“January 100 Species Challenge”…with a bit of a surprise.
Needing to pad my already dismal January list, I made for Spring Valley Wildlife Area with my oldest son David in tow. It’s always nice to go out birding with someone else but when it’s your own son or daughter it always makes it special. Plus it gives you someone to talk to, and another set of eyes which will prove to be valuable later on.
The turnoff from Rt. 42 north of Waynesville Ohio provides distant looks at a couple of gravel quarries which can hold plenty of waterfowl. I was able to tick off a few ducks which was a huge improvement over yesterday. Despite these few ducks, numbers were real low overall.
When we drove closer to Spring Valley we heard more shotgun firings all around us. It turned out that duck hunting was still in progress and not wanting to be mistaken for a over-stuffed goose, I donned my blaze orange vest and forged ahead down the trail.
We were able to pick up just a few more birds for the count, but nothing in numbers. We walked a portion of the Loveland Bike Trail towards a Bald Eagle nest that I knew about. No Eagle. Other than a small scattering on American Tree Sparrows, a lone Belted Kingfisher, and a Pileated Woodpecker, Spring Valley was bird quiet.
David wanted to get home by about 1:00 pm, and after looking at my clock I decided to cruise around Caesar Creek Lake and hope some of my hot spots held any new birds. Our first stop was Mounds Road at the northern end of the lake. Lake levels were up and with that no mud flats, and no birds. Time to head home was fast approaching so I decided to make just one more stop at my favorite spot on the lake, Harveysburg Road.
As usual the wind was kicking up and after a quick scan for anything afloat I was beginning to feel this was going to be a brief visit. This is a real good spot for Common Loons, and my heart was sinking for the lack of waterfowl.
Then I spotted something…way off in the distance. Nothing more than a black speck through my bins.
I swung my spotting scope around and got on the bird…WHAT THE HELL!
Despite the cold, the heat shimmer coming off the water was distorting things, other than my reeling brain as I tried to come to grasps with this rarity that I discovered.
First thing to do is get David on this bird so I have an alibi that I’m not nuts just in case the bird flies away or blown away by a hunter. I pull out my new smart phone and hand it to David an have him open up one of my 4 bird guide apps I’ve installed.
Too big to be a Horned Grebe, plus the bill is yellowish and slightly turned up. The black cap extends below the eye so that rules out a Clark’s Grebe. Western Grebe for sure. Now I need to make a few phone calls to my birding buddies and try to get more eyes on this bird. In the mean time the bird starts to actively feed. Diving and coming up somewhere totally different. We can’t lose sight of this bird till someone else shows up. A friend of mine posts the sighting on the Facebook Ohio Rare Bird Alert, so things should start to hop.
One of my birder friends I called, who turns out to be a cracker jack photographer, shows up and gets on the bird. It’s moving further away as it feeds. A few more people show up, and it’s my turn to depart totally excited about this discovery.
Believe it or not the Grebe did come closer, so I was able for some better diagnostic shots.
Notable birds for the day include:
- American Black Duck
- American Coot
- Hooded Merganser
- White-throated Sparrow
- Belted Kingfisher
- American Tree Sparrow
- Pileated Woodpecker
- Horned Grebe
- Northern Mockingbird
- Eastern Bluebird
- Western Grebe-Lifer # 404
So with the 32 birds yesterday, and the 13 today, my January total is 45.