Notes From The Field

Boone County Cliffs & Adams County

Even though I’ve not written anything for a while, doesn’t mean that I’ve been idle. On the Saturday a week ago, and this last Sunday I went out birding with the local chapter of the Audubon Society, and the Ohio Ornithological Society respectively. This is a little out of the norm for me, as I’ll usually go birding either by myself or with one or two others. But as I came back to birding as my full time passion, I would go out with groups quite often. At the time it exposed me to better birders,which always helps, and I was able to become friends with some really nice people in the local birding community. However groups do have there drawbacks which I’ll talk about in a upcoming post. But the first group from the Audubon Society was going to my favorite place, and that’s Boone County Cliffs.

It was an absolutely picture perfect day was 15 intrepid birders started our hike. The air was cool and filled with countless Wood Thrushes as their flute-like songs ran up and down the cliff faces. As is the case whenever you go here is that you better be up on your bird calls because birding by ear is where 90% of your day list is coming from.

Louisiana Waterthrush sang along the creek bed as we started our assent. Even the sound of the water cascading over the rocks was loud enough drown out their loud song. In the distance Worm-eating Warblers send out that distinctive “Trill”. As the hike wore on I began to separate myself from the main group of people. Trying to pick up faint calls can be a problem sometimes as groups can get noisy from idle talking.

As the hike continued we added more birds to the day list. For myself I never took one picture. Some of the only photo opportunities came when we birded along the road as we drove to the parking lot. They were fleeting and frustrating., especially me and my new camera.

As the day ended we were pretty happy. Granted it’s a strenuous hike, and no one got hurt, I did have a few issues with some of the talking amongst several people. The volume needed to be turned down  when you’re having a conversation with someone else as others try to bird.

We were able to tick off some notable birds, including

  1. Worm-eating Warbler
  2. Louisiana Waterthrush
  3. Kentucky Warbler
  4. Ovenbird
  5. Hooded Warbler
  6. Summer Tanager
  7. Scarlet tanager
  8. Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Now the trip with the OOS was made up  almost entirely of different people except for this one couple I remembered from the week before. This large group of 20 people was lead by 4 very experienced birds who really know their stuff, and to top it off Jon was able to come this time, and a excellent birder in his own right. Even though there was plenty of talking going on there was a focus amongst this group that was different. There was a lot of open ears and plenty of eyes as we drove from one hot spot to the next as we tracked down some favorites.

We drove and hiked in parts of Adams county I’ve never seen or believe existed before Sunday. From the open valley of Ohio Brush Creek, to forested areas vast and quiet as your own foot falls upon damp leaf covered trails. Ovenbirds singing that typical 2 note song. A Hooded Warbler calls close, then keeps ahead of us as we try to locate it. Once again it’s birding by ear again.

However there are times when We do get to see some birds. At this one stop where the Ohio Brush Creek flows under this bridge we all pull over to check out the Cliff Swallows that nest here every year.

IMG_0616Not wanting to get too close to the nesting Swallows, I opted to stay back a little and shoot this picture of a Cliff Swallow hanging onto it’s nest on the underside of the bridge. Taking a picture while standing in the sunlight into a dark area can always pose a problem.

It was while I was taking several shots of the Swallows, Jon calls out that he has a Red-headed Woodpecker. As I quickly turn around I see it on a telephone pole. For several minutes it leaves to telephone pole and flies into the trees that line the Brush Creek, only to return to the same telephone pole. This gave me time to set up a better pictures as the sun just wasn’t right.

IMG_0627This is the best picture I’ve ever taken of a Red-headed Woodpecker. First they’re not the most common of Woodpeckers, and second they are habitat specific. So you need to know where to find them in the first place to even get a photograph .

The day wore on and lunch was approaching fast. Another drive and short hike took us to a secluded shelter house with picnic tables. A much needed rest from all the driving and dust from the gravel roads. It was here that Prairie Warblers entertained and taunted us as they flew about singing. One fellow in the group brought along his digiscoping rig and was trying to photograph one particular Prairie Warbler who enjoyed it’s perch at the top of a Cedar Tree. It was a hell of a far shot, but I was able to squeeze off this one terrible photo, but you’re able to ID the bird.


As the day ended and while on the 90 minute drive home I couldn’t help but comment to Jon on how different the 2 groups were in the way they interacted during the day. I still enjoy birding in groups, and plans to continue this kind of birding will always be an option. However the quiet, and solitude of birding all by yourself can also be very gratifying.

So this trip we collected:

  1. Kentucky Warbler
  2. Hooded Warbler
  3. Louisiana Waterthrush
  4. Yellow-breasted Chat
  5. Ovenbird
  6. Prairie Warbler
  7. Cerulean Warbler
  8. And loads more birds.

So after tallying up all the Warbler species seen so far this year I now stand at 32. Not too bad.

And what’s in store next for me? A trip to the Smoky Mountains to visit with my oldest son who’s working at a environmental camp, and to try for a life bird. Swainson’s Warbler. This trip will be happening during the 4th of July weekend, and i know it’s probably too late to hear them, but I have a ace up my sleeve. Someone who works at the camp is studying Louisiana Waterthrush and has set up mist nets to band them. My son tells me she knows where they are.

This is exciting stuff!



One response to “Notes From The Field

  1. Great picture of the Red-Headed Woodpecker, one of my favorites. When I was growing up out in farm country, they were rather numerous out on the back farm roads. Seems like I see less of them now.

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