“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.

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“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!

 

Notes From The Field

The Eared Grebe ( Podiceps nigricollis ) is a fairly common bird west of the Mississippi River, however on an annual basis we here in Ohio will have a stray show up. And as usual birders start showing up as well to tick this difficult bird off their “Year List”. For myself I don’t keep “Year Lists” but I do enjoy putting the old bins om this bird and maybe getting a decent photograph.

The bird was located at Eastwood Metro Park in the heart of Dayton Ohio. I’ve visited this park in the past and it’s not too far away, about 45 minutes.  Before I made up my mind to go I consulted one of my favorite books, “Identify Yourself, The 50 Most Common Birding Identification Challenges” In it there’s a really good section on Grebes.

This time of year Eared Grebes are usually seen either by themselves or with another, mixed in with Horned Grebes. And if they’re actively feeding just keeping up with them so you can get a positive ID can prove difficult. To quote from the book “The most useful differences between Horned and Eared Grebes in non-breeding plummage are the pattern of the head and throat and the size and shape of the bill”.

With that in mind, off I went. I arrived before the park even opened as well as some other birders. Besides the Eared Grebe there were reports of a Red-throated Loon. Well no Red-throated Loon was spotted, however the Eared Grebe was there.

What I love about the above photograph is that you can really see the slight upturned bill, which is a great identifier for Eared Grebe.

After searching this side of the lake for the Loon with no luck, I drove down to the to search, with no luck. As I started to drive back once again I noticed this birder taking pictures at a Common Loon really close to these docks by the boat launch area. I pulled over and parked and grabbed my camera.

In all my years of birding I’ve never been this close to a Common Loon, or any Loon for that matter. It had to of known we were there, but were no threat because it just kept feeding as I snapped off picture after picture.

“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!

Notes From The Field

We all know that “Life” can certainly get in the way of some of our favorite past times, and I’m no exception. My first Grand Child was born and visiting with    him up in Michigan does cut into birding time. Then I was sick with Walking Pneumonia, which took several weeks to finally get over.

Our last child moved out of the house to Georgia and I had to help with that move. My wife and myself had some minor surgical procedures that cut into any birding time available. And when I did go birding it was usually up to Caesar Creek State Park to scan for ducks.

WHEW, I’m exhausted, and in  need of Spring.

So for the past week Pine Warblers have taken up residence at Mitchell Memorial Forest and with it being such a beautiful day I had to take off to check it out.

Pine Warblers are some of the first warblers that show up in the Spring. In the past I’ve had reasonable luck with locating them, but when they’re consistently in one location I’m all over it, especially since I don’t have any pictures of one.

After arriving it didn’t take long to locate one. All I had to do was listen for a song very similar to a Chipping Sparrow, but sweeter.

 Sometimes all we’re going to get is a shot like this, from below, however diagnostic of the species.

Then one of these little beauties flew in a small tree that was just beginning to flower about 20 feet away. Holy cow, how lucky can one get!

 

Notes From The Field

Grand Valley Preserve

Jon and myself only had a couple of hours of birding yesterday so we didn’t want to squander any minute. We first went to Grand Valley to check on the ducks. As it turns out this preserve which in the past has held vast numbers of birds was totally void. Granted there was some ice covering the lake, however there was enough open water for something.

I wonder if these 2 Bald Eagles had anything to do with this?