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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