Category Archives: “On The Road”

“The oft traveled road, wherever it may go, refreshes the spirit”.

“On The Road”

Ohio State University has a airport northwest of downtown Columbus close to the city of Dublin. Adjacent to the airport, and owned by the university, sits the Ohio State Equine Center. For the past several years Upland Sandpipers have called this home and raised their chicks in the grassy pastures. For myself this isn’t a life bird to add to my list. That moment came years ago during the spring migration close to Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. It was a distant view even through my spotting scope as it foraged in a unplowed field. I did take a very poor quality photo, but the heat shimmer really distorted the final outcome.

So this last Monday Off I drove for the 90 minute drive to see if I could maybe get a better view and hopefully a decent photograph.

After arriving it took me about 20 to 30 minutes to locate not just one, but both Upland Sandpipers perched on top of the wooden fence posts.  By this time the sun was full in the sky and the heat shimmer started. I moved around several times trying to get in a good location for any kind of photograph. However the birds really kept their distance, and after getting home and going over what pictures I had of them, this was probably the best one.

 

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” On The Road”

I’ve spent the last day and a half birding up along Lake Erie for the first time in 2 years. If you remember last year I camped in Daniel Boone national Forest at Red River Gorge checking out some of the breeding warblers in the area. Well this year I returned to Lake Erie, but for only a very short time. All told I probably spent a total of 14 hours birding. But in those 14 hours I either heard or saw a total of 85 birds with 24 of those being warblers, which I think is pretty respectable for the time allotted.

  1. Wilson’s warbler
  2. Yellow warbler
  3. Yellow-rumped warbler
  4. Blue-winged Warbler
  5. Common Yellowthroat
  6. Black-throated Green Warbler
  7. Black-throated Blue Warbler
  8. Blackburnian Warbler
  9. Bay-breasted Warbler
  10. Ovenbird
  11. Canada Warbler
  12. American Redstart
  13.  Mourning Warbler
  14. Cape May Warbler
  15. Nashville Warbler
  16. Tennessee Warbler
  17. Northern Parula
  18. Louisiana Waterthrush
  19. Prothonotary Warbler
  20. Magnolia Warbler
  21. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  22. Palm Warbler
  23. Black & White warbler
  24. Blackpoll Warbler

This trip I did come across a few surprise birds. At a new Toledo Metropark called Howard Marsh, for the second year in a row 2 Black-necked Stilts have taken up residence.

And at the same park I counted 3 Yellow-headed Blackbirds.

Granted these are a couple of great birds for this part of the country. And as much as i enjoyed watching them, the real surprise came the morning i was leaving to go home. I stopped one more time at Howard Marsh to see if the Black-necked Stilts were any closer for some better pictures, which they weren’t, so I drove off and decided at the last minute to check out Metzger Marsh, which is right next door.

I was pulling out my camera to take a shot of a Common Gallinule when I noticed a small bird in the tall grass right next to the road. A Least Bittern. In the past I’ve only had fleeting glimpses of these reclusive birds, however this time was different.

“On The Road”

For several months now my wife and I have been planning our trip to Boston to visit our oldest son. All the details had to be covered, from airfare, to the Airbnb we we’re going to stay in, to side trips.

So one of our side trips was a 2 hour drive to Portland Maine to do your typical sightseeing. However one thing came under my radar about 2 weeks prior to our departure. It seems a Little Egret was sighted at Gilsland Farm Audubon Center just 5 minutes from downtown Portland. This is an exciting bird, and one I was hoping to seeing. So I started to watch the internet to make sure the bird was still being seen. And it was.

And even the day we were driving to Portland I called the gift shop to ask if the bird we there, and he told me as far as he knew it was even though no one confirmed it.

Gilsland Farm isn’t a huge place so checking out the area along the river wasn’t too much of an effort, however as much as I looked in all the spots where the bird was sighted on previous days, there was no bird now. This was disappointing.

Since we wanted to visit other places we had to leave without picking up this life bird. So we drove back into the city and parked the car, and started out. We were walking along Commercial Street looking at all the shops and restaurants, I couldn’t help but notice birds swimming between some of the wharfs. I hurried down and much to my surprise there were some Common Eiders. A new life bird! I didn’t bring my camera this trip so there are no pictures, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

So I may have dipped on the Little Egret, but not the Common Eider, so it wasn’t a total bust.

 

“On The Road”

Life Bird #455″

On April 22nd in the small hamlet of Fennville Michigan, at the waster water treatment facility a birder was checking out all the waterfowl that had congregated on the 3 small holding ponds. Amongst all the Lesser Scaup, Buffelheads, Horned Grebes, Mallards and Blue-winged Teal was a Scaup species with a all black back. That’s no Scaup, that’s a Tufted Duck!

I’ve been keeping tabs on this bird as soon as it was posted on the ABA Rare Bird Alert Facebook page.

The duck seemed pretty content and would leave from time to time, but always returning to the same location. So when Sunday morning came and the weather turned from rainy to sunny, I figured why not chase it. What are my chances of ever seeing a bird like this unless I’m on the East coast where they seem to show up somewhat regularly. It was a 330 mile one way trip, and I really wanted to drive home after seeing the bird. So off I went.

Being a Sunday morning traffic was pretty light until I got to Kalamazoo, but still it wasn’t that bad. I got to Fennville, found the waste water treatment facility at 3:10 pm.

Even at a distance of 700 feet, I quickly re-found the bird and was able to assist other birders find it. Owning a spotting scope sure does pay off at times like these.

Most of the time while I was there it kept it’s head tucked so you weren’t able to see it’s tell tale “tuft”. So when it finally raised it’s head I just started snapping away in hopes of capturing one head shot with the Tuft showing.

The bottom photo I included to show the color comparison on the back between the Lesser Scaup and the Tufted Duck.

It was a long day and I didn’t get home till after 10 pm, however I got my lifer # 455!

“On The Road”…this time for a Code 4!

Before I get started with this blog entry I thought I’d provide some information that some of you might already know. However there might be birders out there who are new to this great hobby that will find this info helpful.

I’m coping and pasting what the American Birding Association defines as their birding codes for each of the 1,002 birds they list. So when you hear another birder referring to a particular bird as a “Code 2”, you’ll have a better understanding.

“The ABA Codes are described on the ABA website and the definitions are reproduced here with permission. Please consider purchasing the 7th edition of the ABA Checklist for a more complete discussion of the ABA Birding Codes, as well as much information on rarities in the ABA area. Contact ABA Sales for more information.

Code 1 and Code 2: Regularly occurring North American avifauna.
Includes regular breeding species and visitors. There is no firm designation between Code 1 and Code 2 species, except that logically Code 1 species are more widespread and are usually more numerous. Code 2 species have a restricted North American range, are more widespread, but occur in lower densities, or are quite secretive making their detection often difficult. We readily acknowledge that some Code 2 species are harder to find than some species that have higher codes.

Code 3: Rare.
Species that occur in very low numbers, but annually, in the ABA Checklist Area. This includes visitors and rare breeding residents.

Code 4: Casual.
Species not recorded annually in the ABA Checklist Area, but with six or more total records—including three or more in the past 30 years—reflecting some pattern of occurrence.

Code 5: Accidental.
Species that are recorded five or fewer times in the ABA Checklist Area, or fewer than three records in the past 30 years.

Code 6: Cannot be found.
The species is probably or actually extinct or extirpated from the ABA Checklist Area, or all survivors are held in captivity (or releases are not yet naturally re-established).”

It was this last Saturday, November the 3rd, my wife and I were out for the evening when I started checking some of my birding Facebook pages. This has become such a habit now that sometimes I’ll check it even though I just looked at it a minute ago. However this time a posting on “Ohio Chase Birds” Facebook page really got me excited. Someone found out of a sighting of a Spotted Redshank, (Tringa erythropus) near Ann Arbor Michigan.

Why does it seem my chases are getting further and further away from home? It was on the 18th of last month I able to chase down the Gray Kingbird in Fairborn Ohio, only to be followed up on the 23rd of the Northern Wheatear near Mansfield Ohio. That drive took a little over 3 hours to reach, and as I read the post I had to really consider at least a 4 hour drive for this once in a life time bird.

I thought about it all night and into the next day. Kathy knew I was chomping at the bit, so she told me to just go and have fun. The one condition she put on it was that I spend the night at my daughters house, which is north of Detroit. So while she called our daughter, I hurriedly threw a few things into a suitcase and flew out the door to fill the car. It was 10:30 am and time was of the essence.

In all my years of birding I’ve only seen 1 other Code 4 bird, and that was the Garganey at Fernald Preserve in 2011. Since the Redshank was spotted in a very rural part of Michigan I needed some address close by so I could plug it into my GPS. I found a fruit farm just down the road which served my purpose perfectly.

After filling up my car and punching in the address, off I went. I made a couple of phone calls to both Phil and Jon to help out with Facebook updates. I knew there would be hundreds of birders converging on this one point, and birders will be updating throughout the day if the bird does of doesn’t stick around. With a drive like this my biggest fear was getting close and it fly off. I settled into the long drive as my mind raced about this bird and what to expect. I’ve seen the crowd lining up along the road with their scopes and cameras all in neat little rows from pictures posted. The police already made their presence known and informed everyone to just make sure you pull completely off the road when you park. Other than that they were very cool about this whole thing. Even the locals would stop and ask what’s going on. And birders really love to explain to folks about anything that has to do with birds.

Being Sunday the drive up was uneventful, and my GPS took me directly to the spot. As I approached the area I started to see the line of cars and so I quickly pulled in behind another car. It was during my one pit stop that I pulled on my harness and binoculars and sat my camera next to me. The last thing I wanted to do when I got there was fumble around with this.

I grabbed my spotting scope and made my way to the ever expanding crowd of birders. The bird was feeding actively at the intersection of 2 country roads where any amount of rain would fill in the area close to the road. With the light fading and the help of another birder, he was able to put me on the bird.

Take a deep breath, wheeeeew!

The one defining field marking for this bird are the distinct red legs, and when scanning through all the Greater Yellowlegs, locating a particular bird belly deep in water and then positively identifying it becomes difficult.

I’m sorry for the quality of the images, the bird was 80 to 90 yards away and getting clear, crisp shots with my camera proved difficult.

 These last 2 shots shows the comparison between the Spotted Redshank, with the obvious red legs, and the Greater Yellowleg, with yellow legs.

It truly was a remarkable day, and after an hour of hoping the bird would move closer for some better photographs, it was getting time to move along to Detroit. Dinner was at 7, and my daughter is a good cook.

On my drive to Detroit I called Jon to give him the news. He told me that I should run over to Ottawa N.W.R. to Krause Road because someone spotted a Hudsonian Godwit earlier. I quickly gave up that idea since it gets dark so early. I’m sure by the time a drive there I wouldn’t be able to see it. However…….

Leaving the next morning from my daughter’s house I worked my way through the Detroit rush hour towards Toledo. It was early and not that far out of my way. It’s not that I need this bird for my life list, but being able to get some decent shots is always welcome

Anyone who’s birded this area has heard of Krause Road. It’s a short east/ west road that ends at Ottawa N.W.R. Along the road on both sides is nothing but a few farms and agricultural fields which are noted for flooding after a good rain. It’s a very productive area to bird. I came across the area in question due in fact to the massive flock of Bonaparte’s and Ring-billed gulls. Mixed in with the gulls were a dozen or so Dunlin and a few Greater Yellowlegs, plus the lone Hudsonian Godwit.

What a great few days of birding. I can’t wait to do it all over again. I wonder what It’ll be next time?

“On The Road”, Again for Yet Another Rarity!

It’s been only 5 days since I was able to re-locate Ohio’s first recorded Gray Kingbird, when word got out about another rarity. This time it was a Northern Wheatear spotted on a farm in rural Richland County Ohio. I’ve heard of Richland County, but I wasn’t quite sure where it was located. It turns out to be the county that Mansfield Ohio is, which is about 150 miles and a little under 3 hours by car. I Facebook Messaged a friend to see if he was chasing the bird. Initially he wasn’t, however he suggested that I do. I thought for a few minutes and considered the time factor since I was getting a late start. I knew how far Mansfield was, and how long it was going to take to drive, but I didn’t know in what part of the county the bird was in.

I was looking at an arrival time of about 4 pm, and not knowing if and when I’ll ever have this opportunity again, I was out the door 10 minutes later. I contacted Phil again to keep me up to date as I drove along, then I settled into the long drive, hoping that the bird would stick around for just a little longer. Dipping on a bird after a long drive like this gives a birder that sinking feeling that’s hard to shake off, especially if you have a 3 hour drive back home. You start questioning yourself, asking if this was the right decision or how could you have done it differently.

My friend Chris who changed his mind about chasing the bird let me know he was about 10 minutes behind me and that the bird was again spotted at about 2:20. News like this is always uplifting  when doubt often clouds better judgement. I pressed onward with renewed energy.

I got to Mansfield without incident, but my timing was off. School was letting out and I had to content with school buses. Then it was the painting crews re-painted the lines on roads which made me detour through a gas station. Then after getting through town I had to be extra mindful of the Amish again. Horse and buggies and cars don’t mix well.

I passed the farm up and made a u-turn in a neighbors driveway. The house sat back about 200 yards from the road and you could see the collection of cars accumulating along the gravel drive. I parked and walked up only to find that the bird flew off 20 minutes ago and hasn’t been seen since. However there were plenty of eyes there, and if and when it shows up I’ll be there. I’m not leaving now.

I messaged Chris to let him know that the bird was AWOL. He let me know he was there and that he was going to scan along the drive as he worked his way to the house. A few minutes later I step out to look down the drive for Chris when I notice them motioning to the top of a electrical pole. There’s our bird.

After a minute it flew down onto the wood pile next to the drive and then proceeded to pose for all the clicking cameras. Mine to.