Category Archives: Notes from the Field

Our Littlest Gull

Caesar Creek State Park can run either hot, or cold for me. I’ve been making regular visits recently with birding really starting to pick up with the arrival of more ducks to the lake. As for the regular gull population, it’s been the normal Ring-bill, Herring, and Bonaparte’s Gulls. That was until 2 days ago when a friend of mine Rick A. (who has a knack for finding rarities) sighted a ABA code 3 Little Gull at Furnas Shores boat ramp. This sighting was later confirmed by several other birders as more and more people drove to Caesar Creek to see for themselves.

Little Gull (Larus minutus) are usually reported from the northern part of Ohio along Lake Erie. They’re normally seen with Bonaparte’s Gulls which are slightly larger and very similar. Field markings can be very confusing, especially from a distance if they’re resting on the water. It’s when they’re flying that they really stand out from the Bonaparte’s Gull. They’re underwings are almost blackish in color which really leaps out at you as you observe them in flight. And if they’re flying with Bonaparte’s Gulls you’ll then notice the smaller size difference.

Even though this wasn’t a “Life Bird”, I was still anxious when the first report came across Facebook’s “Ohio Chase Birds” page. However with it being the holidays and packages still be delivered, I needed to stay home to make sure “Porch Pirates” didn’t make off with them.

Late afternoon yesterday was the only time available for me to chase the bird. By the time I finally got a look at the bird, or should I say 2 Little Gulls, it was about 2:30 pm. We were losing precious light, and with thick cloud cover trying to capture anything flying with such a slow shutter speed was really difficult.

As I joined the group of birders, one of them stated that there were 2 of them. Having 1 of these birds is unusual, but 2! Indeed it was 2 as I got on both birds. What a delight. I attempted to take plenty of pictures, however with the terrible lighting conditions, distance from the bird, and slow shutter speed and my auto focus trying to sharpen a moving bird, what pictures I got were mostly for diagnostic purposes.



What I like about the above photo is the difference between the Little Gull on the left, and the Bonaparte’s Gulls on the right.


Notes From The Field/ Rare Bird Alert

If you haven’t noticed by now I haven’t been doing much birding this summer, hence nothing to post on my blog. If I’ve never mentioned it before, the reason is I’m not a big fan of hot and humid weather, plus with all the rain we’ve been experiencing just reinforces my position on summer birding.

Now if i was going on a trip somewhere near the coast, or some part of the country I’ve not been to, well that’s something entirely different. But I’m not going on vacation someplace cool, and the Ohio valley isn’t very exciting for birds.

However fall migration is starting to kick into gear and that’s worth getting excited about. So when a local birder sighted a Little Blue Heron at Gilmore Ponds yesterday I thought to myself, why not? The weather cooled off and the humidity was dropping, so i made my way over this morning to see if I could re-locate the bird.

Pretty scarce for our area, they do make appearances I wouldn’t say every year, just enough to justify the bird when you’re checking it in on eBird .

Notes From The Field

Bell’s Vireo (Virco bellii) is one of those nondescript Vireos that pretty small, has a very distinct song, and is known to be a skulking bird that loves to hide in some dense cover. Uncommon even within it’s range, occasionally they make their way to my part of Ohio. If you happen to be a yearly “Bird Lister”, the annual go-to location for this bird has always been Smith Tract Park. For some unknown reason every year a lone Bell’s Vireo goes to this on location in the park and sings away. Sure they show up else where, but if you need to tick this bird off your list, this is the place. Until about a week ago.

Given their nature of staying out of sight I’ve not been able to get a photograph of a Bell’s Vireo, despite countless tries. So when one is sighted at Voice of America Park just 20 minutes away I made it a point to try my luck again.

This time we have success.

What was even better was that the sun was perfect, which in turn gave me these beautiful shots of a really good bird to add to anyone’s list.

Notes From The Field

Situated north of Xenia, south of Springfield, and east of Dayton Ohio sits the quaint and quirky town of Yellow Springs. A town left behind from the 60’s, it’s one of my favorite places to visit and explore. And just to the west of the 3 block downtown there’s a very small conservation area which is probably no bigger than 10 acres with a small pond in the center.

Well guess what someone sighted early in the week while birding? A King Rail!

No Way!

Yes Way!

I’ve only seen one and that was several years ago near Columbus. So my plan was to go up this Saturday while my wife was at work and check it out. But this plan was interrupted when another birder sighted a Red-necked Phalarope in the same pond with the King Rail.


So off I went yesterday afternoon. Less than 90 minutes later I was creeping around the edge of the pond with a few other birders.

Luck was with me this day.

Now the Red-necked Phalarope was feeding within 20 feet of me, and that’s why these photos turned out so good.

Notes From The Field

I’ve been getting in a little morning birding this week while the weather’s been good and migration is still among us. I hit up a few of my regular spring time haunts hoping for some decent birds, and some photo opportunities. So I was off to Magrish Riverlands Preserve and Shawnee Lookout Park, both are great spots for migrant warblers.

Cerulean Warbler has always been a difficult bird for me to photograph, and this individual located at Shawnee Lookout allowed me at least one decent shot, even if it’s not that great.

Blue-winged Warbler also at Shawnee Lookout.

 And how could you resist getting a shot of this Summer Tanager.

This Tennessee Warbler was found at Magrish Preserve yesterday.

Also at Magrish was this male and female Red-eyed Viroes. As I watched the male was putting on courtship displays, which I’ve never seen before.

Notes From The Field

The Eared Grebe ( Podiceps nigricollis ) is a fairly common bird west of the Mississippi River, however on an annual basis we here in Ohio will have a stray show up. And as usual birders start showing up as well to tick this difficult bird off their “Year List”. For myself I don’t keep “Year Lists” but I do enjoy putting the old bins om this bird and maybe getting a decent photograph.

The bird was located at Eastwood Metro Park in the heart of Dayton Ohio. I’ve visited this park in the past and it’s not too far away, about 45 minutes.  Before I made up my mind to go I consulted one of my favorite books, “Identify Yourself, The 50 Most Common Birding Identification Challenges” In it there’s a really good section on Grebes.

This time of year Eared Grebes are usually seen either by themselves or with another, mixed in with Horned Grebes. And if they’re actively feeding just keeping up with them so you can get a positive ID can prove difficult. To quote from the book “The most useful differences between Horned and Eared Grebes in non-breeding plummage are the pattern of the head and throat and the size and shape of the bill”.

With that in mind, off I went. I arrived before the park even opened as well as some other birders. Besides the Eared Grebe there were reports of a Red-throated Loon. Well no Red-throated Loon was spotted, however the Eared Grebe was there.

What I love about the above photograph is that you can really see the slight upturned bill, which is a great identifier for Eared Grebe.

After searching this side of the lake for the Loon with no luck, I drove down to the to search, with no luck. As I started to drive back once again I noticed this birder taking pictures at a Common Loon really close to these docks by the boat launch area. I pulled over and parked and grabbed my camera.

In all my years of birding I’ve never been this close to a Common Loon, or any Loon for that matter. It had to of known we were there, but were no threat because it just kept feeding as I snapped off picture after picture.