Notes From The Field

There are 3 species of North American Scoters, the Black, Surf, and White-winged. For us in Ohio they can be a common bird seen mostly on Lake Erie. They do wander south of the lake but with usually with irregularity. Last year for instance during my January 100 Species Challenge I was able to tick off both Surf and Black Scoters at a Metropark in Dayton. And towards the end of this year the northern half of the state is seeing the most of the 3 Scoter species.

However the day before Thanksgiving I noticed a small sighting post on our local bird watching Facebook page of a Black Scoter at the beach at Caesar Creek State Park. This really peaked my interest since Black Scoters are the rarest of the 3 in my opinion. But with the holiday staring me in the face with those last minute preparations I was unable to chase this bird till yesterday.

My first stop however was Cowan Lake State Park to check out the reports of a pretty reliable Long-tailed Duck that was seen on some sediment settling ponds that were being used for all the dredging that’s going on at the lake. I dipped on the duck and later found out that it was scared off by a Bald Eagle and never came back.

So after Cowan Lake I made my way of to Caesar Creek and hope for better luck. I parked my car and approached the south half of the beach. After 100 yards I set up my scope and started to scan. Nothing as I scanned from the north to the south. The sun was still rising and the glare on the water really burned to retinas. A I continued to scan towards the new marina I saw one lone bird on the water.

This really couldn’t be the Black Scoter, could it?

As I moved closer to the lake with a better angle out of the sun I was able to get my scope on the bird. And indeed it was a Black Scoter.

I stayed with the bird for about 50 minutes as it moved the length of the beach, and me trying to get a closer photo. Despite all my efforts this distant shot was all I could get of what I think is a great bird.


Happy Thanksgiving

From my family to all my loyal readers, have a Happy Thanksgiving. And just like 2 years ago I’d like to share one of my favorite holiday songs. I hope you enjoy it as I often do during this time of year.

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.

Notes From The Field

On a recent trip to Ellis Lake, I came upon this beauty.

These are some of the hardest birds to spot since they only move through during migration. So our window of opportunity is small to find and locate this beautiful Nelson’s Sparrow

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.

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.