Tag Archives: Caesar Creek Gorge State Nature Preserve

Notes From The Field

Caesar Creek State Nature Preserve

It’s been hot here in the Ohio Valley. Real Hot! The unrelenting sun and the oppressive humidity can take a pleasant activity like bird watching and turn it into a sweaty struggle. And to make matters worse I forgot and took my bug repellent out of the car. However I was determined today, and despite the countless spider webs I walked through Caesar Creek State Nature Preserve is my go to spot for Louisiana Waterthrush.

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Located down stream from Caesar Creek Dam this riparian corridor supports all sorts of wildlife as well as a great selection of wildflowers. A 2.25 mile loop trail is by far the best way to experience the gorge with it’s 180 foot cliffs that were cut by glacial actions. On the portion of the trail I’m using this morning the trail parallels the Little Miami River as Sycamore, Hickory, Oak and Beech Trees tower overhead.

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IMG_4778About 1/2 mile into my hike the trail closes in on the river, so there’s only a few feet between the trail and water’s edge. This is where I heard the first Louisiana Waterthrush. It sang for countless minutes never showing itself. The purpose of this trip was try to get a decent photograph of the bird, and it looked like it was going to be a harder than expected.

I moved further down the trail, then off trail to a location that always held multiple birds in the past. It’s at this location the river splits and forms a small island where on the quieter side the Waterthrush tend to hang out.

IMG_4780Louisiana Waterthrush return year after year and breed in this area, however this prime spot came up dry and I climbed back off the river bank and make my way back to the main trail and to where I heard them earlier.

IMG_4781Maybe one of my readers can help with a ID for this bug. They were everywhere in the preserve, and I’ve also seen them around my house. If you know what it is leave it in the comments at the end.

As the morning waned into the afternoon it grew hotter and even more humid. Even though I was out of the sun I was drenched with sweat. But I quickly forgot about my own misery when more than Waterthrush started to sing. This time closer.

IMG_4790Spotted him through the leaves just singing away.

IMG_4799He moved which gave me a better view. The one thing I noticed was when they were singing they would hold still. And when they weren’t singing, well… they could be anywhere. They were constantly moving around me and trying to locate them through the trees was really difficult.

One finally lighted across the river from me on a branch down by the water’s edge. Sorry for the poor quality of the photo.

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Growing weary of the chase, and irritated of the bugs flying around my face I called it quits for the day around 12:30. As I was walking out a Wood Thrush sang out, which echoed throughout the gorge. I took a deep beath and blew it out. My favorite bird wishing me a good day.

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Notes From The Field

Despite the beautiful weather last weekend, from a birding perspective it was a total bust. Previous obligations kept me close to home, and even though the temptation to go out was there, knowing ahead of time that this weekend was MY weekend made up for the lost time. It’s Spring, and migrants are on the move!

I had a pretty good idea where I wanted to visit, and the first place was Spring Valley Wildlife Area. Sleeping in wasn’t an option as I drove prior to the sun rising to be on the boardwalk bright and early to catch any Rail action. Spring Valley is noted for Soras and Virginia Rails, and today I wasn’t picky which showed up. And it was the Soras that showed off and kept me on my toes with camera in hand.

IMG_2271It wasn’t till I started to walk back from the observation platform that I noticed it’s tell-tale yellow bill amongst the brown and green of the background. As the Sora moved about feeding i had to wait for the right time when the bird was out in the open to capture any photo. As usual I had to discard more photos than i kept.

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IMG_2260Even with rising sun behind my back, photographing this bird as it darts in and out of the shadows can prove difficult.

IMG_2242Even though it’s just a Northern Cardinal, I love the contrast between the blue sky and the red of the bird.

IMG_2246Another regular of Spring Valley is this Swamp Sparrow. Normally difficult to capture sitting up like this, but with it being mating season they were more exposed just singing away.

IMG_2244A very, very distant, first of the season Green heron.

After leaving the boardwalk I drove to the other section of the park which gives you greater access to the Loveland bike trail. As anyone would expect bu=ike traffic was a little heavy, plus the foot traffic of plenty of birders made for a busy bike trail. This is a very nice section of the bike trail with mature trees and plenty of water on both sides.

IMG_2275A very distant Prothonotary Warbler. It’s really difficult to get a sharp picture when using digital zoom and no tripod.

IMG_2281Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were everywhere. Trying to photograph these tiny hyperactive birds has proven difficult throughout the years, but yesterday I got a few.

IMG_2274A quick shot of this Hermit Thrush before it hopped down and started to pick through the leaf litter on the forest floor.

After Spring Valley I made the short drive to Caesar Creek Gorge State Nature Preserve. The preserve’s prime feature is the gorge that was formed by great volumes of glacial meltwater cutting down through the bedrock to expose Ordovician limestone and shale rich in fossils. The steep walls rise to 180 feet above the river. More than two miles of Caesar Creek flow through the gorge to the Little Miami State and National Scenic River. It has a 2.25 mile loop trail, and is my go-to spot for Louisiana Waterthrush.

I had the whole place to myself. Someplace like this being totally empty except for yourself and the birds. It was about half way through the trail when it comes close to the river when I heard my first LOWA. The bird was the opposite side of the river and never got close enough for a good photo.

IMG_2286I will return and try again in the near future. This photo is totally unsatisfactory.

Now this morning the forecast called for rain starting late morning. So once again I hurried through a couple cups of coffee on the front porch, and then drove to Gilmore Ponds to check on the great Horned Owls that have been nesting there. As a matter of fact someone was there yesterday and shared on Facebook a photo of one of the fledged Owlets.

IMG_2320 One of these days I’ll get a nice, clear photo of a male Wood Duck.

I hiked back towards the nesting tree. As I got close I remembered last time both parents being close by and not wanting to spook them I paused and scanned the trees near the nesting tree for them. Not finding them I continued on. No Owls in sight at all. Kind of a bitter-sweet moment as I continued on down the path.

Feeling confident they weren’t anywhere near I returned from where I came. I glanced to my left and there was one of the Owlets high in a tree with it’s back towards me. I took a quick photo just to get a confirmation shot, then I made a noise so it would turn it’s head.

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The rest of the morning was spent picking up more and more birds for the weekend. Then the rain came, thus ending a pretty good bird watching weekend.

IMG_2301My first of the year Orchard Oriole.

IMG_2305Warbling Vireo under a drab sky.

IMG_2310Here’s another bird I hope to get a better photo of, a Yellow-throated Warbler.

Notable birds for the weekend include:

  1. Louisiana Waterthrush
  2. Yellow-throated Warbler
  3. Prairie Warbler
  4. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  5. Northern Parula
  6. Prothonotary Warbler
  7. Yellow Warbler
  8. Great Horned Owl
  9. Red-shouldered Hawk
  10. Red-tailed Hawk
  11. American Kestrel
  12. Great Blue Heron
  13. Great Egret
  14. Green Heron
  15. Sora
  16. Field Sparrow
  17. Chipping Sparrow
  18. Swamp Sparrow
  19. White-throated Sparrow
  20. Song Sparrow
  21. House Sparrow
  22. Rusty Blackbird
  23. Red-winged Blackbird
  24. Common Crow
  25. Common Grackle
  26. Brown-headed Cowbird
  27. European Starling
  28. Mourning Dove
  29. Pigeon
  30. House Wren
  31. Carolina Wren
  32. Carolina Chickadee
  33. Tufted Titmouse
  34. Northern Cardinal
  35. Brown Thrasher
  36. Orchard Oriole
  37. Eastern Phoebe
  38. Tree Swallow
  39. Barn Swallow
  40. Northern Mockingbird
  41. American Robin
  42. Hermit Thrush
  43. Turkey Vulture
  44. Eastern Towhee
  45. Canada Goose
  46. Northern Shoveler
  47. Blue-winged teal
  48. Mallard
  49. Wood Duck
  50. Downy Woodpecker
  51. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  52. Pileated Woodpecker
  53. Northern Flicker
  54. Blue Jay
  55. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  56. Eastern Goldfinch
  57. Warbling Vireo
  58. Common Coot
  59. Killdeer
  60.  Belted Kingfisher
  61. White-breasted Nuthatch
  62. Wild Turkey

Notes From The Field

Caesar Creek Gorge State Nature Preserve

Clear and crisp. That’s how I like it. And today was that kind of perfect day that reminded me of what March should really be like. I was tired of being cooped up at work, and nature was calling me like a seductive Siren. And Caesar Creek Gorge was the place for me.

At 483 acres this is a wonderful place to explore along it’s 2.5 mile loop trail. Starting from the trail head you have a choice of either going up, or down towards Caesar Creek. Today we go down. I wanted to get close to the creek since my target bird this afternoon was a Louisiana Waterthrush. A early Spring migrant in the Woods Warbler family that is a nice addition to anyone’s list.

Except for the droning of airplanes at the nearby airport. it was as quiet as an undiscovered tomb. Late afternoon birding can be like this. You really have to work just to get the obvious yard birds added to your trip list.

As you hike along the trail you can’t help but notice the beauty that surrounds you. Today was one of those days where even though the birding wasn’t what I expected, the wild flowers were phenomenal.

On the lower portion of the trail you would stumble across sections like this where these small white flowers would carpet the forest floor.

I’m not a wild flower person. I couldn’t tell you one variety of flower from the next, however I do know when something is beautiful. This walk became more of a Spring renewal for the soul than anything else. Sure it would have been nice to see a couple different warblers, or have an owl fly overhead, but sometimes we as birders need to stop and quit looking up, and see what’s around out own 2 feet.

Well, I actually had to look up to take this picture of this Red-Bud Tree against this brilliant blue sky.

With all the recent rain we had, Caesar Creek was rather swollen, which didn’t help in locating any Waterthrushes. In the past I’ve sat by the waters edge and have them come right up the bank towards me.

Climbing out and up towards the upper most portion of the trail, these small flowers were everywhere. Now I do think they call these Dutchman’s Pants, or something like that. If you happen to know any of the names of these flowers, just name them for me in the comments section. That’s the only way I’ll learn.

Walking along I came across a section where one would think a old homestead might have stood. It was relatively flat with a fancy wire fence in one area, not what you’d find when fencing in your property. And along this fence were some Daffodils and these small blue flowers. Planted, like they were put there on purpose. What was this area like 100 years ago?

This was one of the most enjoyable afternoon I’ve spent alone in the woods in a long time. So get out and enjoy this Spring for any other reason than to stop and smell the flowers.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Northern Flicker
  2. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  3. Downy Woodpecker
  4. Turkey Vulture
  5. Black Vulture
  6. Northern Cardinal
  7. American Robin
  8. Tufted Titmouse
  9. Carolina Chickadee
  10. American crow
  11. White-breasted Nuthatch
  12. Cooper’s Hawk
  13. Great Blue Heron
  14. Eastern Towhee