Tag Archives: Boone County Cliffs

Notes From The Field

Bellevue Bottoms, Boone County Cliffs, The Oxbow, Lost Bridge, Smith Tract County Park

It was an early morning risin’ as I set off from my local UDF with coffee in hand towards Jon’s house. Today’s destination is our yearly trip to Boone County Cliffs, which is the biggest 78 acre park I’ve ever visited. But first we’re passing the turn off to the “cliffs” and heading towards a couple of dead end roads which recently has had some good bird reports. Especially Henslow Sparrows and Northern Bobwhites. We’re traveling to an area of Boone County Kentucky that is called Bellevue Bottoms. With it’s close proximity to the Ohio River and Aurora Indiana this part of the tri-state is new to me and has so much potential for some good birding in the future.

I’m assuming at one time these 2 roads (Horsley Ferry and Aurora Ferry Roads) had serviceable ferries that crossed the river, and being dead end there wasn’t too much traffic and walking on the road wasn’t an issue. Northern Bobwhite, Bank Swallow, Yellow-breasted Chat, Orioles, Eastern Kingbird, and Vireos were some of the more numerous species seen. After leaving this beautiful rural setting it was off to Boone County Cliffs.

As we turned onto Middleboro Road we are greeted with a singing Eastern Phoebe perched on a bridge post. And as was the case for the day no camera within reach. So I opted to leave it behind today and just focus on the birds. Sometimes when I go birding I focus too much on getting a decent picture of the bird than concentrating on what’s important, the actual bird. Then when I’m scrambling to retrieve my camera from it’s case, the bird is gone.

Boone County Cliffs is without a doubt in my top 5 places to visit within my 50 mile radius of home. Great hiking trail that winds on for 2 miles deep in some beautiful deciduous woods. A great variety of birds await anyone who visits this gem. However today the target birds are Kentucky and Worm-eating Warblers. Worm-eating warblers especially habitat specific and Boone County Cliffs are noted for multiple nesting “Wormies”. Since I starting visiting here I’ve not missed on this bird, it’s that reliable. With just a good set of ears and some patience anyone can either see of hear them. There call is a high pitched thrill that’s difficult to pick up at first if you’re not used to hearing it. Which was the case this morning. Jon was hearing one in the distance, but I couldn’t pick it up till I heard one close and got “tuned in”.

We were greeted with over active Louisiana Waterthrush’s as multiple birds chased each other around in the area of a small stream that cascades down towards the road we came in on. A thick canopy and under growth close in on both sides of the trail as we started to climb towards the area of the cliffs. Vireos, Flycatchers, Orioles, Tanagers, and my most favorite bird song, the Wood Thrush were everywhere.

This 2 mile trail finally reached it’s highest point, then started to level out with a gently rolling path that followed the contour of the ridge top. We’d pause and listen if a bird peaked our interest, or if a sudden movement caught our eye. As we made our way deeper into the woods we started to hear Wormies a little closer and had a great look of an Ovenbird. The one thing about Ovenbirds and Kentucky warblers is that their calls are very similar. And after we really listened, at both a Kentucky Warbler and an Ovenbird we finally were able to tell the difference when we heard more sing later on.

THEN OUR SOLITUDE WAS BROKEN BY GUN FIRE!

We had heard voices behind us for some time, but being a pretty popular place to go birding we never gave it much thought as this group of people were several hundred yards behind us the whole time. We didn’t know if they were birders or not, but there loud talking made us think they were just hiking. That was until one of the idiots discharged their gun, which in turned scared the shit out of the both of us. Jon then yells back at them that we’re up here and not to shoot their gun again. We reported the incident to the police and made a hasty retreat to our car, not wanting to run into some pissed off locals with a loaded gun. A very disturbing end to a great birding outing.

We took the long way home with stops at the Oxbow were a group of Great Egrets yielded one Snowy Egret, and a couple Prothonotary Warblers. After leaving the Oxbow we made our way to Smith tract County Park. In the past a good spot for Bell’s Vireo and Lark Sparrows. However the area where they’re usually sen has been taken over by a company that is using the area for a huge pipe line project. I real bummer. But on a bright note we did get some good looks as a Grasshopper Sparrow as it sang from the top of some weed.

And since it was an early day we called it over after leaving Smith Tract. Despite the disturbing end to our visit at “The Cliffs”, it was a great day of birding.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. American Kestrel
  2. Black Vulture
  3. Turkey Vulture
  4. Dickcissel
  5. Yellow Warbler
  6. Common Yellowthroat
  7. Yellow-throated Warbler
  8. Cerulean Warbler
  9. Hooded warbler
  10. Worm-eating Warbler
  11. Kentucky Warbler
  12. Louisiana Waterthrush
  13. Northern Parula
  14. Yellow-breasted Chat
  15. Field Sparrow
  16. Chipping Sparrow
  17. House Sparrow
  18. Grasshopper Sparrow
  19. Song Sparrow
  20. Cedar Waxwing
  21. Gray Catbird
  22. Red-winged Blackbird
  23. Common grackle
  24. Common Crow
  25. Northern Cardinal
  26. Tufted Titmouse
  27. Carolina Chickadee
  28. Carolina Wren
  29. House Wren
  30. Indigo Bunting
  31. Baltimore Oriole
  32. Orchard Oriole
  33. Brown Thrasher
  34. Northern Mockingbird
  35. Mourning Dove
  36. Northern Bobwhite
  37. American goldfinch
  38. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  39. Great-creasted Flycatcher
  40. Willow flycatcher
  41. Acadian Flycatcher
  42. Eastern Kingbird
  43. Downy Woodpecker
  44. Hairy Woodpecker
  45. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  46. Pileated Woodpecker
  47. Great Blue Heron
  48. Green Heron
  49. Great Egret
  50. Snowy Egret
  51. Canada Goose
  52. Mallard
  53. Purple Martin
  54. Tree Swallow
  55. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  56. Bank Swallow
  57. Cliff Swallow
  58. Barn Swallow
  59. Red-eyed Vireo
  60. White-eyed Vireo
  61. Warbling Vireo
  62. Chimney Swift
  63. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  64. Double-creasted Cormorant
  65. Blue jay
  66. Wood Thrush
  67. American Robin
  68. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  69. Scarlet Tanager
  70. Belted Kingfisher
  71. Spotted Sandpiper
  72. Common Loon
  73. White-breasted Nuthatch

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Notes From The Field

Boone County Cliffs State Nature Preserve

Boone County Cliffs is a place that I’d love to live close to. After getting off the Interstate and passing through Burlington Kentucky on Route 18 the scenery starts to change from just another urban landscape to what you might find down at Red River Gorge, just on a smaller scale. Before Kentucky 18 ends at the Ohio River you turn on Middle Creek Road, then the fun begins. You’re greeted by Acadian Flycatchers and Eastern Wood Pewees as you pass older and newer homes. Farms dot this narrow road which in itself would be great to walk just to see all the different birds along the way.

Today I’m joined by Jon and his wife Samantha for what will be a great day in the woods. Louisiana Waterthrush are singing as soon as we enter into the forest which has a small stream run along side the trail. We start our ascent up through dense ground cover on both sides of the trail while the Sun forces light through the green canopy. At 8 am you’d need a flash to take a picture.

One of our target birds for the day are Worm-eating Warblers, which this place is famous for. If you can see them. It was n o more than 15 minutes into our hike when we heard a “chip” call note which could be a Warbler. 2 years ago Phil and myself had good looks at a Worm-eating Warbler in the same area Jon and I are in now. So we cheated a little and I pulled out my I-Pod and played a recording of a Worm-eating Warbler. The reaction was almost instant as one starting to call right away, and very close. Then it flew right over our heads as it sang and sang. The only other bird that reacted to a recording like this was a Prothonotary Warbler. So not wanting to piss it off any more we left the area and climbed even higher towards the ridge as Scarlet Tanagers, Baltimore Orioles and the Worm-eating Warbler calling all around us.

  As you reach the top of the ridge you really can understand how this place got it’s name. In certain places it’s quite a drop to the valley below and staying on the trail is highly recommended.

A terrible shot of a Great-crested Flycatcher. It turned it’s head at the last second.

The trail undulates along as it follows the ridge top and the undergrowth opens up a little. This is prime habitat for Kentucky and Hooded Warblers. 2 more target birds that we were successful in finding today.

Birding by ear is definitely the only way to go here as Jon and Samantha listen, and watch for movement.

This park is so out of the way we came across only one other couple walking their dog. And it’s not too far of a drive, only 40 minutes from Jon and Samantha’s house in Maderia. However, when you get into the middle of the park the feeling of isolation and being hours from anywhere is omnipresent. It’s wondeful.

Don’t they have ferns like this for sale at Kroger’s for $15.00 a hanging basket?

For the next 3 hours we walked and paused to listen to the sounds of the forest and feel the tension leave the body and soul. Conversation was light and bird related mostly, intermixed with plans for upcoming trips and vegetable gardens. And for the second straight year we were able to locate 2 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, which we think are nesting in the park, and kind of unusual for this time of year.

As the trail started to descend towards the road we needed to pay more attention to the trail than the trees. It was at this point that last year Jon and myself got caught up in some heavy rain, which in turn turned the trail into a small stream. And when that happens the erosion really shows and footing can become tricky. So not wanting to twist and ankle or worse, we kept our heads down as we made our way back to the truck. It was 11:00 am and time to leave, but not until we picked up a couple of Yellow-breasted Chats singing near the high-tension wires that run through the area.

Great day, with great birds, with great friends.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Eastern Wood Pewee
  2. Eastern Phoebe
  3. Great-creasted Flycatcher
  4. Acadian Flycatcher
  5. Scarlet Tanager
  6. Summer Tanager
  7. Wood Thrush
  8. American Robin
  9. Eastern Kingbird
  10. Carolina Wren
  11. House Wren
  12. House Finch
  13. House Sparrow
  14. American Goldfinch
  15. Field Sparrow
  16. Song Sparrow
  17. Chipping Sparrow
  18. Hairy Woodpecker
  19. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  20. Northern Flicker
  21. Pileated Woodpecker
  22. Baltimore Oriole
  23. Orchard Oriole
  24. White-eyed Vireo
  25. Red-eyed Vireo
  26. Eastern Bluebird
  27. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  28. Mourning Dove
  29. Northern Cardinal
  30. American Crow
  31. Brown-headed Cowbird
  32. Blue Jay
  33. Eastern Towhee
  34. White-breasted Nuthatch
  35. Tufted Titmouse
  36. Carolina Chickadee
  37. Wild Turkey
  38. Turkey Vulture
  39. Red-tailed Hawk
  40. Purple Martin
  41. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  42. Black-billed Cuckoo
  43. Common Yellowthroat
  44. Louisiana Waterthrush
  45. Hooded Warbler
  46. Worm-eating Warbler
  47. Kentucky Warbler
  48. Northern Parula
  49. Yellow-breasted Chat
  50. Gray Catbird
  51. Red-winged Blackbird
  52. Indigo Bunting

Upcoming Events

This Sunday I’ll be venturing out on my annual trip to Boone County Cliffs State Nature Preserve. This 74 acre jewel has some of the most diverse habitat around the Tri-state area, not to mention that Worm-eating Warblers breed in this preserve. So stay tuned for my report as Jon and myself set out on what we hope to be a successful, and dry bird trip.

And added trip for next month will be a evening birding adventure to the Edge Of Appalachia Preserve to try and pick up another life bird, the Chuck-wills-Widow. More to come on that later.

Notes From The Field

Boone County Cliffs

With the threat of rain, with thunder and lightning a real possibility, nothing says Father’s Day more than a bird outing to Boone County Cliffs. I meet up with my friend Jonathan Frodge at Cincinnati’s Public Landing, where he jumped into the bird-mobile for the 30 odd minute drive to the park. With the window of opportunity narrowing with the impending rain, we hurried over to start our day. The drive over  was uneventful, until we turned onto Middle Creek Road. This a one of those 1 1/2 lane country road with a scattering of houses and barns, with dense vegetation on both sides for most of the drive. This road would be great just to walk and see what kind of birds you’d spot. However today, we wanted to hike the cliffs.

The overcast skies, and being early in the morning made for a dark forest to walk into. The trail was slick with mud as we made our way up hill.

It was real difficult to visualize the birds today. For one thing, they weren’t singing like i would have expected. The forest seemed too quiet for me. Also they were hard to see in the canopy. You would have to walk a little bit, then stop and listen and look for movement. This was the nature of today till it started to rain. We were there for no more than 90 minuted till it started. As you well know, birding is a listening, as well as a visual activity. So when you have problems seeing the birds because of one reason or another, you start to depend on you hearing to help you locate birds. Well when it starts to rain, the noise of the rain falling through the trees and smacking into the leaves, it makes a lot of noise, and subsequently makes it harder to hear the birds sing.

We had pretty good luck by ID’ing birds by sight and sound. However with the rain coming down harder, and not wanting to get my binoculars any more wet than  they already are, we made more of a concentrated effort to get out of the woods. The trail we were descending  was beginning to turn into a stream, and this made for a slippery slope. I had already fallen once, and didn’t want to do it again. We popped out of the forest a short time later, feeling a little disappointed in the fact that we couldn’t have stayed longer.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Barred Owl
  2. Wild Turkey
  3. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  4. Acadian Flycatcher
  5. Eastern Goldfinch
  6. Pileated Woodpecker
  7. Wood Thrush
  8. Eastern Towhee
  9. Baltimore Oriole
  10. Scarlet Tanager
  11. Worm-eating Warbler
  12. Kentucky Warbler
  13. Hooded Warbler
  14. Eastern Wood Pewee
  15. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  16. Carolina Chickadee
  17. White-breasted Nuthatch
  18. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  19. Blue Jay
  20. Red-eyed Vireo
  21. Indigo Bunting
  22. American Robin
  23. Northern Cardinal
  24. Brown-headed Cowbird
  25. Common Crow
  26. Great-crested Flycatcher
  27. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  28. Chimney Swift
  29. Cliff Swallow
  30. Common Grackle
  31. Mallard