Monthly Archives: April 2016

“On The Road”

Haw River State Park, Browns Summit North Carolina

Two weekends ago Kathy and myself took a 4 day weekend to drive the 7 1/2 hours to visit my oldest son. His present occupation is an environmental educator at the Summit Environmental Education Complex, which is situated at Haw River State Park just a short 20 minute drive north from Greensboro North Carolina. For the most part he’s helping with teaching to various age school groups environmental requirements for their specific grade. And with school in session right now it’s a pretty busy place with school groups visiting from all over the state. However for us we just needed to visit our son and see what’s going on, take him out to eat a few times, do some sight seeing and buy him some much needed groceries. Plus get a little birding in, especially after he told me he’s been seeing this Brown-headed Nuthatch hanging around some of the living quarters.

After touring some of the buildings around the complex we went for a walk to an area of the park I was pretty excited about. The wetlands, which is a small portion of a much larger riparian corridor of the Haw River. It was a short walk to where  the boardwalk for the wetlands started.



IMG_4463And after a short walk on the boardwalk, you come out into this beautiful opening of wetlands and tall dead trees. And when you have a combination like this you’re bound to have a rare treat of viewing Red-headed Woodpeckers. Not just 1 or 2, but multiple birds. It was amazing!

Some interesting facts about this bird is that from 1966 to 2014 there has been a decline of 2% per year of this species. And if you add that up it’s a 70% reduction of this magnificent bird. The Red-headed Woodpecker is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which list bird species that are at risk of becoming “threatened” or “endangered” without conservation action.

They were a nuisance bird during the 19th century by orchard owners and farmers, who paid a bounty for these birds. Audubon reported 100 Red-headed Woodpeckers shot from a single cherry tree in one day. The birds followed the beech nut crop of the northern beech forests, and then with the great chestnut blight killing off virtually all the American Chestnut trees, their was a huge reduction of food for this bird.

So even today I’m always delighted when I spot one in the field, they are a tough bird to tick off if you don’t know where to find them. And boy did I find them.

I was always shooting my pictures with my camera pointing up. They never came low enough on the dead trees to get too close.

IMG_4444The bold white wings set off with the black in sharp contrast is a dead give away to which species you’re seeing. Plus the red head helps also.

IMG_4454Most of the time this is how I saw them as they chased each other around from tree to tree.






At one time I counted 6 individual birds. For me that’s an amazing number of probably the best looking woodpecker I’ve ever seen. Now the operative word here is “seen”. There are a bunch of new woodpecker species that hasn’t made it to my life list as of yet. So until I do see one that’s more beautiful than this bird, this is numero uno!

P.S. I finally saw the Brown-headed Nuthatch on our last evening. And of course I didn’t have my camera.

Notes From The Field

Shawnee Lookout Forest and the Oxbow

There were frost warnings out for the Tri-state area as I made my way over to pick up Jon for some very early migrant birding. Both Shawnee Lookout and the Oxbow can be particularly good, so with the rising sun low on the horizon we set off in a westerly direction.

Shawnee Lookout was practically empty as we set off on a couple of trails, always listening and watching. As we walked we chatted about which early migrant might make an appearance today. One at the top of the list was the Hermit Thrush. The reclusive skulker of the undergrowth is usually heard before it’s seen.

So it came as no surprise that one of the birds we stumbled across, right next to the trail was a Hermit Thrush eating a worm.

IMG_4388If you look real close you can see the worm on the ground.

Yellow-rumped warblers were the dominate, and only warbler species seen at Shawnee Lookout. In a couple of weeks this place will be crawling with migrating warblers, but this day wasn’t meant to be. However the male Butter-butts were all dressed in their best breeding plumage, and really it’s only a matter of time before more show up.

So as we were leaving Shawnee Lookout a question arises. We all know what happens when the chicken crosses the road, but what about the Wild Turkey?


After a short stop at Lost Bridge to count the Pectoral Sandpipers and a couple American Pipits, we arrived at the Oxbow. And quite honestly I don’t know what impressed us the most, the sheer number of Double-creasted Cormorants (we estimated about 250) or the Bald Eagles, ( which we counted 18 of them).

IMG_4415This immature Bald Eagle landed real close to Jon and me with a fish, and proceeded to eat it. I tried to sneak up it and get a better photo, but he didn’t that too much and promptly left.

IMG_4435Nothing quite as pretty as a Bald Eagle against a blue sky.

At one time as we approached a line of trees that separates two fields we counted 12 individual Bald Eagles. It was quite a sight, but considering the distance a photo wouldn’t have done justice. However the bird of the day was yet to come.

As we continued driving along the dirt road that cuts through the Oxbow we notice small brown birds foraging along the edge. And one had white edges on the tail. I quickly pull over as we get our bins on the bird. Vesper Sparrow. Very good bird, especially for this part of Ohio.

Now you might be saying to yourself that this is a pretty common bird where I live, but in southern Ohio we have maybe a 2 week window where Vesper Sparrows can be seen before they move North. And this one cooperated.

IMG_4432That’s the thing with Jon and me, we love Sparrows, and for us this was a great bird.

We made one more stop in Lawrenceburg Indiana where we walked a bike trail hoping to pick up the same birds we saw there during the Christmas Bird Count.

It was a good day. Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Black Vulture
  2. Turkey Vulture
  3. Bald Eagle
  4. Red-tailed Hawk
  5. American Kestrel
  6. Wood Duck
  7. Mallard
  8. Northern Shoveler
  9. Blue-winged Teal
  10. American Coot
  11. Pied-billed Grebe
  12. Hooded Merganser
  13. Great Blue Heron
  14. Great Egret
  15. Double-creasted Cormorant
  16. Wild Turkey
  17. Mourning Dove
  18. Pileated Woodpecker
  19. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  20. Hairy Woodpecker
  21. Downy Woodpecker
  22. Northern Flicker
  23. Blue Jay
  24. Eastern Phoebe
  25. American Crow
  26. Tufted Titmouse
  27. Northern Cardinal
  28. Carolina Chickadee
  29. Carolina Wren
  30. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  31. Yellow-throated Warbler
  32. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  33. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  34. White-breasted Nuthatch
  35. Hermit Thrush
  36. American Robin
  37. Brown-headed Cowbird
  38. European Starling
  39. Common Grackle
  40. Red-winged Blackbird
  41. Eastern Towhee
  42. White-crowned Sparrow
  43. White-throated Sparrow
  44. Song Sparrow
  45. Vesper Sparow
  46. Field Sparrow
  47. Chipping Sparrow
  48. House Finch
  49. American Goldfinch
  50. Canada Goose
  51. American Pipit
  52. Pectoral Sandpiper
  53. Killdeer
  54. Ring-billed Gull
  55. Bonaparte’s Gull
  56. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  57. Tree Swallow

A Birders Haiku

rock garden

Wind swept snow, branches

white on black, honeysuckle

shields the Tree Sparrow