Notes From The Field

Cincinnati Zoo Farm & Ellis Lake

Spring is truly in the air, and more so this weekend as temperatures reach into the 60’s and the sun warms the air. Daffodils are in bloom, and the inevitable yard work “Job Jar” is overflowing with much needed tasks to be completed.


In preparation of a new mowing season, yard waste needs to be picked up. Sticks by the thousands litter the yard as left over leaves from this last Autumn pile up behind the air conditioning compressor and along the fence line. The compost bins are spilling over and need to be emptied, wheel barrel after wheel barrel load and dumped into the garden. And speaking of the garden, it needs to be tilled. Not just once, but several times to at least to incorporate the arrival of some beautiful compost fresh from the bin. And I’m still not done.

And even with all this excessive outdoor activity I was still able to steal away for a few hours yesterday and get a little birding in while Kathy got her hair done. And not wanting to press my luck by going too far away, my best option was to keep it close and try to keep it as short as possible, which can be difficult considering my past history. Birders do get distracted easily you know.

The Cincinnati Zoo owns this property which has become one of my favorite places to go to now, especially since it’s so close to my home. A large lot with plenty of standing water that will never be developed as long as the zoo owns the property, has been attracting some good birds lately. And I’m in the mood for some wading birds. A large group of volunteers were planting trees all during the time I was there which might contribute to the fact that I never saw any while I was there. However the Wilson’s Snipes were very active and as they foraged along the edge of one of the bigger sky pools.

IMG_2441Getting a picture of these small birds, at a distance isn’t easy. If you look close he’s right in the center of the picture.

Since the property is still closed to the public I was left to walk along the side of the road along the grassy edge and scan the ponds from there. Thankfully if you own a spotting scope this doesn’t become a problem. However if you were just using your bins you might be able to spot the snipe as the blended in well with the vegetation.

IMG_2439FOS Great Egret. This was a real treat to see. I thought it might be a little early to start seeing these large wading birds, however as I got home and added my bird list into eBird it was amongst the list to choose from without going into the “rarities” list.

I walked back to the bird-mobile after about 30 minutes and drove to my next destination, Ellis Lake. Ellis Lake can be a real hot spot and wanting to satisfy my wading bird thirst I was thoroughly disappointed when I started my scan of the flooded field adjacent to the lake.

IMG_2452Now as you look at this picture you might imagine all sorts of Spotted Sandpipers, Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpipers and the like having a great old time feeding in such a wonderful place. Nope, you’d be fooling yourself. Other than a few Killdeer and a lonely looking pair of Mallards swimming in one of the larger pools, there was nothing in terms of wading birds. So I took some pictures instead.

IMG_2442I wish I had gotten this picture of a Red-winged Black Bird focused crisper, it was a great close-up.

There were both Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal present and here is my attempts at capturing these two species without scaring them off. The Blue-winged Teal were feeding amongst the reeds and always had their heads down in the water. The Green-winged Teal were far away and I was having some issues with focusing. How can something so easy, be so difficult.

IMG_2445Blue-winged Teal

IMG_2450Green-winged Teal

It was a joy just to be outdoors yesterday. Even though my target birds weren’t around I’m confident that it’s only a matter of time before they show up in mass. With both of these location in such close proximity to where I live a weekly, or even bi-weekly visit isn’t out of the question. They have such great habitat for some of my favorite birds.

Notable birds for the morning include:

  1. Eastern Bluebird
  2. Eastern Meadowlark
  3. Red-winged Black Bird
  4. Killdeer
  5. Wilson’s Snipe
  6. Great Egret
  7. Great Blue Heron
  8. American Robin
  9. Song Sparrow
  10. Tree Swallow
  11. Canada Goose
  12. Mallard
  13. Northern Shoveler
  14. Wood Duck
  15. Blue-winged Teal
  16. Green-winged Teal
  17. Mourning Dove
  18. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  19. Turkey Vulture
  20. Red-tailed Hawk
  21. American Kestrel

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