Monthly Archives: March 2015

Notes From The Field

So refresh my memory. Is it March comes in like a Lion, and goes out like a Lamb. Or is it the other way around. With several hours yesterday morning do get some birding in, it was a biting cold that greeted me this late March morning. Despite the warming sun as we precede into Spring, I’m getting pretty tired of bundling up before going out. With limited hours I wanted to head on over to Gilmore Ponds to check on the expectant Great Horned Owls. If only I had a few more hours I would have checked out a few more places along the way for more migrants heading back. But I was pretty happy with what I can get these days. All the moisture in the ground was frozen, and the standing water scattered throughout had a skim of ice which reflected and sparkled from the rising sun. I took my spotting scope so if need be I could keep my distance. I forgot to bring my gloves and my hands froze of the metal legs as I hiked towards the nest. About 50 yards from the nest I set up the scope and started to scan the nesting tree. I found it occupied by one of the adults, and as a added bonus I noticed the other adult 20 feet away perched on a lower branch on the back side of a tree.

IMG_2200Since both sexes share responsibilities for sitting on the nest I don’t know which is which unless they’re next to each other. In this photo which was at a difficult angle the Owl was hunkered down in the nest so I could only see the top of it’s head.

IMG_2195Not a very clear shot as I needed to jockey to get into position to shoot between branches.

Not wanting to over extend my welcome I soon left and wandered around a little bit ticking off more and more birds. Gilmore Ponds is one of those little used parks since it’s more geared for nature lovers and not children, so I had the whole place to myself. It was a really enjoyable morning with some pretty decent birds. And even though the edges of the ponds were covered with ice, there was enough open water for some ducks. This is where the spotting scope comes in handy.

IMG_2194Carolina Wren

IMG_2204A very cooperative Song Sparrow

As I try to improve by photographic skills I’m trying to remember to take my ISO setting off of “auto mode” and setting at a lower number like 200 to bring out more detail in the birds. I did this with the Northern Flicker, and it really shows in the end result.

IMG_2218Norther Flicker

Birds for the day include:

  1. Turkey Vulture
  2. Red-shouldered Hawk
  3. Red-tailed Hawk
  4. Cooper’s Hawk
  5. American Woodcock
  6. Downy Woodpecker
  7. Northern Flicker
  8. Sandhill Crane
  9. Great Blue Heron
  10. Red-winged Black Bird
  11. Brown-headed Cowbird
  12. Common Grackle
  13. Great Horned Owl
  14. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  15. Eastern Bluebird
  16. Eastern Phoebe
  17. Song Sparrow
  18. Blue Jay
  19. American Robin
  20. House Finch
  21. White-breasted Nuthatch
  22. American Coot
  23. Blue-winged Teal
  24. Green-winged Teal
  25. Wood Duck
  26. Mallard
  27. Ring-necked Duck
  28. Red Head
  29. American Wigeon
  30. Northern Shoveler
  31. Pied-billed Grebe
  32. Tree Swallow
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Notes From The Field

Wednesday evening my oldest son and myself had to get out of the house and do a bit of exploring. Which in simpler terms means “let’s go out and do a bit of walking and do some birding while we’re at it”. And one of my favorite spots is Gilmore Ponds which is a part of the Butler County Metroparks system. This park naturally sits in a low area of Butler County. Which explains why they built a section of the Miami-Erie Canal along the present day northern border of the park. And with the park being situated in a pretty wet area the waterfowl can be real good, but tonight we’re owl hunting.

A good tip from a fellow birder gave me an idea where a nesting Great Horned Owl was located. And since everyone I know loves owls, I couldn’t resist the temptation. Great Horned Owls mate for life, but they will stay with their mate only during breeding season. They mate by December and often use nests from other large birds. They may also use cavities in trees, cliffs, buildings, etc.  The female lays 1-5 eggs and incubates the eggs for about 30-37 days. The male feeds the female and protects the nest by attacking intruders.   After the young hatch they are fed by both parents are brooded for another 2 weeks.  The young are very active and will venture out onto the tree limbs, but remain close by in order to be fed.  They fledge at 45-55 days.

IMG_2177If looks could kill

Now with the owl nest secured away, repeat visits will be in order. If this truly is an active nest we’ll soon see some young ones, and hopefully get some photos.

Notes From The Field

A few years back rumors of Bald Eagle sightings along the Little Miami River close to my house were pretty sketchy and unreliable for the most part, however very much a possibility. Their numbers have increased over the years and the habitat along the river is ideal. Plenty of large trees to build a nest and a reliable food source. But being a birder I wanted to see the bird/birds for myself.

My mind quickly changed while driving one day as I crossed the river near the small village of South Lebanon. Flying above the bridge following the course of the river was my first area sighting of a Bald Eagle. Afterwards videos and photos were shot and shared with everyone on social media. Then someone found their nest. That was 2 years ago.

This area along the river for the most part is a flood plain, intermixed with a few homes, a vineyard, and plenty of gravel businesses. For the most part the gravel businesses own a majority of the property parallel to the river. The Loveland Bike Trail is sandwiched between the gravel quarries and then a wide buffer from the bike trail to the river’s edge. It’s here in this buffer zone where Sycamore trees tower above the landscape, that the eagles have re-built their nest, after the first one was destroyed in a pretty violent storm. At the time of the initial sighting, it seems the eagles were occupying a nest from a Great Blue Heron. Using this nest as a platform they bulked it up in size, while the nests of the herons in this small rookery paled in comparison. So their new nest is still in the same general area, but still looks like a strong storm could wreak havoc with it.

There’s only a few places where you can view the nest, and last night I was heading towards one of them located in the driveway of a closed landfill on the opposite side of the river from the nest. There’s just enough of an opening in the trees to get a decent view of the nest with your spotting scope, which turned out vacant at the time I arrived. So I waited.

10 minutes later an adult eagle arrived at the nest with something in it’s beak. I was hoping that I’d see some small eagle heads pop up from the bottom of the nest, but no, the adult proceeded to eat whatever it caught. Then it took off, flew in a circle and started to head in my direction. It flew above the tree line to my left when I shot this next photo.

IMG_2129

I lost sight of the eagle as it passed behind an evergreen. My angle was bad what with the tree in the way so I crossed the road and found the eagle sitting just perfect in a tree just about 100 yards away. I’m so glad I had my camera.

IMG_2159

IMG_2162Here the eagle is giving us his “Noble” pose.

IMG_2152This was the best  could do cropping this close-up.

IMG_2166And after 20 minutes or so…it flew away.

Late Winter Birding

With the official start of Spring less than 2 weeks away, winter is still holding tight on the Ohio Valley. Earlier this week the area received yet again a fresh covering of snow with temps bottoming out at or near zero degrees.

As temperatures steadily rose towards the end of the week, so did the threat of flooding waters from all the 3 main rivers. But most notable is the Ohio River which is suppose to crest today at flood stage.

It was a frustrating day of birding. My goal for the day was to work the lakes along the Little Miami River south towards the Ohio River, ending at the confluence of the Licking and Ohio Rivers in Covington Kentucky.

My first stop was a Lake Isabella, a small fishing lake that is part of the Hamilton County Parks system. In winters past this can be quite a nice spot for waterfowl, however…

IMG_2120 it was still frozen over today, with only one small area that had open water, which held no birds.

I moved a little more down stream towards Grand Valley Preserve. Despite the fact that it’s a private preserve, there are plenty of vantage points so any non-member can scan the lake. However…

IMG_2121Grand Valley is still frozen over, except for this small hole where some Ring-billed Gulls and American Coots were gathered.

Well it seemed pretty obvious by now that any open water, unless it’s a river, was going to be frozen over. So a time to change tactics was in order. This time I made my way to a nature preserve along the bottom lands sandwiched between the East Fork of the Little Miami and the main branch of the Little Miami River, in a sleepy, but affluent community of Terrace Park.

IMG_2122 Except for the crunch of the snow under my boots, the only birds worth mentioning was your normal backyard birds. Everywhere I went was unusually quiet.

Moving onto Bass Island which sits adjacent to the Little Miami River. This place always floods, however there is a trail where if the water hasn’t risen too much you can keep your feet dry.

IMG_2123Bass Island is one of those little gems where birding can be really good. During Spring migration this can turn into a migrant trap with exception fall out of warblers. But overall a very good spot for your passerines. That is except today. I think my whole mojo is thrown off.

Moving further downstream towards the Ohio River I made a futile stop at Armleder Park.

IMG_2128It could be a couple of weeks before they let anyone back into the park. Scanning the frozen flood waters I was able to spot both Herring and Ring-billed Gulls and Crows.

Despite the fact the birding wasn’t very good, the weather was making a turn for the better. The sun was warm and when you got back into your car you had to roll the windows down to keep from over heating. For myself it was a fair trade-off.

I ended my day searching the flood waters of where the Licking and Ohio come together. This can be a very good spot for duck, however with the rushing waters ducks were absent.

Most of our over wintering ducks will be leaving soon, and with me traveling north to Michigan next weekend, the prospect of finding large pods of ducks will diminish. But with Spring come the migrating song birds, and the cycle continues.