Tag Archives: Hoover Reservoir

“On The Road”…to chase a Lifer

If you were asked to name as many birds with only one syllable in it’s name, how many would you be able to come up with? And I’m just speaking about North American birds.

The only one I could come up with is Philomachus pugnax, the one and only “Ruff”.  An ABA code 3 bird that certainly sparked a lot of interest since it was first sighted early Friday. A casual Eurasian visitor to Ohio, the Ruff usually makes an appearance during the spring and fall during migration. According to Bruce Peterjohn in “The Birds of Ohio”, most fall migrants are during August and September, with only 2 in October and 1 in November recorded. The majority of the sightings are up on Lake Erie, with only a few in the interior of the state.   So needless to to say when on Friday one was sighted at Hoover Reservoir north on Columbus near Westerville Ohio my heart skipped a beat.

The construction of Hoover Reservoir started in 1953, and completed 2 years later. Built to hold back Big Walnut Creek this 3,272 acre lake is 8 miles long, and 1 mile at it’s widest, it’s where the majority of Columbus’s drinking water comes from. At the very northern part sits the cute little town of Galena Ohio, with it’s famous mudflats, and equally famous boardwalk. The boardwalk is 1,500 feet in length and a mecca for birders and fishermen alike. As a matter of fact my lifer Buff-breasted Sandpiper was seen from the very end of the boardwalk. However yesterday it still remained closed due to ice damage from last winter, so a different tactic was used to track down the Ruff.

As with so many reservoirs, existing roads that criss-crossed the area now become dead-ends. The only way you can tell now-a-days that they even existed is the crumbling asphalt left behind. And there is one such abandoned road that runs out of Galena right into the mudflats just a few hundred yards from the boardwalk. So at 9:30 yesterday morning I parked the bird-mobile along the side of the road and started to unload.

The temptation to run up Friday late afternoon after work was strong. Driving time during normal conditions was 1 hour and 45 minutes, but this was Columbus and I would be driving through at rush hour, with a Ohio State home football game the next day. I reluctantly opted for Saturday morning to make my trip.

As I started down the heavily grown over road I noticed a couple coming towards me. I asked if the Ruff was still there, which he confirmed it was, just a little further out. My pace quickened. A short 5 minute hike brought me to a clearing where 5 birders were stowing their gear as they prepared to leave. As I approached 2 guys who were set up on the edge of the mud, I asked in what area the bird was seen last.

IMG_3293The 2 men pointed me in the direction of that rocky point of mud where all the gulls are sitting. “The Ruff is on the other side down at the waters edge feeding, so you have to wait a minute for it to come out”. Not exactly the view I’d prefer, but I’ll wait and see if it comes closer.

IMG_3299My first look at the Ruff. Not very impressive.

Also feeding on the mudflats were lots of Lesser Yellowlegs, and Pectoral Sandpipers, Killdeer, Semipalmated Plovers, and Spotted Sandpipers.

IMG_3296Lesser Yellowleg on the left with a Pectoral Sandpiper

After waiting about 20 minutes a large portion of birds took off and the Ruff was one of them. You could easily pick it out from the other birds as they circled around the area and finally settled back down closer than they were before. This time I was able to get my scope on the juvenile Ruff and noticed the buffiness and size comparison to some of the Lesser Yellowleg.

Then the Ruff started to move closer as it constantly probed the mud in search of food. The sun broke through the cloud cover which helped as I started to click off picture after picture.

IMG_3329

IMG_3372

IMG_3383Normally found along with Yellowlegs and Pectoral Sandpipers, I wanted to get a size comparison photo with a Lesser Yellowleg.

IMG_3359

IMG_3375

I spent about 2 hours just watching the Ruff. The weather cooperated and I meet a few very nice birders. I posted this last photo on Facebook with some good comments. So far Hoover Reservoir has been pretty lucky for me, and hopefully the next time I visit good things happen again…Lifer Bird 345

IMG_3411

Advertisements

“On The Road” #328

Pinkerington Ponds Metro Park & Hoover Reservoir

If you could say one thing about me to others is that I’m pretty tenacious when it comes to life birds that are within my reach. As you might remember awhile ago I ventured to Pinkerington Ponds to add the Harris Sparrow to my life list. Anyone with any kind of patience could add this bird to their life list, it was that reliable. Almost everyday you would see the same Harris Sparrow from Franklin County on the eBird Sightings log. You don’t know how tempting something like this is until you’ve chased a rarity like this. And it was during the latter part of my convalescence from knee surgery that I ventured forth to chase this bird. And I dipped! Only to find out later in the day that it was seen 1 hour after I left Columbus. Now I’m pissed!

Flash forward to last Thursday. I get a text message from long time birding buddy John Marvin and he’s in town wanting to go birding, and he mentions Pinkerington Ponds as the go to location. It seems John needs the Harris Sparrow for his life list as well. So plans were made, and we were up before the crack of dawn for our Sunday morning drive. At 6 o’clock on a Sunday morning you really can make wonderful time on the highway. But as we drove further north the temperatures were dropping till it reached 10 degrees as we pulled into the parking lot at the Wood Duck picnic grounds. Wool mittens, down parka, and a hat with ear covers were important. And the best trick of the day was bringing along a closed cell sleeping pad for underneath your sleeping bag. I remembered how bloody cold the ground was just standing there waiting for the sparrow to show. Subsequently my feet didn’t get nearly as cold as last time.

This time though our strategy was going to be different. Not knowing how long we were going to have to wait for the bird we pulled the bird-mobile close enough to watch the feeder. I guess a car is less a threat than 2 humanoids hovering about with bins and cameras. But today it wasn’t the people or the cars that disturbed the birds most of all. It was the Sharp-shinned Hawk that would make it’s presence known from time to time just to scare the birds off.

So we arrived at 7:30 and so began the waiting game. Reports were pretty sketchy as to when it shows up. Sometimes it’s in the morning. Other times it’s in the afternoon or late afternoon. We were hoping for a morning appearance.

IMG_2302One of the many visitors to the feeder was this Northern Flicker.

IMG_2304And this White-crowned Sparrow.

Several times during our stay we would drive over to the other feeder that the Harris Sparrow was spotted at. Sometimes it was busy, other times it wasn’t, but no Harris. It was on one of these occasions that upon our return to our original location another car had pulled in with a husband and wife. It seems the wife was the birder and the husband was more interested in the Sunday paper. Their license plate frame was from a Sandusky Honda dealer so they drove a bit of a way themselves.

Then the action started to pick up as more and more House Sparrows were joining in with the Tree, Song and White-crowned Sparrows. On the ground under the feeder, back in the bushes you could see all sorts of bird movement, and on the feeder…

there he was…

 IMG_3721This is my photo of the Harris Sparrow. Sitting in the car I naturally didn’t have my digiscoping rig ready, just my other Canon. And not wanting to scare the bird off there was no way I was getting out of the car to fetch it. John was in the passenger seat with the better view and a better camera. He sent me this next picture, and I did a little picture editing to bring out the full beauty of this bird.

harris1Picture courtesy of John Marvin

My first life bird for the year, as is John’s, so feeling rather proud of our accomplishment we decided to take a little side trip to Hoover Reservoir Dam and see what kind of birds might be on the lake. Our first stop was right near the dam and to check out a large gathering of various geese and ducks. I added 2 more new birds for my January Challenge with a Red-breasted Merganser and Herring Gull. A little further north along the west bank Smothers Road crosses the lake and more birds were seen on the ice. As we pulled in and started to walk towards the edge John quickly noticed a couple of Snow Buntings along the weedy edge of the lake.

IMG_3722This was my best effort, which is pretty bad.

However after today I added 4 more birds to my January Challenge, and a lifer to boot. Not too bad for a solid morning of birding. After leaving Hoover Reservoir we drove home.

  • #101-Harris Sparrow
  • #102-Herring Gull
  • #103-Red-breasted Merganser
  • #104-Snow Bunting

Other notable birds for the day include:

  1. Northern Harrier
  2. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  3. American Kestrel
  4. House Finch
  5. American Gold Finch
  6. House Sparrow
  7. White-crowned Sparrow
  8. Song Sparrow
  9. American Tree Sparrow
  10. Blue Jay
  11. Northern Flicker
  12. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  13. Downy Woodpecker
  14. Northern Cardinal
  15. Common Crow
  16. Canada Goose
  17. Mallard
  18. Common Goldeneye
  19. Pied-billed Grebe
  20. Hooded Merganser
  21. Mourning Dove
  22. Tufted Titmouse
  23. Carolina Chickadee
  24. Ruddy Duck
  25. Ring-billed Gull