Monthly Archives: May 2014

Birds of the Boardwalk

What is it about this place that keeps me coming back year after year? Is it the people? I’ve been here when folks on the boardwalk were nut-to-butt as each person tried to get the best view. And this year as I was doing some late evening birding after 8 pm, no one was there but one or two people. Except hard core birders who can’t get enough. Is it the birds? To a great extent that’s true, however there’s more to it than just the birds. I really do love this area of Ohio, what with that vast body of water, small towns trying to keep their heads above the water during tough times, during a not so good economy. People are friendly here despite everything else, like the waitress who talked with us as we had our dinner in a small restaurant in Marblehead. A local mother raising a family on a economy that relies on those Summer dollars, as Kathy an I are having the house special of a fall off the bone chicken dinner with mashed potatoes.

But when you put all this together with some world class birding, someone like myself can’t help but fall in love.    But the birds……

IMG_0212Scarlet Tanager

IMG_0219Chestnut-sided Warbler

IMG_0242Black-throated Blue Warbler

IMG_0254Philadelphia Vireo

IMG_0259Female Black-throated Green Warbler

IMG_0261Cape May Warbler

IMG_0266American Redstart

IMG_0280Common Nighthawk

IMG_0342Magnolia Warbler

IMG_0349Female Bay-breasted Warbler

IMG_0353Canada Warbler

IMG_0360Northern Parula

IMG_0371Wilson’s Warbler

IMG_0392Yellow Warbler

As with most migrant traps along Lake Erie some days can be better than others. That’s the risk you take when you bird during Spring migration, especially with warblers. One day they can be literally dripping off the trees, and other days you have to work you tail off just to see a few. As my few days progressed you couldn’t help but notice the decline in both numbers and varieties.

It was such a wonderful time!

Notes From The Field

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge/ Auto Tour

The Sunday Kathy and I left for our much anticipated vacation, the day started out quite uneventful. With it’s normal pit stops along the way for breakfast and other necessary duties, we made it to Ottawa NWR in the normal 4.5 hours or so.

If you’ve never been to Ottawa NWR before, it’s located between Toledo and Port Clinton Ohio, right on Lake Erie. At 6,500 acres this vast refuge is a mix of wetlands, forests, and grasslands. And with a place as large as this getting around is either by foot or bicycle. However today was one of the weekends where the auto tour is open to the public, and this is why we decided to make this our first stop. The auto tour at Ottawa is one of the greatest birding experiences you can have while visiting up here. You can drive at your leisure, park and enjoy the wildlife.

IMG_0172This Eastern Kingbird was actively feeding along the side of the road as we pulled up. I didn’t even have to get out of the car to capture this photo.

IMG_0186Common Gallinule

IMG_0189A real treat during the auto tour was this Eared Grebe. My new camera really had to work for this shot, which was pretty far away.

IMG_0193Common Coot

IMG_0195What I really like about my new cameras is the detail it picks up on the birds. I just love this photo of this Pied-billed Grebe.

As we drove along we’d stop and look for more birds, and enjoy some of the wonderful scenery. There’s one area along the road which is particularly good for Marsh Wrens. These reclusive birds are more than likely heard before they are seen. However every once in a while one would pop up and give you some brief glimpses.

IMG_0198Marsh Wren

As with all good things the auto tour does come to an end. And while it’s open you can always go through again if you didn’t get enough the first time. However for Kathy and me our hotel reservation wasn’t good till 3 pm, and the Magee Marsh boardwalk sat between us and the hotel. So as we slowly drove on out we noticed a car pulled over with the occupants looking out over the marshy area that bordered the road. They were kind to put us on an American Bittern. A really difficult bird to view.

IMG_0206Unfortunately all we were able to see was it’s long stretched out neck and head sticking up out of the grass.

Part 2 of my trip will be forth coming…

Notes From The Field/ Rare Birds Alert

Even though I birded my eyeballs out while up at Lake Erie earlier this week, I couldn’t help myself to hit the road yesterday and pick up 3 very tough birds for the Tri-state area. Now don’t take this the wrong way however, birding up on the lake can be ridiculously easy and not very challenging when they can be only feet away from you. I was yearning for a couple of birds that are normally here in the area in sparse numbers and in only a few locations.

The first birds is a Bell’s Vireo. Last year there was not mention of one being here even after several efforts by some notable birds searching in the birds normal haunts. So when I read that the bird was back at Smith Tract on Kilby Road, I knew that was where I was heading yesterday. I really wanted to get a picture of this infamous skulker of dense thickets.

After arriving at 8 am I started my search in and around the storage barn located on the property. With the Bell’s Vireo you don’t look for the physical bird per se. You listen for it’s distinct call, then try to spot it. Trying to discern it’s call out of the Red-winged Black Birds, and Gray Catbirds was proving to be dificult, since they to have those raspy kind of calls that might mimic a Bell’s call.

Well after 30 minutes I was able to find the bird and follow it along this line of trees. Only a couple of times I was able to get my bins on it for a positive ID, but no photo. They are that reclusive. Satisfied, I moved onto Shaker Trace Wetlands at Miami Whitewater Forest for one of my favorite birds. Henslow Sparrow.

Last year I had great luck with these birds at this area of the park. a few of them would call so close to the road that I was able to digiscope one. Shaker Trace Wetlands has a paved bike trail that runs through the center of it, with a mowed path that can be used for horses that travels parallel to the paved path.

They to have a very distinctive, “HIC-CUP” style of call, that help in locating them in this vast open grassland. Making my way out to the “farm road” along the mowed path, I spooked up a very small sparrow that was hiding in the taller grass at the edge. It flew like a “Ammodramus” species of sparrow, low to the ground and kind of erratic. It flew across the paved bike path into the field on the other side. I got my bins on it and saw the tell tale ocher coloration on the face. Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow? I’ve seen them in the Autumn time, but not in the Spring. It soon disappeared into the grass like they normally do.

I worked the area pretty well with no signs of any Henslow’s. That was until I started to head back to leave. 2 of them calling from the tops of some short stubby bushes. The distance was too far for any picture, however just to able to see them is satisfying enough.

I continued to make my way back to the car, walking on the mowed path again when I kicked up yet another small Sparrow, which flew to the other side of the paved path again. Was this the same bird as before? This time it was out into the open, more or less. So I crept closer, ever so slowly.

IMG_0537Check out the coloration on the face and the fine streaking on the flanks. Nelson’s Sparrow, a very cool bird.


A little close, unfortunately with a stick across it’s face.

With it closing in on 1 pm I had to pull the plug on this great day of birding. I found my 2 target birds, with a bonus one. So as I strolled back I was able to get a few photos of some birds along the way.

IMG_0544A Black-billed Cuckoo is always a good bird to spot.

IMG_0552I’ve never had a lot of luck photographing Cedar Waxwings, but this one is pretty good.

IMG_0558I love this shot of a Common Yellowthroat.

P.S.    As for my pictures from my Lake Erie trip, I will start posting a few at a time as I get them through the editing process. With a couple of hundred pictures to sift through this is a time consuming chore that my take a few days. So thanks for your patience.

Notes From The Field

A last minute change of plans resulted in us driving to Findlay Reservoir instead of a return visit to the boardwalk this morning. New of 11 Whimbrels being sighted at the reservoir got me excited since this is one of my nemesis birds. Our plans for the drive home was to avoid the interstates altogether and take nothing but back roads to get home. Well Findlay was in the way so no better time than now to tick of this bird.

Findlay is a massive, above ground reservoir with 2 separate basins. It has a nice wide path so people can walk around or bird watch, which loads of people do. Well I don’t know how far I walked but there were no Whimbrels. I stumbled upon some Least and Spotted Sandpipers, and 1 lone Dunlin which I spotted through my spotting scope.  Foiled again! So the quest continues for this bird.

However on the suuny side I was able to add 7 new birds to my trip list including a Red-necked Grebe, and a Horned Grebe. So with the Eared and Pied-billed Grebes seen earlier, it has been a 4 Grebe vacation.

So now that this birding trip is finally over I’m rather proud to announce that all told I saw 137 different species. The entire trip list is forthcoming in a new blog post with pictures. Once I go through the hundreds of pictures.


Notes From The Field

Eye fatigue is beginning to have it’s effect after a full day of birding. Even something as simple as typing this blog can prove difficult when you can’t even focus on the letters. However after a full nights sleep I’ll be ready to make a morning rush and try to pick up any last bird I need.
It was still a slow day on the boardwalk with total numbers down, however I was able to pick up a couple of  warblers that have eluded me, particularly the Black and White, and Blackburnian. It was another day when you had to work to get any new bird, however I was able to score on 11 new birds for my trip list. So with the 11 new birds from todays outing, this has raised my trip total to 127 species, which I think is pretty good.
Notable new birds for the day include a Mourning Warbler, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, and the best bird for the day was a Olive-sided Flycatcher.
Tomorrow Will be our last day here and with the forecast of rain and storms for the morning, it might be the shortest visit to the boardwalk. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that it will hold off for a little bit of birding.

Notes From The Field

Well the weather up here in the Warbler Capitol certainly has made a change towards the worse. Beautiful weather with a nice southerly wind has pushed loads of birds off the lake front. Numbers are noticeably lower than yesterday afternoon, and even though I spend a solid five hours walking the boardwalk I had to work for every new bird today. Rain is in the forecast tomorrow and Wednesday and sometimes birding and rain goes together. So I”ll have to pull on the rain suit and head out in the morning.
21 new species was added to the trip total, so now I’m at 116 species.
Some of the better birds today include a Blue-headed Vireo, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Semipalmated Plover, and the real find was while we were at Metzger Marsh. We were parked along the entry road and just standing by the car scanning the marsh when a Least Bittern takes flight. I followed it before it disappeared into the cattails.
I feel like I’m reaching the end of my species list unless something wonderful happens, like a fallout. That would be something this birder would love to see right about now.    Well more to come tomorrow.