Tag Archives: Birding

Sedge Wren

The Sedge Wren ( Cistothorus platensis ) are erratic visitors during the summer, however it’s during autumn when you chances go up spotting this skulking visitor. Found in sedge marshes and wet meadows, this small ( 4.5″ ) skulker is always a challenge to locate. Distinguished from the Marsh Wren ( Cistothorus palustris ) by a small, short bill, while the Marsh Wren is darker in color and more contrast overall, with a solid brown crown, with a longer curved bill. The  two birds can easily be misidentified unless field markings aren’t looked at closely

Yesterday Jon and myself were off to Ellis Lake to track down the LeConte’s Sparrow that’s been seen there for the past several days. We hikes off to a lone patch of stunted Willow trees situated along a low channel that runs the length of a sizable field that splits everything into two. Normally this would be impassable to foot traffic, however during this dry spell we’ve had we were able to walk all the way the Willow stand.

Despite working the area for more than two hours, we never came across the LeConte’s Sparrow, however it was a 8 sparrow day with both Nelson’s Sharp-tailed and Lincoln’s being sighted. Besides the Lincoln and Nelson’s, another treat for the day was the Sedge Wren that we saw several times, usually in the Willow Stand. Always moving and never giving me a clear shot, I was able to click of a couple of acceptable photographs.



Hudsonian Godwit…and this time I mean it. ( Life Bird 345)

Brookville Lake is a massive lake, sandwiched between Brookville and Liberty Indiana. And at the northern most point near Liberty the lake becomes real shallow and mudflats develops, which in turn attracts countless shore birds, waders, and gulls. It is a hot spot that most Tri-state birder are familiar with, and probably frequent on a regular basis. And considering the 90 minute drive, I try to make a visit at least a couple of times a year if not more. So yesterday after work I made the drive to Brookville Lake to finally put to rest my  questionable sighting of a Hudsonian Godwit back in 2012.

Doubting oneself about a sighting can become a nagging thought that stays in the back of your mind till you finally make that 100%, no-doubt-about-it, in your face, absolutely positive, sighting. I needed this bird in a bad way. So when this particular bird was originally sighted on Sunday evening, and then stayed around when it was confirmed on Monday, I never thought in a million years the Godwit would stick around. Then it was sighted again on Tuesday. Then Wednesday. Now I’m getting that “twitch”. Wednesday evening I was thinking should I stash my gear in the bird-mobile just in case. Surely this bird won’t hang around for one more day. It always seems that these particular birds are just one day wonders, never to be seen by no more than a few lucky birders.

So on Thursday while at work I would frequently check both the Indiana Listserv and the Cincinnati Birders sighting log for anyone to post a sighting on this bird. It wasn’t till about 11:30 when the Indian Listserv showed a birder seeing the Godwit that morning. Well that was enough for me. I called my son to bring my gear and meet me by my car at 2:30.

The drive was painfully long. Normally I’m a pretty patient driver, however at times like this where anything could happen to send this bird flying south for the winter, slow traffic turns me into a nervous wreak and a raving lunatic all at the same time. It was probably a good thing I was by myself.

As I pull up another car is parked with a gentleman getting out of his car and attaching his camera to his monopod. I pull along side an asked if he saw the bird? What bird was I talking about he asked back. Obviously not aware of the Hudsonian Godwit sighting, I pulled over and grabbed my bins and spotting scope. I walked back to their car an introduced myself to Steve and Jeanne Waddle from Richmond Indiana. They frequently come down to this part of the lake an do a little bird watching and take some photographs. Being relatively new to bird watching they were unaware of the Hudsonian Godwit being here for several days.

I quickly set up my scope and started a methodical scan. It’s a large area and this bird could easily be missed among all the other birds and fallen trees that liter the mudflats. I scanned from right to left. Then I repeated from left to right. No bird. I was starting to get that “am I going to dip on the bird again” feeling. Then I saw it. OMG!




As you can probably tell by now these are some really terrible pictures. But in my defense I really had the camera maxed out both optically and digitally. It is super grainy and I tried my best to sharpen it up with my computer program.




My spotting scope offered a much sharper image and I was really able to notice the important field markings. The black tail for one is right on for Hudsonian. And when a immature Bald eagle flew over the area and all the birds flushed I was able to see the dark underwing lining with the almost black leading edge of the wings.

I made sure both Steve and Jeanne had good looks, and for the 90 minutes I was there we got to know each other better. And it turns out Steve is a subscriber to my blog. Small world isn’t it.

I was on cloud 9 during my long drive home, having finally sighted a proper Hudsonain Godwit, and meeting new friends.

All I need now is a Whimbrel and my nemesis bird list will be finished.

“On The Road”…to chase a Lifer

If you were asked to name as many birds with only one syllable in it’s name, how many would you be able to come up with? And I’m just speaking about North American birds.

The only one I could come up with is Philomachus pugnax, the one and only “Ruff”.  An ABA code 3 bird that certainly sparked a lot of interest since it was first sighted early Friday. A casual Eurasian visitor to Ohio, the Ruff usually makes an appearance during the spring and fall during migration. According to Bruce Peterjohn in “The Birds of Ohio”, most fall migrants are during August and September, with only 2 in October and 1 in November recorded. The majority of the sightings are up on Lake Erie, with only a few in the interior of the state.   So needless to to say when on Friday one was sighted at Hoover Reservoir north on Columbus near Westerville Ohio my heart skipped a beat.

The construction of Hoover Reservoir started in 1953, and completed 2 years later. Built to hold back Big Walnut Creek this 3,272 acre lake is 8 miles long, and 1 mile at it’s widest, it’s where the majority of Columbus’s drinking water comes from. At the very northern part sits the cute little town of Galena Ohio, with it’s famous mudflats, and equally famous boardwalk. The boardwalk is 1,500 feet in length and a mecca for birders and fishermen alike. As a matter of fact my lifer Buff-breasted Sandpiper was seen from the very end of the boardwalk. However yesterday it still remained closed due to ice damage from last winter, so a different tactic was used to track down the Ruff.

As with so many reservoirs, existing roads that criss-crossed the area now become dead-ends. The only way you can tell now-a-days that they even existed is the crumbling asphalt left behind. And there is one such abandoned road that runs out of Galena right into the mudflats just a few hundred yards from the boardwalk. So at 9:30 yesterday morning I parked the bird-mobile along the side of the road and started to unload.

The temptation to run up Friday late afternoon after work was strong. Driving time during normal conditions was 1 hour and 45 minutes, but this was Columbus and I would be driving through at rush hour, with a Ohio State home football game the next day. I reluctantly opted for Saturday morning to make my trip.

As I started down the heavily grown over road I noticed a couple coming towards me. I asked if the Ruff was still there, which he confirmed it was, just a little further out. My pace quickened. A short 5 minute hike brought me to a clearing where 5 birders were stowing their gear as they prepared to leave. As I approached 2 guys who were set up on the edge of the mud, I asked in what area the bird was seen last.

IMG_3293The 2 men pointed me in the direction of that rocky point of mud where all the gulls are sitting. “The Ruff is on the other side down at the waters edge feeding, so you have to wait a minute for it to come out”. Not exactly the view I’d prefer, but I’ll wait and see if it comes closer.

IMG_3299My first look at the Ruff. Not very impressive.

Also feeding on the mudflats were lots of Lesser Yellowlegs, and Pectoral Sandpipers, Killdeer, Semipalmated Plovers, and Spotted Sandpipers.

IMG_3296Lesser Yellowleg on the left with a Pectoral Sandpiper

After waiting about 20 minutes a large portion of birds took off and the Ruff was one of them. You could easily pick it out from the other birds as they circled around the area and finally settled back down closer than they were before. This time I was able to get my scope on the juvenile Ruff and noticed the buffiness and size comparison to some of the Lesser Yellowleg.

Then the Ruff started to move closer as it constantly probed the mud in search of food. The sun broke through the cloud cover which helped as I started to click off picture after picture.



IMG_3383Normally found along with Yellowlegs and Pectoral Sandpipers, I wanted to get a size comparison photo with a Lesser Yellowleg.



I spent about 2 hours just watching the Ruff. The weather cooperated and I meet a few very nice birders. I posted this last photo on Facebook with some good comments. So far Hoover Reservoir has been pretty lucky for me, and hopefully the next time I visit good things happen again…Lifer Bird 345


“On The Road”

With my vacation into the wilds of the Wolverine State over, it seems we always ask the same question. Why does it take so long for the vacation to start, and how does it end so quickly? With the cold slap of reality of “work” once again staring me in the face, and my photos sorted and cleaned up, it’s time for my wrap-up of the one day I went birding at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore.

With never having visited this part of Michigan before, we really wanted to see and do as much as we could. There were wineries and breweries that needed to be visited, along with small towns and tourist attractions. And with only so much time in the day I had to designate one morning/afternoon when I can some birding in. There were some encouraging reports on eBird that had several Clay-colored Sparrows and Piping Plovers in and around Sleeping Bear Point. So this was my one-shot destination.

The drive took about 45 minutes from where we were staying outside of Northport, and following M-22 the drive took me through picturesque villages of Leland, Glen Arbor (Home of Cherry Republic) and Glen Haven. I followed the map on my GPS and traveled through Glen Haven and finally parked at the old Sleeping Bear Point Coast Guard Station which has been turned into a maritime museum.


Being a pretty early Wednesday morning there was no one around. So I made my way through the Coast Guard Station compound towards Lake Michigan as the sun started to rise behind me. I turned towards my left and started to walk northwest towards Sleeping Bear Point.


As I hiked along I really didn’t know what to expect when it came to birds. Being by a really large body of water one would expect the usual Ring-billed and Herring Gulls. A lone Killdeer was the first plover  sighted as it scurried before me. A couple of Semipalmated Sandpipers were feeding along the lakes edge and offered a good photo-op as the sun was in the perfect position.


As I walked a large sand dune squeezed me between itself and the lake with just about 10 feet of space to walk.



Three American Kestrels kited above me as the wind blew steady off the lake all morning. A solo flying Peregrine Falcon was being mobbed by a gang of Crows. The falcon eventually lighted, and not wanting to pass up any chance to get a picture, I crept closer. Well the falcon wanted no part of me, let alone the Crows, so it flew off over the dune.

I was beginning to think that I was going to dip on my 2 target birds, however as a large sandy clearing opened up with scrubby bushes and short, stunted trees I noticed some small bird activity.




They kept moving away from me towards where a sand dune joined the beach at right angles. Large bushes and small trees sheltered 10-12 Sparrows, but what species? I couldn’t get my bins on them long enough to get a good ID, they just wouldn’t hold still long enough. I paused for a moment and “pished”. A couple curious Sparrows jumped up on some low branches. Clay-colored Sparrows, hooray for me! Not wanting to pass up this opportunity, I pulled out my camera and fired off a few shots before they moved on.


IMG_3020Now I’m 100% sure these are Clay-colored Sparrows. However when I got home at processed the pictures and noticed that these birds were missing the classic field marking, I started to doubt myself. The one thing missing is the classic whitish median crown stripe. All the other field marks fit for a Clay-colored, but this stripe on the crown. All the field guides showed the white stripe, and this was upsetting. It wasn’t till I  pulled out go-to book on Sparrows, “The Sparrows of the United States and Canada” by James Rising and David Beadle. “crown streaked blackish and median stripe buffy”, for a juvenile Clay-colored Sparrow. Validation is sweet.

After leaving the Sparrows I made my way back to the beach and my hunt of a Piping Plover. I continued walking for about 20 minutes always stopping and scanning the beach for any movement, then sweep back over land for anything else. It was during one stop while scanning the beach I noticed the 2 Semipalmated Sandpipers I had seen earlier, but this time there was another bird with it. One with orange/yellow legs. Piping Plover! If it hadn’t moved it would have been really difficult to pick out among all the pebbles that littered the beach.

IMG_3025As you can see by this picture how well they blend into their surrounding habitat.

Now I had to set myself up to get the best photographs of the Plover without really disturbing it. The bird would move up and down the beach feeding without too much regard for me, so if I stood still it would get close, or if it walked away from me I had to climb up the bank and position myself for a better shot.




As you can see this bird has some serious bands on it’s legs. Being an endangered species this is normal and really the best way to track this beautiful bird. As a matter of fact right now as I’m writing this blog post a juvenile Piping Plover is being seen up on Lake Erie in Ohio without any bands yet. This is about as rare as the bird itself.

I could have followed this bird all day taking endless pictures, but there comes a time when enough is enough and call it a very successful day. And with that  I drove back to Glen Arbor to meet Kathy and have a Black Cherry Cream Soda from Cherry Republic. Mmmmmmm Delicious.

Notes From The Field

How long has it been since I was out birding? It seems like forever, but after a quick text to Jon arrangements were made an we were on our way despite the very hot and humid conditions that seem to settle over the Ohio Valley during the summer. It can be difficult to get motivated during these dog days to get out a do a little birding during the morning hours before the heat turns up, and this was our plan for the day, and Butler County was our choice for birds. Our first stop was Fernald Preserve.

We arrived early and started out scoping out Lodge Pond for any water fowl. The normal cast of characters were their, the resident Mute Swan, Wood Ducks with additional family members in tow, a lone American Coot and one Mallard. Not a great start to the day, but not unexpected. However not wanting to give up so soon we started to work the preserve and came away with some good birds.

IMG_2897 A Yellow-throated Warbler working the Evergreens that line the entry road into Fernald Preserve.

IMG_2889Another very common warbler during the summer months in pretty much all grassy habitats in Ohio, and I’m sure elsewhere, the Common Yellowthroat.

 IMG_2892As Jon and I hike back towards a wooded section of Fernald Preserve we spooked up 2 Green Herons that were hiding in this pond with heavy brush along the edge. This one landed in the top of this small tree where it stretched it’s neck for a better view.

Before leaving we meet a photographer who had photographed this unusual warbler in the same area along the evergreen lined entry road. The photo was the best but we got out of the car and looked around a little to satisfy our natural curiosity. Well we never found the mystery warbler but we did stumble upon a very cooperative Blue Grosbeak. One of my favorite summertime birds and one that I’m always trying to get a good photo of.


After Fernald Preserve we went to a new place, Governor Bebb Metropark. Birders have had some good luck with Henslow’s Sparrows and I’ve yet to see any this year.

Governor Bebb was a Whig politician who was born in Butler County in 1802. He was the 19th governor of Ohio from 1846 to 1849. After his governorship he was appointed by Abraham Lincoln to be the Examiner of the Pension Office in Washington D.C.

So to honor a native Ohio son they have this real nice 264 acre preserve named after him. Part of the preserve besides the fields, meadows and woods is a historic village that has several historic log buildings. They even have the Bebb Cabin built in 1799 near to where my wife grew up.

The sun was really cranking up the heat as the morning waned into the afternoon, but Jon and I wandered the mowed path through the meadow where the Henslow’s have been seen. Unfortunately no Henslow’s were seen let alone heard. But it wasn’t a total bust as we worked a wooded edge when we heard a Summer Tanager back in the woods.

IMG_2931Not a very good photo since I was shooting into a darker forest from a sunny location and at quite a distance.

IMG_2927The butterflies were pretty spectacular at Gov. Bebb Preserve, which included this Giant Swallowtail

IMG_2940Wood Nymph

The sun was baking now and it was time to call it quits. However we did have a pretty good list for the day despite the heat.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Pigeon
  2. Mourning Dove
  3. Wood Thrush
  4. Barn Swallow
  5. Tree Swallow
  6. Cliff Swallow
  7. Chimney Swift
  8. Purple Martin
  9. Robin
  10. Northern Cardinal
  11. Northern Mockingbird
  12. Eastern Towhee
  13. Song Sparrow
  14. Field Sparrow
  15. Chipping Sparrow
  16. Mute Swan
  17. Wood Duck
  18. Mallard
  19. American Coot
  20. Eastern Kingbird
  21. Eastern Wood Pewee
  22. Willow Flycatcher
  23. Acadian Flycatcher
  24. Summer Tanager
  25. Common Yellowthroat
  26. Yellow-throated Warbler
  27. Yellow-breasted Chat
  28. Red-winged Black Bird
  29. Eastern Goldfinch
  30. Dickcissel
  31. Blue Grosbeak
  32. Indigo Bunting
  33. Eastern Meadowlark
  34. House Wren
  35. Gray Catbird
  36. Brown Thrasher
  37. White-eyed Viroe
  38. Red-eyed Vireo
  39. Yellow-throated Vireo
  40. Red-tail Hawk
  41. American Kestrel
  42. Turkey Vulture
  43. Black Vulture
  44. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  45. Killdeer
  46. Red-headed Woodpecker
  47. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  48. Northern Flicker
  49. Down Woodpecker
  50. Green Heron
  51. Great Blue Heron
  52. Eastern Bluebird

Fernald Preserve

From 1951 till 1989 the Feed Materials Production Center at Fernald, near Ross Ohio, processed low-level uranium for use in nuclear bombs. Fernald is one of 2 former nuclear sites that have been decontaminated to the point where the public can visit. The other is Weldon Spring, a former Army facility 30 miles west of St. Louis. Both are part of the Department of Energy’s Legacy Management Program, which is in charge of the long-term management of sites that have been cleaned up.

Fernald covers 1,050 acres, with over 320 acres being grassland. With the addition of 7 miles of hiking trails you can see why this place is a great place to go birding. And one of my favorite grassland birds that frequents Fernald this time of year is the Dickcissel. And considering Fernalds past I don’t see in the foreseeable future any developments or soccer fields stripping this wonderful habitat.

It’s been hot in the Ohio Valley this week. Temps are reaching into the 90’s and the humidity has tipped that really uncomfortable level. So I headed out in the morning trying to see my target bird for the day before I started to melt. I wasn’t too log after arriving when I heard my first Dickcissel.


IMG_2822This is how you’d normally see them. Perched atop of a small tree or bush with their head thrown back singing.



IMG_2806Eastern Goldfinch’s are a dime-a-dozen at Fernald, however I thought this photo was particularly good.

IMG_2856I can’t help myself, I’m a sucker for Eastern Kingbirds