Monthly Archives: October 2014

Binocular Woes

These are my current binoculars that I use when I’m out. They’re from Vortex Optics, and they are the Talon HD 10×42. For the price they are exceptional binoculars and I can’t say enough about them. That is unless you want to talk about the chronic issue I’ve been having with the eye cup coming off all the time.

If my memory serves me well the problem first showed up several months after I purchased them. You see the lens covers are a bit snug. Which is a good thing since nobody wants their lens cover falling off all the time which could lead to scratched lens. That’s a bad thing. So one day while birding I pulled the lens cover off and the right eye cup came along with it, leaving the left eye cup in place. I was not happy

The following week I gave the good folks at Vortex a call and asked the tech support people a solution to fixing them without sending it back to the company. So began my quest in finding the perfect adhesive to bond my eye cup back into place without screwing up the mechanical workings that lie beneath.

Well after failed attempt after failed attempt I finally caved and put in the call once again to Vortex, which I should have done in the first place. You see the wonderful thing about Vortex Optics is their VIP Warranty. If you’ve not visited their web site before, their warranty was a big reason why I choose them for both my binoculars and spotting scope. In a nut shell  this is how it works right off their web site.

Lifetime. Unlimited. Unconditional. Vortex will repair or replace the product in the event it becomes damaged or defective. Absolutely free—no matter the cause!

So a week and a half ago I shipped them out, anxious and nervous like a parent sending their kid off to college for the first time. I called today to check on it’s condition with  reassurance from the operator that they were back in the repair shop as we spoke.

Well I’m pleased to announce that I just received a confirmation e-mail from FedEx saying there on the way back home. And hopefully healed. Despite the fact I do have a pair of back up Leopold binoculars, they’re just not the same thing.

So if you learned anything from this blog post is just make sure that you get a good warranty when you purchase your next pair of bins or other optical device. Nothing’s worse than ill functioning equipment no matter what it is.

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A Haiku

rock garden

Burnt Harvest Moon, still

upon smokey wisps at night

birds steal the silence

Photo Journal

IMG_1592!st Winter Franklin’s Gull/ Caesar Creek State Park

Notes From The Field

Sparrows, those pesky little brown birds that can give even the best birder fits. They can either be the most commonly seen bird, or the highly secretive. They can be as small as a Henslow’s Sparrow at 5″, or as large as the Harris Sparrow at 7 1/2″. We reference our field guides for sparrow by whether they have streaks of not. We deduce by the habitat we’re in on which type of sparrow might be there at any given time. But, no matter how you look at the sparrow they can be one of the best challenges a birder can face when you’re out in the field.

It’s Autumn here in the Ohio valley, and with the change of the season it’s also time for two of the toughest sparrows to find. From the Ammodramus family comes the Nelson’s and LeConte’s Sparrow. I’ve had some pretty good luck here at the Shaker Trace Wetlands of Miami Whitewater Forest but with just one of these birds, and that would be the Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow. And just this last May I was able to sneak up on this individual right off the paved bike trail.

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Sadly this last Saturday I wasn’t as lucky. A weather front was pushing through and the wind was up. Hearing became extremely difficult as the wind whistled by your ears as you strained to hear anything similar to a “chip” note. Hours were spent traversing through the recently mowed paths that criss-crossed the wetlands. Ammodramus Sparrows were not to be seen today.

But it’s never really a bad day when you’re out in the field birding. With that said the Swamp Sparrows were giving me fits as I jockeyed around trying to get a decent picture of these jittery birds. Considering the habitat they live in they’re almost as secretive as Nelson’s and LeConte’s Sparrows.

IMG_1574You see, this is the kind of looked I had to deal with when getting a photo of these Swamp Sparrows.

IMG_1577I was delighted when this White-throated Sparrow lighted long enough for me to fumble my camera out to get this shot.

IMG_1583And with the coming of cooler temperatures, the arrival of White-crowned Sparrows is as inevitable as Christmas. Masses flocked the tall vegetation along the trails, and always just one step ahead of me. Fortunately for me this little fella stayed put long enough for me to focus through the sticks and snap off a picture.

So as Autumn creeps closer to Winter, now is a great time to get out and go looking for skulking, secretive little brown jobs, Sparrows.

” On The Road”

With just over 2,700 miles driven, 91 different bird species seen, and with 4 of them being life birds, I’d have to say it certainly was a whirl-wind vacation. And with all good things, it must come to and end and reality rears it’s ugly head in the form up going back to work and all the stress that goes along with it. However I am glad to be home and sleeping in my own bed and not eating in restaurants every night.

Like I said it was a whirl-wind vacation where we visited family, friends, and places we’ve never seen before. And being a type of vacation where we’re not in one location for more than a few days at a time, birding proved to be a challenge. Knowing ahead of time where we were staying helped with locating the best places to bird watch, so planning ahead was really important. Making phone calls and studying web sites proved to be the biggest help.

Our first day of driving was going to be the longest as we drove south to Hattiesburg Mississippi. My 95 year old aunt and uncle live there plus a couple of cousins, so even though it was an exhausting drive I picked up some quality birds.

IMG_1304Boat-tailed Grackles were particularly common as they scavenged the rest stops throughout the south.

IMG_1298Being a rarity in the north, down south the Eurasian-collared Dove was quite common, especially along the Gulf Coast.

From there it was a short drive to Destin Florida where we stayed for another couple of days. It was here I picked up 2 life birds, Snowy Plover located at Gulf Islands National Seashore,

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and Common Ground Dove, which I found at the Ft. Walton land fill north of town.

The location of the Snowy Plovers was furnished to me by a contact through the local chapter of the  Audubon Society. The bridge leading west out of Destin onto Okaloosa Island has a parking lot right where the bridge ends. She told me to walk the beach and keep my eyes open.

IMG_1328Royal Terns were a pretty common sight, as were

IMG_1319Sanderlings

IMG_1334Immature Sandwich Tern

IMG_1336A Willet in the surf.

IMG_1373 Black Skimmers

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IMG_1355As I made my way around the edge this is the scenery I was confronted with. Since the Snowy Plover breeds here, it’s off limits to all and is roped off to keep people out. Except for the waters edge, it was nothing but sand and scrubby grasses.

IMG_1367As I passed my way through to the ocean, I really started to pay attention to where I was walking. Except for a few people fishing back by the parking lot, I had this whole area to myself. As I moved about the beach looking for Snowies, something moved.

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IMG_1382Notice that this particular bird is banded.

IMG_1389A closer looks at the bands they use.

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IMG_1396Knowing how threatened these birds are I didn’t want to keep following them, so I took as many pictures as I could, then I left with another bird ticked off my life list.

After leaving Destin we made our way to Chipley Florida, which is 45 minutes north of Panama City. It was here Kathy’s cousin lived, and our next stop for a couple more days. So the morning of our first full day I drove the 45 minutes to St. Andrews State Park.

IMG_1415A view of one of the larger marshes at the park. One thing I noticed about the state parks in Florida that differ from state parks in Ohio, you have to pay to enter.

IMG_1418Common Gallinule

IMG_1421Trails through the park were well marked and maintained. Low trees and scrubs held a nice diversity of birds, particularly migrating warblers.

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IMG_1442Snowy Egret

After our stay in Chipley was over it was onto our next stop, Hilton Head and one of my favorite places to bird, Fish Haul Creek Park. And as was the case on previous visits, as was now, the Piping Plovers were here. The pictures were terrible, so I apologize.

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IMG_1458Piping Plover

The day was beautiful when I took these pictures, so why are they so bad? The sun was at a bad angle, and it was real windy, which made holding the camera still difficult while using the digital zoom on the camera. They are so small, and far away getting a good shot is difficult.

It was here that I got a hot tip about a good location for Red-cockaded Woodpeckers just an hour away. As much as I wanted to stay here, I wasn’t about to pass up an opportunity like this. So i packed it up and drove they hour or so to Webb Wildlife Management Area in Garnet South Carolina.

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The drive as you pulled in a long, gravel road with mature stands of pines with scrubby undergrowth. Perfect Red-cockaded habitat! Plus the nesting trees had white bands around the tree so you can identify them. All you had to do is find a tree, and look for the nesting hole, which is usually covered on the outside with sap.

IMG_1467Red-cockaded Woodpecker nesting hole.

Unfortunately it’s not nesting time, and the couple of hours spent along the road looking for them was in vain, except for the completely by surprise Bachman’s Sparrow that came into view. About as secretive as they come, I was able to “piss” this out into the open long enough for a good ID.

Now you would think finding yet another life bird I would be satisfied. No, I wanted to see this woodpecker. So I parked the car and made my way down a sand road that criss-crosses the wildlife area.

IMG_1468It was along this road where I’d walk 20 yards and stop and scan. walk another 20 yards and repeat. Over and over again.

Then I spooked a woodpecker off a tree. Flying away from me with black nap and tail, and a ladder back, about the size of a Hairy Woodpecker was my Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Time for the Happy Dance! Life was good.

The drive back was euphoric as was the next day as we walked the beach while Brown Pelicans flew past,

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IMG_1518Laughing Gulls looked for scraps to eat,

IMG_1536and a lone Osprey hunted overhead.

However sometimes when you least expect it a really nice bird presents itself at the most unusual of times. We were shopping and just outside the store was a Palmetto Tree, where a Brown-headed Nuthatch flew into. Having my camera at the time, which is surprise in unto itself, I snapped several pictures of this southern specialty.

IMG_1561Brown-headed Nuthatch

IMG_1569The house we were staying at had a patio, where in the morning several palm Warblers were grabbing up all the worms.

But before this trip was over we had just one more stops to make. And boy was it worth every penny and then some.

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As for the birds, here’s my total trip list:

  1. House Sparrow
  2. Wild Turkey (seen through the kitchen window at Biltmore)
  3. Eastern Bluebird
  4. Red-tailed Hawk
  5. Red-shouldered Hawk
  6. Northern Harrier
  7. American Kestrel
  8. Osprey
  9. Peregrine Falcon
  10. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  11. Cooper’s Hawk
  12. Bald Eagle
  13. Turkey Vulture
  14. Black Vulture
  15. Mourning Dove
  16. Eurasian-collared Dove
  17. Common Ground Dove
  18. Pigeon
  19. Northern Mockingbird
  20. Brown Thrasher
  21. Common Crow
  22. Fish Crow
  23. Blue Jay
  24. Carolina Chickadee
  25. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  26. Boat-tailed Grackle
  27. Hooded Warbler
  28. American Redstart
  29. Palm Warbler
  30. Magnolia Warbler
  31. Black and White Warbler
  32. Yellow-throated Warbler
  33. Pine Warbler
  34. Scarlet Tanager
  35. Canada Goose
  36. Blue-winged Teal
  37. Carolina Wren
  38. House Wren
  39. Eastern Towhee
  40. White-eyed Vireo
  41. Red-eyed Vireo
  42. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  43. Northern Flicker
  44. Pileated Woodpecker
  45. Downy Woodpecker
  46. Red-headed Woodpecker
  47. Red-cockaded Woodpecker
  48. White-breasted Nuthatch
  49. Brown-headed Nuthatch
  50. Northern cardinal
  51. Tufted Titmouse
  52. Gray Catbird
  53. Barn Swallow
  54. Killdeer
  55. Snowy Plover
  56. Piping Plover
  57. Black-bellied Plover
  58. Brown Pelican
  59. Ring-billed Gull
  60. Laughing Gull
  61. Sanderling
  62. Least Sandpiper
  63. Semipalmated Sandpiper
  64. Ruddy Turnstone
  65. Royal Tern
  66. Caspian Tern
  67. Sandwich Tern
  68. Common Tern
  69. Willet
  70. Black Skimmer
  71. American Oystercatcher
  72. Double-creasted Cormorant
  73. Snowy Egret
  74. Great Egret
  75. Great Blue Heron
  76. Tri-colored Egret
  77. Cattle Egret
  78. Little Blue Heron (white and blue phase)
  79. Coot
  80. Common Gallinule
  81. Pied Billed Grebe
  82. Ruby Throated Hummingbird
  83. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  84. Eastern Phoebe
  85. Belted Kingfisher
  86. White Ibis
  87. Clapper Rail
  88. Bachman’s Sparrow
  89. Red-winged Black Bird
  90. House Finch
  91. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

“Attention”

PSA

To better keep this blog up to date, every now and then I have to go back and do some house cleaning. And to do that I have to delete pictures from older posts. You see Word Press, which is the service I use to create and perform all of my blogs functions only allow me free of charge, 3.0 GB of media space. Once I reach that point I have 2 options. I can either delete older photos, or buy more space on an annual basis. Since I’m more of a budget minded individual I opted for deletion. So as of today if you go back to older posts prior to October 2012 there will be no pictures associated with them.

I hope this won’t be a problem for anyone, and if you want to see anything in particular from an older post, just drop me a comment and I’ll dig up the photos and pass them along.

Thanks Les H.