Category Archives: Notes from the Field

Just Like Clockwork

Just like it is when the Bobolinks return to Voice of America Park every spring as I talked about in my last blog post, this is also the time for the Dickcissels (Spiza americana) to make it’s annual return to Fernald Preserve. The beauty of Fernald Preserve isn’t it’s past as a uranium enrichment facility, it’s the fact that they’ll never built a soccer field or any other sports field or home development on the property. Which in turn leaves it for our breeding grassland birds, like the Dickcissel.

Very vocal this time of year they’re easily seen sometimes as they perch near the top of vegetation. As in years past they can be seen, but usually from a distance which can make getting a photo difficult as the results can be really grainy.

This year I was a little luckier as both female and males were more cooperative with people being close by.

The female Dickcissels seemed to tolerate us humans better than the males and they got particularly close. I’m really pleased with this photo.

Voice Of America

I remember the first time I visited Voice Of America Park like it was just last month. It was probably around the time I made the decision to bird full time, as opposed to only when it’s nice outside, or I’m on a trip, or something like that. I had jumped in with both feet, and I was chasing anything and everything that was new. And that evening long ago is still imprinted in my memory.

I had just checked our local birding List-Serv and read that birders were see lots of Bobolinks at Voice Of America Park. By then Kathy was used to having me dash off chasing birds and tonight wasn’t any different than another time. This was a life bird for me and I didn’t want to miss out on the action so off I went.

30 minutes later I’m driving around the outside of the park trying to find the main gate since I’ve never been here before, that’s when I see several Bobolinks flying over the park fence and across the road. Now it’s getting exciting. Then I notice a dead bird in the middle of the road. I pull over to the side and walk back to see it’s a Bobolink. My heart sank. I carried the bird to the side and laid it in the brush, got into my car and eventually found the gate.

There’s an area in V.O.A. park that’s a protected bird area and that’s where I found them. They were everywhere. It was a beautiful sight. It was such a wonderful thing to see that I brought my best friend Phil back a few days later so he could tick off Bobolinks and the many Henslow Sparrow’s that were nesting there as well. It was such a nice patch of pristine grassland habitat for these birds.

As years pass more and more of the birds habitat was disappearing. The park board giving in to the youth athlete organizations and their need for more sport fields. And as we lost more grassland, we lost species. I haven’t heard a Henslow Sparrow in years, and the decline of the Bobolink population was apparent as well. For the past 2 years I’ve not seen any Bobolinks at V.O.A. until just recently.

Reports started to come in this Spring of Bobolinks showing up at V.O.A. again. I had to go over and see for myself. It took less than a minute when I spotted my first one. This is encouraging.

After spending several hours hiking around the area I came to the conclusion that they seemed to be hanging around this one area. And after some fancy calculating I figured there were 4 males and maybe 2 females from what I could see.

Now I’ll probably return in a few weeks to check on them and see if they’re still around or maybe I see more. Anyway you look at it, I was very pleased as I drove off towards home.

New Yard Birds…WHAT?

Yesterday I just got back from 3 1/2 days at Magee Marsh and surrounding local hotspots, and still need to sort through my thoughts and photos. However in the mean time a quick update on an exceptional day at home prior to leaving for Lake Erie country.

First off while getting the car loaded with my camping gear I heard a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, which in itself isn’t particularly rare or new to my yard list, just unusual.

Now remember that for a bird to make it onto my yard list it has to be seen or heard from my yard. Make sense right? Pretty simple. So it was while I was taking a break from packing I heard a bird song that’s very familiar. So familiar I couldn’t fathom it being real at first.  But it kept up a few more times confirming it to be a Prothonotary Warbler. Now’s there a bird I never thought would be anywhere close to my house, but there it was singing in a nearby patch of woods. Unbelievable!

It was shortly after that I caught out of the corner of my eye a bird landing in the top of a nearby tree. A few moments later it flew down and landed on the telephone lines right in front of my house and started to feed.

Eastern Kingbird

The Kingbird only hung around for a few minutes till it decided to feed somewhere else. I’m hoping it will stay around what with the empty lot across the street that back ups to where the Prothonotary was singing from. Time will tell.

Isn’t spring migration fun?

Morning at Shawnee Lookout

If only I could be awoken by the song of the Wood Thrush, then I think life itself would almost be perfect.

It’s song is soft, melodic, a woodland flute.

The Wood Thrush marks the beginning and the end of each day as it’s song never wavers.

With the return each spring these beautiful birds returns my soul and slows my pace as I wander in the forest.

With some birds, we work to remember their particular song…

but the Wood Thrush is forever in me.

Notes From The Field

Back in the summer of 1998, the city of Loveland Ohio cut the ribbon on a new 21 acre nature preserve bordering O’Bannon Creek, a tributary for the Little Miami River. And for the last 19 years this little gem right in the heart of Historic Loveland has almost become a forgotten spot for the birding community. I’m one of the guilty considering how I close I do live, with this being just my 3rd, or 4th time I’ve birded this nice patch of woodlands. So with an evening free with some unusally warm weather I ventured forth for a spot of birding.

For being such a small wooded lot, when you’re by yourself it instantly becomes larger than the 21 acres. I really didn’t know what to expect, but neither was I surprised by the birds I discovered. However when you go birding in the evening birds on a whole sytart to quiet down a little. Northern Cardinals, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmouses, American Robins were the most vocal. Even when I sit on my own front porch in the evening these birds are the most vocal.

This is a well maintained nature preserve through volunteer efforts by both the Boy Scouts and local groups. the trails are well marked and mulched with signage throughout the preserve telling you  where your located. A wooden bird blind with feeders is always nice to checkout even if the feeders were empty tonight.

A Cooper’s Hawk flies just ahead and above me, and lands quietly in a nearby tree. I pause to watch to see if a ambush is coming. The hawk seems content just to wait, but I wasn’t and moved on.

An Eastern Towhee catches my eye in the thick undergrowth. I “pished”  a few times to see if it would pop out for a photo.     Silly human.

As I walked the trail that parallels O’Bannon Creek I finally hear a Wood Warbler. An ascending trill with a hiccup at the end. Now I don’t know about you but when early spring arrives this is the time to dust off my warbler songs and reacquaint myself with these beautiful birds, especially before I head off for Magee Marsh in May. More and more species are arriving all the time and birding by ear for these warblers is key for proper identification when their foraging out of sight.

I stopped and waited for it to sing again. Northern Parula. I felt so stupid.

 

First of the Season

If you’ve been around birding or birders for any length of time. you may have noticed this abbreviation, FOS, or First Of the Season. Normally seen during Spring migration as birds either pass through an area or stay to nest, yesterday I had several FOS as Jon and myself set out into the field.

As much as I tried to get any photo of birds yesterday, it turned out to be pretty futile. They were either too far away, unseen, or moving too much to get any picture. So a quick run down of my FOS from areas in and around the Tri-State including Shawnee Lookout Park, Lost Bridge, and Kilby Road Park.

  • Warbling Vireo
  • Semi-palmated Plover
  • Palm Warbler
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Northern Parula
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • House Wren