Notes From The Field

Caesar Creek State Park, Cowan Lake State Park, Spring Valley Wildlife Area

As I set out from the house at 9:00 am this morning with light snow flurries blowing I recalled the last time I went birding. It’s bee 2 weeks since I set bins to eyes and it was about time I went out. But first things first, the bird mobile had to have an oil change. This was kind of like your child’s first haircut, except this time it was my brand new car getting it’s first oil change. So as I left it in the hands of competent mechanics I strolled the Loveland Bike Trail and did some early birding while I waited. It was a cold morning and only a few birds were kicked up during my 30 minute walk, so it was back to the garage, paying the mechanic, then the long driver towards Wilmington. My first stop was to be the one small lake just on the other side of Wilmington which held so many waterfowl that one time. I was hoping that the ice had melted and opened up the water.

But before I headed north to Wilmington I make a quick stop at Lake Isabella to see if the Great Horned Owl was still in it’s nesting can like years past. This is one spot where you can almost always rely on a Great Horned Owl to be this time of year, and this year was no different.

IMG_2361And this is how I usually see it, just the top of it’s head.

Since I was here I made my way over to the lake where scores of fisherman were and scanned the lake. Hooded Mergansers were all I saw.

IMG_2365Hooded Merganser

45 minutes later I pulled into the miniature golf course and wasn’t at all pleased with what I saw. Practically nothing. A few Coots and Mallards was all I found. Well the day was young and Caesar Creek was just down the road. This winter Caesar Creek has been pretty devoid of good waterfowl and now that migration was starting to reverse itself I was hoping that my luck would improve. My first stop was to be the boat ramp at the campground. From this vantage point a large section of the northern portion of the lake. With the campgrounds closed for the season there was no one in sight as I drove through to the boat ramp right up to the waters edge. As I pulled up I noticed just one small black dot floating on the water directly out from where I was standing. Leveling my spotting scope on it, it turns out to be a lone Red-breasted Merganser.


After leaving the camp grounds I wanted to make my way to the parking lot that the park made at the end of Ward Road. The parking lot has a trail head where after about a 10 minute hike you’re on a bluff overlooking the lake with some spectacular views. The walk in was uneventful with hardly any bird activity to speak of, however I was hoping to see more when I reached this one point on the trail that had the best view. As the trail climbed, so did the wind. By the time I reached where I wanted to be the wind was howling making an already cold day even colder. Then to top it off no birds except a few Canada Geese on the down wind side of an island. Well it was a nice hike all the same, as I started my way back to the bird mobile.

Spring Valley was about a 20 minutes drive away so I made my way over there to see if my luck would change. As I made my way over to Spring Valley I came to the realization that I’ve done more driving than birding. Most of the big lakes just didn’t have anything on them, which in turn made for a short visits. Stop-n-go, in  and out, extend then collapse the legs on the tripod, that’s all I’ve been doing. And Spring Valley was no better when it came to birds, hardly anything.

It was already after 1:00 pm and I was hungry, and with Waynesville right on the way I made a quick pit stop to re-fuel myself before I let out one last time to Cowan Lake, my last stop for the day. After picking up some lunch I was making my way towards Cowan Lake when I passed this old corn field and noticed several large dark shapes foraging in the field. Wild Turkeys. Wild Turkeys are very common in this part of the state so spotting them was no surprise, however I got this wild hair where I wanted to try for a picture. It just so happens there was a turn off where this abandoned out building sat next to the field where the Turkeys were feeding. They sensed my presence and started to move further away. I stayed low as I got out of the car and went around back to open the hatch to retrieve my scope and camera. Even though I got several shots off, most of them were blurry from them moving, however I did manage to snap of this one of a Tom who seemed to be keeping an eye on me, just to make sure I wasn’t a threat to his girls.

IMG_2376Wild Turkey

The drive to Cowan Lake was another long one and with the recent sightings of some decent ducks, hopefully I can spend some quality time actually birding. I like Cowan Lake because it’s not too big and with a good spotting scope you have the ability to see across without too much trouble. There is one area by the lake where you can park and walk right to the edge and this was where I was heading. Much to my delight as I pulled over and got out of the car was the sight of ducks. Lots of them. Why didn’t I come here first. I slowly made my way towards the far end of the lake where it gets shallow and winds it’s way back into a marshy area.

IMG_3723Hundreds of ducks and geese were packed into this area. I know you can’t see it on this picture, but take my word for it, they were there.

The rest of my visit was spent here going back and forth with my spotting scope making sure I saw everything that floated. It was a good day despite the cold and wind.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Carolina Wren
  2. Northern Cardinal
  3. Carolina Chickadee
  4. Tufted Titmouose
  5. American Goldfinch
  6. House Sparrow
  7. White-throated Sparrow
  8. American Robin
  9. Blue Jay
  10. Dark-eyed Junco
  11. Mourning Dove
  12. Downy Woodpecker
  13. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  14. Turkey Vulture
  15. Black Vulture
  16. Red-tailed hawk
  17. Red-shouldered hawk
  18. American Kestrel
  19. Great Horned Owl
  20. American Crow
  21. Mallard American Coot
  22. Ring-billed Gull
  23. Killdeer
  24. Canada Goose
  25. Red-breasted Merganser
  26. Hooded Merganser
  27. Eastern Bluebird
  28. White-breasted nuthatch
  29. Wild Turkey
  30. Pigeon
  31. Horned Grebe
  32. Mute Swan
  33. Northern Shoveler
  34. Ruddy Duck
  35. Lesser Scaup
  36. Gadwall
  37. Northern Pintail
  38. American Wigeon
  39. Bufflehead

One response to “Notes From The Field

  1. I was wondering what that was! Never guessed it was an owl. Great post

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