Monthly Archives: November 2014

“On The Road”

Deer Creek State Park

During this Thanksgiving season most people will spent time with family and friends, and there are a few unlucky ones who have to work on the day after Thanksgiving. Myself included as one who had to work. However when I finally got home it was a festive time as my daughter and son-in-law were down from Michigan and we were going out to do some window shopping as we have done for countless years. But it seems that a few individuals were content with the simple things, like birding. That’s what Robert Royce did, he went birding at Deer Creek State Park. Robs name is quite familiar to anyone who’s watched any social networking websites in Ohio. He is pretty much the authority on birding at Deer Creek, and it was him who was out on Black Friday while the rest of us either worked or contributed to the economy.

On a day like last Friday I was too busy to check any of the birding web sites or Facebook pages. It wasn’t till Saturday morning when I finally got onto the computer that I noticed a super sighting at Deer Creek. And as usual it’s Robs posting that got that old twitch acting up. He had a Black-legged Kittiwake at close range, and the picture he took was nothing but phenomenal. Here’s a bird that I normally hear about sighted up on Lake Erie sporadically during the Winter, not in south central Ohio.

Well as you can imagine I was glued to the computer Saturday as there was no way I could go that day. My daughter was coming over for the day and there are somethings that take priority, like this. I also had chores that had to be taken care of and now that my oldest son is moving back till his A.T. hike, I needed to move furniture from one bedroom to another. But I always kept an eye on social media for the Kittiwake.

A late afternoon posting came through and that’s when I made the decision to go this morning early so as to get there when the sun came up. Jon was going as well, but due to circumstances he never made it, so at 6:30 I was on my way. I’ve been to Deer Creek a number of times but to this area north of the lake where the the actual Deer Creek empties into the lake. It’s not a particularly long drive, just 90 minutes or so, but during the drive I had this anxious feeling that I was going to dip on this bird.

After an hour of highway driving I exited and drove the remaining miles through farm country and the small town of Mt. Sterling. I found the road that put me at the exact location where the Kittiwake has been seen for the past few days. There are a few rocks in the water where it’s suppose to like to roost, which I found with no problem since they were covered with bird poop. No bird except for a scattering of Ring-billed a few hundred yards towards the lake.

I made the decision to drive to the beach to see if it was roosting there (which gulls do during the night). There was about a dozen Ring-billed on the beach, but there were hundreds and hundreds either flying off shore or floating on the lake. Not wanting to stay and scan at all these birds, my thought was that the Kittiwake was now up and wanting to feed and return to it’s favorite roost, which he’s done for the past days.

As I returned to my previous place I noticed another car and stopped to talk to the driver. He told me he’s from Columbus but was up in Cleveland this morning and drove down to tick off his nemesis bird. So we waited and scanned towards the lake thinking that’s the direction he’ll come from if my theory was correct.

And it was!

IMG_1682The bird was coming in low over the mudflats since the lake level is really low for the winter. The first thing I had to look for was the darker leading edge of the wings and the black crescent patch on the neck. So far it looked good. By now there were more people there and we all got on the bird as it passed right in front of us.

IMG_1701

IMG_1689This view you’re able to see the leading edge and how dark they are. Also a nice look at the black patch on the head. This is a juvenile bird.

IMG_1695

IMG_1697In this shot I wanted to capture the pattern on the back of the bird and how beautiful it is, however not being skilled in action photography this picture is lacking in quality, but you get the idea.

And just like clock work he flew past us all right to the area he was originally discovered and started to fish in a deeper pool several hundred yards up stream. Thinking he was going to land I jumped back into the bird-mobile and drove back. I watched it through the trees as it flew about, swooping near the water like it was going to catch a fish.

IMG_1705It touched down for a short time on the water before taking off again.

It checked it’s wings and lighted softly on one to the pooped upon rocks and settled down. I crept slowly forward…

IMG_1711

IMG_1712

IMG_1718

IMG_1723And this is how I left the Kittiwake as I pulled away with another life bird. All I can say thank goodness for adolescent behavior, because an adult Kittiwake would probably never be anywhere near a lake in the middle of Ohio.

Advertisements

Photo Journal

IMG_1649The cacophony of our 2 neighborhood Red-shouldered Hawks was loud enough to be heard inside.

 IMG_1657

Notes From The Field

IMG_1930

Sunday morning started out and finished unseasonably warm with the usual gray, overcast sky. How perfect, I’ll go to Caesar Creek for a little birding before the afternoon rain arrives. I’ll hit the usual spots like the nature center, beach, North Pool Boat Ramp, and always Harveysburg Road. Sometimes it’s nice to do some casual birding where you don’t have to take along more than what’s necessary, bins, camera, and spotting scope.

Winds were rather light considering how it normally is this time of year, so despite the light chop on the lake waterfowl was almost nonexistent. That could also be said for other people as well. The entire time I was there I saw only one boat out with 2 guys fishing. That was it! The gate going back to the nature center was locked (which I’ve never seen before), so I parked at the entrance and walked back. The beach was empty. Not even a dog walker. Even the large flock of Gulls that roost at the beach was down to a dozen or so of Herring, Ring-billed, and Bonaparte’s.

IMG_1661 Bonaparte’s Gull

Now if I had more time I would have gone to so many more places to pad my day list, however cleaning out my basement, and finishing up some necessary yard work had taken precedent over birding this day.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Black Vulture
  2. Turkey Vulture
  3. Red-shouldered Hawk
  4. Red-tailed Hawk
  5. Ring-billed Gull
  6. Herring Gull
  7. Bonaparte’s Gull
  8. Horned grebe
  9. Common Loon
  10. Northern Cardinal
  11. Dark-eyed Junco
  12. Tufted Titmouse
  13. Carolina Chickadee
  14. American Goldfinch
  15. Common Crow
  16. Mourning Dove
  17. Pigeon
  18. American Robin
  19. Song Sparrow
  20. Northern Flicker
  21. Pileated Woodpecker
  22. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  23. Blue Jay
  24. American Coot
  25. Eastern Bluebird
  26. Canada Goose
  27. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  28. White-breasted Nuthatch
  29. Horned Lark

Photo Journal

IMG_1646Heee’s back, cruisin’ neighborhood feeders and just being a nuisance.

“On The Road”

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge

Yesterday started out like most late fall mornings, gray and overcast with a forecast of snow flurries throughout most of Ohio. However the weather wasn’t going to stop my last trip to the coast of Lake Erie with my best friend Phil do get in a little birding. But this wasn’t just any birding adventure, we had planned this trip around the last auto tour that the refuge was having for the year. And despite how many times I’ve driven or walked over these same gravel roads and trails, I always look forward with much anticipation my time there. And this time it was the latest in the year I’ve been there. On other occasions I’ve gone on the October one, but things came up and the November date was the one we settled on.

Phil and myself hit the road promptly at 7 o’clock am with a good 3 1/2 to 4 hour drive depending on how traffic was this quiet Sunday morning. Well it was a great drive up. We chatted, listened to my I-Pod and counted Red-tailed Hawks as they surveyed the open farm land of central Ohio. We made one pit stop before getting of at the exit just after Bowling Green Ohio, and started working our way East and North towards the lake. Now you’re really in farm country as you substitute big rigs on the interstate, with extra wide tractors as they move about the back roads. But in spite of the moving farm implements, it’s better to go this way then work my way through Toledo, even on a Sunday morning.

When we pulled into the visitors center for one last pit stop before we started the auto tour, it couldn’t help but notice the lack of people. Sure there were a few stalwart individuals like ourselves, but I really was expecting more than we actually saw.

IMG_1595This was pretty much how the day looked. A real blessing was that the wind was pretty quiet for being so close to the lake.

As we drove we couldn’t help but notice our way was blocked by this grounded murmuration of Starlings.

IMG_1597And as you crept closer they finally took off. Despite my disgust of these birds on a whole, I will admit that when they form into a huge bio-mass it is a sight to behold. Just as long as they don’t poop on the car.

IMG_1598

As you visit Ottawa during the different seasons you can’t but notice the diversity of birds that come here all through the year. Granted Spring time is exciting what with all the migrating Warblers and other song birds, but Fall and Winter can be just as much fun as duck and other waterfowl fill all the unfrozen water.

IMG_1616Impoundments like this one held thousands of different waterfowl, from Gadwall. American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, to American Coots.

IMG_1613

However one of the real treats were the Swans, particularly the Tundra Swans which were plentiful. It seemed where there was any open water there were Swans. Which is pretty fantastic since they are such a massive bird to begin with, and just so cool to watch.

IMG_1621

IMG_1625

As a bird watcher have you ever been out birding and wondered why you haven’t seen this particular bird? Could it be because we were driving we missed certain species? Absolutely. But one particular bird was missing from the whole day. Normally found this time of year feeding along the edges of a road, and scattering when you approach with a flash of white of their tails. Juncos! However there were plenty of Tree Sparrows to make up the difference as these 2 approachable fellas will tell you.

IMG_1612

And anytime you visit up here remember to keep your head on a swivel and always try to look up every now and then. Bald Eagles were plentiful as usual, and a real treat was a hovering Rough-legged Hawk looking for dinner. A cruisin’ Merlin over the causeway going to Magee Marsh is always a good sighting. But until you experience the “chortle” of Sandhill Cranes as they come in to land, or as they pass overhead, you’ve missed a magical moment.

IMG_1602We didn’t see loads of Sandhills, but you don’t have to, to enjoy their beauty.

IMG_1624Tundra Swans on the wing. Poor photo. I really struggled with the camera today.

As we finished up the auto tour, and before we headed off to port Clinton for a bite to eat, we made our way over to Magee Marsh for a quick stroll around. As we pulled into a near empty parking lot I can’t help but look back at the time i was here in the Spring time when parking was at a premium, and the boardwalk was, pardon my vulgarity, “nut-to-butt”. Then as we walked out there yesterday afternoon we’re greeted with emptiness.

IMG_1627On any other day in the Spring this section will be a mass of humanity, now the only thing that was moving was a lone Downy Woodpecker. It seemed that the whole boardwalk was sleeping. Waiting for the arrival of warmer weather and migration.

As we drove out of the park we pulled over to scan this lake Phil had seen something on. As he looked in one direction, I looked the other and found a nice flock of Rusty Blackbirds, my new favorite bird. As they change into their non-breeding plumage, they take on this nice brown coloration that is almost nicer than their breeding colors.

IMG_1628I really tried to get a little closer so I wouldn’t have to use my digital zoom for a better quality picture, but they were a skittish bird and not easily approachable.

IMG_1632

So we left Magee Marsh behind and made our way to Port Clinton to one of our favorite fish restaurants, the Jolly Roger and some incredible Perch (the Perch Tacos were great) right from Lake Erie.

It was during our return trip back home when the weather turned ugly in a big way. Construction, coupled with too much traffic, with a heaping amount of snow, made for some interesting driving. Now there’s a kind of stress I can do without, especially when I have to go to work the next day. But we made it back safe and sound with a pretty nice list for the day.

  1. Bald Eagle
  2. Rough-legged Hawk
  3. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  4. Cooper’s Hawk
  5. Red-tailed Hawk
  6. Merlin
  7. American Kestrel (probable)
  8. Northern Harrier
  9. Pigeon
  10. Mourning Dove
  11. European Starling
  12. Northern Cardinal
  13. White-throated Sparrow
  14. Fox Sparrow
  15. American Tree Sparrow
  16. House Sparrow
  17. Red-winged Blackbird
  18. Common Grackle
  19. Rusty Blackbird
  20. Sandhill Crane
  21. Tundra Swan
  22. Great Blue Heron
  23. Mallard
  24. American Coot
  25. Gadwall
  26. American Wigeon
  27. Northern Pintail
  28. Bufflehead
  29. Northern Shoveler
  30. Ruddy Duck
  31. Canada Goose
  32. Cackling Goose
  33. Common Crow
  34. Ring-billed Gull
  35. Herring Gull
  36. Bonaparte’s Gull
  37. American Goldfinch
  38. Blue Jay
  39. Northern Flicker
  40. Downy Woodpecker
  41. Red-bellied Woodpecker

” On The Road”

For the past few weeks I’ve been rather idle when it comes to birding, however I’ve not been idle. Chores in and around the house has kept me pretty busy, especially the vegetable garden. Over the past year or so it has grown into a tangled mess full of discarded garden waste and other stuff that has turned my once pride and joy into an embarrassment. It was that same determination that kept our family in fresh produce all those years ago that spurred me into once again to take up the tiller and rake and wage war against my garden.

Weeds and grasses have been taken out. And we tilled. Compost bins were emptied into the garden. And we tilled some more. 25 pounds of garden lime was added. And we tilled yet again. And if tomorrow brings another sunny day I may run the tiller through one more time before letting it rest for the Winter. As I’ve discovered in the past when I was a fledgling gardener my focus was always on the garden and the preparations. Now it’s November and I have to get ready to buy seeds and think about when I need to start them. Whew!

So when’s the boy going birding? Funny you should ask. As it turns out next Sunday Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge is having their last auto tour for the year. This is a wonderful opportunity to drive to distant location that are scattered throughout the refuge that would normally take forever to walk. This is the first time in several years I’ve been here and with Phil coming along it should be a grand old time. I just wish it could have been on Saturday. It’s not necessarily a long drive, just a tiresome one. For us it’s about 4 hours one way, and with work the next day I’m sure I’ll be tired.

But on the bright side it is Ottawa in the Autumn, and anything is possible.