Tag Archives: Birding

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.

“Notes From The Field”

It was a frigid 5 degrees under a brightening morning sky when I backed the bird-mobile out of the garage, pointing it north on highway 22/3, and drove towards Caesar Creek State Park. Within 2 minutes I had my first new bird for my January 100 list, a Pileated Woodpecker hammering away on a short tree by the side of the road. I’m hoping this is a good omen.

There’s loads of common birds I still need to check off at Caesars Creek and nearby Spring Valley Wildlife Area. Normally my first stop would be at the Harveysburg Road overlook, but today I made towards the beach in hope of finding the gull flock still on the beach before they disperse to feed. I found the flock without any problems and right in the middle was my Herring Gull. I continued to scan the area for Killdeer and Pipits without any luck.

I drove to various points around the lake scanning for any signs of waterfowl, and if it wasn’t for 2 Pied-billed Grebes the duck decoys left by hunters which was the most numerous thing on the lake. I packed it i and headed over to the visitors center to warm up and check the feeders.

The feeders at the visitors center usually draw your normal birds like Junco’s, Cardinals, Titmouse, and Chickadees. In the winter though for the past several years I’ve had very good luck in spotting Purple Finches at this location. During the Spring and Summer of last year the visitors center went through a large expansion so now they have 2 areas set up with feeders that you can watch from inside.

The visitor center expansion consisted of a long corridor with several offices connecting the original visitor center building to a large conference room. One of these offices along the corridor was open to the back of the building and the feeder area. Taking off my coat and hat I settled into a chair and held vigil.

After about 5 minutes a stunning male flew in.

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img_5637I apologize for the poor quality, since I was shooting through a window and the sun was at a low angle.

I love how Peterson describes them in his field guide, “a finch dipped in raspberry sauce”. Despite some peoples confusion between this species and the more common House Finch, once you see a Purple Finch next to a House Finch the difference becomes quite obvious.

The rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent checking out Spring Valley and a few gravel pits. It was during my drive to Spring Valley when I FINALLY spotted 3 large black birds soaring. Pulling off the highway and getting my bins out I saw that they were Black Vultures. All I need now are Turkey Vultures.

My grumbling stomach told me it was time to leave. Driving slowly I noticed a really small bird flitting about low in the branches of a tree by the side of the road. Stopping I got my bins on it to find a Golden-crowned Kinglet. Pulling to the side of the road I grabbed my camera in what I thought would be a futile attempt to get a picture of these ever moving birds.

Luck was on my side today.

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New January birds were:

70: Purple Finch

71: Herring Gull

72: Pileated Woodpecker

73: Black Vulture

74: Golden-crowned Kinglet

75: Brown-headed Cowbird

76: Hermit Thrush

77: Cooper’s Hawk

The Return of The “Twitcher”

The Brant, (Branta bernicta) particularly the “Atlantic” sub-species is roughly the size of a Cackling Goose  an breeds in the Eastern Canadian High-Arctic region of North America. During Fall migration they’ll stage in the James Bay area, and continue their southward movement where flocks will be seen at Lake Champlain and from Appalachian hawk watch sites. During the winter they can be found from coastal North Carolina northward to New England. And every now and then one multiple sightings from Northern Ohio, especially along Lake Erie are reported.

For myself this is a semi-nemisis bird. I’ve chased Brants a few times when reports come in from the center of the state but with no luck. And most of the sightings from Lake Erie are of small flocks passing through the state on their way to the coast. And for some reason they just don’t show up in the southern part of Ohio, not that I was expecting any.

Remember rarities are just that…rare.

For the past couple days a Brant was sighted at Mosquito Lake State Park, north of Youngstown. That’s a solid 4 plus hour drive for a bird that could be there one day, and gone the next. Do I chase or not? As tempting as it is, I decided to not chase. Autumn chores needed to be accomplished and it was a beautiful, unseasonably warm day. Kathy and I dove into the yard work and after a few hours we had everything done for the day. Time to relax with an adult beverage. I went to grab my phone which was plugged in and saw I had a text from Jon. There’s a juvenile Brant at Rocky Fork State Park, which is on the other side of Hillsboro Ohio. The original sighting came as a group from the Cincinnati Bird Club were visiting the lake. That’s a little over an hour drive if I hurry.

WHOOOOOOOSH……….. I’m out the door.

My GPS takes me by the most bizarre way but after an hour of driving through farm country I arrive at the lake. It was sighted from the camp ground so I drove through and parked at the far end over by the lake. I grab my spotting scope and start to scan. Loads of gulls, but no Brant or a single goose.

Now there were these large red, round buoys out in the lake and by the looks they were supporting this large cable that was stretched a couple of hundred yards. The cable must have been right under the surface of the water because loads of gulls were perched on it just like they were standing on water. I was scanning along the line of gulls when I saw the Brant.

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Now I would have loved for the Brant to be a bit closer without the sun in the wrong direction, but we sometimes have to deal with what we’re given. And for me I was given Life Bird # 445.