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.

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A Gift From Irma

My plans for today was go out with Jon and continue on hunting migrants in and around the lower Little Miami River valley as it nears the Ohio River. We were to meet at 7:15 and have a nice morning of birding. That was until I looked on one of the Facebook pages where birders report rarities in Ohio. With the effects of Irma still being felt all over the southeastern seaboard, reports of rare bird sightings are popping up everywhere.

States reporting rarities include Georgia, North and South Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee. Some of the great birds being seen are Black-capped Petrel, Great Shearwater, Cory’s Shearwater, White-tailed Tropicbird, Magnificent Frigatebird, Sooty & Bridled Terns, Brown Noddy and Band-tailed Storm Petrel. And this list might be incomplete as to states and species reports aren’t finally in. Now we can include Ohio.

While I was out last evening celebrating with my wife on her birthday with some friends, a report of a Sooty Tern at a gravel quarry in Dover Ohio hit me pretty hard. My first thought was I need this bird for my life list, and where is Dover Ohio. 3 hours away when I finally checked my map app on my phone.

Now’s the question as to what to do. To chase or not. I made my final decision early this morning was I texted Jon to ask him if he wanted to join me. His reply was he couldn’t be gone all day, so off I went.

It was a beautiful late summer morning with light traffic as I made my way towards Columbus where I would pick up I-70 towards Zanesville. From there I turned north on I-77 which takes you finally to Cleveland. With one pit along the way it took just over 3 hours and my stupid GPS had me getting off at the wrong exit. It was a good thing I checked Google map before I left.

The gravel quarry was less than a mile from the exit, and when I turned on the road where birders were saying was the best place to park and watch the bird, there were plenty of cars and people with scopes out.

Always a good sign. An older man approached as he was leaving and said it’s just sitting there on a old tire and easy to find.

The bird was so far away that I had to use the digital zoom just to be able to get a half way decent photo. The next photo is my camera at maximum optical zoom. This will give you a good idea how far away the bird was.

So from a photographic it’s a difficult shot. But really it’s not the point of the chase. Granted when I logged the sighting into eBird a photo is really important for verifying the report, it was just total excitement for me. And to top it off this is my first life bird for 2017. It’s kind of a let down after 2 years of great birding and impressive numbers of new birds, but I’ll take it. Who knows when I’ll ever get to visit the Dry Tortugas where the Sooty Tern can easily be seen.

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.

8 Feet Away

Granted, I normally don’t do a ton of birding during the Summer months because of the heat and humidity. However when the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds feel comfortable with your presence when your just 8 feet from their feeder, well………..it makes for some pretty clear photographs.

A Birders Haiku

It’s been a very long time since I’ve written a blog post. The reason is I’m not one to go out and do a lot of birding during the heat of the summer. Here in the Ohio valley the combination of the heat and humidity keeps me indoors. However I’m still birding in my own way, as a family of Eastern Bluebirds have discovered my Bluebird feeder and the meal worms.

I have been doing some birding by ear as my wife and I ride our bikes through the shady portions of the Little Miami Bike Trail. And retirement fast approaches I’ll be getting out more and more, so stay tuned.

Here’s one of my own haiku’s written for those dog days of summer.

As the heat rises

off the endless black ribbon

the Crow disappears

 

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.