Monthly Archives: August 2012

A Birder’s Haiku

Dedicated to birder, as we start our week.

Two paths circling

crisscrossing Red-tails

in sky blue contrast

Your Birding Dollars

As we all feel the pinch of a struggling economy our precious money can be difficult to pry out of our hot little hands. And when it comes to the money we spend on our favorite pastime most birders spend most of our disposable cash of gas. Followed in a close second by optics. So when it came time to make a decision on whether to join a birding related organization the decision has been pretty simple for the past few years. The answer has always been, maybe later when our finances are in better shape (especially with 2 in college).

So which organization to join, which there are several out there willing to separate you from you money? We have the “American Birding Association“, “The American Ornithologists’ Union“, and “The Audubon Society” on a National level, to name a few. Then you have some of the local type organizations which need everyone’s support such as “Black Swamp Bird Observatory” the “Cincinnati Bird Club“, and the “Kentucky Ornithological Society“. However the one I choose was “The Ohio Ornithological Society“.

There’s a couple of reasons why, and the one that convinced me was the network of birders that covers the state, whether it’s through their updates on social media sites like “Birding Ohio” on Facebook, or it’s sponsored field trips, or it’s Annual Conference.

Even though the yearly dues won’t break the bank, I feel I made the right decision in choosing the O.O.S.  After a year we’ll re-evaluate how it went and whether I renew or not. I’m hoping for a good experience. So if you’re thinking about joining a birding organization, do a little homework and see what fits for you and your budget. Just like buying a new pair of bins.

Notes From the Field

Boone Conservancy Park

Before I begin this post, a disclaimer. The following pictures are not mine, however to show you the beauty of this species of birds I had to borrow them from other places. Believe me I tried, but they were so far away.

There are plenty of beautiful birds in the world, however the one at the top of my list is so striking in color, graceful in flight, and built for speed I can’t help but love this bird. If you remember my first, as brief as it was, encounter with a Swallow-tailed Kite was while vacationing at Epcot I spotted the bird circling over the lagoon at the park. As brief as that glimpse was I knew that was a special bird. And being in Florida it isn’t uncommon to find Swallow-tailed Kites, however…

Yesterday I read a post from some area birders who spotted a pair of Swallow-tailed Kites in Boone County near the Boone Conservancy Park on Ky. Route 18. Later that evening Brian Wulker, a very talented young birder confirmed the sighting by visiting the park in the late afternoon. This is an unbelievable find. This is their range map I copied off “All About Birds”.

As you can see they don’t come up here in our part of the country too often. So I text Jon Frodge to see if he would be up for a chase after work today, and of course he was. So I left work at my normal time and made my way home to pick up all my gear and then out on the highway for the long drive over.

I arrived at the park at 5:00 pm and set up my spotting scope and started to scan the horizon in the direction that Brain said he saw the birds. After 10 minutes I spotted my first one. Then a few minutes later I spotted the second one. This is too good to be true. For the next 15 minutes I watched as they soared and dived together, hardly flapping their wings as they used their long, forked tail as a rudder. They were difficult to keep track of as they flew behind trees only to return to view someplace else. But there is no mistaking them as they come into view and show us their good side. When you see one of these birds from below, you will never forget what you’re looking at.

I watched these 2 Kites for almost 2 hours, never getting tired of their beauty. I was joined by others with the same desire and we decided to move our location to what we hoped was a better spot for viewing. We traveled down Ky. 18 for a few more miles till we pulled off to the side of the road. The Ohio River valley opened up before us with fertile farm land and rolling hills all around where raptors and vultures soared. And amongst them all were the 2 Kites. We were closer but not close enough for taking pictures. After a while Jon showed up from work and we were able to put him on the birds. They’re his favorites as well. This day was a sheer joy.

Notable birds for the afternoon include:

  1. Swallow-tailed Kites
  2. Red-shouldered hawk
  3. Red-tailed Hawk
  4. Broad-winged Hawk
  5. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  6. Black Vulture
  7. Turkey Vuture
  8. Common Crow
  9. Barn Swallow
  10. Bald Eagle

Notes From The Field

Lever Park, Caesar Creek & Cowan Lake State Park

There are certain unwritten rules that state that men don’t attend bridal showers. Such was the case this last Saturday when our house was the location for my daughter’s upcoming wedding. And how convenient it was that the Ohio Ornithological Society was hosting “Kite Day” at Lever Park in Loveland the same day. As for me the choice was simple as to what I was doing for the day, however my 2 sons were on their own. The only males left in the house were the cat and dog, and the cat hide and the dog was smart and stayed outdoors for the duration.

I left for Lever Park earlier than the time the official event was to start in hopes of catching them roosting. Their were a number of people there already, mostly locals, and of course the Mississippi Kites. The weather was perfect, with blue sky and the sun behind our backs so the Kites were being bathed in bright, morning light.

As shutters were flying on cameras, and the crowd started to pick up in numbers the Kites shifted to offer better views.

I wish I could put all the pictures I took on this blog, however since space is limited, and i have so many more posts to write till the end of the year, I’m just going to stick with these 3.

As the morning wore on the Kites grew restless and took off, never to return to their perch. I stayed for a few minutes talking to some folks and scanning the sky for the Kites. The chatter of a Carolina Wren singing from the post of a deck drew my attention and my camera.

My next stop was Mounds Road access to Caesar Creek. This is my third attempt to photograph the Osprey that has been hanging out in this backwater area. I was being extra careful not to make any noise that would spook the Osprey if it was there. Well I spooked it again, as I watched it fly away never to return.

The mud flats were pretty quiet with not as much activity except for a man and woman wading in the lake with the water up to their chests. No wonder there was hardly any bird activity with these 2 chasing everything off.  The Little Blue Herons left, and only one Great Blue Heron, which is pretty unusual. I guess they don’t like humans intruding in on their feeding grounds.

So I left.

My next stop was a backwater section of Cowan Lake which you can get a pretty good view from the Lotus Grove Nature Trail. A nice walk through the woods will do a world of good for anyone, especially me after seeing those people wading out into Caesar Creek Lake.

It took only about 20 minutes to get to the lake and to look over a sea of Lotus plants choking the whole end of the  lake. A small channel was open for small boats, and with the trees no good views were offered. I was able to PISH out a Swamp Sparrow that looked at me with annoyance before settling back down into the cattails and reeds that extended along the bank of the lake.

Time to hike out and leave. I wanted to get home and at least visit with some of my relatives who came down from Columbus for the shower.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Mississippi Kite
  2. Osprey
  3. Great Blue Heron
  4. Green Heron
  5. Belted Kingfisher
  6. Pectoral Sandpiper
  7. Spotted Sandpiper
  8. Least Sandpiper
  9. Solitary Sandpiper
  10. Killdeer
  11. Song Sparrow
  12. Swamp Sparrow
  13. Indigo Bunting
  14. Gray catbird
  15. Eastern Towhee
  16. Downy Woodpecker
  17. Northern Cardinal
  18. Tufted Titmouse
  19. Carolina Chickadee
  20. Carolina wren
  21. Turkey Vulture
  22. Common Crow
  23. White-breasted Nuthatch
  24. Blue Jay

Spotlight On Ohio Birds

Willet-Catoptrophorus semipalmatus

Family: Scolopacidae

Order: Charadriiformes

Description: 15″ (38cm)  ADULT In breeding season is gray-brown overall, but heavily streaked on head and neck, and with dark scallops on lower neck, chest, and flanks. In winter, looks rather uniformly pale gray-brown, palest on underparts. JUVENILE Similar to winter adult, but back and upper wing coverts are washed and spotted yellow-buff with pale spots.

Voice: In springtime, the Willet’s signature pill-will-willet call rings out over its breeding territory in the morning and evening, with competing males calling throughout the day. Eastern Willets give a slightly higher-pitched, more rapidly repeated version of the song than Western birds.    When chicks are present, Willets respond to predators with a single-note staccato kleep, and high-pitched alarm calls, and take up sentry posts atop tall trees to warn of threats. They make a kyah-yah call when crossing another’s territory or as a way to maintain contact during migratory flights and when shuttling between foraging and breeding areas. When approached, Willets may react with high-pitched, agitated kip-kip-kip, wiek, and kreeliii alarm calls.

Habitat: Locally common, nesting beside marshes and wintering on coastal beaches. Represented in eastern North America by ssp. semipalmatus, which is darker (notably in breeding season) than its western counterpart.

Nesting: Clutch size is 4 greenish or brownish eggs with bold, dark brown irregular spots. The male Willet initiates nest building by scraping out a small depression with his feet and breast in the grass, on beach sand, or on bare ground. If nesting in grass, the female then pulls in surrounding vegetation to hide the nest site, lining the grass nest cup with finer grasses and pebbles. If built on bare ground, the birds bring grass from a distance to line the scrape. The finished nest is just over 6 inches across and 2 inches deep.  Western birds nest inland on the ground along pond edges and other seasonal wetlands, or on raised sites near water, often in native grasslands. In the Great Basin, nests are often built at the edge of sagebrush near ponds. In the East, Willets nest in cordgrass, saltgrass, and beachgrass near saltmarshes and on sand dunes, and on bare ground or in short vegetation sheltered by barrier dunes. A pair searches for nest sites together, typically with the male leading the female through the habitat and making trial scrapes for the female to evaluate.

Range:


FYI’s:

  • Willets breeding in the interior of the West differ from the Atlantic Coastal form in ecology, shape, and subtly in calls. Western Willets breed in freshwater habitats, and are slightly larger and paler gray. Eastern Willets have stouter bills and more barring on their chest and back. The difference in pitch between the calls of the two subspecies is very difficult for a person to detect, but the birds can hear the difference and respond more strongly to recorded calls of their own type.
  • Although both parents incubate the eggs, only the male Willet spends the night on the nest.
  • Willets and other shorebirds were once a popular food. In 1871, John James Audubon wrote that the eggs were tasty and the young “grow rapidly, become fat and juicy, and by the time they are able to fly, afford excellent food.” By the early 1900s, Willets had almost vanished north of Virginia. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 banned market hunting and marked the start of the Willet’s comeback.
  • Like Killdeer, Willets will pretend to be disabled by a broken wing in order to draw attention to themselves and lure predators away from their eggs or chicks.
  • Because they find prey using the sensitive tips of their bills, and not just eyesight, Willets can feed both during the day and at night.

Resource material provided by:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology/ http://www.allaboutbirds.com

http://www.enature.com

Notes From The field, part 2

Lever Park

After successfully spotting the Mississippi Kite soaring on the thermals over Loveland yesterday, I felt pretty content with myself, despite the fact I didn’t get a pictures. So I left and went home and had some dinner with the boys. Following dinner and clean-up I checked the Cincinnatibirds web site to see if anything else was said about the Kites. Well it seems that all 3 landed in a tree right next to Lever Park offering great views. Joe Kappa wrote “Who needs a scope”. Well that says to me that their pretty close, and I’m burning daylight if I’m to get any pictures.

Well I took over 40 pictures (I love this part of digital photography) amongst a sizable group of  prepubescent boys and girls who were rather put out by a group of birders invading there skate board area. Actually we were on the grass right next to them, not on the skate board play ground. Brain Wulker said to the group gathered that he had never birded in a skate board park before. Well, neither had I till last night. But the results were spectacular.