Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Well, I did it.

I went and joined the ABA, despite my misgivings about the ABA area. Mainly, I joined because I've been reading some of Pete Dunne's essays and I just felt that it was time; but also because it seemed appropriate in light of what could be a really great year in 2008 for birding for me, what with trips to the UP of Michigan and New Mexico in January, a possible weeklong birding trip to Florida in May, a couple days in the Rockies in Colorado in July, and Massachusetts again in August and December. With all the possible life birds I'll be checking off, it seemed to be time.

So, here I am, new ABA member (with an ABA list of 323)!

Monday, November 26, 2007

#366: Ash-Throated Flycatcher

The day after thanksgiving, I headed out to do some Massachusetts birding. First stop was in Carlisle, 15 miles from my in-laws' place. That's where an Ash-Throated Flycatcher was hanging out, apparently unconcerned that instead of being somewhere in Central America right now, it had headed northeast instead of south. The bird wasn't there when I showed up, but after a half hour it appeared and obligingly posed for some pictures. A great thing to be thankful for, a new life bird! The flycatcher also happened to be year bird number number 266.

Ash-throated Flycatcher, pretty as can be on November day in northern Massachusetts

The bird seemed to want to show off how well its plumage matched that of the magnolia tree it was using as home base.

Next I headed off to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge outside of Newburyport (with a stop along the way at the Joppa Flats Mass Audubon Center to pick up a new harness for my binoculars and to halfway consider buying a new pair of binoculars as well). My target birds were Snow Buntings, Common Redpolls and a Cattle Egret that had been seen regularly at the North Pool Overlook.

Common Redpolls

I dipped on the egret, but did get to see the redpolls (year bird number 267). I also added Red-throated Loons (#268) and Snow Buntings (#269) to the year list. I had also thought that the flock of 90 Sanderlings would make the list, but I had forgotten the pair I had seen in Norfolk, VA, earlier this year (missed them in Ohio - rats!). In with the Sanderlings was one different peep - can you identify it in the picture below (for a larger version, go here:

Sanderlings on the beach

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hitting Massachusetts for Turkey

Not to see it, but to eat it. I'm flying out tonight to have Thanksgiving with my in-laws in Lowell, MA. But birding will be involved - Looking over the Massbirds mailing list on, there has just been reported an Ash-throated Flycatcher just 14 miles from my in-laws house!

My original plan was to go birding at Parker River NWR (aka Plum Island), but I'm going to hit the flycatcher location first, then head out to Parker River on either Friday or Saturday morning.

I hope to add Cattle Egret and Common Redpoll to my year list there, both species are being seen on the reserve. I might luck into some other birds I need for the year, but otherwise the goal is just to enjoy birding in one of my favorite locations (it's where I proposed to my wife).

So, it could be I will be giving thanks for a new life bird!

Monday, November 19, 2007

One to go

A couple friends and I went exploring the NW part of the state yesterday, with some pretty good finds. Our first stop was the recently decommissioned gravel pit operation outside of New Hampshire along US 33 in Auglaize County, where someone reported Cackling and Ross’s Geese in with Canada and Snow Geese. We found the flock on one of the ponds, but it got up before we could sort through them and landed in a nearby field. Fortunately, this probably afforded us even better looks at the birds. We weren’t able to pick out any Cackling Geese from the Canadas, but amongst 25 Snow Geese (both blue and white phases) were three white phase ROSS’S GEESE. The Canada Geese included some darker and smaller than usual individuals that people better versed with the subspecies of Canada Goose might want to look at. A Northern Harrier flew over the pond, but didn’t seem to faze any of the Mallards and Green-winged Teals still there.

Our next stop were the Lima Reservoirs, which featured Ruddy Ducks as the main bird. Also present were some Bufflehead and Hooded Mergansers. We looked for Snow Buntings along the dikes but did not see any. Curiously, we saw another Northern Harrier flying quickly over the reservoirs.

On our way to the Oak Openings, we stopped at Bluffton to see the Rufuous Hummingbird (number 246), which was on the feeder as we rolled up, then flew off. We then observed a kettle of about 8 Red-tailed Hawks and a single Turkey Vulture at the Monclovia exit off 475.

Our stop at Oak Openings was great. It was the first visit to this metropark for me, and Dan Sanders pointed out all the spots where good birds had been observed in the past. Our goal was the nature center feeders, where we spent about 45 minutes. The feeders were very lively, with a male and female Purple Finch (number 247), numerous American Goldfinches, several White-breasted Nuthatches, at least 3 Red-breasted Nuthatches, a Blue Jay, Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers, Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmouses (Titmice?), and Dark-eyed Junco. After about 45 minutes, we had decided we’d seen all that we’d likely see there and headed out of the nature center back to the car. About halfway there, Dan Barda came rushing out of the center yelling “CROSSBILL!!!” We looked at each other and sprinted back into the center, where a male RED CROSSBILL was drinking from the water station (number 248, and a state bird for me). I’m not certain about this, but it seemed like the bird was completing a molt from juvenile to adult plumage – I don’t know anything about molt timing in crossbills, so maybe it was just the fact that this was the closest look I’ve ever had at a Red Crossbill! A photo of the bird is up at the website - .

After that bit of excitement, we hit Pearson Park’s nature center, which was House Finch central, along with goldfinches and a Red-breasted Nuthatch. No irruptive finches were seen here, but it looks like a good spot for them to show up.

We finished the day at Maumee Bay State Park, where we tramped around looking for Common Redpolls and Snow Buntings, which we were unable to find. A great consolation prize was a single CACKLING GOOSE (number 249) in with a flock of Canada Geese and a single white-phase Snow Goose. The geese were on the sheltered beach near the pavilion, and we had very good looks at the bird, which was about a third the size of the Canadas it was with, and had a stubby bill and short neck.

So, 250 looks to be a lock, but I'm not going to count any birds before I see them!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Three birds down, five to go

Well, saturday was a hit and miss kind of birding day. I got three of my target birds and just missed a fourth.

The weather and light quality was crappy all day. We started out in Geauga County at a home where Evening Grosbeaks have been visiting, and sure enough, a group of four females dropped in for our enjoyment (and for their place on my Ohio life list).

Evening Grosbeaks

Next we hit West Woods park nearby, where I added Pine Siskin to the year list and my Ohio life list. Two state birds in one day, not bad!

Crappy photograph of a Pine Siskin

We then trekked up to the lake, where we were confronted by a mysterious lack of Red-breasted Mergansers. I doubt we saw more than a couple hundred maximum, and that's being generous. Normally we see thousands of mergs on Lake Erie in late November, but not today.

A stop at Simms Park in Euclid nabbed us a pair of Black Scoters, which were the last year birds I had for that day. I just missed Snow Bunting at Headlands Beach SP, which would have been number four.

So, I now stand at 245 species for the year in Ohio. Will I make 250? Stay tuned and find out!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Update to the last post

I just found out that our Avids trip will make Evening Grosbeaks being sighted in Geauga County one of our target birds on Saturday, followed by lakefront birding, so I will update my "Most Likely" list from the last post:

Evening Grosbeak
Snow Bunting
Pine Siskin
Purple Finch
Brant (29 seen on the lake today)
Black Scoter
Short-eared Owl
Northern Shrike

That's eight. If all goes right on Saturday, I could pick up 6 of those birds.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Eight birds away

In my last blog post, I mentioned that I was only eight bird species away from hitting 250 Ohio species for the year.

I thought I might expand on that and list some of the birds that I still need for my year list AND still have a halfway decent chance of adding, ahead of my Columbus Avids trip this Saturday.

The list includes, in no particular order:

Purple Finch
Pine Siskin
Greater White-fronted Goose
Cackling Goose
Northern Shrike
Black Scoter
Iceland Gull
Short-eared Owl
Snow Bunting
Lapland Longspur
Snowy Owl

Of the above, Pine Siskin would be an addition to my Ohio life list.

There are also some less likely birds I could get, which include:
Harlequin Duck
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Red Crossbill
Common Redpoll
Little Gull
Pomarine Jaegar
Parasitic Jaegar
Golden Eagle
Black-legged Kittiwake
Purple Sandpiper
Sanderling (maybe some late birds???)

Of these birds, Harlequin Duck, Little Gull, Pomarine Jaegar and Black-legged Kittiwake would be life birds, and Red Crossbill, Common Redpoll and Golden Eagle would be Ohio lifers.

Of the above lists, the species I think I have the best chances of adding are:

Short-eared Owl
Purple Finch
Snow Bunting
Northern Shrike
Pine Siskin
Greater White-Fronted Goose
Black Scoter

That's seven. So basically, I need to get LUCKY!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Finch finding fails

Well, I dipped on Purple Finch and Pine Siskin yesterday. I visited three good spots with feeders in Columbus: Greenlawn Cemetery, Blacklick Creek metropark, and Blendon Woods metropark. Bird activity was somewhat low, with few birds at feeders (perhaps no more than 15 at a time at any of the three spots). These House Finches at Blacklick Creek were the closest I got to Purple Finches:

To add insult to injury, reports from Blendon Woods today included a Merlin and Pine Siskins, both of which would make great additions to my year list, especially for Ohio (I am EIGHT birds away from 250 species in Ohio for the year- my best year yet for the state).

However, not all was bad - I did get some nice photographs, especially of a male Northern Cardinal, along with some others.

Northern Cardinal, Blendon Woods

Pied-billed Grebe, Blendon Woods

Red-breasted Nuthatch, Blacklick Creek

Pair of American Widgeon, Blendon Woods

Friday, November 2, 2007

Gonna try for Purple Finch and Pine Siskin this weekend

I'm going to hit a couple parks with good feeders on sunday, see if I can't see a couple of these birds. There's a winter finch invasion in the works, and I want in!