The First time I visited Highland County to search for the Henslow’s Sparrows a week or so ago I couldn’t have been more pleased with the number and ease which the sparrows could be observed. Walking along this one lane country road with Henslow’s singing from both sides of you was an experience I’ve not felt since they breed at Voice of America Park a long time ago. Once you tune your hearing for their small “hic-cup” song the easier it is to locate them. And wanting to experience that again, this last Wednesday I made my way back to Highland County, and this time i was going later in the day so the sun would be more to my advantage as I intended to shoot more pictures.
If you compare the photos from my last blog entry, and these new photos you’ll notice the difference as the sun was higher in the sky then in my face. Needless to say I had a ball wandering the edge of these fields creeping up on these amazing birds.
One of the most challenging species of birds to identify by both beginner and expert alike are the Sparrows. For so many birders they’re no more than little brown birds that if you can’t identify right off or get a good view of, they just pass it by without making any kind of effort. I myself have been guilty of this in the past, but over the years I’ve grown to love these birds and to put more effort into this class of birds more than others. As a matter of fact one of my favorite field guides concerning Sparrows is “The Sparrows of the United States and Canada”, By James D. Rising and David D. Beadle.
According to the latest version of the Sibley App there are 38 Old and New World Sparrow species in North America. For myself, I have 26 on my current life list. And with the return of summer I always look forward to the return of a few of Sparrows we can find on the rural back country road of Ohio. Namely the Grasshopper and Henslow Sparrows.
Tracking down these birds took my last Friday to rural Highland County just south of Rocky Fork State Park. On a quite 1 lane country road I wandered as Henslow Sparrows sang from both sides of the road.
One of my new pet projects is to collect the Warbler photos I’ve taken over the years, delete the bad ones and store the average to above average ones in a new album on my Flickr page. The recent posting of my Prairie Warbler photos was the first in the hopes of getting decent shots to fill in the many blanks.
If you’re interested in my Warbler Album on Flickr, the link is below.
So yesterday I decided to head off to a local park where Louisiana Waterthrush can be common in the Spring. The park has a trail that cuts through a gorge with a nice flowing stream which is perfect. It was pretty quiet as I approached the area where they’ve been spotted recently. I hear their familiar song first. Now the tough part, locating the bird.
It takes several minutes before I’m able to get on the bird, then move into position to snap off dozens of shots before settling on this one.
As I was about to leave for the day and head home I decided to check my local birding Facebook page to see what’s going on. Well it turns out Ellis Lake has a Wilson’s Phalarope and 2 Cattle Egrets. So off I go.
The birds in question weren’t either in the lake, they were in the agricultural field that was partially flooded from all the rain, and the fact that the area sits in a real low lying area that’s prone to floods. The park sits so low that bordering the park sits the ancient remains of the Miami-Erie Canal.
Well the cattle Egrets were pretty easy to tick off.
Now the Wilson’s Phalarope was another matter all together. From what I gathered from other birders was that an eagle flew overhead and scattered the flock of wading birds and moved them all further away and a little more difficult to observe. So trekking out into the muddy and through standing water i was able to get some terrible photos of a great bird.
Setophaga discolor, or prairie Warbler is one of those Warblers that have eluded me photographically for a very long time. Granted I’ve had plenty of great looks in the past, but to get one in the view finder and get off a decent shot has proved difficult for me.
So today before the rain moved in I was off to East Fork State Park from what I’ve heard is a pretty good spot for Prairie Warblers. The area in question is the road that leads back to the horseman’s camp on the same road that you access the park campground. Being on the north side of the lake I found that driving there was much closer and easier than driving to the beach area. All told it was just over 30 minutes to drive there.
It wasn’t long after I got there and walked around a bit before I heard my first of several Prairie Warblers.
It’s the beginning of April in the Ohio Valley. The outside temperatures are warming, and some of our early migrating birds are starting to show up like Pine Warblers, Louisiana Waterthrush, Eastern Phoebes, and the increase of Yellow-rumped Warblers. Early April is also the time us birders in southern Ohio start looking for Vesper Sparrows as the pass through to breed further north. Unfortunately for us our window of opportunity is narrow as the proceed further north in the breed.
Found in open country feeding mostly along the roadsides and open areas within grasslands, they associate alongside Brewer’s, Savannah, and Lark Sparrow’s. Blending in with their surroundings, they can be tricky to spot, but if you happen to spook one, you’ll notice their familiar white edges on the tail. The classic field mark for this bird.
So one of the best places in town to find them is Armleder Park. Located along the Little Miami River, this 305 acre park is a flat, and prone to flooding with great habitat for grassland birds, especially Sparrows. This is the same park that years earlier I was part of a field trip that spooked up a Yellow Rail. Unbelievable!
But yesterday it was about Vesper Sparrows, and luck was on my side.
Armleder Park this time of year is home to soccer fields galore. I arrived early enough to walk the fields and find the birds as the feed in the dried patches of grass or along the edge of the sidewalks.