“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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One response to ““Notes From The Field”

  1. Wonderful post

    Pat Kiernan

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