Category Archives: “On The Road”

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

“On The Road”

Red River Gorge Geological Area

I’ve been visiting Red River Gorge/ Natural Bridge State Resort Park, ever sinced I was a kid and my parents would take us there on vacation. Almost a 3 hour drive it’s a great getaway for just a weekend of a longer stay. There’s so much area to cover you’d have to come here for years just to see it all. And I’ve been coming for years.

This is without a doubt one of my favorite places to visit. In my 20’s I would backpack at the Gorge almost once a month, so I know the area pretty well and it’s dangers. And it is a dangerous place. Rattlesnakes and bears are a couple of critters you have to worry about, but I think the biggest dangers are the cliffs. People die every year falling from some of the sheer drop offs that make up this area. However with some common sense, and a familiarity of the area it is quite safe. The hiking trails are well marked and offer hiking for any level. However this trip was about the birds.

After arriving and setting up camp, I hit the trails. Like I said before this was a photographic trip with my target birds being Swainson’s, Hooded, Worm-eating, and Kentucky Warblers, plus anything else that’ll hold still long enough.

All told I totaled 57 bird species with 15 warbler species. Granted if I’d gone to the Lake Erie region I would probably have doubled the totals for both species and warblers. But I’m OK with that, and I’m thinking that maybe I’ll mix it up like this every other year. One year go to the lake, the next go to the Gorge.

 

Black & White warblers were fairly numerous while I was down there. Once you familiarize with it’s song finding them was pretty easy.

Black-throated Green and Blue Warblers were present, just not in large numbers.

 

Now Ovenbirds were probably the 2nd most numerous warbler I found. Despite being kind of difficult to spot, their song was almost constant as I hiked.

Without a doubt the Hooded Warbler was the most numerous. They were everywhere. And this bird was at the top of my list of “Get a picture of this bird” list. With it being mating season they were really active and didn’t sit still long enough for my slow photographic reflexes.

Another bird at the top of my list was the Worm-eating Warbler. Now there’s only one reliable location from where I live that Worm-eating Warblers can be spotted, and that’s Boone County Cliffs. However in the Gorge it’s a different story. They were pretty easy to spot and get a few decent photographs.

Now one of the birds I really, really wanted to get a photo of was a Swainson’s Warbler. I conversed with Jon ahead of time to make sure I went to the correct location where he had sighted them last year. The hike was about 1 1/2 miles from the trail head to where they were seen. A large area thick with Rhododendrons at the foot of a rock outcropping was the spot. After about 30 minutes of waiting I had a hard “chip” note to my right. It kept getting closer and closer till the bird jumped up. I was able to ID it as a Swainson’s Warbler, and that’s about it. It flew into cover across the trail and was never seen again. Then 2 of them started to sing. Well that made me feel a little better about this ordeal, but I really wanted a picture. I may have to go to Tennessee for that.

 A nice waterfall along Rock Bridge Trail

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“On The Road”

Due to some technical difficulties, such as a corrupt SD card in my camera, my forth coming post will be delayed till I have the  time to recover my pictures and edit them. And we’re talking about a ton of pictures. Going back to my trip to the west coast.

“Upcoming Trip”

Every year about this time I partake on a pilgrimage to northern Ohio along the shore of Lake Erie for the Spring migration of Neoptropic birds. One place in particular draws birders from all over the world, Magee Marsh and it’s famous boardwalk. Granted there are other noteworthy places to bird all around the area, but the sheer concentration of birders in this one area is something you have to experience to either appreciate of avoid. Because of the large quantity of birders to this part of the state, the boardwalk in particular can become almost impossible to navigate at times.

For me this is a love-hate relationship. I love the birds and having access to them via the boardwalk, however I’m not a big fan of the crowds. That’s why when I do go It’s usually real early in the morning and I leave by lunch time. However this year there’s a change in the air. I’m forgoing Lake Erie to go birding in one of my absolute favorite places. Where the birds (especially the warblers) are different because of their environment. The skulking birds. The ones you hear before you see. The birds that are more common here than up by Lake Erie. I’m talking about Red River Gorge in Daniel Boone National Forest in eastern Kentucky.

I’ll be camping at Natural Bridge State Park where I’ll be setting up my base and plan my hikes. This trip I’ll be focusing on Swainson’s, Worm-eating, Hooded, Kentucky Warblers, Waterthrush are always present as well Tanagers and Thrushes. This is more of a birding/photographic journey. These are birds that have eluded me and my camera and with their concentration here I’m hoping for good luck.

So stayed tuned…more to come.

“On The Road”

Life Bird #450

Yes, the above statement is true, I’ve hit the 450 mark in life birds. Just when I thought it would take a while for this to happen after spotting the Cinnamon Teal giving me 449 species. If you remember it was on the 29th of March when I drove those 3 plus hours into Ohio’s Amish country (somewhere I’ve never visited before) to track down that beautiful Drake Cinnamon Teal.

Well for the life of me I never thought that I would be venturing back into what can only be described as very rural Amish Country in this “bird crazy” month of April. And I mean crazy. Just in the past few weeks we’ve had a fly over Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, never relocated. A 1st year male Painted Bunting, a breeding male Western Tanager, of course the Cinnamon Teal, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, and a White-winged Dove. This is the stuff that makes birders’ head swim with excitement. However I showed great control since I’ve ticked these birds off my “Life List” already. It’s not that I’m lazy, but I have to be picky over which bird to chase.

Well the chase was on when just 2 days ago 2 bothers went fishing at this small farm pond over in the heart of Holmes County Ohio. Among the rolling hills, horse drawn buggies, dirt roads, Amish children on bikes, friendly waves, and clothes drying on the lines, they discovered a Black-throated Gray Warbler.

I never thought in a million years that the bird would stick around till the next day, but that old “twitch” kept nagging at me. So after Kathy went to work I grabbed my gear and left the house at 7:30 in hopes of putting some miles down. My plan was to pull over a few times and check Facebook to see if it was still being seen. If it was, then I’m in good position with miles covered. If not, then I just turn around and go home. Well it stayed through the night and this really helped my mood.

My GPS took me through some of the nicest parts of Ohio I’ve ever seen, but on some of the worst back roads the bird-mobile has been on. After getting turned around once, I finally made it to this nondescript dirt drive where I noticed a couple cars pulling out. This has to be it. Not too many cars in this part of Ohio.

“Yes, “the bird is still there” came her reply to my obvious question. Testing the suspension on the drive back, I finally pulled off and parked. I pulled on my harness and clicked in my bins and camera and walked over to where 2 guys were busy focusing their cameras on what can only be the bird.

Hooray for Lifers!

 

“On The Road” (For a Lifer)

Facebook has been under the microscope lately, what with all the security, and privacy issues surrounding what is probably the most visited App. on everyone’s smart phone. Myself included. A day doesn’t go by where I’m not checking any or all the 7 birding related groups I belong to. For us in the birding community rare and unusual sightings are just a few clicks away…with photos!

And when a rarity does show up and either posted on your local Listserv or Facebook, birders will flock to the bird. (No pun intended)

Case in point, Tuesday evening posting on Ohio Chase Birds page, copied from the Bobolink Area of Ohio page, of a male Cinnamon Teal at Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area. Situated south of Wooster and north of Millersburg, this is an area of Ohio I’ve never visited before, but as a birder what I have heard is this area is great for birders.

Wednesday came and the Teal was still showing well and birders were able to get some great diagnostic photographs. After seeing the pictures that gnawing feeling came over me. Do I chase, or not? I totally missed this bird on my trip out west, and not knowing when I’ll ever get back, I made up my mind after conversing with Jon about it. Reports were still coming in up through the evening that the bird was still there.

So if the bird stayed through the evening, and I get an early start, there’s a good chance of getting the bird. I made up my mind to go.

According to The Birds Of Ohio, by Bruce Peterjohn, there have only been 8 other sightings of the species in Ohio, with the last one at Spring Valley in 1996. And if you look at this range map you’ll see why this is an important bird.

I figured the drive would take about 3 hours and with a couple of pit stops along the way I was pretty much on time. It was at my last pit stop when I checked Facebook one last time to see if the Teal was seen this morning. And it was.

Since there was no address to enter into my GPS, I had to follow it as far as it would take me, then I had to rely on my GPS in my phone to get me to the viewing sight.

The road dead ended at a small parking lot and a vast marsh. And just 100 yards away, following a female Blue-winged Teal, and chasing of his competition, was this magnificent, incredibly colored Cinnamon Teal

I’m only going to show this one photograph. The others were very poor in quality. Distance, poor visibility with low fog, and rain made conditions for photography difficult.

Anyway, there he is. What a bird!

Life Bird # 447

For those birders who happen to read the ABA Blog on a regular basis, one of the regular posts that I always look forward to is the “Rare Bird Alert”. Each week Nate Swick updates all the rarities being seen across North America. And if you looked closely the November 3rd entry told of the 2nd sighting for Ohio of a west coast bird, a Calliope Hummingbird.

The original post of this very exciting bird on “Ohio Chase Birds” Facebook page was on November the 1st. However the bird was originally spotted 1 week prior, and considering the difficulty in giving this bird the correct ID, local birding experts with more knowledge than the home owner were called in to properly ID the bird. Rufus Hummingbird was the original ID, which isn’t out of the ordinary for Ohio this time of year, however when the bird was looked at more closely, all the field markings confirmed a first year hatch male Calliope Hummingbird.

Now this quiet, residential neighborhood that sits on a dead end street, now becomes a instant hotspot for the celebrity. And the homeowner couldn’t have been more gracious to all the birders visiting her yard. Parking she knew would become an issue, so she had pendants placed along the road so people would know where to park. A table was set up with a book so birders could sign their name and where they came from. She had yellow caution tape strung up so birders knew where they could stand and wait for the bird. She even had chairs sitting out for people. She also updated the Facebook page every morning on recent sightings. And when the rain made the path to the viewing area muddy, she laid out straw for people to walk on.

Now being a retired birdwatcher I should have ticked off this bird as soon as word went out, Delaware Ohio is about a 2 hour drive since it’s just north of Columbus. But the upcoming baby shower for my daughter kept me close to home with all kinds of prep work. This busy work kept my mind off the bird as I went about getting errands taken care of, but always checking to make sure the bird was being sighted everyday.

My time came yesterday as Jon and I drove north to chase this life bird for the both of us.

As soon as we showed up the bird was in a tree overhead, and the overcast skies gave us terrible views just before it flew off where it stayed out of sight for about 30 minutes.