Tag Archives: Gilmore Ponds

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.

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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

I needed to get out of the house. Despite the awful heat and humidity that has settled over the Ohio Valley, cabin fever even in the Summer can get to the best of people. However it just wasn’t cabin fever that got me out this morning, there were several reasons. First Jon had my brand new Scopack, which his wife picked up for Jon and myself while vacationing in England a few weeks past. Now I have the ability to carry my spotting scope comfortably on my back, keeping my hands free to use my bins or camera. Pretty sweet.

Second reason is I needed to just meet up with Jon before I go out to the west coast in a couple of weeks, and get a little birding in even during the summer doldrums.

The third reason is a second White Ibis was spotted a few days ago by a couple of top notch birders I know. The first White Ibis was sighted in a park north of Dayton near the airport called Englewood Metropark. My plan was to chase this bird with Jon, but when one was sighted at Gilmore Ponds, just a short 30-40 minute drive from my house, so we chase this one.

A White Ibis is a pretty rare bird for our corner of the world. Not totally unheard of, but pretty rare none the less. The one that was spotted in Dayton sure did get the birding juices flowing but I wasn’t ready to pull the trigger till this weekend if it was still around. So when the Gilmore Pond Ibis was sighted I couldn’t believe the odds in 2 immature White Ibis showing up just an hour apart in the same state. So the chase was on.

I meet Jon at 7:15 this morning an took to the field. As the name implies, Gilmore Ponds is a really nice park with several large ponds, however in these dry conditions with lack of significant rain, finding any water proved to be a little more difficult than previous visits. We wandered the length and breadth of the park finding only one area that held water.

IMG_4891This pond was the only one in the whole park that held any significant water. Other than a lone Belted Kingfisher, there were no other birds.

With the total lack of water we were able to wander freely all over the park in places where you could never walk before. Normally where there was water we walked through ankle, to knee deep vegetation. It was while we were wandering that we noticed a few low areas that was holding onto the only moisture left. We started to see loads of Killdeer. This is encouraging. We walked further out. We came across a small puddle with good shorebirds. Least, Spotted and a Baird’s Sandpiper.

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Towards a tree line a low ditch ran along the front. Several Mallards and some Double-creasted cormorants were either resting or feeding. I saw it first.

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IMG_4902Despite the terrible photographs, I’ve seen enough of these birds to know that this is the real deal. Immature White Ibis for Ohio is a GREAT bird.

But wait, there’s more to come.

While Jon and I were walking in the furthest parts of the park prior to spotting the Ibis, we noticed through some trees a small body of water that held some ducks. We checked onto Google Maps and located it. This was our next stop.

It was a few minute drive to reach this one road that held several big box industrial buildings. At the far end there was a trucking company which had this small pond adjacent to it. Standing next to the chain link fence we started to scope out the area for anything. After a minute while I was looking up, I noticed 2 Cormorant species flying towards us, Normally this wouldn’t be a big concern since Double-creasted Cormorants are seen frequently, however…..

“Jon, I have 2 Cormorants coming towards us and one of them is smaller than the other”.

“Where are you”

I pointed.

“Got them” he says.

“You got a Neotropic Cormorant”. Which confirms my original thought when I first saw the bird. It was flying with a Double-creasted Cormorant side by side. The difference was obvious. Smaller bird overall. Smaller bill with a longer tail. We follow the bird for 2 minutes before they disappear.

Talk about lightning striking twice. 2 rarities in the same day. eBird isn’t going to believe this.

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It’s been a long day.

I’m tired.

Time for a nap.

IMG_4926Parting shot

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

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.