Tag Archives: Bird Watching

“On The Road”

Well it was another successful trip up to Lake Erie for spring migration this year. The weather was typical as you’d expect with very windy conditions and either too hot or cool temperatures. I traveled up early last Tuesday, arriving by 8 am, and staying till Friday late morning. This year was a little different than in years past. In the past I’ve stayed in local hotels either in Port Clinton, or Oregon. We’ve also stayed in the lodge at Maumee Bay State Park, and one of the cabins in years past. This year I camped, just like one of the first times I visited with my older son. And with my senior discount I was able to camp for the 3 nights for $50.00, which isn’t bad, considering it had electrical hookups. I ran an extension cord into the tent so I could run a fan on those hot days, plus I needed to recharge my cell phone overnight. And since I wasn’t planning on any cooking, coffee was a must have in the morning. So my wife came up with the idea of taking our Kuerig along to make my morning coffee. Brillant!

Breakfast was coffee, a banana, and a granola bar. Lunch was a PB & J sandwich and trail mix. All I had to do then is eat out for my dinner. Birding on a budget.

Home Sweet Home

In years past I would get to the boardwalk early enough to beat the big rig photographers before they set up house either on the tower, or the walkway up to the tower. This year I just couldn’t get there early enough. It was always the same group of people, set up in the same spot every day.

For the most part my morning was spent on the boardwalk at Magee Marsh till either the crowd of people drove me off, or the birding slowed down. So if I wasn’t at the boardwalk I was at either Metzger Marsh, Ottawa N.W.R., or the back roads looking for wading birds in some of the sky ponds in the farm fields.

Both Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos seemed more common than in years past. Normally I’d struggle to get the Black-billed, however this year it was an easy “tick”.

 This Screech Owl was found towards the end of the Estuary Trail.

The nest box where this little guy was found is on the boardwalk at Maumee Bay State Park Nature Trail. And just to the right and above overlooking everything was…

a red phase Eastern Screech Owl.

Flycatchers made an appearance in a big way while I was there. All the ones I was able to identify I did by their call. So when I took a photo of one if I didn’t hear it call, I left it as a unidentified flycatcher.

 Another bird I didn’t have to work to hard in finding was a Snowy Egret. Every year it can either be a hit or miss bird, however this year one could always be found along the causeway as you drove towards the parking lot at Magee Marsh.

This year there was a treat for everyone. A very cooperative Black-crowned Night Heron. Easily spotted from the boardwalk on a daily basis, it was nothing to take a few dozen photos of this beautiful bird as it stalked for food.

Another bird I’ve had a bit of luck finding, usually along the drive of Metzger Marsh at one of the pull-offs, are Common Gallinule. I find them such striking birds.

Pretty reliable in the past few years are Sandhill Cranes. For the most part I’ve heard them as the feed just out of eye sight, but this year I was able to catch a couple in flight while I was stopped on the causeway.

  However the real reason the majority of birders come to Lake Erie, and this special spot in particular are the warblers. This year did not disappoint with 21 species seen. For me anytime I can reach 20 or more warblers during my stay here I feel blessed, and this year was a good year. Maybe not for the quality of the photographs, but for the birds it was great.

 The ever present Yellow Warbler

Mourning warblers seemed particularly plentiful than in years past, with female being spotted from the observation tower. Sorry for the poor quality, these skulking birds are tough in even the best conditions.

I think a front came through while I was there because it seemed that the Black-throated Green and Canada Warblers appeared in good numbers.

I know, for some reason I have really bad luck when it comes to both the Canada and Blackburnian Warbler in getting a clear photograph. I’ll just keep trying till I get a good one. I hate auto-focus.

Of course you would have to tilt back your head with a stick in the way. Nothing comers easy.I’m definitely a better birder than photographer.

Magnolia Warbler

 Not as striking as the males, the female Magnolia warblers were a little more cooperative for us inconsistent photographers.

And as expected the Prothonotary Warbler stole the show. Always present since they breed here, their clear song can be heard all over the boardwalk, and they tend to sit still long enough for people like me.

And considering how windy it was, even the birds found it difficult to keep their feathers in place.

You would think that the Yellow Warbler was the most common warbler species here, but I think it’s the Common Yellowthroat.

Northern Parula

I think the first song I heard as I stepped onto the boardwalk was of a Northern Parula

This was one of my photographic nemesis birds, the Bay-breasted Warbler. Now they may not be the best of quality, but I’m really pleased.

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Wilson’s Warbler

But not everything was warbler believe it or not. I was able to capture some decent shots of some of the other inhabitants.

Red-eyed Vireo

If for some reason you need a Baltimore Oriole for your life list, this is the place to find them. They’re everywhere.

This male Wood Duck was tied up at one of the ponds at the golf course at Maumee Bay. I think I made a inadvertent pun.

Wait a minute, that’s no bird!

Trip List

  1. Eastern Meadowlark
  2. Canada Goose
  3. European Starling
  4. American Robin
  5. Common Grackle
  6. Mourning Dove
  7. House Sparrow
  8. Brown-headed Cowbird
  9. Killdeer
  10. Cooper’s Hawk
  11. Barn Swallow
  12. Tree Swallow
  13. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  14. Purple Martin
  15. Cliff Swallow
  16. Chimney Swift
  17. Red-winged Black Bird
  18. Ring-billed Gull
  19. Herring Gull
  20. Common Tern
  21. Gray Catbird
  22. Eastern Phoebe
  23. Carolina Wren
  24. House Wren
  25. Great Egret
  26. Snowy Egret
  27. Black-crowned Night Heron
  28. Green Heron
  29. Double-creasted Cormorant
  30. Trumpeter Swan
  31. Bald Eagle
  32. Red-tailed Hawk
  33. Northern Harrier
  34. Blue Jay
  35. Orchard Oriole
  36. Baltimore Oriole
  37. Warbling Vireo
  38. Red-eyed Vireo
  39. Philadelphia Vireo
  40. Eastern Wood Pewee
  41. Least Flycatcher
  42. Willow Flycatcher
  43. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
  44. Acadian Flycatcher
  45. Olive-sided Flycatcher
  46. Eastern Kingbird
  47. Indigo Bunting
  48. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  49. Northern Cardinal
  50. Downy Woodpecker
  51. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  52. Gray-cheeked Thrush
  53. Swainson’s Thrush
  54. Lincoln’s Sparrow
  55. White-throated Sparrow
  56. White-crowned Sparrow
  57. Song Sparrow
  58. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  59. Horned Lark
  60. Mallard
  61. Wood Duck
  62. Semi-palmated Plover
  63. Least sandpiper
  64. Dunlin
  65. White-rumped Sandpiper
  66. Pied-billed Grebe
  67. Common Gallinule
  68. Common Nighthawk
  69. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  70. Black-billed Cuckoo
  71. Cedar Waxwing
  72. Northern Flicker
  73. Wood Thrush Rose-breasted Grosbeack
  74. Eastern Bluebird
  75. White-eyed Vireo
  76. Eastern Towhee
  77. Eastern Goldfinch
  78. Sandhill Crane
  79. Screech Owl
  80. Peregrine Falcon
  81. Marsh Wren
  82. Yellow Warbler
  83. Common Yellowthroat
  84. Northern Parula
  85. Magnolia Warbler
  86. American Redstart
  87. Nashville warbler
  88. Blackpoll Warbler
  89. Cape May warbler
  90. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  91. Black-throated Blue warbler
  92. Black and White warbler
  93. Tennessee Warbler
  94. Wilson’s warbler
  95. Bay-breasted warbler
  96. Prothonotary Warbler
  97. Mourning Warbler
  98. Black-throated Green warbler
  99. Blackburnian Warbler
  100. Canada Warbler
  101. Connecticut Warbler
  102. Palm Warbler
  103. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  104. American Woodcock

Morning at Shawnee Lookout

If only I could be awoken by the song of the Wood Thrush, then I think life itself would almost be perfect.

It’s song is soft, melodic, a woodland flute.

The Wood Thrush marks the beginning and the end of each day as it’s song never wavers.

With the return each spring these beautiful birds returns my soul and slows my pace as I wander in the forest.

With some birds, we work to remember their particular song…

but the Wood Thrush is forever in me.

Notes From The Field

Back in the summer of 1998, the city of Loveland Ohio cut the ribbon on a new 21 acre nature preserve bordering O’Bannon Creek, a tributary for the Little Miami River. And for the last 19 years this little gem right in the heart of Historic Loveland has almost become a forgotten spot for the birding community. I’m one of the guilty considering how I close I do live, with this being just my 3rd, or 4th time I’ve birded this nice patch of woodlands. So with an evening free with some unusally warm weather I ventured forth for a spot of birding.

For being such a small wooded lot, when you’re by yourself it instantly becomes larger than the 21 acres. I really didn’t know what to expect, but neither was I surprised by the birds I discovered. However when you go birding in the evening birds on a whole sytart to quiet down a little. Northern Cardinals, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmouses, American Robins were the most vocal. Even when I sit on my own front porch in the evening these birds are the most vocal.

This is a well maintained nature preserve through volunteer efforts by both the Boy Scouts and local groups. the trails are well marked and mulched with signage throughout the preserve telling you  where your located. A wooden bird blind with feeders is always nice to checkout even if the feeders were empty tonight.

A Cooper’s Hawk flies just ahead and above me, and lands quietly in a nearby tree. I pause to watch to see if a ambush is coming. The hawk seems content just to wait, but I wasn’t and moved on.

An Eastern Towhee catches my eye in the thick undergrowth. I “pished”  a few times to see if it would pop out for a photo.     Silly human.

As I walked the trail that parallels O’Bannon Creek I finally hear a Wood Warbler. An ascending trill with a hiccup at the end. Now I don’t know about you but when early spring arrives this is the time to dust off my warbler songs and reacquaint myself with these beautiful birds, especially before I head off for Magee Marsh in May. More and more species are arriving all the time and birding by ear for these warblers is key for proper identification when their foraging out of sight.

I stopped and waited for it to sing again. Northern Parula. I felt so stupid.

 

Notes From The Field

It was a beautiful Sunday. Much like Spring’s in the past it started out on the cool side, and as the sun rose even higher into the sky, so did the temps. The Ohio Valley is really beginning to shed its’ Winter bareness with more flowers blooming every week. My own yard work is starting to ramp up as bushes need to be pruned back and dead branches picked up in the yard before I mow. Plus the vegetable garden needs to be tilled and prepped before any seed hits the soil. As busy as folks get this time of year, there’s always time to get in a little birding before the yard work consumes the rest of the daylight.

One of my favorite parks to go birding is Magrish Preserve. This small preserve borders the Little Miami River just upstream from the confluence with the Ohio River, and can really be a good migrant trap. With all the recent rain we’ve had the Little Miami River has left its banks and a good portion of the park in under water. So I’m on high ground doing some casual birding as I stroll around the area trying to keep my feet dry.

Surprisingly it’s pretty quiet. I approach a group of 3 or 4 Cedar trees and I start to notice a group of 6 Golden-crowned Kinglets feeding on the berries. I become entranced with the Kinglets and spent a good portion of my time just watching these hyperactive little birds.

Now this next picture isn’t of a Golden-crowned Kinglet, however while I was at California Woods after leaving Magrish Preserve, the annual Eastern Pheobe pair were putting on quite a show. This may be be my best photo this year so far.

Notes From The Field

It was a cool, overcast morning as I set out this Sunday morning for a little birding. I had my sights set for Gilmore Ponds which would get me home around lunch time after circumnavigating the park. A nice walk-able park with plenty of water and open grassy areas.

Gilmore Ponds butts up against the old Miami-Erie Canal, so it’s low lying nature makes for loads of standing water after a rainy day. Through some terrible decision making by Butler County politicians with little or no conservation mind-set, the park is suffering. It usually boils down to the need of the county and money, and in this situation it’s the parks that suffer. A few years back this park was closed to the public and individuals would sneak on (myself included) for some birding. But’s it’s open now through the passage of recent tax levies, and for the most part everyone is happy.

This is great Eastern Bluebird habitat and I noticed a family busy feeding and setting up house at the various Bluebird houses scattered around the park.

This is also a great park if only for it’s Great Blue Heron rookery. Every year it varies in sizes and the total amount of nests. Usually after violent storms we’ll loss some nests, which is normal, however this year we seem to have plenty.

Gilmore Ponds is also one of my go-to places for Rusty Blackbirds. A few years back Jon and myself were witness to hundreds of Rusty Blackbirds and they foraged along the edges of a flooded wood lot. Now to sort through all the Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles and Starlings can be daunting, I finally came upon about a dozen feeding along the edge of one of the larger ponds. Getting near for a photo proved difficult, but I was able to squeeze off this terrible photograph.

With those yellow eyes it really looks like an angry bird, but  I just love these birds.

On my way back towards the parking lot I came upon a very small pond. No more than 12 feet across this pond must be spring feed because even during dry spells it always has water. As I got closer I noticed flitting about a Eastern Phoebe feeding, my first for the year.

A much better effort.

All told a pretty good effort of only half a day. I recorded 40 plus birds with nothing too surprising. A nice leisurely walk in a park. Just what the doctor ordered for the start of my vacation.

Notes From The Field

Long Branch Farm

For being the first week in February you couldn’t ask for a more beautiful day to take a hike in the woods and do a little casual birding. The sun was rising on a cloudless blue sky with temperatures already above freezing, with highs today to reach in the lower 40’s. Reminiscent of early Spring, than a month and a half left of Winter. A friend of mine showed me a picture of the Crocuses that are ready to bloom. Oh well another Winter without snow.

Today I was off to Long Branch Farm about 7 miles from my house. Donated to the Cincinnati Nature Center in 1973 by Neil McElroy (former CEO of Proctor and Gamble and Secretary of Defense) this 642 acre park has 4 miles of hiking trails, ponds, streams, deciduous forests and fields.

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Most of the birds seen today were your typical ones you’d expect to find in an area like this. Song Sparrows were abundant as I wound my way through mowed paths with thick thorny thickets lining both sides.

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The trail ran on, then into the woods it went. With temperatures still cool enough overnight, the trails were still frozen with good footing, which helps keep the old boots from being too muddy.

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Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmouse, Red-bellied Woodpeckers were everywhere. Occasionally high in the tree tops you’d spy some Golden-crowned Kinglets, but nothing spectacular. Which was fine with me.

Until…something small and dark darted across the path right in front of me. With something this size and coloration I immediately thought Winter Wren. As typical behavior with Winter Wrens they like to stay hidden in the undergrowth, that’s until I was able to “pish” the bird into the open.

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For me this was a great bird, considering how elusive they can be. They’re always around if the habitat is right, it’s just being at the right place at the right time.

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As I was walking out of the woods I came upon a gravel road with some agricultural fields running adjacent to the road. I caught sight of these 2 Red-tailed Hawks and thought we have a juvenile and a adult just by the clean, lack of distinct streaks on the breast.

I can’t wait till Spring, this place should be hopping with birds.