Tag Archives: Voice of America Park

Voice Of America

I remember the first time I visited Voice Of America Park like it was just last month. It was probably around the time I made the decision to bird full time, as opposed to only when it’s nice outside, or I’m on a trip, or something like that. I had jumped in with both feet, and I was chasing anything and everything that was new. And that evening long ago is still imprinted in my memory.

I had just checked our local birding List-Serv and read that birders were see lots of Bobolinks at Voice Of America Park. By then Kathy was used to having me dash off chasing birds and tonight wasn’t any different than another time. This was a life bird for me and I didn’t want to miss out on the action so off I went.

30 minutes later I’m driving around the outside of the park trying to find the main gate since I’ve never been here before, that’s when I see several Bobolinks flying over the park fence and across the road. Now it’s getting exciting. Then I notice a dead bird in the middle of the road. I pull over to the side and walk back to see it’s a Bobolink. My heart sank. I carried the bird to the side and laid it in the brush, got into my car and eventually found the gate.

There’s an area in V.O.A. park that’s a protected bird area and that’s where I found them. They were everywhere. It was a beautiful sight. It was such a wonderful thing to see that I brought my best friend Phil back a few days later so he could tick off Bobolinks and the many Henslow Sparrow’s that were nesting there as well. It was such a nice patch of pristine grassland habitat for these birds.

As years pass more and more of the birds habitat was disappearing. The park board giving in to the youth athlete organizations and their need for more sport fields. And as we lost more grassland, we lost species. I haven’t heard a Henslow Sparrow in years, and the decline of the Bobolink population was apparent as well. For the past 2 years I’ve not seen any Bobolinks at V.O.A. until just recently.

Reports started to come in this Spring of Bobolinks showing up at V.O.A. again. I had to go over and see for myself. It took less than a minute when I spotted my first one. This is encouraging.

After spending several hours hiking around the area I came to the conclusion that they seemed to be hanging around this one area. And after some fancy calculating I figured there were 4 males and maybe 2 females from what I could see.

Now I’ll probably return in a few weeks to check on them and see if they’re still around or maybe I see more. Anyway you look at it, I was very pleased as I drove off towards home.

Advertisements

Notes From The Field

Voice of America Park

IMG_0162A Bobolink in the grass is a sure sign of Spring at Voice of America Park.

For the past several years I’ve made it a point to make annual trip to VOA Park for the arrival of one of my favorite open meadow birds, the Bobolink. Unfortunately as the years wear on, and more and more of it’s habitat are eaten up by more soccer fields, our poor Bobolinks suffer. Numbers are down and just finding the few individuals this afternoon was difficult.

IMG_0163And every year if they keep returning, so will I.

Notes From The Field

Cincinnati Zoo Preserve, Ellis Lake/ West Chester Preserve, Voice of America, & Gilmore Ponds

What is it about bird watching that keeps us going out into the field as well as keeping our curiosity peaked? Is it the primeval instinct of being the hunter without the killing as we stalk that elusive Nelson’s Sparrow? Or is it the chase of adding another bird to your life list from a far away place? Meeting new people  certainly justifies that attraction to birding. How about just getting outside after a very long, cold, snowy Winter. Spring is definitely in the air in the Ohio Valley with this last weekend, as temps soared into the 50’s with sunny skies. And as is my usual custom I dropped Jon a text about a Sunday field trip.

So to get back to my original question. What is it about bird watching that keeps us going out into the field, as well as keeping our curiosity peaked? Well today it’s our Spring time visitors, the wading birds. All of those “Sandpipers” are making a big comeback with some outstanding numbers being reported. So not wanting to be left out on all this fun we decided to keep our birding adventure in the Butler County area.

Last year the Cincinnati Zoo property was quite the go to spot for wading birds. The recent rains have been a blessing for this hotspot, but not yesterday. A good 30 minute scan turned up nothing but ducks, which isn’t a bad thing. But when your looking for waders you limit your time at each location till you find them.

We moved on.

It was during our drive to Ellis Lake that we stopped at Voice of America Park for a quick drive through. Well it seems that the Butler County Metroparks has been busy with redesigning the park around. Less grasslands and more water with more ducks. We weren’t necessarily looking for wading birds here, it seemed nature to stop since we were driving by.

We moved on.

It was pretty obvious that water wasn’t draining as fast as it usually does. The farm field which was now reduced to just corn stubble was practically under water. And once again there were plenty of ducks to be found. We had a feeling that there had to be wading birds amongst the corn stubble, it’s just that we couldn’t locate any. That was until a Red-tailed Hawk flew over and sent the majority of the birds airborne. I was able to pick out 2 waders in the chaos of wings and feathers. But before I was to ID them they lighted, and then gone.

We moved on.

It was a short drive to Gilmore Ponds, which was going to be our last stop for the day. Now what both Jon and myself will discuss before we reach any location is what might we find here. Gilmore Ponds has been a good spot for the “Black Bird” species, Rusties, Red-winged, & Grackles. And for myself I always hold out for some Rusty Black Birds, which is turning into one of my favorite birds. Their numbers are rapidly declining due to all sorts of various reason, so finding a couple to get a photo of is always in the back of my mind. Gilmore Ponds is perfect habitat for them.

It was just a few weeks ago I was there during the evening to catch American Woodcocks displaying when a massive flock of “Black Birds” came in to roost for the night. It was too dark to discern species because of darkness, but I was confident that there had to be a few.

It was late morning when we arrived, and the din of birds calling filled the air. The parking lot fronts onto a flooded woodlot which covers a large area of this side of the park. We walked about 50 yards down the trail towards the noise when we started to scan the tree tops at all the “Black Birds”. Jon immediately pointed me in the direction of this tree top that held a couple of Rusties. Then there was some more…and more…and even more!

THEY WERE EVERYWHERE!

IMG_3788They were…

IMG_3808in the trees.

IMG_3795And they were foraging on the water logged ground.

It was the highest concentration of Rusty Black Birds either Jon or myself have ever seen. I think the most I’ve ever seen at one time was a couple of dozen while hiking the Loveland Bike trail in the vicinity of Spring Valley Wildlife Area. Granted there were a few Common Grackles and Red-winged Black Birds mixed in, but they were hard to pick out from all the Rusties. It was a spectacular sight.

We watched a awe as we tried to come up with an approximation as to how many Rusties there might be. We needed to submit the data we came up with to e-Bird and the Rusty Black Bird Blitz data base, so we had to make some educated guess. We agreed that there was probably 2 birds for every 30 square feet. So he calculated the area at Gilmore Ponds from Google Earth and came up with approximately 1,500 Rusties. Which he told me was a conservative guess.

So I’ll ask myself again why do I keep going out into the field?

Need I say more.

Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Northern Cardinal
  2. Carolina Chickadee
  3. Northern Mockingbird
  4. Downy Woodpecker
  5. Northern Flicker
  6. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  7. Eastern Bluebird
  8. Eastern Meadowlark
  9. Mourning Dove
  10. Pied-billed Grebe
  11. Canada Geese
  12. Mallard
  13. Northern Shoveler
  14. Killdeer
  15. Green-winged teal
  16. American Pipit
  17. Blue-winged teal
  18. Red-winged Black Bird
  19. Common Grackle
  20. Rusty Black Bird
  21. Tree Swallow
  22. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  23. Purple Martin
  24. Wilson’s Snipe
  25. Red-shouldered Hawk
  26. Red-tailed Hawk
  27. Turkey Vulture
  28. Northern Harrier
  29. Cooper’s Hawk
  30. Gadwall
  31. Lesser Scaup
  32. Greater Scaup
  33. Blue Jay
  34. Barn Swallow
  35. Horned Lark
  36. Gray Catbird
  37. Song Sparrow
  38. Field Sparrow
  39. American Tree Sparrow
  40. White-throated Sparrow
  41. Bufflehead
  42. Hooded Merganser
  43. American Coot
  44. American Wigeon
  45. Wood Duck
  46. Great Blue Heron
  47. Eastern Towhee
  48. Eastern Phoebe
  49. Great Egret
  50. Great Horned Owl
  51. Ring-necked Duck

Notes From The Field

Voice Of America Metropark

Late last week I made my way to Voice Of America Park, which is a part of Butler County Metroparks System, to take a closer look at the grassy meadowland that the park board has set aside as a “Important Birding Area”. I try to get over here a couple times a year, especially during the Spring for one of my favorite grassland species. Bobolinks

Opened in 1944, and encompassing 640 acres, Voice of America Bethany Relay station was a massive complex of radio towers and wires transmitting radio programs all over the world. The Bethany Relay Stations final broadcast was in 1994. Afterwards the property came under the umbrella of the Butler County Metroparks System. Now the largest park in the system, it now covers 435 acres with lakes, sports fields, and best of all, grasslands for us birders.

It was like it was only yesterday when you’d walk the mowed paths during a Spring evening as Henslow’s Sparrows were calling, and Red-winged Black Birds would scold you for being too close to their nesting area. And Bobolinks abounded. I remember the first time I went birding at VOA was for Bobolinks. A lifer for me at the time and one I wanted to tick off the old list. Not sure where the entrance was I drove around the perimeter of the park when I noticed a dead Bobolink in the road. Not the way I wanted to start my first visit, however when I finally made it within the confines of the grasslands section, BobolinKs were everywhere. It was truly a great sight.

IMG_2779This is the waist deep vegetation I’m talking about. A small oasis of grass within the confines of urban sprawl.

Now the park is expanding into some of their undeveloped sections for the purpose of building new sports fields. And with it go some of precious grasslands that support these birds. Gone are the days of the Henslow’s Sparrows which I’ve not heard for a couple of years. However the Bobolinks still return even though their numbers are smaller than years past.

IMG_2776

IMG_2789

IMG_2792

Now according to the birding grapevine the remaining grassland meadow will stay the same except for a mowed path weaves through it. These birds so habitat specific that their rapid decline is of grave concern. There has been a 75% drop of Bobolinks in Vermont between 1966 and 2007. What is the rate of decline in Ohio? I’m not sure of the stat but I’m am going to enjoy them as often as I can. And if there’s a chance for you to go see them. DO IT.

Rare Bird Alert

415px-66_Ivory-billed_Woodpecker

Yesterday evening a Glossy Ibis was seen feeding at Voice of America Park in Butler County. From details left on the sightings log at Cincinnatibirds the bird was seen as you enter the park on the right after you pass the entrance booth on your way to the main lake. At the time of this blog post (10:30 am ) no more sighting posting concerning this bird have been received. Yet.

Notes From The Field

Voice of America MetroPark

Yesterday was almost a week since I returned from Lake Erie and when I last birded, so I felt the need last night to try my hand at Voice of America. The last time I was there I was turned back because of an expired park pass, so being prepared to buy a new one I found that no one was at the gate to sell me  one. Now the honest thing to do was to drive over to the park office and renew there, however it was getting dark and my target birds for tonight are elusive anyway, so time was of the essence.

Sitting right in the middle of West Chester this 435 acre gem has a lot to offer. A 35 acre stocked lake, a paved trail, soccer and baseball fields, and even a cricket pitch. But what attracts the birders is the Audubon Important Birding Area. A large grassy area has been set aside for several breeding grassland birds. One of them are Bobolinks.

And some of the others include Eastern Meadowlarks and Red-winged Blackbirds, which are numerous. However the prize is the most secretive Henslow’s Sparrow. So for the next hour and a half was spent listening for their faint, high pitched, hiccup of a song.

In years past there is a mowed path that birders stay on as they bird this portion of the park, however last night the grass was tall. I was still able to follow where the path normally was and after half and hour was able to make out the song of the Henslow’s Sparrow, despite the fact that I never saw any.

I normally don’t get big numbers when I bird at VOA, so I was kind of surprised when I my total for the night was 19 species. Also if I had more time I probably would find a few more.

American Goldfinch

As with most bird outings during the week this one was another short one so hardly an impressive list.

Notable birds for the evening include:

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Mallard
  3. Cooper’s Hawk
  4. Killdeer
  5. Mourning Dove
  6. Willow Flycatcher
  7. Horned Lark
  8. Tree Swallow
  9. Barn Swallow
  10. American Robin
  11. American Goldfinch
  12. Cedar Waxwing
  13. Field Sparrow
  14. Song Sparrow
  15. Henslow’s Sparrow
  16. Bobolink
  17. Indigo Bunting
  18. Red-winged Blackbird
  19. Eastern Meadowlark