Monthly Archives: June 2016

“On The Road”

With a four day weekend and a tank full of gas, my destination for this much anticipated weekend was re-visiting my oldest son in Browns Summit North Carolina. Specifically The Summit Environmental Camp where he’s been working as a environmental educator. If you remember back towards the end of April my wife and I visited and I recalled the wonderful sightings of the Red-headed Woodpeckers at the marsh boardwalk. If you haven’t read it click on the hyperlink, “Haw River State Park, Browns Summit North Carolina”.

This time will probably be my last time visiting this part of the country since my son has taken a new job at a YMCA camp in the Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts. Despite the fact he’ll be moving further away from us (which totally depresses me) I feel this part of the country fits his personality. The camp is larger with more staff and some good opportunities to take on more responsibilities.

Even though the weekend was all about us having a good time together I still brought along all my gear so  I could return to the boardwalk to search for the Red-headed Woodpeckers. When I told David my plans for the morning he warned me of the biting flies that awaited me on the boardwalk. Taking heed I slowly started to bird around the main complex of buildings before wandering towards the trail that would eventually lead me to the boardwalk. I wasn’t outside more than 3 minutes when I was being buzzed by some flying bug that couldn’t resist getting into my hair and around my face. The more I walked closer to the trail it was joined by more and more flies. At the halfway point it became so unbearable I had to turn around. Besides long pants and a long sleeve shirt, it was necessary to have a mosquito net for your head if you even thought of venturing down to the boardwalk.

Nature conquered me.

However all is not lost. As I returned I heard a very distinct and loud call. A Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea) was skipping from tree to tree tops foraging for food. As it sang I followed till I was under the correct tree. I’d look through the summer foliage of the towering trees till I found it. Then it fly to another tree to continue the whole process over again. Never turning down a challenge to photograph a Tanager, whichever species it is, I set out to find it as it continued to sing away.

At times it was low in the trees, and other times it was high  in the top. My presence didn’t seem to matter to him and getting the best view wasn’t too much of a concern for the bird.

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IMG_4850Not wanting to take anything away from the redness of the Northern Cardinal, but the Scarlet Tanager with it’s contrasting colors of the black wings and the red of the body, has such a bold, in your face redness I’ve never seen in any other bird, personally. Now I’m sure there’s some bird in the world with the same coloration that is equal or better than the Scarlet Tanager when it comes to RED, it’s just I’ve yet to see it.

IMG_4851Since it was perched on this branch singing it’s heart out, I wanted to take as many photographs while it was still.

IMG_4860After it left it’s perch it flew to the canopy and snagged this bug, which it consumed. It was kind of cool watching as it dismembered this bug, thinking back to all the bugs that kept me from the boardwalk earlier.

Vindication!

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Notes From The Field

Caesar Creek State Nature Preserve

It’s been hot here in the Ohio Valley. Real Hot! The unrelenting sun and the oppressive humidity can take a pleasant activity like bird watching and turn it into a sweaty struggle. And to make matters worse I forgot and took my bug repellent out of the car. However I was determined today, and despite the countless spider webs I walked through Caesar Creek State Nature Preserve is my go to spot for Louisiana Waterthrush.

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Located down stream from Caesar Creek Dam this riparian corridor supports all sorts of wildlife as well as a great selection of wildflowers. A 2.25 mile loop trail is by far the best way to experience the gorge with it’s 180 foot cliffs that were cut by glacial actions. On the portion of the trail I’m using this morning the trail parallels the Little Miami River as Sycamore, Hickory, Oak and Beech Trees tower overhead.

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IMG_4778About 1/2 mile into my hike the trail closes in on the river, so there’s only a few feet between the trail and water’s edge. This is where I heard the first Louisiana Waterthrush. It sang for countless minutes never showing itself. The purpose of this trip was try to get a decent photograph of the bird, and it looked like it was going to be a harder than expected.

I moved further down the trail, then off trail to a location that always held multiple birds in the past. It’s at this location the river splits and forms a small island where on the quieter side the Waterthrush tend to hang out.

IMG_4780Louisiana Waterthrush return year after year and breed in this area, however this prime spot came up dry and I climbed back off the river bank and make my way back to the main trail and to where I heard them earlier.

IMG_4781Maybe one of my readers can help with a ID for this bug. They were everywhere in the preserve, and I’ve also seen them around my house. If you know what it is leave it in the comments at the end.

As the morning waned into the afternoon it grew hotter and even more humid. Even though I was out of the sun I was drenched with sweat. But I quickly forgot about my own misery when more than Waterthrush started to sing. This time closer.

IMG_4790Spotted him through the leaves just singing away.

IMG_4799He moved which gave me a better view. The one thing I noticed was when they were singing they would hold still. And when they weren’t singing, well… they could be anywhere. They were constantly moving around me and trying to locate them through the trees was really difficult.

One finally lighted across the river from me on a branch down by the water’s edge. Sorry for the poor quality of the photo.

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Growing weary of the chase, and irritated of the bugs flying around my face I called it quits for the day around 12:30. As I was walking out a Wood Thrush sang out, which echoed throughout the gorge. I took a deep beath and blew it out. My favorite bird wishing me a good day.