Monthly Archives: December 2013

Notes From The Field

Cincinnati Christmas Bird Count 2013

I awoke Sunday morning at 3:00 am, the morning of the Christmas Bird Count, with the sound of the predicted rain on my roof. By now the thought of having my lower body drenched on this cold and windy day wasn’t needed.

Where are my rain pants? I had everything else assembled but not my rain pants. Through all the years I was a Boyscout Leader, and all the countless camp-outs I went on, my rain pants were always the one item I had to go searching for every time. They never wound up where they were supposed to be, which was with my rain jacket. Makes sense right? Well believe it or not the first place I looked, (and where they should live when not in use) I found them. Plus an extra pair for my oldest son who was accompanying me for his first bird count.

Cold and rainy was the order of the day. And as the day wore on subtle hints of the Sun tried to tease us, but to avail. We pick up birding companion Jon at 7:15 and then drove to our rendezvous point at a United Dairy Farmers store in Newtown Ohio. This is where we meet up with fellow birders and went over a few of the nuances of doing a bird count. I volunteered to drive and picked up Joe Bens who was a team leader for the area we were covering for the day.

I wish I has some sort of aerial map of the area we covered for the bird count. But according to Joe it’s an hour glass shape area which covers a large portion of the Little Miami River valley. Communities like Newtown, Camp Dennison, Milford, Terrace Park, portions of Indian Hills, Loveland were all ours. For Joe, Jon and myself this was perfect. We were all familiar with this area, especially Joe who knew the roads like the back of his hand.

It truly is one great river valley teaming with countless gravel quarries, open meadows, public parks, secluded roadways, and backwater streams that feed into the Little Miami. A great place to bird!

The day was pretty much driving from location to another and either wait by the car and bird from there, or walking around a much larger area after stopping. Always making sure not to trespass on private property. This may be a great place to bird, however the vast majority is owned by one individual who owns a rather large landscape business. Plus most of the larger quarries where so much of the waterfowl population like to hang out. So needless to say getting close and peering into these quarries without getting busted was always a challenge.

You see we were the group with the responsibility to come away with the greatest portion of the waterfowl count, since we had an area with the most water. An who doesn’t like ducks, right?

So from Sun-up, to Sun-down we drove all over our designated area, some places more than once as we counted away. I figured we drove over 60 miles and walked over 8 miles. It was a tiring day at the end but was it fun. It was great to bird with Joe, who I knew but never birded with. And even though my son David was pretty quiet because I think being a beginner like he is, being with people who can ID birds really quickly can be a humbling experience. When I first started going out with larger group of birders and not sure of my own abilities, I stayed pretty much quiet and tried to absorb as much info from others as possible.

It finally quit raining around noon. Lunch came and went at Wendy’s with a bowl of chili and a burger. Birds were ticked off for the day list, as the day settled into dusk. We ended the day in a Cedar grove at a local Indian Hill park trying to get a Barred Owl to return Joe and Jon’s call.

All good things must come to an end, and when I checked the grand total from all the groups out for the Christmas Count we came away with 92 species. Which is 3 away from the record set last year. Some notable birds were missing from this year, especially waterfowl. Northern Pintail, Greater & Lesser Scaup, and Green-winged Teal. Bizarre!

Anyway, this is our list for the day.

  1. Black Vulture
  2. Tundra Swan
  3. Mute Swan
  4. Canada Goose
  5. Cackling Goose
  6. Mallard
  7. Ring-necked Duck
  8. Common Goldeneye
  9. Ruddy Duck
  10. Gadwall
  11. American Wigeon
  12. Northern Shoveler
  13. Black Duck
  14. Redhead
  15. Hooded Merganser
  16. American Coot
  17. Pied-billed Grebe
  18. Red-tailed Hawk
  19. Red-shouldered Hawk
  20. American Kestrel
  21. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  22. Bald Eagle
  23. American Robin
  24. Northern Cardinal
  25. Tufted Titmouse
  26. Carolina Chickadee
  27. Eastern Bluebird
  28. Carolina Wren
  29. Eastern Towhee
  30. Hairy Woodpecker
  31. Downy Woodpecker
  32. Pileated Woodpecker
  33. Northern Flicker
  34. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  35. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  36. House Finch
  37. House Sparrow
  38. American Goldfinch
  39. Song Sparrow
  40. American Tree Sparrow
  41. Chipping Sparrow
  42. White-throated Sparrow
  43. White-crowned Sparrow
  44. Field Sparrow
  45. Great Blue Heron
  46. Blue Jay
  47. Belted Kingfisher
  48. Bufflehead
  49. Dark-eyed Junco
  50. Cedar Waxwing
  51. Great Horned Owl
  52. White-breasted Nuthatch
  53. Mourning Dove
  54. Pigeon
  55. European Starling
  56. Red-winged Black Bird
  57. Wild Turkey
  58. Ring-billed Gull
  59. Northern Mockingbird
  60. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  61. Common Grackle
  62. American Crow
  63. Brown Creeper

Upcoming Events

As everyone knows tis the season for Christmas Bird Counts all across this U.S.A. And the one I’m participating in is tomorrow, so it will be another bright an early morning. So more to come on this great event.

And as we wind down 2013 my thought turn to what will become another annual event, The January 100 Species Challenge.  Last year it turned into more of a challenge that I had anticipated, just making 100 species by the skin of my teeth. This year however I start January with 2 weeks vacation so I can devote more time to the challenge. And just like last year I will be keeping you up to date on all birds added to the January list.

So as I sign off I wish everyone  of my fellow readers to have a happy New Year, and keep on birding.

A Southerly Blow


With the passing of Winter Storm Gemini yesterday night, the carnage left in it’s wake was pretty evident this morning. Yes that is my bird feeding station, lying in the direction the wind was blowing. Even with the best made plans, Mother Nature has her own way with objects getting in her way.

A Birders Haiku

rock garden

Owl patiently waits

Winter’s morning mist reveals

Moons waning crescent

Notes From The Field

Little Miami River Valley

Before I start this post I want to first hope everyone has a happy holiday this year. And second I need to explain why I’ve been away for such a long time.

My Mother’s health has been deteriorating since Thanksgiving and with my Sister we’ve been ever vigilant as her side till her passing this last Monday. Needless to say I’ve not been the mood to do any birding, and it took some effort this morning to brave the wind and cold to go out this morning.

It’s times like this that we just have to suck it up and get on with life, and that’s what i did start6ing this morning as i was downing my second cup of coffee on my way to Armleder Park. I figures if I’m going to work the Little Miami River valley the best place to start is furthest from home and work my way back. Not wanting to bird alone  dropped Jon a text message to see if he wanted to join up for the few hours I was spending out.

The morning was cold and gray, with a wind that bit right through your clothes. Face and finger tips were the first to go numb for this frigid morning. Working my way back to the river, Song Sparrows were foraging in the thick brush that lines the paved path. Red-tailed Hawks and a Northern Harrier soar on the unrelenting wind hunting for food. Birds were lying low, not showing themselves unless you get too close.

A group of Marines were at the park doing whatever Marines do whenever they get together. From the looks of it a group of Marines were exercising, while another group watched them. The group that was exercising was doing so with just their T-shirts on. Being stationed with Marines while serving in the Navy this kind of behavior doesn’t surprise me in the least. I left them to the cold of the morning as I started up the bird-mobile and the warmth.

I was able to contact Jon and we were to meet at the Newtown Farm Market where other birders had some pretty good luck with a Blue-phased Snow Goose, however upon my arrival the only goose to be seen was a deceased one in the field to the left of the market. With the arrival of Jon a short time later we re-grouped our effort to hit some spots I was less familiar with.

You see the Little Miami River valley is dotted with all sorts of gravel pit operations. An aerial view on Google map reveals a large network of these gravel pits running the length of the river right where we’re planning on birding. Sadly most of these are off limits and not wanting to bring the law down upon us, we stick to the open roads and try our hand at viewing the gravel pits from there.

It was from one of these road side stops that we were watching a large group of Canada Geese flying low over the trees coming in to land on a lake hidden from view. It was in this flock that I first noticed a goose with a grayish body and a white head circling with the other geese. “Snow Goose” I call to Jon. It’s gone just that fast. We make way to our separate cars and head off to a pull off which might give us a view down to this lake.

I’ve pulled off on the shoulder of this road on other occasions to look down into this lake. You stand at the top of this embankment with such a steep side there is no way down safely. And as you stand at the top looking down inside towards the lake your view is obstructed with all the trees that grow around the lake.  Not my idea of an ideal birding location, however we do spot a lone Mute Swan, which seemed out of place and the Snow Goose mixed in with a flock of Canada Geese.

IMG_3343Despite being very far away and I’m shooting this picture through some trees, I think this is a pretty good diagnostic picture of a Blue-phased Snow Goose.

The day was turning into a stop and go kind of birding day. Spending no more than say 30 minutes at any one stop along the way to Grand Valley. And Grand Valley turned out to be the one bright spot for the entire day. Even with all the cold weather we’ve been having there was no ice on the large lake. The one nice thing about having ice on a lake is that all the ducks congregate on any open water they can get their flippers in.

IMG_3347A pair of male Hooded Mergansers trying to impress this one lone female.

IMG_3353First of the season Canvasback

As the morning wore into afternoon my hunger and cold feet halted my day. Time to leave and warm up.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Black Vulture
  2. Red-tailed Hawk
  3. Red-shouldered Hawk
  4. Northern Harrier
  5. Cooper’s Hawk
  6. Northern Cardinal
  7. Blue Jay
  8. Mourning Dove
  9. Eastern Bluebird
  10. American Goldfinch
  11. Dark-eyed Junco
  12. Song Sparrow
  13. White-throated Sparrow
  14. White-crowned Sparrow
  15. American Tree Sparrow
  16. Swamp Sparrow
  17. Great Blue heron
  18. American Crow
  19. Snow Goose
  20. Canada Goose
  21. Pied-billed Grebe
  22. Hooded Merganser
  23. American Coot
  24. American Wigeon
  25. Ring-necked Duck
  26. Mallard
  27. Gadwall
  28. Redhead
  29. Canvasback
  30. Ruddy Duck
  31. Common Goldeneye
  32. Buffelhead
  33. Ring-billed Gull
  34. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  35. White-breasted Nuthatch
  36. Carolina Wren
  37. Belted Kingfisher
  38. Tufted Titmouse
  39. American Robin
  40. American Kestrel
  41. Mute Swan
  42. Killdeer

Snowy Owls

If you haven’t heard by now we are be invaded from the North Country. No Canada hasn’t declared was on the United States, however a huge influx of Snowy Owls are definitely making their presence known. Even our very own Ohio Listserv is a buzz with countless sightings from the shores of Lake Erie (where 8 were observed in one day) to all the way down in my neck of the woods.

I could go on and on about these marvelous birds, but what I think I’ll do is add a hyperlink to this post which will take you to a recent article from eBird concerning the Snowies. So remember if you see one, keep your distance and don’t forget to post your sighting.

“eBird article click here”