: Very common summer visitor (present mainly May-Aug) to a wide range of wooded habitats, including mature gardens and secondary woodland; range extends across much of the region. Winters mainly in Central and South America, but a few linger in southern Florida.

Nesting:  1-5 creamy white eggs with dark speckles around the larger end. Nest a tightly woven open cup fitted into branches or fork in tree or shrub. Made of grasses, bark strips, hair, leaves, twigs, or mosses, glued together with spider silk.



  • The American Redstart is not particularly closely related to the Painted Redstart and the other redstart warblers of the Neotropics. They all are similarly patterned and forage in similar ways, flashing their tails and wings to startle insect prey. In other parts of the world other unrelated species of birds look and act similarly, such as the fantails of Australia and southeastern Asia.
  • A young male American Redstart resembles a female in plumage until its second fall. Males in the gray and yellow yearling plumage will try to hold territories and attract mates, singing vigorously. Some succeed in breeding in this plumage, but most do not breed successfully until they are two years old.
  • The male American Redstart occasionally is polygynous, having two mates at the same time. Unlike many other polygynous species of birds that have two females nesting in the same territory, the redstart holds two separate territories up to 500 m (1,640 ft) apart. The male starts to attract a second female after the first has completed her clutch and is incubating the eggs.

Resource material provided by:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology/


Bird Study Merit Badge

Tomorrow 12 fortunate Boy Scouts will be participating in the 4th Annual Bird Study Merit Badge Workshop. Fernald Preserve near Ross Ohio will be our gracious host as they offer us access to their fully equipped conference room located in the visitors center. Yours truly and birding buddy, Merit Badge Counselor, & Eagle Scout, Phil Burgio is our second team member. As with all merit badges, this is an opportunity for the Boy Scout to learn some new skills that could lead to a new career, or a lifetime hobby.

Adventures In “Pishing”

Most birders I know, and I’m sure you know as well, have at one time called upon “pishing” to attract a bird out of that deep tangle of brush. When used discretely this can be a very effective. However when used at an inappropriate time this can cause more harm than good. Today I tried it in a totally different situation than I’m normally accustomed to. At the nursing home my Mother lives in.

I was there today helping her fill out some paperwork and to visit when she needed to be alone by herself. So across the hall is a lounge where up against the wall sits this very large bird enclosure. Sitting about 6 feet tall and that wide across the front this mini bird habitat is too big to be called a cage. There are one of these on each floor of the nursing home and I could just sit and watch this for hours. But only having a few minutes I stood by the side and just watched.

Inside were 5 pair, both male and female of the same species (I think), of these very cute (I’m sure tropical) Finch type birds. They were all very active and vocal as they busied themselves with taking care of their nesting baskets and adjusting the straw, or jumping from branch to branch. So while I’m standing there I moved over to the screened portion of the bird enclosure and ever so softly started to “pish”.

The reaction was incredible! All of a sudden practically all the birds flew to this branch closest to me and started to stare in my direction, and then picked up in their own vocalization. It made me chuckle as I watched how captive birds will still react to “pishing”. Not wanting to irritate them any more I walked out of the room and back to visit with my Mom.

Notes From The Field

Eastwood Lake Metropark

I left work a little early and made my way home to once again pick up my gear to go chasin’ down another good bird. This time it was the aforementioned Pacific Loon sighted at Eastwood Lake Metropark, which is one of the parks in the Five Rivers MetroParks system. It’s not a very large park, nor is the lake anything big. I’m so used to seeing Loons on such large lakes such as Caesar Creek and East Fork, it’s hard to believe someone would find such a great bird here.

I arrived a little after 4 pm after getting lost and asking directions twice before I found the place. And the birders were out in force trying to locate this small Loon. And to make matters worse was the wind once again howling out of the Northwest and causing enough of a chop on the water it was difficult to see anything.

10 minutes after arriving John Habib shows up, so we join forces to re-locate the bird. And we do. But the Loon was actively feeding so it would submerge and reappear after several moments even further away from where we just saw it. And it would play this cat-n-mouse game during the whole time I was there. And with the sun setting the reflection on the water made visualization next to impossible.

So you have very windy conditions, with choppy water, and a setting sun, and I’m trying to take a picture of this bird.  What a fool I am to even try…but I did. And they’re all crappy. So I’ll share them with you now, and please pardon the quality.

This picture is a little more diagnostic with the gray nap on the head and you can barely see the white baring going up the side of the head. A Common Loon would have a white collar around the back of the neck.

We lost sight of the bird and tried in vain for 20 minutes to re-locate it. It was approaching 6 pm and I had to meet up with my youngest for dinner so I had to leave without that stellar photo that I really wanted. Kind of bitter-sweet.

Notes From The Field

Shawnee Lookout & Lost Bridge

Nothing wears me out faster than a 6 plus hour day of birding. But it’s a good kind of tired, and the full list of birds that makes the day complete. The day started bright and early at 7 am as I began my drive towards Shawnee Lookout Park to meet up with both Jon and his wife Samantha. Arriving first at the boat ramp I was given some early time by myself as our newlyweds were running behind from a faulty alarm clock.

Sitting high upon a hill over looking the Ohio River in the far Southwesteren part of Ohio sits (in my humble opinion) the crown jewel of the Hamilton County Park system. With over 1.000 acres to play in, and besides being on of my favorite places to bird, especially this time of year, it’s also one of the farthest. On a good day it will take me an hour for the drive over.

As with most birding trip I normally bring along one of two cameras, however today I had the feeling that birding by ear was going to be the norm, and having Jon along was going to be a big plus. Besides being younger than  myself with those younger ears, he’s also better at identifying bird songs than I am. I’m a fast learner, but my problem is picking out the different song or call amongst all the others, especially if their louder.

Not once did I break out the camera. Birding was difficult with all the trees leafed out, and even though Warblers were plentiful, seeing them was another thing. We heard plenty of Northern Parula, but we only saw a couple. The same could be said about Cerulean Warblers. We heard at least 7, but only got good looks at one. But that’s how you have to bird sometimes.

Our first stop was right in the middle of the road. Jon heard a Blue-winged Warbler. This was one of our target birds for the day and a lifer for Samantha. We pulled in to a parking lot where the Little Turtle Trail started. We unloaded and headed into the woods on this beautifully maintained 2 mile trail. The Blue-winged Warbler has a very high pitched trill that is hard to hear if your not accustomed to it. We were no more than 5 minutes into our hike when we started to here them. Then we saw one. And not just a glimpse, but a real good look as it sang from a branch 10 feet away.

Shawnee Lookout is a prime location for Warblers in the Spring, and we were working hard to pick out as many as we could. Not all came as easy as our first Blue-winged Warbler. A lot of them were by call only, but once you learn the call you become more attuned with your surroundings as you start to pick out the bird calls.

As we continued to move from location to location our day list also grew as well. While Jon was having a couple of Cheese Conies from Skyline for his lunch, I checked out a cut out area where some high electrical towers run across the park. The White-eyed Vireos were very vocal, and seeing one was my mission. They get into these dense tangles of vegetation and sing away just enough to drive you crazy as you try to find them. Satisfied with seeing 2 of the 3 Viroes I clambered down the side of the hill and continued birding with Jon.

Our last hike was the Miami Fort Trail which is situated at the end of the park road. This is Cerulean Warbler country, and while standing in  the parking lot we were able to make out some faint calls. Our decision to head off into the woods paid off when we heard at least 7 different Cerulean Warblers during our 1.7 mile hike. We probably would have heard even more if it wasn’t for some park employees who thought Sunday was a good time to do a little lawn mowing.

We ended the day with a quick drive by of the gravel quarry at the end of Lost Bridge, and found practically nothing. Now I’ve put in long hours of birding before but yesterday was a tiring day. Hiking over 4 miles while birding put a hurtin’ on the body and mind. But it was a good kind of hurtin’.

Notable birds for the day include

  1. Yellow-throated Vireo-FOY
  2. Red-eyed Vireo-FOY
  3. White-eyed Vireo-FOY
  4. Eastern Phoebe
  5. Wood Thrush-FOY
  6. House Wren-FOY
  7. Wood Duck
  8. Blue Jay
  9. Summer Tanager-FOY
  10. Scarlet Tanager-FOY
  11. Eastern Towhee
  12. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  13. American Goldfinch
  14. Song Sparrow
  15. White-throated Sparrow
  16. White-crowned Sparrow
  17. Field Sparrow
  18. Chipping Sparrow
  19. Great-crested Flycatcher-FOY
  20. Carolina Wren
  21. Brown Thrasher
  22. Brown-headed Cowbird
  23. Eastern Bluebird
  24. Indigo Bunting-FOY
  25. Mourning Dove
  26. Common Crow
  27. Killdeer
  28. Great Blue Heron
  29. Tree Swallow
  30. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  31. Barn Swallow
  32. Red-winged Blackbird
  33. Common Grackle
  34. American Robin
  35. White-brested Nuthatch
  36. Carolina Chickadee
  37. Canada Goose
  38. Mallard
  39. Rock Pigeon
  40. Northern Cardinal
  41. Cooper’s Hawk
  42. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  43. Prothonotary Warbler
  44. American Redstart-FOY
  45. Cerulean Warbler-FOY
  46. Common Yellowthroat-FOY
  47. Louisiana Waterthrush
  48. Yellow-throated Warbler
  49. Blue-winged Warbler-FOY
  50. Northern Parula
  51. Black-throated Green Warbler-FOY
  52. Pileated Woodpecker
  53. Northern Flicker
  54. Hairy Woodpecker
  55. Downy Woodpecker
  56. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  57. Caspian Tern-FOY
  58. Turkey Vulture
  59. Black Vulture
  60. Red-tailed Hawk
  61. Broad-winged Hawk
  62. Red-breasted Merganser-FOY

FOY-First of the Year