Category Archives: Notes from the Field

Notes From The Field

On a recent trip to Ellis Lake, I came upon this beauty.

These are some of the hardest birds to spot since they only move through during migration. So our window of opportunity is small to find and locate this beautiful Nelson’s Sparrow

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Sandpiper At dawn

The beauty of retirement is revealing itself as I start to take advantage of some of my favorite pastimes, like birding anytime I want.

I drove to Caesar Creek State Park to check the beach and the local gull flock to see if anything might show up a little unusual. To my surprise the beach was void of any gulls. They were all roosting on a temporary dock located a couple hundred yards off the beach. So I started to scan the beach and pick through all the Killdeers when I noticed 1 lone “Peep”. This one bird had my total focus for about 30 minutes as I positioned myself against the glare of the rising sun.

It may be only a Least Sandpiper, but the fact that it was all alone on this near empty beach drew me to it. I took dozens of photos, but I choose this one because of the way the sun hits it, and the contrast between the bird and the green stuff it was feeding in.

Quite Possibly The Cutest Sandpiper

First things first before I get to my blog post about cute sandpipers, I’m finally retired. After 40 years as a Surgical Technician at the same health care facility I’ve punched out for my last time. Which in turn should free me up more birding, and chasing rarities. So hopefully I won’t be so lazy lately in getting blog posts out to all my readers.

So when you think of cute Sandpipers there’s quite a few that come to mind. But first let’s make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to Sandpipers. There’s a lot of cute birds that scurry about along everyone’s favorite beach or lake front. So let’s omit some of these.

This little cutey is a Snowy Plover which I found at Gulf Island National Seashore. Now you have to admit that is this one cute bird, however it’s a Plover.

The same holds true to this gorgeous with loads of cuteness to boot.

This Piping Plover was photographed at Sleeping Bear Dunes, and the cuteness, and rarity factor is definitely there, but once again it’s a Plover.

Now here’s a picture of a legit Sandpiper, a Purple Sandpiper seen back in  2013 at East Fork State Park. Now this is a great bird, however when it comes to being a cute Sandpiper, ………..well?

Now this heavily cropped and terrible photo is of a Stilt Sandpiper. A reasonably cute Sandpiper in it’s own right, but once again there are cuter Sandpipers out there.

Now this Dunlin is a Sandpiper even though it doesn’t have Sandpiper attached to it’s name. And it’s a plump very cute bird with a lot going for it. But alas not the cutest.

 

Now this Pectoral Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowleg are very cool, and quite honestly they are cute, but not enough to be called the cutest.

Now breaking into the top 5 of cute Sandpipers is this Semipalmated Sandpiper seen the same day as the above photo of the Piping Plover. This is one cute bird, and his next of kin is also very cute.

The Least Sandpiper with it’s distinct yellowish/ green legs.

Seen along both coasts and the Gulf of Mexico, the Sanderling is everyone’s little darling of the beach as they search for food as the waves crash ashore. Always on the move, they can be approached if your quick enough, and getting a decent photo on these fast moving bird is always a challenge. And I would have to agree with most people in saying this is a really cute bird.

But there’s one more.

The Buff-breasted Sandpiper, is quite honestly the cutest Sandpiper.

This gorgeous bird was first reported at Caesar Creek State Park this last Saturday, and stuck around through the evening. Very rare except during migration, I couldn’t wait on this bird any longer. So on Sunday after I went birding with Jon, and we saw yet another Buff-breasted at Lost Bridge, I raced up to Caesar Creek to look for that one.

The day was sunny, with the sun hitting the bird at the right angle. the beach was busy with people on this beautiful Sunday, but the Buff-breasted wasn’t bothered and busily feed along the shore.

To me they appear as small and fragile bird, with a small head with that beautiful coloration. Very distinct markings on the back with those nice yellow legs.

All told I took over 120 photos of this bird. But when you’re the cutest Sandpiper you don’t spare the SD card.

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?