Notes From The Field

Mehldahl Dam, Crooked Run Nature Preserve, East Fork State Park

I was really looking forward to going birding this Sunday because finally I was able to get Jon and John together, and as a group go over some of the details for our Michigan birding adventure for this upcoming Winter. We can blame Hurricane Sandy for throwing a monkey wrench into the works and cancelling John’s flight on Monday so he had to depart on Sunday. We are closer to finalizing the trip, just a few loose ends that need to be taken care, and no better way to do that than do a little birding. Oh well, there’s always next time.

The plan was to meet over at the Jungle Jim’s at Eastgate and then drive together to Mehldahl Dam. Never having been there before I was kind of anxious to see what the place was like. According to Jon the area surrounding from the dam can be either very busy, or a bust.

The drive over was looooooooong, I can see why not too many people bird over here. Don’t take this the wrong way, it’s just that there’s not too many fast ways to get here. It was a very nice drive, and the company was enjoyable, however…

Savannah Sparrows and Bluebirds and a lone Red-headed Woodpecker greeted us as we entered the complex. After gathering our gear and walking towards a rise that overlooked the dam on the upstream side, we set up our scopes and started to scan the area. Not too many birds out into the river, however there were quite a few gull species and D.C. Cormorants, and a few smaller size duck shaped birds on the Kentucky bank.

The morning was bright as the Sun burned off the last of the morning fog and with just a bit of a haze as you looked towards Kentucky I caught sight of a large gull with a black back. Getting Jon on the bird we studied it for several minutes, referring to the field guide just to make sure what we were looking at was exactly what we were looking at. Conclusion, Lesser Black-back Gull. A very nice bird for Kentucky. The longer we stood there more and more birds started to catch our eye. Soon a group of Horned Grebes of 3 or 4 were spotted and with it was a larger bird, much like a Grebe, but not like a Loon. Red-throated Grebe. Another very nice bird for Kentucky. I’m beginning to like this Mehldahl Dam after all, and the drive might be worth it if we keep seeing great birds like this.

Crooked Run Nature Preserve was our next stop, and being only a few miles down the road it was worth not passing it up. There really wasn’t too much on the river and the trail that lead through a large grassy area with a small pond yielded a ton of Field, Swamp and Song Sparrows.

As the morning wore on our last stop was East Fork State Park. Neither of us are very familiar with the park and for myself the only time I was there for birding, I was at the beach. So finding other venues to scope out the lake, other than the beach was pretty futile so we stuck with the beach.

Lots of Gulls, and hardly a breeze to kick up the lake. And speaking of Gulls, Gulls can be pretty tricky when it comes to making a good ID. You see it takes several years for a Gull to mature into what you may see in a typical field guide. And trying to determine what type of Gull you’re looking at when it’s not an adult can be a daunting task trying the patience of many a good birder. Such was the case as we pulled in an set our sights on a rather darkish Gull. Even after it landed it took a few minutes to make the proper ID.

juvenile Herring Gull

I like this close-up of a Ring-billed Gull

And there were plenty of Bonaparte’s Gulls to go around.

East Fork didn’t have as many birds as we had hoped for. We did spend our time doing a lot of scanning of the water in hopes of anything unusual. Not being as familiar with the lake and the surrounding roads we were at a bit of a disadvantage. It would have been nice to do a little bit of exploring to get a better lay of the lake, but alas that will have to wait till another time.

It was a swell day of birding with Jon and Jason, and I apologize again Jason for calling you Justin. I’m blaming the time change for screwing up my internal clock. And to top it off Jason came away with I think 2 life birds. Sweet!

Notable birds for the day include

  1. Bald Eagle
  2. Double-crested Cormorant
  3. Herring Gull
  4. Ring-billed Gull
  5. Bonaparte’s Gull
  6. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  7. Pied-billed Grebe
  8. Horned Grebe
  9. Red-necked Grebe
  10. Common Crow
  11. Brown-headed Cowbird
  12. Red-winged Black Bird
  13. American Goldfinch
  14. Eastern Bluebird
  15. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  16. Red-headed Woodpecker
  17. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  18. Blue Jay
  19. Northern Cardinal
  20. Tufted Titmouse
  21. Carolina Chickadee
  22. Carolina Wren
  23. Turkey Vulture
  24. Song Sparrow
  25. Swamp Sparrow
  26. Field Sparrow
  27. White-crowned Sparrow
  28. Mallard
  29. Ring-necked Duck
  30. American Coot
  31. Killdeer
  32. Mourning Dove
  33. Canada Goose
  34. Ruddy Duck
  35. Red-tailed Hawk
  36. Common Grackle

3 responses to “Notes From The Field

  1. Nice finds! About East Fork- there is a road just west of the beach that leads to the dam area. This area can be great for ducks, loons and grebes. It has also had recent confirmed sightings of Snow Buntings there on the rocks.

  2. I am a beginning birder and horseperson who rides East Fork a lot. I’d love to take you in to some great spots over looking the lake if you’d like. On my last ride I saw a red headed woodpecker, a bald eagle, and I’m fairly sure, a Sand Hill Crane. I’d love to learn from you!

    • Amber I think that would be great, and I’m usually free on weekends, except this one, however are you talking about birding from horse back? I’ve never done that before, nor would I know how that would work when birding requires being stealthy and quiet especially when walk through the woods. Sometimes all you hear is the faintest call note or movement that might be missed if on horse back. I can’t totally disregard the idea of horse back riding but when I go birding sometimes I do carry more than a pair of binoculars. What exactly do you have in mind? Here’s my e-mail address-
      Feel free to send me an e-mail.

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