Tag Archives: Hamilton County Parks

Morning at Shawnee Lookout

If only I could be awoken by the song of the Wood Thrush, then I think life itself would almost be perfect.

It’s song is soft, melodic, a woodland flute.

The Wood Thrush marks the beginning and the end of each day as it’s song never wavers.

With the return each spring these beautiful birds returns my soul and slows my pace as I wander in the forest.

With some birds, we work to remember their particular song…

but the Wood Thrush is forever in me.

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Notes From The Field

Shawnee Lookout Forest and the Oxbow

There were frost warnings out for the Tri-state area as I made my way over to pick up Jon for some very early migrant birding. Both Shawnee Lookout and the Oxbow can be particularly good, so with the rising sun low on the horizon we set off in a westerly direction.

Shawnee Lookout was practically empty as we set off on a couple of trails, always listening and watching. As we walked we chatted about which early migrant might make an appearance today. One at the top of the list was the Hermit Thrush. The reclusive skulker of the undergrowth is usually heard before it’s seen.

So it came as no surprise that one of the birds we stumbled across, right next to the trail was a Hermit Thrush eating a worm.

IMG_4388If you look real close you can see the worm on the ground.

Yellow-rumped warblers were the dominate, and only warbler species seen at Shawnee Lookout. In a couple of weeks this place will be crawling with migrating warblers, but this day wasn’t meant to be. However the male Butter-butts were all dressed in their best breeding plumage, and really it’s only a matter of time before more show up.

So as we were leaving Shawnee Lookout a question arises. We all know what happens when the chicken crosses the road, but what about the Wild Turkey?

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After a short stop at Lost Bridge to count the Pectoral Sandpipers and a couple American Pipits, we arrived at the Oxbow. And quite honestly I don’t know what impressed us the most, the sheer number of Double-creasted Cormorants (we estimated about 250) or the Bald Eagles, ( which we counted 18 of them).

IMG_4415This immature Bald Eagle landed real close to Jon and me with a fish, and proceeded to eat it. I tried to sneak up it and get a better photo, but he didn’t that too much and promptly left.

IMG_4435Nothing quite as pretty as a Bald Eagle against a blue sky.

At one time as we approached a line of trees that separates two fields we counted 12 individual Bald Eagles. It was quite a sight, but considering the distance a photo wouldn’t have done justice. However the bird of the day was yet to come.

As we continued driving along the dirt road that cuts through the Oxbow we notice small brown birds foraging along the edge. And one had white edges on the tail. I quickly pull over as we get our bins on the bird. Vesper Sparrow. Very good bird, especially for this part of Ohio.

Now you might be saying to yourself that this is a pretty common bird where I live, but in southern Ohio we have maybe a 2 week window where Vesper Sparrows can be seen before they move North. And this one cooperated.

IMG_4432That’s the thing with Jon and me, we love Sparrows, and for us this was a great bird.

We made one more stop in Lawrenceburg Indiana where we walked a bike trail hoping to pick up the same birds we saw there during the Christmas Bird Count.

It was a good day. Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Black Vulture
  2. Turkey Vulture
  3. Bald Eagle
  4. Red-tailed Hawk
  5. American Kestrel
  6. Wood Duck
  7. Mallard
  8. Northern Shoveler
  9. Blue-winged Teal
  10. American Coot
  11. Pied-billed Grebe
  12. Hooded Merganser
  13. Great Blue Heron
  14. Great Egret
  15. Double-creasted Cormorant
  16. Wild Turkey
  17. Mourning Dove
  18. Pileated Woodpecker
  19. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  20. Hairy Woodpecker
  21. Downy Woodpecker
  22. Northern Flicker
  23. Blue Jay
  24. Eastern Phoebe
  25. American Crow
  26. Tufted Titmouse
  27. Northern Cardinal
  28. Carolina Chickadee
  29. Carolina Wren
  30. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  31. Yellow-throated Warbler
  32. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  33. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  34. White-breasted Nuthatch
  35. Hermit Thrush
  36. American Robin
  37. Brown-headed Cowbird
  38. European Starling
  39. Common Grackle
  40. Red-winged Blackbird
  41. Eastern Towhee
  42. White-crowned Sparrow
  43. White-throated Sparrow
  44. Song Sparrow
  45. Vesper Sparow
  46. Field Sparrow
  47. Chipping Sparrow
  48. House Finch
  49. American Goldfinch
  50. Canada Goose
  51. American Pipit
  52. Pectoral Sandpiper
  53. Killdeer
  54. Ring-billed Gull
  55. Bonaparte’s Gull
  56. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  57. Tree Swallow

Notes From The Field

I’ve neglected my blog lately…and I’m blaming work. Have you ever had one of those weeks where you come home after a super busy day at work and feel like just vegging out for the evening and go to bed early. That was me this week. And despite having a wonderful day birding with Jon last Saturday, I just couldn’t find the energy to sit down and write a blog post. Sorry everyone.

Like I said last Saturday Jon and myself hit the woods hard looking for migrants at some of our local hot spots. Shawnee Lookout Park, Lost Bridge, The Oxbow, Smith Tract, and Armleder Park.  It was a beautiful day and the birds on a whole were plentiful in some areas, however in others it wasn’t. Trying to find where the wading birds are can be a challenge, and last Saturday was no different as we tried several spots where we’ve seen them before, only to strike out every time.

Warblers were plentiful and as always another challenge for myself trying to get any kind of serviceable photograph. Our day list was pretty good, so instead of boring you with week old birding news I’ll just skip to the list of birds intermixed with some photos. You see I need to keep this blog post short because I still have to get ready for when I go to my favorite birding hotspot tomorrow, Boone County Cliffs.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Bald Eagle
  2. Ring-billed Gull
  3. Double-creasted Cormorant
  4. Bonaparte’s Gull
  5. Cooper’s Hawk
  6. Red-shouldered Hawk
  7. Red-tailed Hawk
  8. American Kestrel
  9. Killdeer
  10. Blue-winged Teal
  11. Mallard
  12. Northern Mockingbird
  13. American Robin
  14. Gray Catbird
  15. Mourning Dove
  16. Canada Geese
  17. Tree Swallow
  18. Chimney Swift
  19. Barn Swallow
  20. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  21. Northern Cardinal
  22. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  23. Tufted Titmouose
  24. Carolina Chickadee
  25. Carolina Wren
  26. House Wren
  27. IMG_2402Wild Turkey
  28. Wood Thrush
  29. Northern Parula
  30. Eastern Towhee
  31. Eastern Goldfinch
  32. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  33. Pileated Woodpecker
  34. Hairy Woodpecker
  35. Northern Flicker
  36. Prothonotary Warbler
  37. Green Heron
  38. Great Blue Heron
  39. Song Sparrow
  40. White-throated Sparrow
  41. Wood Duck
  42. Yellow-throated Warbler
  43. Chipping Sparrow
  44. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  45. Eastern Phoebe
  46. IMG_2405Blue-winged Warbler
  47. White-eyed Vireo
  48. Warbling Vireo
  49. Red-eyed Vireo
  50. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  51. Brown-headed Cowbird
  52. European Starling
  53. Red-winged Blackbird
  54. American Crow
  55. Yellow-throated Vireo
  56. IMG_2422Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  57. White-breasted Nuthatch
  58. Black-throated Green Warbler
  59. Field Sparrow
  60. Orchard Oriole
  61. Baltimore Oriole
  62. Common Yellowthroat
  63. Indigo Bunting
  64. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  65. Turkey Vulture
  66. Black Vulture
  67. Common Grackle
  68. IMG_2433Cerulean Warbler
  69. Blue Jay
  70. Louisiana Waterthrush
  71. Prairie Warbler
  72. American Redstart
  73. Osprey
  74. Hermit Thrush
  75. Northern Shoveler
  76. American Coot
  77. Eastern Meadowlark
  78. Wilson’s Snipe
  79. Yellow Warbler
  80. IMG_2442Eastern Kingbird

Parula americana…

or better known as the Northern Parula are some of the early migrating Wood Warblers that arrive in the Ohio Valley in early Spring. With their high pitched trill with that distinct “hic-cup” at the end, these warblers are our tree top feeders. Normally just hearing them, we’ll have to crane our necks to get decent views as they search for food in the uppermost foliage. But every once in a while they come down to earth an provide some excellent photo-ops.

Such was the case this last friday as I drove the few miles to one of Hamilton County’s smaller parks, Lake Isabella. With it’s 28 acre lake, fishing is the main attraction for this park.  Bordering the Little Miami River it also offers the normal playground equipment with plenty of shaded picnic areas for families. Living within close proximity, I do frequent this park but normally for water fowl during fall and winter months. But I’m here today because of rumors floating around about a Northern Parula that’s been putting on quite a show.

Since the park borders the Little Miami River it has canoe access area with an adjacent parking lot. Well this particular Northern Parula doesn’t seem to like competition from other Northern Parulas, especially reflections of other Northern Parulas in car rear view mirrors.

IMG_2329I think we’ve all seen birds attacking it’s own reflection before, however I’ve not seen any warbler species do this. Here it is perched on top of the side mirror of a mini-van after pecking at itself in the mirror.

IMG_2373Yes, images do appear larger in this mirror.

Needless to say I did get some splendid shots as I tried to get the best angle with the setting sun. The Parula seemed oblivious to people as it kept returning to the same mirror.

IMG_2349

IMG_2350

IMG_2353Sometimes it would land in a nearby bush to offer a more natural setting.

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IMG_2355Or it would land on the car antenna.

In a way I felt sorry of the bird. It was a very territorial bird, and this reflection was really bothering the bird. Now if there were no cars in the area everything would be normal, but being a pretty popular park I feel that this might be an issue all spring. So if I do return I’m just going to have to park a little further away an walk to the area.

You just have to love these Wood Warblers.

Notes From The Field

Sparrows, those pesky little brown birds that can give even the best birder fits. They can either be the most commonly seen bird, or the highly secretive. They can be as small as a Henslow’s Sparrow at 5″, or as large as the Harris Sparrow at 7 1/2″. We reference our field guides for sparrow by whether they have streaks of not. We deduce by the habitat we’re in on which type of sparrow might be there at any given time. But, no matter how you look at the sparrow they can be one of the best challenges a birder can face when you’re out in the field.

It’s Autumn here in the Ohio valley, and with the change of the season it’s also time for two of the toughest sparrows to find. From the Ammodramus family comes the Nelson’s and LeConte’s Sparrow. I’ve had some pretty good luck here at the Shaker Trace Wetlands of Miami Whitewater Forest but with just one of these birds, and that would be the Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow. And just this last May I was able to sneak up on this individual right off the paved bike trail.

IMG_0537

Sadly this last Saturday I wasn’t as lucky. A weather front was pushing through and the wind was up. Hearing became extremely difficult as the wind whistled by your ears as you strained to hear anything similar to a “chip” note. Hours were spent traversing through the recently mowed paths that criss-crossed the wetlands. Ammodramus Sparrows were not to be seen today.

But it’s never really a bad day when you’re out in the field birding. With that said the Swamp Sparrows were giving me fits as I jockeyed around trying to get a decent picture of these jittery birds. Considering the habitat they live in they’re almost as secretive as Nelson’s and LeConte’s Sparrows.

IMG_1574You see, this is the kind of looked I had to deal with when getting a photo of these Swamp Sparrows.

IMG_1577I was delighted when this White-throated Sparrow lighted long enough for me to fumble my camera out to get this shot.

IMG_1583And with the coming of cooler temperatures, the arrival of White-crowned Sparrows is as inevitable as Christmas. Masses flocked the tall vegetation along the trails, and always just one step ahead of me. Fortunately for me this little fella stayed put long enough for me to focus through the sticks and snap off a picture.

So as Autumn creeps closer to Winter, now is a great time to get out and go looking for skulking, secretive little brown jobs, Sparrows.

Notes From The Field

“In Search of Red-necked Grebes”

This years great Red-necked Grebe invasion has taken the state by storm, and now it’s Jon’s and my chance to track down these visitors from the north. As you can see by the range map below that I downloaded from the web site, “All About Birds”, we may get one a year during the winter. Last winter we had one that stayed at Hidden Valley Lake for a long time and was included in my January 100 Species Challenge

podi_gris_AllAm_map

They do winter over down into the United States, but it’s normally along both coasts. So what are they doing down here and in such great numbers? Well I’m sure thee is a logical ornithological reason for such an influx, but I’m pretty confident that this exceptionally cold winter has something to do with it. So whatever the reason we were out in the field and meeting up Grand Valley as our first stop.

With his Grandmothers birthday celebration in the early afternoon, our time was limited as we drove through the gate into Grand Valley. Still partially frozen over with only small pockets of open water, we quickly scanned the lake only to find 10 Common Mergansers that quickly took off and some Canadian Geese.

On to the back lake which held a bounty of some good waterfowl, including 3 Red-necked Grebes.

IMG_3699Difficult to see at first but there are loads of tiny black dots on the lake mostly on the other side of the small island.

IMG_3700After watching them fish for a while these 2 decided to take a nap while the thrid continued to feed.

IMG_3701I had to shoot this one quick because the Grebe had it eaten really quick.

IMG_3703

The difficulty with digiscoping is trying to focus on a moving bird and coming away with a clear picture. And if the sun is behind you then the view through the camera monitor glares back at you. So most of the pictures are out of focus.

So here we are at our first stop and we have 3 RNGR already. Is this what we are to expect today? So our next stop where one was reported was Armleder Park, which is just upstream from the Ohio River with the Little Miami River running along it’s eastern border. And bordering along it’s southern edge is Duck Creek. It’s here where Duck Creek runs into the Little Miami is where we need to set up. After twice falling on the slippery slopes we made it to our destination. Footing was difficult with all the mud, however when we looked downstream we found 3 more RNGR. This is getting crazy. Like I told Jon, “you can’t swing a cat without hitting one”.

Totally satisfied with now sighting 6 individuals we trudged through the mud back to our respective cars. So where to next? Well being close to the Ohio River this area is known for all it’s marinas  which are tucked back off the Ohio River through man-made channels. And one of the largest, 4 Seasons Marina, has this driving range next to it. But it’s not your conventional kind of driving range. This one has a lake that you hit the ball into, and they have these floating markers that show the distance. Well it’s on this driving range lake where we found yet another RNGR. This time a male showing it’s breeding plumage.

IMG_3715

IMG_3719On these last 2 photos you can really tell how they got their name.

So after we left this marina we went just 2 marina down from us called Harbor Town Marina. We walked down to the channel and found another RNGR. This one another solo bird and it was actively feeding. Do to the distance and the position of the sun I took no photo.

So after finding 8 different birds we made our way to California Golf Course. Located on the golf course is a very large reservoir that is used by the Cincinnati Water Works. And it’s here that we find the last RNGR for the day. Another lone male bird amongst all the other water fowl that speckled the lake.

Having thought we might have missed out on this last invasion of this magnificent bird, we came away with 9 different individuals. Now this may sound like a lot, but remember they’re all over the place down here, either on our large lakes of rivers. How long will this go on? No ones guess. Just like the Snowy Owls, here one day, then gone the next.

So what’s in store for us in the Ohio valley. Well with spring knocking on the door, hopefully warblers. And you know how much we love warblers here at A Birders Notebook.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Red-winged Black Birds
  2. American Crow
  3. American Robin
  4. Northern Cardinal
  5. Carolina Chickadee
  6. Pileated Woodpecker
  7. Downy Woodpecker
  8. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  9. Song Sparrow
  10. White-throated Sparrow
  11. White-crowned Sparrow
  12. Field Sparrow
  13. Red-shouldered Hawk
  14. Red-tailed Hawk
  15. Mourning Dove
  16. Common Grackle
  17. Tree Swallow
  18. Canada Goose
  19. Northern Shoveler
  20. Common Merganser
  21. Red-breasted Merganser
  22. Hooded Merganser
  23. Mallard
  24. Wood Duck
  25. Common Goldeneye
  26. Pied-billed Grebe
  27. Red-necked Grebe
  28. Turkey Vulture
  29. Black Vulture
  30. Eastern Bluebird
  31. Killdeer
  32. Bufflehead
  33. Gadwall
  34. American Wigeon
  35. Ring-neck Duck
  36. American Coot
  37. Redhead
  38. Northern Mockingbird
  39. Lesser Scaup
  40. Greater Scaup
  41. Blue Jay
  42. Ring-billed Gull
  43. Herring Gull
  44. Belted Kingfisher