Monthly Archives: July 2016


It’s been exceptionally hot across the Ohio Valley, as I’m sure it’s been in your part of the country. Temps in the middle to upper 90’s with suffocating humidity and sudden storms, add up to me as being as non-birding as it gets. As the month of August wears on and fall migration really begins to ramp up I’ll start to get out a little more often. Waders are beginning to show up at their usual haunts in some good numbers. Mostly Yellowlegs, Solitary, Pectoral, Stilt, Peeps and Plovers seem to be a good bet if you venture out. And despite the fact I’m not out birding during the hot Summer months as I would be any other time of year, I’m still pretty busy with other bird related projects.

A few years ago Jon and myself were taking the whole day and do some birding at Deer Creek State Park, which is located southwest of Columbus Ohio. It was late summer, early fall and were trudging along carrying our our spotting scopes over our shoulders with our bins around our necks. After a while one of us commented about the need for some kind of backpack device so you could just carry your scope on  your back, which in turn would free up a hand, plus reduce fatigue on your shoulders.

Well after procrastinating for more than a year we’re getting one. Jon texted me a week ago and told me that his wife and mother-in-law were in England on vacation and they found Scopacs. A product manufactured in England and the perfect solution for our nagging shoulders after long days in the field. Click the link below to see how it works. I’m pretty excited about adding this to my arsenal of birding paraphernalia.

Scopac Lite

However the big news comes towards the end of the month when my wife and I go on a much needed vacation. And I’m going to a part of the country I’ve never been before. The west coast.

We’re flying in San Francisco, rent a car and point it north. Our nephew who lives north of the city will be our guide the first couple of days as I check out Point Reyes National Seashore. For 2 beautiful weeks we’ll be traveling to Redwoods and Olympic National Parks, with stops along the way to visit Portland and do a pelagic trip in the San Juan Islands of Puget Sound as we home base out of Port Angles Washington.

Somehow I feel this trip, from a birders perspective, will be right up there with my trip to the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. All new birds and plenty of them to help boost my life list closer to 500 species.

It’s a big trip with loads of planning to take care of, and field guide studying to do. However between now and then I’ll try to get in some much need birding so I can keep my skills sharp.

More to come.

“Notes From The Field”

“Oakes Quarry Park”

The present site Oakes Quarry Park was originally a surface mined in 1929 for limestone to make cement by Southwestern Portland Cement Company and Southdown Inc. before it was sold to the Oakes family in the 1990’s. The family finally donated the 190 acre property to the City of Fairborn in 2003. It’s the city’s second largest park with hiking and horse trails that crisscross the ancient limestone fossils exposed by the mining activity that formed the quarry. Through the hard work of the volunteers at the Beaver Creek Wetlands Association, and with funding from Clean Ohio Conservation Fund, they’re now developing prairies and wetlands that were once common in this area.

Since 1988 the Beaver Creel Wetlands Association Controls a series of beautiful parks that stretch from Oakes Quarry to the north, to Creekside Reserve in the south. A few years ago I explored a good many of the 11 parks that make up the Beaver Creek corridor. Oakes Quarry was one of the only ones that eluded me, however it came into my radar a few weeks past when a birder posted some excellent photos of Lark Sparrows taken while visiting Oakes Quarry.

As you know by now I’m a big fan of Sparrows. I think next to Gulls they can be the most problematic for any birder. All we see is a little brown bird, try to ID it,  shrug our shoulders in hopes someone close by can ID it for you. But not so with the Lark Sparrow {Chondestes grammacus}, which by the way is the only member of the Chondestes genus. With it’s distinctive harlequin face pattern  of white, black and chestnut has bright under parts with a central breast spot, much like a American Tree Sparrow, with white edges on the tail.

I arrived at the park around 8:30 and went straight to work. Most of the present sightings I reviewed on eBird indicated that the birds were congregating near the entrance. It was about 45 minutes of walking and re-walking over the same ground when I first noticed 4 birds with obvious white tail edges flocking together, then finally settling down in an area I had explored just a few minutes ago.

I heard one start to sing. It was near, so I crept closer to the sound. I noticed a couple under a stunted Cedar Tree, then I saw the one that was singing. It was in another Ceder Tree to the left of the other birds. Bringing up my bins to get a positive ID, I pulled my camera up and fired off a few quick shots before the birds flew. Very skittish.



IMG_4872This is the exact location and the type of habitat the birds were first discovered. There’s no top soil, just gravel and rocks of various sizes and shapes.




IMG_4876As you can see by the previous photographs this is a very open part with sparse vegetation. If you looked on any range map for the Lark Sparrow you’d notice that the bird is considered a rare visitor to western Ohio. However if you know where to look for them, you can get lucky. For myself I try to locate them at least once a year.

The morning wore on and i was still looking for the the 4 birds I saw earlier. I had returned to the original location when I heard one sing again. By the time I saw the bird it flew into a tree where it continued to sing.


Since there wasn’t much cover to hide behind, sneaking up on this bird was pretty useless. It flew away. But I was determined, and soldered on.

Once again returning to the same area as the first 2 sightings I saw these 2 feeding on the ground.



Despite have some tough views at some very skittish birds, I felt satisfied. I was also hungry and it was an hour drive home.

I will return.