Tag Archives: Beaver Creek Wetlands

“Notes From The Field”

“Oakes Quarry Park”

The present site Oakes Quarry Park was originally a surface mined in 1929 for limestone to make cement by Southwestern Portland Cement Company and Southdown Inc. before it was sold to the Oakes family in the 1990’s. The family finally donated the 190 acre property to the City of Fairborn in 2003. It’s the city’s second largest park with hiking and horse trails that crisscross the ancient limestone fossils exposed by the mining activity that formed the quarry. Through the hard work of the volunteers at the Beaver Creek Wetlands Association, and with funding from Clean Ohio Conservation Fund, they’re now developing prairies and wetlands that were once common in this area.

Since 1988 the Beaver Creel Wetlands Association Controls a series of beautiful parks that stretch from Oakes Quarry to the north, to Creekside Reserve in the south. A few years ago I explored a good many of the 11 parks that make up the Beaver Creek corridor. Oakes Quarry was one of the only ones that eluded me, however it came into my radar a few weeks past when a birder posted some excellent photos of Lark Sparrows taken while visiting Oakes Quarry.

As you know by now I’m a big fan of Sparrows. I think next to Gulls they can be the most problematic for any birder. All we see is a little brown bird, try to ID it,  shrug our shoulders in hopes someone close by can ID it for you. But not so with the Lark Sparrow {Chondestes grammacus}, which by the way is the only member of the Chondestes genus. With it’s distinctive harlequin face pattern  of white, black and chestnut has bright under parts with a central breast spot, much like a American Tree Sparrow, with white edges on the tail.

I arrived at the park around 8:30 and went straight to work. Most of the present sightings I reviewed on eBird indicated that the birds were congregating near the entrance. It was about 45 minutes of walking and re-walking over the same ground when I first noticed 4 birds with obvious white tail edges flocking together, then finally settling down in an area I had explored just a few minutes ago.

I heard one start to sing. It was near, so I crept closer to the sound. I noticed a couple under a stunted Cedar Tree, then I saw the one that was singing. It was in another Ceder Tree to the left of the other birds. Bringing up my bins to get a positive ID, I pulled my camera up and fired off a few quick shots before the birds flew. Very skittish.

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IMG_4872This is the exact location and the type of habitat the birds were first discovered. There’s no top soil, just gravel and rocks of various sizes and shapes.

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IMG_4876As you can see by the previous photographs this is a very open part with sparse vegetation. If you looked on any range map for the Lark Sparrow you’d notice that the bird is considered a rare visitor to western Ohio. However if you know where to look for them, you can get lucky. For myself I try to locate them at least once a year.

The morning wore on and i was still looking for the the 4 birds I saw earlier. I had returned to the original location when I heard one sing again. By the time I saw the bird it flew into a tree where it continued to sing.

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Since there wasn’t much cover to hide behind, sneaking up on this bird was pretty useless. It flew away. But I was determined, and soldered on.

Once again returning to the same area as the first 2 sightings I saw these 2 feeding on the ground.

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Despite have some tough views at some very skittish birds, I felt satisfied. I was also hungry and it was an hour drive home.

I will return.

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Notes From The Field

Siebenthaler Fen & Glenn Thompson Reserve

With Kathy working today, and the boys still asleep, I decided to sneak away for a morning of birding. With the chance of rain increasing as the day wears on, I didn’t want to wait too long to hit the road. So I left about 8:15 and still made it up at my destination by 9:05.

I’m so glad that I discovered the Beaver Creek Wetlands system. It’s not too far to drive and they have so much to choose from when it comes to different habitat for birds. So today was Siebenthaler Fen, a jewel in the whole Beaver Creek Wetlands system. But what is a “Fen”? A fen is a type of wetlands which is fed by mineral rich surface water or groundwater, which is either neutral or alkaline. Plus they are high with dissolved minerals, which is different from a bog. Bogs are more acidic with low dissolved minerals, and usually dominated by low-growing plants and mosses.

The mile long boardwalk starts at the parking lot, and goes directly into a forested wetlands.

This portion of the boardwalk was my favorite section. It was a total immersion into a wetlands that was different than I’ve experienced before.  Getting off the boardwalk isn’t an option during your entire walk. Unlike Koogler Wetland and Prairie Preserve where you’re on a trail that gets pretty soggy half way through, there is no dry ground as far as I could tell.

A typical scene through the first section of the boardwalk.

There’s no chasing birds in this park. If you can’t see it from the boardwalk, then you’re not going to see it. However the fact that the boardwalk was built has given people access to a wonderful piece of wetlands that might not ever have been preserved.

Northern Cardinal digiscoped

Typical flora…

and fauna.

Birding was pretty good as I made my way back towards the observation tower which was named after the sister of the original land owner who donated the property in 1995 to the Nature Conservancy. Then they turned it over to the O.D.N.R Division of Wildlife.

Boardwalk in the early section of the trail.

Nan’s Tower

I wanted to get a picture of the wetlands as it stretched out before me from Nan’s Tower looking Northward, however the Sun was still low in the horizon that I opted to put the Sun to my back and take a picture from where I came in.

Nan’s Tower is sort of the halfway point in the trail and after a short hike you come upon a kisok where there is all sorts of information about the wetlands and pictures of some of the plant life that is found in the fen.

This would be a great place to duck into if it started to rain.

I may not be the best bird photographer, however I do pretty good with butterflies, such as this Tiger Swallowtail.

After leaving the kiosk, the boardwalk dives into some pretty tall vegetation, and the ground water is audible under foot as you walk.

As the boardwalk undulated over the wet ground, I stopped on occasion to bounce up and down to see if water would seep through. It did. There was a sign at this section that warned that beaver have been busy and water getting on the boardwalk was going to happen. No water actually covered the boardwalk, though I’m sure it could happen.

I left after spending more than 2 hours there, and with time still left before I need to head home, I decided to go to Glenn Thompson Reserve down the road.

I took less than 10 minutes to drive to the entrance to this small park, which is a part of the Greene County Park District. I started  my hike about 11:30 not knowing what to expect. At first the hike was very noisy with all the traffic from U.S. 35 just a stone throws away. But as the trail wanders back into the woods, it does start to quiet down.

This is pretty much how the trail winds it’s way through the woods. Even though the birds were sparser than at Siebenthaler, I did have a few surprises. Glenn Thompson Reserve borders Beaver Creek all on one side. And being so close to water it also provides canoe access to all you canoeists.

It was along this section that I came upon a group of trees that hung over the water. That’s when I noticed birds on the far side feeding amongst the leaves. Putting my binoculars on them I first noticed the Prothonotary Warbler. However there was another bird with it, and this one turned out to be a Black and White Warbler. That was a real treat, but not as good as this female Blue Grosbeak. I had a difficult time ID’ing this one. It wasn’t till I got home that I was able to put my finger on it.

Trail side fauna

I arrived back at the parking lot at 12:45 pm, and some great memories. I think what strikes me the most about both places was that no one was there except me. It gives you a surreal feeling when you think that you’re all alone with you’re own piece of Heaven on Earth. I’d highly recommend both, especially Siebenthaler Fen.

Notable birds for the day, for both locations include:

  1. Indigo Bunting
  2. Northern Cardinal
  3. Mourning Dove
  4. Common Crow
  5. Barn Swallow
  6. Blue Jay
  7. Grackle
  8. Rock Dove
  9. Eastern Goldfinch
  10. Eastern King Bird
  11. American Robin
  12. Black-billed Cuckoo
  13. Double-creasted Cormorant
  14. Song Sparrow
  15. Green Heron
  16. Great Horned Owl
  17. Alder Flycatcher-Lifer # 288
  18. Common Yellowthroat
  19. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  20. Downy Woodpecker
  21. Carolina Chickadee
  22. Gray catbird
  23. Carolina Wren
  24. Northern Flicker
  25. Red-winged Black Bird
  26. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  27. Eastern Towhee
  28. Cedar Waxwing
  29. House Wren
  30. Tufted Titmouse
  31. Acadian Flycatcher
  32. Blus Brosbeak
  33. Belted Kingfisher
  34. Prothonotary Warbler
  35. Black and White Warbler
  36. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  37. Red-tailed Hawk
  38. Turkey Vulture
  39. White-breasted Nuthatch
  40. Chimney Swift


Notes From The Field

Beaver Creek Wetland Wildlife Area North/ Koogler Wetland and Prairie Preserve/ CEMEX Preserve

It’s a good thing that I was able to sleep in yesterday, because when the alarm sounded at 5 am this morning it took some effort to get up and get going. However with the coffee done and cinnamon rolls from IKEA waiting for me, I was able to struggle to my feet. With gear gathered and a second mug of Joe, I was out the door at 5:45 for my drive to what I expect to be a very good day of birding. Today’s destination is the Beaver Creek Wetlands.

I was surprised by the fact that it didn’t take long to drive there. It probably took less than an hour to get to my first stop, Beaver Creek Wetland Wildlife Area North. I pulled into a rather inconspicuous gravel parking lot which had no sign to tell you which park your at. The night before I did a Google street view of the road and knew what to expect. This is the only sign you’ll find in the parking lot.

With the humidity and my cold camera, you can see the results.

With a subdivision on my left and a wide open, heavily vegetated, fields on my right, the birds were very active this morning. I followed some nice mowed paths and made my way towards the back and away from the car noise.

2 bush-hog width trails.

I knew from Google map that there was a small pond towards the back, and that’s where I was heading. Getting to my destination always takes me longer since I have to stop and look at countless birds along the way. There were several paths that lead you to a dead end, which I’m not sure why, but any way here’s one that leads you towards nowhere.

Butterflies were everywhere, and they didn’t want their picture taken either, except this cooperative Tiger Swallowtail.

I finally found my way back to the pond, or should I say dried up pond. It’s a relatively shallow pond and I’m sure with the heat we’ve had lately, it wouldn’t take much to dry it up.

Even though it may look dry, there were life forms. The one time I should have lugged my spotting scope with me, I missed out on a Least Sandpiper, and a Semipalmated Plover.

On the way back to the bird-mobile I was able to get only a marginal close-up view of a Willow Flycatcher.

I’m traveling West on New Germany-Trebein Road, and looking North towards the Fairborn Marsh West, which has no public access as far as I know. I’m sure this habitat can support all sorts of birds, unfortunately you can’t get close enough to see.

While driving to Koogler Wetlands I stopped and digiscoped this Red-tailed Hawk.

It was here at Koogler Wetland and Prairie Preserve I meet with some volunteers from the Beaver Creek Wetlands Association who were planning on doing some trail maintenance from what I could tell. I talked with Jim Amon, a Technical Advisor for the B.C.W.A. We talked about birds an other parks in the area, when he noticed that I was prepared for this particular park. Prepared as in boots that stand up to mud and water. Well the trail was no more than a narrow, one lawn mower width path. The path starts out winding it’s way through some woods then breaks out from the trees and then this is where it starts to get wet. On more than one occasion I almost had my boots sucked off my feet. Well when they say wetlands, they mean wetlands. The last thing you want to think about when you’re birding is your footing. So needless to say I was looking down more than looking for birds. The I made it to the boardwalk they told me about. And by the way the weeds and grasses were invading the boardwalk, you weren’t going to be able to see much of it soon.

Looking back from whence I came.

Looking forward towards my goal.

A nice mowed path with woods on one side, and wild flowers on the other. My next stop before I went home was Siebenthaler Fen, however Jim Amon recommended that I go to CEMEX Reserve. A park with a large body of water with good wetlands, and not too far of a drive.

By this time the sun was up and the heat was on. So I wanted to make this a short trip. There’s a loop trail that goes around the lake, so I headed out. If I had known what I know now, I would have probably have skipped this park. There’s a lake alright, but there’s no way to get close. And maybe that’s a good thing, but it got to the point that birding was secondary and getting back to the bird mobile was priority. I need to come back in the Spring or Fall and give it a fair evaluation. I was burning up, and tired, and thirsty. Not a good combination.

A couple of views of the expansiveness of CEMEX Reserve.

After about 5 hours in the field I decided to call it quits, and head home in the comfort of my air-conditioned bird-mobile. I feel like I only scratched the surface of this wonderful place. There are so many other places to go and explore that I’m sure I’ll be back. It was a A+ kind of trip.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Canada Geese
  2. American Robin
  3. Eastern Goldfinch
  4. Mourning Dove
  5. Common Grackle
  6. American Crow
  7. Gray catbird
  8. Northern Cardinal
  9. Summer Tanager
  10. Carolina Chickadee
  11. Tufted Titmouse
  12. Blue Jay
  13. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  14. Chimney Swift
  15. Field Sparrow
  16. Song Sparrow
  17. Savannah Sparrow
  18. House Finch
  19. American Woodcock
  20. House Wren
  21. Indigo Bunting
  22. Dickcissel
  23. Eastern Kingbird
  24. Common Yellowthroat
  25. Yellow Warbler
  26. Prothonotary Warbler
  27. Eastern Wood Pewee
  28. White-eyed Vireo
  29. Red-winged Black Bird
  30. Willow Flycatcher
  31. Acadian Flycatcher
  32. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  33. Eastern Towhee
  34. Northern Flicker
  35. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  36. Downy Woodpecker
  37. Great Blue Heron
  38. Turkey Vulture
  39. Kill Deer
  40. Least sandpiper
  41. Semipalmated Plover
  42. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  43. Cooper’s Hawk
  44. Red-tailed Hawk
  45. Barn Swallow
  46. Bank Swallow