Monthly Archives: March 2014

Notes From The Field/ Life Bird #335

Caesar Creek State Park/ Harveysburg Road

The first report came in about a week ago. First seen over by the boat ramp at the camp grounds a California Gull was sighted mixed in with a group of Herring and Ring-billed Gulls. Their description was dead on accurate, however I was a little apprehensive. This is a pretty rare bird, especially around here. On occasion they do see a few up on Lake Erie and it’s one of those birds that I never thought for a million years I’d see till I ventured further out west were they are just another common gull.

A couple days would go by without a word of it being re-located. Then someone report either on Facebook or Cincinnati Bird that it was re-located. Now I’m starting to get the twitch again, just like the Glaucous Gull in Dayton earlier in the year. So this prompted me to head out this last Wednesday and try to locate the Gull. So for the next several hours I drove all around the lake stopping where I’ve seen Gulls congregate in the past. No luck. Now just because I never saw it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not there. So I kept my nose to the social media and waited for any news. A bird like this is a great temptation for area birders. Remember this is a really rare bird and a chance to tick one of these off comes around only a few times.

So this morning on Facebook a local birder whose name I recognized re-located the bird. This time off the end of Harveysburg Road. This was one stop I didn’t make on Wednesday thinking that I’ve never seen large groups of Gulls resting there before. However with the lake level low there was an above average amount of exposed  ground that you’d never normally see when the water level is at pool depth. And what do you think I found sitting with a large group of Ring-billed, Herring, and Bonaparte Gull’s. Yes that’s right, the lone California Gull.

Smaller than a Herring and larger than a Ring-billed Gull, the field markings were seen even when I had to zoom out my scope to maximum. The wind was out of the west and rather brisk, so I moved behind a Cedar Tree in an attempt to digiscope a picture. After re-focusing on the bird, it flew off and rounded a corner and out of sight.

I’m extremely happy about getting a new life bird, but rather disappointed in not being able to get a photo. That’s been the buzz on social media, no picture of this bird. However when dealing with nature you can’t always rely on ideal circumstances. Sure I wish the sun was out and it wasn’t so windy. The Gull flock being a little closer would have been an immense help. But we have to play the hand that was dealt, and this was the best I can do till someone gets a good photo. Maybe this weekend will someone’s lucky day.

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Notes From The Field

Gilmore Ponds Metropark

What is it about the evening sunset, especially after daylight savings time goes into effect, that I simply love? Granted we all hate losing that one precious hour of sleep that us working folks desperately need. However for myself that’s a small price to pay to be able to do a little birding during this favorite time of day.

Dusk is my wind down time during the warmer months.  The time when you can sit on your front porch, sip a nice beverage, and do nothing other than watch the world go to sleep. It’s a great de-stresser, and at times a perfect excuse to go birding. Such was the case last night.

American Woodcock (Scolopax minor) are starting to be seen more and more on local sighting logs. And my favorite time to view these secretive waders is also my favorite time of day, dusk. So as the 7 o’clock hour approached I headed out to where myself and birding friend Phil were rewarded last year with several displaying Woodcocks, Gilmore Ponds.

Gilmore Ponds, once closed due to budget constraints, was finally re-opened after the passing of the Butler County Parks levy a few years past, is still a neglected red-headed step-child. Paths were still mowed through the thick under growth, and that was pretty much it. So seeing a Park Ranger actually at the park last evening came as a surprise. And as I ventured towards the area where Woodcocks were present last year, most of the area was mowed down to just a short stubble.

IMG_3986You can see the worn path, and on both sides you can see how short the vegetation is. This is where last year we found several Woodcocks. But being a somewhat neglected park it comes as a surprise that they took the time to mow.

Being grown over doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing. At times leaving such areas in it’s natural state can be a benefit for us bird lovers. Great Blue Heron’s nest here. Grackles, Starlings, Red-winged and Rusty Black Birds congregate here at dusk and form into massive colonies for us birders to pick through in the fading light. Sitting in a natural low spot water it’s one common component to this park. The builders of the Miami-Erie Canal thought so as the remnants of this once great waterway borders Gilmore Ponds.

Waterfowl are the staple here and any standing water will hold ducks and geese even through some of our dryer times. A large expanse of flooded woods is the home of nesting Prothonotary Warblers and Woodpeckers. But tonight it’s all about the Woodcock. So staying within eye shot of my car I wait and wander slightly as dusk fades.

IMG_3989A dozen ducks scattered as I approached this small pond.

IMG_3988A lone Red-winged Black Bird amongst the thousand roosting at Gilmore Ponds last night.

Despite it’s close proximity to busy roads and a train tracks, Gilmore Ponds can envelope you in solitude. I feel isolated, removed from the everyday as I stand and watch a flight of Sandhill Cranes fly so high you’ll have to strain to see them with the naked eye. Geese and Ducks are checking in as they check their wings as they skim over the water to land for the night. More and more Black Birds congregate, squawking over everyone else.

I listen hard for the familiar Woodcock nasal “beezp”. Nothing. Am I disappointed? How could you be disappointed when your surrounded with beauty. You can view the beauty of nature from your comfy chair looking out through your picture window or in front of the television set. But to go out at this time of day and just stand and listen and observe what’s happening around you is truly joyous.

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Notes From The Field

“In Search of Red-necked Grebes”

This years great Red-necked Grebe invasion has taken the state by storm, and now it’s Jon’s and my chance to track down these visitors from the north. As you can see by the range map below that I downloaded from the web site, “All About Birds”, we may get one a year during the winter. Last winter we had one that stayed at Hidden Valley Lake for a long time and was included in my January 100 Species Challenge

podi_gris_AllAm_map

They do winter over down into the United States, but it’s normally along both coasts. So what are they doing down here and in such great numbers? Well I’m sure thee is a logical ornithological reason for such an influx, but I’m pretty confident that this exceptionally cold winter has something to do with it. So whatever the reason we were out in the field and meeting up Grand Valley as our first stop.

With his Grandmothers birthday celebration in the early afternoon, our time was limited as we drove through the gate into Grand Valley. Still partially frozen over with only small pockets of open water, we quickly scanned the lake only to find 10 Common Mergansers that quickly took off and some Canadian Geese.

On to the back lake which held a bounty of some good waterfowl, including 3 Red-necked Grebes.

IMG_3699Difficult to see at first but there are loads of tiny black dots on the lake mostly on the other side of the small island.

IMG_3700After watching them fish for a while these 2 decided to take a nap while the thrid continued to feed.

IMG_3701I had to shoot this one quick because the Grebe had it eaten really quick.

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The difficulty with digiscoping is trying to focus on a moving bird and coming away with a clear picture. And if the sun is behind you then the view through the camera monitor glares back at you. So most of the pictures are out of focus.

So here we are at our first stop and we have 3 RNGR already. Is this what we are to expect today? So our next stop where one was reported was Armleder Park, which is just upstream from the Ohio River with the Little Miami River running along it’s eastern border. And bordering along it’s southern edge is Duck Creek. It’s here where Duck Creek runs into the Little Miami is where we need to set up. After twice falling on the slippery slopes we made it to our destination. Footing was difficult with all the mud, however when we looked downstream we found 3 more RNGR. This is getting crazy. Like I told Jon, “you can’t swing a cat without hitting one”.

Totally satisfied with now sighting 6 individuals we trudged through the mud back to our respective cars. So where to next? Well being close to the Ohio River this area is known for all it’s marinas  which are tucked back off the Ohio River through man-made channels. And one of the largest, 4 Seasons Marina, has this driving range next to it. But it’s not your conventional kind of driving range. This one has a lake that you hit the ball into, and they have these floating markers that show the distance. Well it’s on this driving range lake where we found yet another RNGR. This time a male showing it’s breeding plumage.

IMG_3715

IMG_3719On these last 2 photos you can really tell how they got their name.

So after we left this marina we went just 2 marina down from us called Harbor Town Marina. We walked down to the channel and found another RNGR. This one another solo bird and it was actively feeding. Do to the distance and the position of the sun I took no photo.

So after finding 8 different birds we made our way to California Golf Course. Located on the golf course is a very large reservoir that is used by the Cincinnati Water Works. And it’s here that we find the last RNGR for the day. Another lone male bird amongst all the other water fowl that speckled the lake.

Having thought we might have missed out on this last invasion of this magnificent bird, we came away with 9 different individuals. Now this may sound like a lot, but remember they’re all over the place down here, either on our large lakes of rivers. How long will this go on? No ones guess. Just like the Snowy Owls, here one day, then gone the next.

So what’s in store for us in the Ohio valley. Well with spring knocking on the door, hopefully warblers. And you know how much we love warblers here at A Birders Notebook.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Red-winged Black Birds
  2. American Crow
  3. American Robin
  4. Northern Cardinal
  5. Carolina Chickadee
  6. Pileated Woodpecker
  7. Downy Woodpecker
  8. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  9. Song Sparrow
  10. White-throated Sparrow
  11. White-crowned Sparrow
  12. Field Sparrow
  13. Red-shouldered Hawk
  14. Red-tailed Hawk
  15. Mourning Dove
  16. Common Grackle
  17. Tree Swallow
  18. Canada Goose
  19. Northern Shoveler
  20. Common Merganser
  21. Red-breasted Merganser
  22. Hooded Merganser
  23. Mallard
  24. Wood Duck
  25. Common Goldeneye
  26. Pied-billed Grebe
  27. Red-necked Grebe
  28. Turkey Vulture
  29. Black Vulture
  30. Eastern Bluebird
  31. Killdeer
  32. Bufflehead
  33. Gadwall
  34. American Wigeon
  35. Ring-neck Duck
  36. American Coot
  37. Redhead
  38. Northern Mockingbird
  39. Lesser Scaup
  40. Greater Scaup
  41. Blue Jay
  42. Ring-billed Gull
  43. Herring Gull
  44. Belted Kingfisher

Rare Bird Alert

First we had the Snowy Owl invasion. Then for a short period we had what I thought was an over abundence of Snow Buntings. And just recently we have the White-winged Scoter phenominon. So now which bird is the new attraction all over the State of Ohio? Well it’s the Red-necked Grebe. And from all the chat on social media you can pretty much find them anywhere you have a large body of water. From East Fork State Park, the reservoir at the Cincinnati Water Works at California, on the river at Armleder, the gravel pits in Ross, to the Ohio River. Not knowing how long they’ll be around so the sooner you get out into the field the better. For myself maybe one day this weekend.