Monthly Archives: August 2013

Notes From The Field

Aurora Indiana, Oxbow, Lost Bridge

Following up on my own “Rare Bird Alert” concerning the Swallow-tailed Kite that has been seen almost every day since it was first reported was my objective today. From all reports the bird will perch and preen in the morning, and then take to the wing and go about  hunting for food. However time was of the essence as my youngest son turns 21 today and my daughter is in town for the weekend. So I picked up Jon at 6:30 am for the long drive. Which didn’t turn out a bad as I had originally thought. After you get to Lawrenceburg Indiana it’s just a few more miles on the other side. And since it seems like I live in this part of Ohio/Indiana for most of my birding days it was actually a nice drive.

From all the reports we’ve heard about the bird is that the morning is best to catch it while it perches in this dead tree, or catch it as it flies around this quiet, hilltop neighborhood. Some of the views of the surrounding countryside with it’s close proximity to the river and the valley below explains why the kite would love it here. Plenty of food and thermals to ride as they flowed up the sides of the surrounding hills that border the river.

Being a residential neighborhood we had to drive real slow along all the various roads that crisscrossed the area of a few hundred homes. We were both scanning the sky, but paying more attention to the trees for the sign of a semi-large bird. We passed the large dead tree that I thought was the one it’s been seen before perched, but no bird. We soldered on. The road forked and dead ended. Another road came in from a different direction that we took, that eventually brought us back to our original location. As we passed the dead tree again, but now from the opposite direction, I saw it.

Slowing the car down to a dead stop, Jon and myself craned our necks with our bins to our eyes to confirm the bird. We were real close to the bird. The tree was no more than 20 feet for the side of the road and we didn’t want to spook the bird as we got out of the car. So I inched forward so Jon could get out slowly, and I turned the car around and drove it down the road to pull off the side, so not spook the bird as I opened the hatch to retrieve my scope and camera.

The other 2 occasi0ons I’ve seen these birds they were in flight and it can be rather difficult to digiscope a bird in flight. So to catch one perched is a real treat. Enjoy!

IMG_2927 IMG_2919 As the sun was rising this was the best side to capture the bird with the sun in the best position. However as you can see this branch was covering part of it’s head. I couldn’t move to another location since it was on someones property and also we would have to get closer, which would have made the bird spook. So I stayed put and tried for some better shots as the Kite moved.

IMG_2933

IMG_2945In this picture you can see how it’s been preening it’s breast feathers. He’s all fluffed up like a down pillow.

IMG_2951You have to admit that it is one beautiful bird. The kind of bird you’d want to come back reincarnated as.

IMG_2966As you can imagine I took quite a few pictures. And as much as I would like to bring them to you I feel these are the best. As the time wore on Jon and myself decided to leave. And since we were going to drive past the Oxbow, why not drive through for a quick look.

The Oxbow was full of the regular birds, and Oxbow Lake’s mudflat at the far end proved rather difficult to bush whack through the weeds and poison ivy to get to.

We faired better at Lost Bridge as small flocks of “Peeps” kept us busy for an hour or so. If I didn’t have other things to do today we would have stayed longer as hopes of more shorebirds coming in to feed was a good possibility. We left around lunch time.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Orchard Oriole
  2. Indigo Bunting
  3. Song Sparrow
  4. Turkey Vulture
  5. Double-creasted Cormorant
  6. Great Egret
  7. Great Blue Heron
  8. Wood Duck
  9. Green Heron
  10. Semipalmated sandpiper
  11. Least Sandpiper
  12. Spotted Sandpipper
  13. Lesser Yellowleg
  14. Pectoral Sandpiper
  15. Osprey
  16. Red-tailed hawk
  17. Belted Kingfisher
  18. Northern Flicker
  19. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  20. Northern Cardinal
  21. SWALLOW-TAILED KITE
  22. Horned Larks
  23. Cliff Swallow
  24. American Crow

 

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Notes From The Field

Brookville Lake, Lost Bridge, Fernald Preserve, Smith Tract Park, & Liberty Indiana

For some reason I’m not finding the time to keep the old blog updated, and for that I apologize. Life outside of birding has been a little hectic for myself and my family so please be patient with me as I’ll try to do a better job.

This last Saturday found my good friend Gene and myself on the road for a full morning and afternoon of some long distance birding. Still wanting to hit the jackpot with shorebirds has been kind of dismal down in this part of Ohio, so we were hoping for a turn of the coin in terms of find some good shorebirds. My plan for the morning was to hit the mud flats at Brookville Lake, however Gene had been at Lost bridge the evening before  and reported some good shorebirds, including a pair of Baird’s Sandpipers.

Anyway you slice it, it’s a 45 minute drive at the least to Lost Bridge from my house, and with the lighter than average traffic it still took 45 minutes. It was still early when we arrived and upon checking out the large dirt field next to Lost Bridge for shorebirds, we were disappointed with the lack of standing water and total lack of birds. And the same could be said about Lost Bridge. Even though there was plenty of exposed sand and mug under, and extending up river and down from the bridge, there was hardly any birds.

Knowing we had a long drive to Brookville Lake we decided to leave and get a head start to the lake. The far northern end of the lake is the best spot for any shorebirds. The water is very shallow, and in years past it has been a hotspot for some great birds, except today.

While driving down to the lake we would stop and do some roadside birding and had some good luck doing that. That’s until we made our way to the lake. The water level was still too high for the smaller wading birds, so we were left with the usual Great Egrets, and Great Blue Herons.

IMG_2911

However upon doing some scanning of the Ring-billed Gulls that were congregating I noticed a Caspian Tern had joined the gulls. A nice bird for the day count.

IMG_2915

We searched for many a minute for anything that would excite us, but to no avail. We needed a spark to the day so we made our way to Liberty Indiana to see if we could re-locate the Eurasian-collared Doves that have been known to hang out at these grain silos in the middle of town. ECDO are becoming more and more prevalent in this part of the country, even though eBird still considers them a rarity in Ohio, but in Indiana just over the border they aren’t. Anyway it was Gene who noticed 2 doves perched on a wire next to the grain silos. getting my bins on them I noticed the squared off tail and white undertail coverts, plumber in size in relation to the Mourning Dove sitting next to it. Even though I couldn’t see the black collar, the other field marks was dead on.

IMG_2917

After having success with finding the ECDO, we started to make our slow drive back. With frequent stops at Fernald Preserve, Smith Tract Park we had a pretty good day count for the middle of August. Some of the sparrow species that were present just weeks earlier are now gone like Henslow’s and Grasshopper Sparrows, or they’re just not showing themselves. We did have a great look at both male and female Blue Grosbeaks, which I’ve seen almost every time I’ve been out this Summer.

Saturday was a great example of being able to spot quality birds in good numbers. Granted our objective was to find shorebirds, and we did find a few, however we made the best of the situation and came away with a nice number  of birds during these dog days of Summer. They’re out there, you just have to be both diligent and patient, and you’ll see them.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Bald Eagle
  2. American Kestrel
  3. Black Vulture
  4. Turkey Vulture
  5. Red-shouldered Hawk
  6. Red-tailed Hawk
  7. Osprey
  8. Great Blue Heron
  9. Great Egret
  10. Green Heron
  11. Spotted Sandpiper
  12. Pectoral Sandpiper
  13. Lesser Yellowleg
  14. Double-crested Cormorant
  15. Mute Swan
  16. Eastern Bluebird
  17. Eastern Kingbird
  18. Northern Mockingbird
  19. Tree Swallow
  20. Chimney Swift
  21. Cliff Swallow
  22. Barn Swallow
  23. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  24. Purple Martin
  25. Northern Flicker
  26. Blue Jay
  27. House Wren
  28. Carolina Wren
  29. Carolina Chickadee
  30. Indigo Bunting
  31. Blue Grosbeak
  32. White-eyed Vireo
  33. Eastern Towhee
  34. Canada Goose
  35. Mallard
  36. Wood Duck
  37. Belted Kingfisher
  38. Song Sparrow
  39. Field Sparrow
  40. Chipping Sparrow
  41. House Sparrow
  42. Common Yellowthroat
  43. Downy Woodpecker
  44. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  45. Eastern Phoebe
  46. Northern cardinal
  47. American Robin
  48. American Crow
  49. Mourning Dove
  50. Eurasian-collared Dove
  51. Caspian Tern
  52. Ring-billed Gull
  53. Common Grackle
  54. Red-winged Black Bird
  55. Pigeon
  56. American Goldfinch
  57. Scarlet tanager
  58. Gray Catbird
  59. European Starling
  60. Killdeer

Rare Bird Alert

415px-66_Ivory-billed_Woodpecker

This may be a tad late but for those who don’t know this, there is a Swallow-tailed Kite giving great views as it perches and preens in Aurora Indiana. And also if you didn’t know this Aurora is right across the river from where 2 were seen this time last year.

I’m hoping that it sticks around till this weekend because I will make an effort to get over there and digiscope some pictures.

Spotlight On Ohio Birds

Stilt Sandpiper (Calidris himantopus)

Family:  Scolopacidae

Order:  Charadriiformes

Description:  Length 8 1/2″ ADULT SUMMER Beautifully marked with chestnut on crown and ear coverts, broad pale supercilium, and otherwise dark-streaked face and neck. Underparts have distinct dark bars; feathers on back have dark centers. ADULT WINTER Has mainly gray upperparts and white underparts; note the pale supercilium. JUVENILE Similar to winter adult, but feathers on back have cleaner-looking pale margins.

Voice:  Call a soft “jeew.”

Habitat:  Very common locally high Arctic breeding species, from northern Alaska to Hudson Bay. Common on Atlantic coast during fall migration. Winters mainly in Central and South America, but small numbers remain on Gulf coast.

Range:

cali_hima_AllAm_map

FYI’s: The main southward migration route of the Stilt Sandpiper passes through the middle of the continent, west of the Mississippi River. From here, in fall the species migrates over water to the Caribbean or northern South America, where many birds interrupt their migration to molt flight feathers before continuing to winter haunts in inland central South America.

A Birder’s Haiku

rock gardenDedicated to the birder, as we start our week.

Wet leaves shine under

a dripping Oak canopy

at dusk, bird song stills

Notes From The Field

Lost Bridge, Oxbow, Shaker Trace Wetlands, & Cincinnati Zoo Wetlands

As with all skills you learn the more you use these skills the better you’re going to become. And if you don’t use these skills don’t be surprised that sometimes even the simplest task becomes difficult. The same can be said about birding. With everything going on right now the chance to go birding has been rather elusive.

Spring was rather a bust when it comes to shorebirds in this part of Ohio, so Jon and myself were due for an all day shorebird hunt. And it started this last Wednesday when Jon called and wanted to see if I’d join him at the Cincinnati Zoo Wetlands. Migration is in full swing and with nothing better to do that evening I said yes.

Having been there a number of times I’ve usually birded from the side of the road well off the edge so drivers can see me. However with all the vegetation growth it’s no longer feasible to see the water and the mudflats that border the edge. So we walked to higher ground for a better look.

IMG_2880 IMG_2879As you can see from these 2 pictures that it’s pretty flat and this rise in the ground offers a look down onto the only body of water with sizable mudflats. And the birds were plentiful.

There were plenty of shorebirds as we started to scan from our high ground. Killdeers were by far the most numerous shorebird, followed by Least Sandpipers. Both Semipalmated Plovers and Sandpipers were present along with Solitary and Pectoral Sandpipers. Throw in a few Lesser Yellowlegs and you get the picture of what we were seeing.

Today however we decided to do a Western Hamilton county trip and hit some of the best spots recently for shorebirds. The funny thing was that no one told the shorebirds to be there as well.

Starting at Lost Bridge and areas in the same vicinity we were pretty much skunked. There was a Lesser Yellowleg here. A Least Sandpiper there. But nothing you could sink your teeth into. The same area that was giving us Buff-breasted and Upland Sandpipers was empty. So we moved to another location, which ended with the same result. So we drove from Lost Bridge, to the Oxbow, then to Shaker Trace Wetlands, then to Listermann’s Brewery for a beer and to come up with a better strategy.

After our thirsts were quenched, we decided to head over to Jon’s house where he would drive his truck over to the Zoo Wetlands again, and I would follow. Even though our thirsts were satisfied, our unquenchable desire for some shorebirds was not. And this time we were coming at the pond from a different angle so we could get the best views possible. And we did.

IMG_2890 IMG_2886Some pretty nice close-up looks at a least Sandpiper.

IMG_2899Solitary Sandpiper

IMG_2902Lesser Yellowleg

Even though it wasn’t a very hot day, the humidity was wearing us down as the clock approached 5 o’clock. There still will be plenty of opportunities to get out into the field during fall migration, and hopefully it will be sooner than later.

Notable birds seen include:

  1. Red-headed Woodpecker
  2. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  3. Double-creasted Cormorant
  4. Great Egret
  5. Great Blue Heron
  6. Pectoral Sandpiper
  7. Least Sandpiper
  8. Semipalmated Sandpiper
  9. Spotted Sandpiper
  10. Killdeer
  11. Semipalmated Plover
  12. Solitary Sandpiper
  13. Green Heron
  14. Turky Vulture
  15. Red-tailed Hawk
  16. Red-shouldered Hawk
  17. American Goldfinch
  18. Song Sparrow
  19. Field Sparrow
  20. Indigo Bunting
  21. Northern Cardinal
  22. American Robin
  23. Brown-headed Cowbird
  24. Common Grackle
  25. Red-winged Blackbird
  26. Northern Mockingbird
  27. Eastern Towhee
  28. Common Yellowthroat
  29. Yellow Warbler
  30. Northern Flicker
  31. Wood Ducks
  32. Mallard
  33. Barn Swallow
  34. Bank Swallow
  35. Cliff Swallow
  36. Purple Martin
  37. Cedar Waxwing
  38. Eastern meadowlark
  39. Dickcissel
  40. Common Crow
  41. Mourning Dove
  42. White-breasted Nuthatch
  43. Carolina Chickadee
  44. Horned Lark
  45. Eastern Kingbird
  46. Belted Kingfisher
  47. Gray Catbird
  48. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  49. House Wren
  50. Carolina Wren