Notes From The Field

Boone County Cliffs State Nature Preserve

Boone County Cliffs is a place that I’d love to live close to. After getting off the Interstate and passing through Burlington Kentucky on Route 18 the scenery starts to change from just another urban landscape to what you might find down at Red River Gorge, just on a smaller scale. Before Kentucky 18 ends at the Ohio River you turn on Middle Creek Road, then the fun begins. You’re greeted by Acadian Flycatchers and Eastern Wood Pewees as you pass older and newer homes. Farms dot this narrow road which in itself would be great to walk just to see all the different birds along the way.

Today I’m joined by Jon and his wife Samantha for what will be a great day in the woods. Louisiana Waterthrush are singing as soon as we enter into the forest which has a small stream run along side the trail. We start our ascent up through dense ground cover on both sides of the trail while the Sun forces light through the green canopy. At 8 am you’d need a flash to take a picture.

One of our target birds for the day are Worm-eating Warblers, which this place is famous for. If you can see them. It was n o more than 15 minutes into our hike when we heard a “chip” call note which could be a Warbler. 2 years ago Phil and myself had good looks at a Worm-eating Warbler in the same area Jon and I are in now. So we cheated a little and I pulled out my I-Pod and played a recording of a Worm-eating Warbler. The reaction was almost instant as one starting to call right away, and very close. Then it flew right over our heads as it sang and sang. The only other bird that reacted to a recording like this was a Prothonotary Warbler. So not wanting to piss it off any more we left the area and climbed even higher towards the ridge as Scarlet Tanagers, Baltimore Orioles and the Worm-eating Warbler calling all around us.

  As you reach the top of the ridge you really can understand how this place got it’s name. In certain places it’s quite a drop to the valley below and staying on the trail is highly recommended.

A terrible shot of a Great-crested Flycatcher. It turned it’s head at the last second.

The trail undulates along as it follows the ridge top and the undergrowth opens up a little. This is prime habitat for Kentucky and Hooded Warblers. 2 more target birds that we were successful in finding today.

Birding by ear is definitely the only way to go here as Jon and Samantha listen, and watch for movement.

This park is so out of the way we came across only one other couple walking their dog. And it’s not too far of a drive, only 40 minutes from Jon and Samantha’s house in Maderia. However, when you get into the middle of the park the feeling of isolation and being hours from anywhere is omnipresent. It’s wondeful.

Don’t they have ferns like this for sale at Kroger’s for $15.00 a hanging basket?

For the next 3 hours we walked and paused to listen to the sounds of the forest and feel the tension leave the body and soul. Conversation was light and bird related mostly, intermixed with plans for upcoming trips and vegetable gardens. And for the second straight year we were able to locate 2 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, which we think are nesting in the park, and kind of unusual for this time of year.

As the trail started to descend towards the road we needed to pay more attention to the trail than the trees. It was at this point that last year Jon and myself got caught up in some heavy rain, which in turn turned the trail into a small stream. And when that happens the erosion really shows and footing can become tricky. So not wanting to twist and ankle or worse, we kept our heads down as we made our way back to the truck. It was 11:00 am and time to leave, but not until we picked up a couple of Yellow-breasted Chats singing near the high-tension wires that run through the area.

Great day, with great birds, with great friends.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Eastern Wood Pewee
  2. Eastern Phoebe
  3. Great-creasted Flycatcher
  4. Acadian Flycatcher
  5. Scarlet Tanager
  6. Summer Tanager
  7. Wood Thrush
  8. American Robin
  9. Eastern Kingbird
  10. Carolina Wren
  11. House Wren
  12. House Finch
  13. House Sparrow
  14. American Goldfinch
  15. Field Sparrow
  16. Song Sparrow
  17. Chipping Sparrow
  18. Hairy Woodpecker
  19. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  20. Northern Flicker
  21. Pileated Woodpecker
  22. Baltimore Oriole
  23. Orchard Oriole
  24. White-eyed Vireo
  25. Red-eyed Vireo
  26. Eastern Bluebird
  27. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  28. Mourning Dove
  29. Northern Cardinal
  30. American Crow
  31. Brown-headed Cowbird
  32. Blue Jay
  33. Eastern Towhee
  34. White-breasted Nuthatch
  35. Tufted Titmouse
  36. Carolina Chickadee
  37. Wild Turkey
  38. Turkey Vulture
  39. Red-tailed Hawk
  40. Purple Martin
  41. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  42. Black-billed Cuckoo
  43. Common Yellowthroat
  44. Louisiana Waterthrush
  45. Hooded Warbler
  46. Worm-eating Warbler
  47. Kentucky Warbler
  48. Northern Parula
  49. Yellow-breasted Chat
  50. Gray Catbird
  51. Red-winged Blackbird
  52. Indigo Bunting
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2 responses to “Notes From The Field

  1. Beautiful scenery; thank you.

  2. Pingback: Bird Brief | A Birder's Notebook

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