Notes From The Field

Grassland/ Wetlands Series

Shaker Trace Wetlands/ Fernald Perserve

Southwestern Ohio isn’t noted for their miles and miles of grasslands/ wetlands. The small pockets that dot this area are few and far between, and on a much smaller scale. So this last Saturday my focus was on 2 of our larger preserves that contain some of the Summertime residents that frequent these grasslands/ wetlands. And if you happen to have read last weeks blog post you’ll also notice that I’m returning to Shaker trace Wetlands. You can’t talk about open grasslands/ wetlands without birding at this small corner of Miami Whitewater Forest.

So I was on the road by 6 am. and arrived just before 7 am. just as the sun started to heat things up a bit. The reason for such an early start was to try again to catch the Henslow’s Sparrow singing, and get a digiscoped picture. This way I can keep my distance from the bird, and hopefully get some awesome shots. Today’s trip is about taking pictures of birds that frequent this kind of habitat, and as birder’s what to expect to see.

These open grasslands/ wetlands come alive in the morning. Birds are everywhere and as I identify birds by ear as I hurry along towards where Jon and myself sighted the Henslow’s last week. A great variety of species come to mind as I try to ID each one by sound. But my focus is finding a good spot to set up my scope and camera and waiting for them to sing. And I didn’t have to wait long.

The bird jumped up onto the top of a small bush and started to sing. So I set up my rig and set about getting some pictures despite the sun being in an awful angle, that placed a bad glare in the finished photograph.

IMG_2673As you can see the sun is low in the sky which creates a lot of glare in this picture. So changing position, without spooking the bird was important.

With the bird positioned in such a bad place when it comes to the angle with the sun, I made the decision to move slowly and re-locate myself for a better shot.

IMG_2624Huge difference in quality and lighting.

IMG_2630 I love it when they throw their heads back and sing.

The Henslow’s Sparrow was named to honor clergyman, geologist and botanist John Stevens Henslow, by his good friend John James Audubon. John Henslow was also one of Charles Darwin’s teachers and mentor. It was Henslow who was first approached to be the naturalist aboard the HMS Beagle for that 2 year voyage to South America. After Henslow’s wife dissuaded him from going, it was a letter from Henslow to the ship’s captain suggesting that Charles Darwin was the man suitable for the job. And we all know how that voyage went?

I stayed in the area watching the Henslow for about an hour before moving on. I continued on the bike path till I came to the “Farm Road”, a mowed swath cutting directly through the heart of the grasslands/ wetlands. This was my path.

IMG_2674The American Goldfinch is one of the most colorful, and easily seen as I made my way across.

IMG_2670It’s during this time of year that the Tree swallows become more and more bold as they protect their territory.

IMG_2685The Willow Flycatcher is easily recognized by it’s voice and the kind of habitat you find it in.

IMG_2662The warbler of the grasslands, the Common Yellowthroat. I just don’t understand how this bird stayed still for so long. Even a blind squirrel…

IMG_2703Another one of my seasonal favorites, Field Sparrow.

IMG_2680A Dickcissel sings from it perch in the middle of the grassland.

As you make your way deeper along the farm road waterfowl fly back and forth. Mallards, Blue-winged Teal, Green and Great Blue Herons soar overhead as Red-winged Black Birds call unceasingly. As we approach the end of the farm road we start coming into the trees that border Shaker Trace. It’s from this vantage point where the lay of the land is spread out in front of me.


It’s from these dense, shrubby vegetative areas when I start to hear the “chattering” of the Yellow-breasted Chat, our largest warbler species. Now it’s one thing to hear them, with their distinct song, but locating them and getting a picture has always proved a challenge for me.

Then I looked up…

IMG_2689…and there he was perched in the top of this tree. But he was constantly moving from one tree to another, but always in the same general location.

IMG_2694It wasn’t just one “Chat”, it was multiple “Chats” that kept me entertained as I walked along the western border of Shaker Trace back towards my car. They would call from high up in the trees, and their calls would travel with me.

After leaving Shaker Trace it was onto Fernald Preserve for more Dickcissels, Blue Grosbeaks, and hopefully Grasshopper Sparrows.

Stay tuned for more.

One response to “Notes From The Field

  1. Great photos. I’ve never heard of a Chat. The Common Yellowthroat warbler is sweet.

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