Tag Archives: Shaker Trace Wetlands

Notes From The Field

Grasslands/Wetlands Series

Shaker Trace Wetlands/ Fernald Preserve

Part 2

It was really starting to warm up as I made my way to Fernald Preserve Saturday afternoon. I had already emptied my water bottle, and even though it wasn’t a very hot day the sun was unrelenting. The area I was hoping to bird  in has no cover, and since Dickcissels, Blue Grosbeaks and Grasshopper Sparrows were my photographic target birds I had to go where the birds were. My time at Fernald was going to be short, due to the fact that I was meeting Kathy at her parent’s house for a late lunch. So I got truckin’ with my gear in tow.

IMG_2720Eastern Kingbirds will breed in open, grassy areas much like the habitat found at Fernald Preserve, however they can be found feeding in and around bodies of water, like this bird.

After leaving the Visitors Center behind, the open grasslands of Fernald open up on both sides of the trail. Being late morning and early afternoon I wasn’t sure how my luck would be on the Grasshopper Sparrow. In the past I’ve had pretty good luck with catching them perched on the end of a bush of branch singing away, however things were quieting down as I made my way out into the grasslands.

Dickcissels, Red-winged Black Birds, Eastern Bluebirds, Song Sparrows, Tree Swallows, Killdeers, and Eastern Meadowlarks were the dominate species seen. Only one Grasshopper Sparrow was spotted, and as I reacted to bring up my digiscoping rig the bird dove back into the tall grass never to be seen, or heard again.

IMG_2751An Eastern Bluebird guarding it’s nest box.

IMG_2735I watched this Brown Thrasher for several minutes as it went from one side of the trail to the next before it settled down on this nest box. And it never let go of whatever it has in it’s beak.

IMG_2754Eastern Meadowlark

As for my other target bird for the day, the Blue grosbeak, a lone bird perched on an electrical wire some distance away was my only consolation. Posting a photograph would only show a black speck on a wire. Not exactly what I was looking for.

As I walked further and further the heat and sun were taking its toll onme. So I found a shady spot and parked my butt and waited till my fatigue lapsed. Continued exploration of Fernald without water would have been a stupid mistake. So I wisely exercised my options and decided to head back to the car and search (in vain) for Grasshopper Sparrows along the way.

DSCN1184Dickcissel perched perfectly.

It was pretty much the same kind of bird activity as when I went out. I really do like early morning for when I’m looking for those reclusive sparrows. It’s not that you can’t find them, it’s just that I think they become less vocal, which in turn makes them more difficult to spot. When they sing I’ve noticed their teed up on the top of some vegetation where they’re easy to pick up.

IMG_2718Caught this one of many Cedar Waxwings that were feeding in a Mulberry Tree on the entrance road into Fernald Preserve.

As the appointed hour approached I reluctantly departed for the day. Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Great Egret
  2. Great Blue Heron
  3. Green Heron
  4. Mallard
  5. Wood Duck
  6. Blue-winged Teal
  7. Song Sparrow
  8. Chipping Sparrow
  9. Henslow’s Sparrow
  10. Field Sparrow
  11. Grasshopper Sparrow
  12. American Kestrel
  13. Turkey Vulture
  14. Canada Goose
  15. Mourning Dove
  16. Eastern Bluebird
  17. Dickcissel
  18. Common Yellowthroat
  19. Brown thrasher
  20. Robin
  21. Brown-headed Cowbird
  22. Common Grackle
  23. Red-winged Black Bird
  24. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  25. Tree Swallow
  26. Barn Swallow
  27. Purple Martin
  28. Eastern Towhee
  29. Yellow-breasted Chat
  30. Yellow warbler
  31. Gray Catbird
  32. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  33. Blue Grosbeak
  34. Indigo Bunting
  35. Willow Flycatcher
  36. Eastern Kingbird
  37. Orchard Oriole
  38. Baltimore Oriole
  39. Chimney Swift
  40. Eastern Meadowlark
  41. Northern Cardinal
  42. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  43. Cedar waxwing
  44. American Goldfinch
  45. American Kestrel
  46. Belted Kingfisher
  47. Spotted Sandpiper
  48. Common Crow
  49. Northern Mockingbird
  50. Killdeer

Notes From The Field

Grassland/ Wetlands Series

Shaker Trace Wetlands/ Fernald Perserve

Southwestern Ohio isn’t noted for their miles and miles of grasslands/ wetlands. The small pockets that dot this area are few and far between, and on a much smaller scale. So this last Saturday my focus was on 2 of our larger preserves that contain some of the Summertime residents that frequent these grasslands/ wetlands. And if you happen to have read last weeks blog post you’ll also notice that I’m returning to Shaker trace Wetlands. You can’t talk about open grasslands/ wetlands without birding at this small corner of Miami Whitewater Forest.

So I was on the road by 6 am. and arrived just before 7 am. just as the sun started to heat things up a bit. The reason for such an early start was to try again to catch the Henslow’s Sparrow singing, and get a digiscoped picture. This way I can keep my distance from the bird, and hopefully get some awesome shots. Today’s trip is about taking pictures of birds that frequent this kind of habitat, and as birder’s what to expect to see.

These open grasslands/ wetlands come alive in the morning. Birds are everywhere and as I identify birds by ear as I hurry along towards where Jon and myself sighted the Henslow’s last week. A great variety of species come to mind as I try to ID each one by sound. But my focus is finding a good spot to set up my scope and camera and waiting for them to sing. And I didn’t have to wait long.

The bird jumped up onto the top of a small bush and started to sing. So I set up my rig and set about getting some pictures despite the sun being in an awful angle, that placed a bad glare in the finished photograph.

IMG_2673As you can see the sun is low in the sky which creates a lot of glare in this picture. So changing position, without spooking the bird was important.

With the bird positioned in such a bad place when it comes to the angle with the sun, I made the decision to move slowly and re-locate myself for a better shot.

IMG_2624Huge difference in quality and lighting.

IMG_2630 I love it when they throw their heads back and sing.

The Henslow’s Sparrow was named to honor clergyman, geologist and botanist John Stevens Henslow, by his good friend John James Audubon. John Henslow was also one of Charles Darwin’s teachers and mentor. It was Henslow who was first approached to be the naturalist aboard the HMS Beagle for that 2 year voyage to South America. After Henslow’s wife dissuaded him from going, it was a letter from Henslow to the ship’s captain suggesting that Charles Darwin was the man suitable for the job. And we all know how that voyage went?

I stayed in the area watching the Henslow for about an hour before moving on. I continued on the bike path till I came to the “Farm Road”, a mowed swath cutting directly through the heart of the grasslands/ wetlands. This was my path.

IMG_2674The American Goldfinch is one of the most colorful, and easily seen as I made my way across.

IMG_2670It’s during this time of year that the Tree swallows become more and more bold as they protect their territory.

IMG_2685The Willow Flycatcher is easily recognized by it’s voice and the kind of habitat you find it in.

IMG_2662The warbler of the grasslands, the Common Yellowthroat. I just don’t understand how this bird stayed still for so long. Even a blind squirrel…

IMG_2703Another one of my seasonal favorites, Field Sparrow.

IMG_2680A Dickcissel sings from it perch in the middle of the grassland.

As you make your way deeper along the farm road waterfowl fly back and forth. Mallards, Blue-winged Teal, Green and Great Blue Herons soar overhead as Red-winged Black Birds call unceasingly. As we approach the end of the farm road we start coming into the trees that border Shaker Trace. It’s from this vantage point where the lay of the land is spread out in front of me.


It’s from these dense, shrubby vegetative areas when I start to hear the “chattering” of the Yellow-breasted Chat, our largest warbler species. Now it’s one thing to hear them, with their distinct song, but locating them and getting a picture has always proved a challenge for me.

Then I looked up…

IMG_2689…and there he was perched in the top of this tree. But he was constantly moving from one tree to another, but always in the same general location.

IMG_2694It wasn’t just one “Chat”, it was multiple “Chats” that kept me entertained as I walked along the western border of Shaker Trace back towards my car. They would call from high up in the trees, and their calls would travel with me.

After leaving Shaker Trace it was onto Fernald Preserve for more Dickcissels, Blue Grosbeaks, and hopefully Grasshopper Sparrows.

Stay tuned for more.