Notes From The Field

Cowan Lake State Park

Last year about this time I joined the “Cincinnati Birders Meetup Group“, a community based group of like minded people who use the internet to create a web page where activities and outings are promoted and conducted. Pictures can be downloaded, and topics can be discussed through a conventional message board. The group I joined has has all different skill levels in regards to birding, so it’s fun to see new people see their first life bird, or to share birding experiences. Unfortunately the organizer of our group was attending grad school and was a single mother on top of it all, so she had to quit the group leaving doubt as to whether the group would exist or not. They needed an organizer and I didn’t feel like taking on the job. Even though the group was a lot of fun and there were some great people involved, I don’t necessarily need a “group” to go birding.

So I left the group and never gave it another thought till last weekend when I meet Gene Dennis. We birded together with the group prior to me leaving, so it came as a surprise that the group was resurrected, and now has multiple organizers. So he invited me back, and yesterday was my first trip with the group since my return. The individual who organized the trip is also from Maineville, my home town, and we were going to Cowan Lake State Park for some morning birding.

We were to meet at the beach parking lot at 9:00 am, and with the rain we had early in the morning it came as no surprise to see that the expected 13 people who signed up was reduced by half. Which is OK by me. Sometimes when you have a larger group it’s difficult to hear the birds.

The goal for the day was to drive to multiple locations and scope out the lake as much as possible from the limited amount of vantage points you have when driving a car. So naturally we started at the beach on the southern edge of the lake and worked our way towards the east where the park has boat slips set up. And at this location, which I think is one of the best, the lake gets shallower, with more cover for ducks to hide in. This year Cowan Lake had the best waterfowl activity in the area overall during the course of the winter. Usually Caesar Creek is better, but not this year.

IMG_2413Now one might say that the Mallard was the dominate species on the lake yesterday. And I would have to agree, however Lesser Scaup and Ruddy Ducks would probably come in a close 2nd and 3rd.

The rest of the day was spent driving from location to location all around the lake region adding birds to the total day count. And as we traveled together we really started to get along as friends would, with a common bond of birding. Now don’t get this wrong, I’m not devoting my entire free time birding with my Meetup Group, (which isn’t a bad idea) however since this is more of a local group, and we all know how much a like taking road trips, this group might not go along for such ideas except a few. So for now we’ll keep it simple and go on an occasional field trip with them and participate as much as I can.

IMG_2412The problem I find when trying to take a picture of any waterfowl that likes to dive is trying to get a focused picture while the bird is surfaced. It may be blurry but we know that it’s a Horned Grebe.

We ended the day with a nice muddy hike through the woods to a place which offers some great views to shallow east end of the lake. Where the ducks like to hang out. As you enter the woods you’re greeted with the song of the Eastern Towhee, Northern Cardinal, and with glimpses of Kinglets and Butter-Butts. Even with our small group we were able to spook a majority of the Northern Pintails, and both Teal species. A fly-by of a mature Bald Eagle made the day complete.

IMG_2417You know when Spring is in the air when the Red-shouldered Hawks start to eat snakes.

So will I make the next outing organized by my Meetup Group? Probably not, since it’s at the Cincinnati Nature Center, and if you’re not a member it’s $8.00 dollars to get in. I know a thousand places where it’s free and probably take advantage of those before I drop 8 bucks. However this trip to Cowan Lake was a new start, with new friends, with a new group, with the new leadership that I hope helps the group grow.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Bald Eagle
  2. Turkey Vulture
  3. Black Vulture
  4. Red-tailed Hawk
  5. Red-shouldered Hawk
  6. American Kestrel
  7. Cooper’s Hawk
  8. Common Crow
  9. Mourning Dove
  10. Rock Dove
  11. Northern Mockingbird
  12. Pileated Woodpecker
  13. Downy Woodpecker
  14. Hairy Woodpecker
  15. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  16. Red-headed Woodpecker
  17. Tufted Titmouse
  18. Carolina Chickadee
  19. Carolina Wren
  20. Eastern Towhee
  21. Northern Cardinal
  22. Eastern Bluebird
  23. White-breasted Nuthatch
  24. Eastern Phoebe
  25. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  26. American Robin
  27. Blue Jay
  28. Red-winged Blackbird
  29. Brown-headed Cowbird
  30. Common Grackle
  31. Killdeer
  32. Tree Swallow
  33. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  34. Eastern Meadowlark
  35. White-throated Sparrow
  36. American Tree Sparrow
  37. Song Sparrow
  38. Belted Kingfisher
  39. Northern Shoveler
  40. Common Coot
  41. Northern Pintail
  42. Lesser Scaup
  43. Bufflehead
  44. Hooded Merganser
  45. Red-breasted Merganser
  46. Horned Grebe
  47. Wood Duck
  48. Ruddy Duck
  49. Ring-billed Gull
  50. Ring-necked Duck
  51. Canada Goose
  52. Gadwall
  53. Blue-winged Teal
  54. Green-winged Teal
  55. American Wigeon
  56. Great Blue Heron
  57. Mallard
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