Notes From The Field

Bellevue Bottoms, Boone County Cliffs, The Oxbow, Lost Bridge, Smith Tract County Park

It was an early morning risin’ as I set off from my local UDF with coffee in hand towards Jon’s house. Today’s destination is our yearly trip to Boone County Cliffs, which is the biggest 78 acre park I’ve ever visited. But first we’re passing the turn off to the “cliffs” and heading towards a couple of dead end roads which recently has had some good bird reports. Especially Henslow Sparrows and Northern Bobwhites. We’re traveling to an area of Boone County Kentucky that is called Bellevue Bottoms. With it’s close proximity to the Ohio River and Aurora Indiana this part of the tri-state is new to me and has so much potential for some good birding in the future.

I’m assuming at one time these 2 roads (Horsley Ferry and Aurora Ferry Roads) had serviceable ferries that crossed the river, and being dead end there wasn’t too much traffic and walking on the road wasn’t an issue. Northern Bobwhite, Bank Swallow, Yellow-breasted Chat, Orioles, Eastern Kingbird, and Vireos were some of the more numerous species seen. After leaving this beautiful rural setting it was off to Boone County Cliffs.

As we turned onto Middleboro Road we are greeted with a singing Eastern Phoebe perched on a bridge post. And as was the case for the day no camera within reach. So I opted to leave it behind today and just focus on the birds. Sometimes when I go birding I focus too much on getting a decent picture of the bird than concentrating on what’s important, the actual bird. Then when I’m scrambling to retrieve my camera from it’s case, the bird is gone.

Boone County Cliffs is without a doubt in my top 5 places to visit within my 50 mile radius of home. Great hiking trail that winds on for 2 miles deep in some beautiful deciduous woods. A great variety of birds await anyone who visits this gem. However today the target birds are Kentucky and Worm-eating Warblers. Worm-eating warblers especially habitat specific and Boone County Cliffs are noted for multiple nesting “Wormies”. Since I starting visiting here I’ve not missed on this bird, it’s that reliable. With just a good set of ears and some patience anyone can either see of hear them. There call is a high pitched thrill that’s difficult to pick up at first if you’re not used to hearing it. Which was the case this morning. Jon was hearing one in the distance, but I couldn’t pick it up till I heard one close and got “tuned in”.

We were greeted with over active Louisiana Waterthrush’s as multiple birds chased each other around in the area of a small stream that cascades down towards the road we came in on. A thick canopy and under growth close in on both sides of the trail as we started to climb towards the area of the cliffs. Vireos, Flycatchers, Orioles, Tanagers, and my most favorite bird song, the Wood Thrush were everywhere.

This 2 mile trail finally reached it’s highest point, then started to level out with a gently rolling path that followed the contour of the ridge top. We’d pause and listen if a bird peaked our interest, or if a sudden movement caught our eye. As we made our way deeper into the woods we started to hear Wormies a little closer and had a great look of an Ovenbird. The one thing about Ovenbirds and Kentucky warblers is that their calls are very similar. And after we really listened, at both a Kentucky Warbler and an Ovenbird we finally were able to tell the difference when we heard more sing later on.


We had heard voices behind us for some time, but being a pretty popular place to go birding we never gave it much thought as this group of people were several hundred yards behind us the whole time. We didn’t know if they were birders or not, but there loud talking made us think they were just hiking. That was until one of the idiots discharged their gun, which in turned scared the shit out of the both of us. Jon then yells back at them that we’re up here and not to shoot their gun again. We reported the incident to the police and made a hasty retreat to our car, not wanting to run into some pissed off locals with a loaded gun. A very disturbing end to a great birding outing.

We took the long way home with stops at the Oxbow were a group of Great Egrets yielded one Snowy Egret, and a couple Prothonotary Warblers. After leaving the Oxbow we made our way to Smith tract County Park. In the past a good spot for Bell’s Vireo and Lark Sparrows. However the area where they’re usually sen has been taken over by a company that is using the area for a huge pipe line project. I real bummer. But on a bright note we did get some good looks as a Grasshopper Sparrow as it sang from the top of some weed.

And since it was an early day we called it over after leaving Smith Tract. Despite the disturbing end to our visit at “The Cliffs”, it was a great day of birding.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. American Kestrel
  2. Black Vulture
  3. Turkey Vulture
  4. Dickcissel
  5. Yellow Warbler
  6. Common Yellowthroat
  7. Yellow-throated Warbler
  8. Cerulean Warbler
  9. Hooded warbler
  10. Worm-eating Warbler
  11. Kentucky Warbler
  12. Louisiana Waterthrush
  13. Northern Parula
  14. Yellow-breasted Chat
  15. Field Sparrow
  16. Chipping Sparrow
  17. House Sparrow
  18. Grasshopper Sparrow
  19. Song Sparrow
  20. Cedar Waxwing
  21. Gray Catbird
  22. Red-winged Blackbird
  23. Common grackle
  24. Common Crow
  25. Northern Cardinal
  26. Tufted Titmouse
  27. Carolina Chickadee
  28. Carolina Wren
  29. House Wren
  30. Indigo Bunting
  31. Baltimore Oriole
  32. Orchard Oriole
  33. Brown Thrasher
  34. Northern Mockingbird
  35. Mourning Dove
  36. Northern Bobwhite
  37. American goldfinch
  38. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  39. Great-creasted Flycatcher
  40. Willow flycatcher
  41. Acadian Flycatcher
  42. Eastern Kingbird
  43. Downy Woodpecker
  44. Hairy Woodpecker
  45. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  46. Pileated Woodpecker
  47. Great Blue Heron
  48. Green Heron
  49. Great Egret
  50. Snowy Egret
  51. Canada Goose
  52. Mallard
  53. Purple Martin
  54. Tree Swallow
  55. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  56. Bank Swallow
  57. Cliff Swallow
  58. Barn Swallow
  59. Red-eyed Vireo
  60. White-eyed Vireo
  61. Warbling Vireo
  62. Chimney Swift
  63. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  64. Double-creasted Cormorant
  65. Blue jay
  66. Wood Thrush
  67. American Robin
  68. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  69. Scarlet Tanager
  70. Belted Kingfisher
  71. Spotted Sandpiper
  72. Common Loon
  73. White-breasted Nuthatch

One response to “Notes From The Field

  1. Sheesh! That was outrageous!

    I totally understand cutting short the birding expedition there.

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