Tag Archives: Butler County Metro Parks

Voice Of America

I remember the first time I visited Voice Of America Park like it was just last month. It was probably around the time I made the decision to bird full time, as opposed to only when it’s nice outside, or I’m on a trip, or something like that. I had jumped in with both feet, and I was chasing anything and everything that was new. And that evening long ago is still imprinted in my memory.

I had just checked our local birding List-Serv and read that birders were see lots of Bobolinks at Voice Of America Park. By then Kathy was used to having me dash off chasing birds and tonight wasn’t any different than another time. This was a life bird for me and I didn’t want to miss out on the action so off I went.

30 minutes later I’m driving around the outside of the park trying to find the main gate since I’ve never been here before, that’s when I see several Bobolinks flying over the park fence and across the road. Now it’s getting exciting. Then I notice a dead bird in the middle of the road. I pull over to the side and walk back to see it’s a Bobolink. My heart sank. I carried the bird to the side and laid it in the brush, got into my car and eventually found the gate.

There’s an area in V.O.A. park that’s a protected bird area and that’s where I found them. They were everywhere. It was a beautiful sight. It was such a wonderful thing to see that I brought my best friend Phil back a few days later so he could tick off Bobolinks and the many Henslow Sparrow’s that were nesting there as well. It was such a nice patch of pristine grassland habitat for these birds.

As years pass more and more of the birds habitat was disappearing. The park board giving in to the youth athlete organizations and their need for more sport fields. And as we lost more grassland, we lost species. I haven’t heard a Henslow Sparrow in years, and the decline of the Bobolink population was apparent as well. For the past 2 years I’ve not seen any Bobolinks at V.O.A. until just recently.

Reports started to come in this Spring of Bobolinks showing up at V.O.A. again. I had to go over and see for myself. It took less than a minute when I spotted my first one. This is encouraging.

After spending several hours hiking around the area I came to the conclusion that they seemed to be hanging around this one area. And after some fancy calculating I figured there were 4 males and maybe 2 females from what I could see.

Now I’ll probably return in a few weeks to check on them and see if they’re still around or maybe I see more. Anyway you look at it, I was very pleased as I drove off towards home.

Advertisements

Rare Bird Alert

Now it has been awhile since I chased a bird, however yesterday evening while relaxing on my front porch I happen to to see the Facebook post of 6 Black-bellied Whistling Ducks at Gilmore Ponds Metro Park in Butler County Ohio. Well maybe I should have chased them when I first read the post, but being rather comfortable at the time I thought it could wait till the morning. Somehow I thought they might stick around for the night.

So this morning after a couple cups of coffee I headed off to Gilmore Ponds. Now this isn’t a life bird for me, but a pretty rare one nonetheless considering their range. Now Gilmore Ponds doesn’t have a very big parking lot, just enough for maybe a dozen cars. Well when I pulled in it was at the limit.

Well as you’d expect there were plenty of birders looking for them. It seemed they moved during the night. But about 30 minutes later someone noticed that they flew in from somewhere and settled back onto the same log they were sitting on yesterday.

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.

IMG_2901

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

Notes From The Field

So refresh my memory. Is it March comes in like a Lion, and goes out like a Lamb. Or is it the other way around. With several hours yesterday morning do get some birding in, it was a biting cold that greeted me this late March morning. Despite the warming sun as we precede into Spring, I’m getting pretty tired of bundling up before going out. With limited hours I wanted to head on over to Gilmore Ponds to check on the expectant Great Horned Owls. If only I had a few more hours I would have checked out a few more places along the way for more migrants heading back. But I was pretty happy with what I can get these days. All the moisture in the ground was frozen, and the standing water scattered throughout had a skim of ice which reflected and sparkled from the rising sun. I took my spotting scope so if need be I could keep my distance. I forgot to bring my gloves and my hands froze of the metal legs as I hiked towards the nest. About 50 yards from the nest I set up the scope and started to scan the nesting tree. I found it occupied by one of the adults, and as a added bonus I noticed the other adult 20 feet away perched on a lower branch on the back side of a tree.

IMG_2200Since both sexes share responsibilities for sitting on the nest I don’t know which is which unless they’re next to each other. In this photo which was at a difficult angle the Owl was hunkered down in the nest so I could only see the top of it’s head.

IMG_2195Not a very clear shot as I needed to jockey to get into position to shoot between branches.

Not wanting to over extend my welcome I soon left and wandered around a little bit ticking off more and more birds. Gilmore Ponds is one of those little used parks since it’s more geared for nature lovers and not children, so I had the whole place to myself. It was a really enjoyable morning with some pretty decent birds. And even though the edges of the ponds were covered with ice, there was enough open water for some ducks. This is where the spotting scope comes in handy.

IMG_2194Carolina Wren

IMG_2204A very cooperative Song Sparrow

As I try to improve by photographic skills I’m trying to remember to take my ISO setting off of “auto mode” and setting at a lower number like 200 to bring out more detail in the birds. I did this with the Northern Flicker, and it really shows in the end result.

IMG_2218Norther Flicker

Birds for the day include:

  1. Turkey Vulture
  2. Red-shouldered Hawk
  3. Red-tailed Hawk
  4. Cooper’s Hawk
  5. American Woodcock
  6. Downy Woodpecker
  7. Northern Flicker
  8. Sandhill Crane
  9. Great Blue Heron
  10. Red-winged Black Bird
  11. Brown-headed Cowbird
  12. Common Grackle
  13. Great Horned Owl
  14. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  15. Eastern Bluebird
  16. Eastern Phoebe
  17. Song Sparrow
  18. Blue Jay
  19. American Robin
  20. House Finch
  21. White-breasted Nuthatch
  22. American Coot
  23. Blue-winged Teal
  24. Green-winged Teal
  25. Wood Duck
  26. Mallard
  27. Ring-necked Duck
  28. Red Head
  29. American Wigeon
  30. Northern Shoveler
  31. Pied-billed Grebe
  32. Tree Swallow

Notes From The Field

Wednesday evening my oldest son and myself had to get out of the house and do a bit of exploring. Which in simpler terms means “let’s go out and do a bit of walking and do some birding while we’re at it”. And one of my favorite spots is Gilmore Ponds which is a part of the Butler County Metroparks system. This park naturally sits in a low area of Butler County. Which explains why they built a section of the Miami-Erie Canal along the present day northern border of the park. And with the park being situated in a pretty wet area the waterfowl can be real good, but tonight we’re owl hunting.

A good tip from a fellow birder gave me an idea where a nesting Great Horned Owl was located. And since everyone I know loves owls, I couldn’t resist the temptation. Great Horned Owls mate for life, but they will stay with their mate only during breeding season. They mate by December and often use nests from other large birds. They may also use cavities in trees, cliffs, buildings, etc.  The female lays 1-5 eggs and incubates the eggs for about 30-37 days. The male feeds the female and protects the nest by attacking intruders.   After the young hatch they are fed by both parents are brooded for another 2 weeks.  The young are very active and will venture out onto the tree limbs, but remain close by in order to be fed.  They fledge at 45-55 days.

IMG_2177If looks could kill

Now with the owl nest secured away, repeat visits will be in order. If this truly is an active nest we’ll soon see some young ones, and hopefully get some photos.

Notes From The Field

Voice of America Park

IMG_0162A Bobolink in the grass is a sure sign of Spring at Voice of America Park.

For the past several years I’ve made it a point to make annual trip to VOA Park for the arrival of one of my favorite open meadow birds, the Bobolink. Unfortunately as the years wear on, and more and more of it’s habitat are eaten up by more soccer fields, our poor Bobolinks suffer. Numbers are down and just finding the few individuals this afternoon was difficult.

IMG_0163And every year if they keep returning, so will I.