Tag Archives: Virginia Rail

Notes From The Field/ July 100 Species Challenge

Spring Valley Wildlife Area/ Caesar Creek State Park

Today’s morning field trip had the sole purpose of bulking up my meager list as July slowly slips away. So with just 12 days to go I had to come up with a serious strategy so I could get the most birds while visiting the fewest places. I first had to write down what summer residents are still here and where is the best place to see them. With what was still needed to complete my July list, there was no doubt where I needed to go this morning. Spring Valley and Caesar Creek. Spring Valley for Rails and Warblers and Caesar Creek for Gulls and Raptors.

I arrived about 7:30 at the boardwalk at Spring Valley. It had rained the night before so the hike down the trail was a slick mess compounded with ruts left by some vehicle. The boardwalk was as slick as the trail, what with it covered with dew and a slimy coating of some type of mold. My focus was on Virginia Rails, Soras and Marsh Wrens, which all three can be either seen or heard from the boardwalk. The secretive and reclusive Virginia Rail has been seen with some juveniles earlier this week so I know they’re here. It’s just finding them.

I make my way to the observation tower and listen intently for any of these 3 birds calling.

IMG_0834Looking back along the boardwalk at Spring Valley

IMG_0835Looking towards the lake in the distance. Which at the time is choked with water lilies.

I’m striking out! I’m not hearing my target birds, let alone see them. So I climb down from the tower and make my way back to my favorite spot along the boardwalk. There’s an open area about 50 feet before you get to the tower which in the past has proven to be the go-to spot for Rails.

IMG_0855It doesn’t look like much of an opening, but if your going to get a clear view of either a Sora or a Virginia Rail, this is the place.

Then I see movement as I approach the clearing. It’s an adult Virginia Rail. Then I notice behind the adult, coming  out of the tall grass a juvenile. HOLY COW!

I reach for my camera

IMG_0843The camera wanted to focus on the grass in front of the birds, not the birds. It was very frustrating. However there’s my proof. So for an hour I jockeys around trying to get pictures as the juveniles cooperated with getting their pictures taken, while the adult keep a little more secluded.

IMG_0839This was the best I could do at capturing the adult.

IMG_0886The juvenile skulking through the marsh.

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IMG_0896

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After this very successful sighting of these beautiful Virginia Rails, I climbed back up the trail to my car to head over to the lake side of the preserve and begin my hike on the Loveland Bike Trail. It’s from this trail where I know I can find a Bald Eagle and tick off another bird.

Which I do.

There are some marshy areas that run along the side of the bike trail which is popular with Prothonotary Warbler and Soras.

Tick off a few more species.

IMG_0915Prothonotary Warbler

The morning was waning and I needed to get to Caesar Creek. I didn’t have much time so Harverysburg Road was my go to spot to  see if I could tick off any more birds. With boaters on the water there was no birds on the lake. However I was able to tick off Osprey that was fishing and Ring-billed Gull, which are always here.

How before I went to the Harveysburg Road overlook I stopped at the Mounds Road portion of the lake to see if any mud flat habitat has formed. So as I walked towards the lake I spooked 10 to 12 Great Blue Herons. So as I set up my spotting scope closer to the water, I scanned the sky in the direction of the Herons as they flew away. However one of the birds that was flying wasn’t a Great Blue. It was a Sandhill Crane. A little early for them and definitely an unusual sighting. Sorry no picture.

But the good news is that I added some good birds for the day.

  • Yellow Warbler
  • Scarlet Tanager
  • Swamp Sparrow
  • Virginia Rail
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Northern Parula
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Great-creasted Flycatcher
  • Sora
  • Bald Eagle
  • House Wren
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Osprey
  • Ring-billed Gull

That leaves me with a total of 92 birds for July.

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Notes From The Field

Spring Valley Wildlife Area

This last Sunday morning I joined 30+ avid birders at Spring Valley Wildlife Area as the Ohio Ornithological Society joined forces with the Cincinnati Bird Club for this early Spring trip to one of my favorite places. And it’s right in my backyard.

So at 8 am a group of us birding explores left the McDonald’s and drove north to our destination, where we joined many more birders already there scoping out the area around the parking lot anticipating the arrival of our group leaders for the day.

After assembly was sounded and all the proper introductions were over we set off down the trail towards the decaying boardwalk. You see, during the final set of instructions were given to the mass of birders , one point was brought up about the boardwalk. The need for replacement and the state of disrepair it’s presently in. So our group leader advised that since we had such a large group it would be wise to space ourselves out so as not to add to the strain by the sheer bulk by this group of people.

IMG_3728As you can see I sort of hung out at the back of the pack waiting to make my move. No, not really. For myself  have difficulty with too many people talking and the constant crunching of feet on the gravel path. It’s not that I’m anti-social, I just like to hear the birds as well as see them.

The progress was slow as you might imagine as we stopped along the way to spot birds and to talk about them. With a group this size, with all levels of skill, it’s stops like this that keep the more novice birders interested and coming back for more.

All the common species were seen on both sides of the path leading to the boardwalk with the exception of Warblers. Far too few, or just too early. Either way as soon as the group hit the boardwalk, people started to spread out a bit. Some went to the observation and the rest, myself included, was satisfied with staying near my favorite spot and wait. And what am I waiting for you might ask? Marsh Wrens, Soras and Virginia Rails.

IMG_3729A fly over of a group of Double-crested Cormorants. They were flying in a nice and neat V formation, however when they saw that I was going to take their picture, they broke up the formation.

We were there for about 30 minutes when the first of several calls from the Marsh Wren were heard. And it wasn’t soon after that the first one was glimpsed briefly. A very dependable bird year round since Jon and myself saw them back in December and again in March.

But my sights were set on the Virginia Rail and Sora. 2 birds that are pretty dependable to get, however those are normally confirmation by call, not by sight. They can be rather reclusive even if their right in front of you. Which they were. One of the leaders saw one fly from one clump of reeds to another, so anticipation was high. Then were heard one call. Then another right next to it. But they were calling just feet from the boardwalk. So as the group gathered around my thoughts went back to our morning talk about not having too any people jammed into one spot. Well, when it comes to a Virginia Rail we throw caution to the wind and hope for the best.

I stood and watched as I could see the water under the boardwalk ripple from the birds. The reeds are so thick it’s real difficult to spot one through such a tangled mesh. They kept calling as they moved away and parallel to the open water. Then Ann, one of our group leaders called out that one was coming out into the open. Not being one of those pushers and shovers I moved to my left and pulled out my camera.

rail2Here’s the first one as it exited the reeds and worked it’s way across the open flat of water and grasses.

rail1Still the first one. I never was able to get a picture of the 2 together as they both turned tail and flew into the reeds across the opening never to be seen again. I just love Rails, they poise such a problem for us birder. Secretive, quiet and stealthy. Except when they call, then all hell breaks loose. They can be rather LOUD!

All in all a super morning, and to top it off I meet up with birding friend Gail Wulker as we nailed a Sora calling just feet again from the boardwalk as the group departed, missing out on another great bird. It pays to be patient with these buggers.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Osprey
  2. Double-creasted Cormorant
  3. Northern Cardinal
  4. Red-tailed Hawk
  5. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  6. Swamp Sparrow
  7. Sora
  8. Song Sparrow
  9. Northern Parula
  10. Virginia Rail
  11. Marsh Wren
  12. Red-winged Blackbird
  13. Blue-winged Teal
  14. Canada Goose
  15. Great Egret
  16. Wood Duck
  17. Pied-billed Grebe
  18. American Goldfinch
  19. Common Crow
  20. Common Grackle
  21. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  22. Mourning Dove
  23. American Robin
  24. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  25. White-throated Sparrow
  26. Tree Swallow
  27. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  28. Wilson’s Snipe
  29. Turkey Vulture
  30. Downy Woodpecker
  31. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  32. Chimney Swift
  33. Great Blue Heron