Across the street from Ellis Lake
I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve birded over in the Ellis Lake/ West Chester Wetlands area. So when I read the posting from Brian Wulker on the Cincinnatibirds sightings log that he was told of a vacant lot across the road from Ellis Lake that held some good birds I started to get that twitch. And a couple of the birds mentioned in Brian’s post were Dickcissels and Lark Sparrows. Both on my “need to get for the year” list.
I “Google Mapped” the location to refresh my memory before going. The lot sits in an area where large warehouse buildings dot both sides of Union Centre Blvd. As I turned into the drive and up a small rise in the road you wouldn’t expect this lot to hold such good birds. You can’t actually see the entire field from the road. It’s not till you make the turn into the driveway for this local business till you get the full extent of the size.
This shot is looking Southwest. You can see how there is a steep embankment that runs behind the building just behind me. This area was full of Dickcissels singing. In the middle of the picture you can see how the gravel shows through the green underegrowth. That’s where I saw and heard the Lark Sparrows
Dickcissel (Spiza americana) with it’s familiar yellow eye brow were abundant and very vocal. They perch on the tops of trees, bushes, or any other vegetation as they sing. This makes them pretty easy to spot in an open field such as this.
However the real star for the day were the Lark Sparrows. Chondestes grammacus is a big Sparrow at 6 1/2 inches with quail-like head markings with a single dark central breast spot. This Sparrow is like no other that it’s the sole member of it’s genus. Range maps differ as to it’s breeding range, but we seem to be in it’s far eastern range. According to Ebird it’s considered a rarity for these parts.
I started to hear them as soon as I pulled up and parked. Hearing them is one thing, finding them is another. They blend in so well with the undergrowth and the gravel that makes up the majority of this field. I waited and listened patiently as I noticed one just briefly scurrying along the edge where the exposed gravel meets the tall grasses. I’m getting excited now with this glimpse, so I start to pay closer attention to this area. Out of the corner of my eye I notice a LBJ fly to my left and land behind me to my left. The bird landed on the concrete curb of the parking lot and started to sing the Lark Sparrow song.There he was, out in the open, a beautiful male posing for me, and my spotting scope and camera 20 feet away. Walking back slowly so not to startle the bird, I attached the camera and got some pretty good pictures before it flew back into the field.
It was an hour well spent. Notable birds for the day include:
- Red-tailed Hawk
- Sharp-shinned Hawk
- Turkey Vulture
- Lark Sparrow
- Song Sparrow
- Chipping Sparrw
- Field Sparrow
- Red-winged Blackbird
- Northern Rough-winged Swallow
- Barn Swallow
- Chimney Swift
- Willow Flycatcher
- Northern Mockingbird
- Indigo Bunting
- Common Yellowthroat
- Horned lark