Monday, February 25, 2008

Hoary Redpoll -Yes!

Birding on Saturday was a success. As I mentioned in my last post, the trip on the 23rd was to Amish country, chasing a couple rarities and see what else we could kick up. We basically spent most of our time in Holmes County with some time in Coshocton and Ashland counties as well.

The highlight of the trip for me was the Hoary Redpoll. This bird has been hanging out with a small flock of Common Redpolls at an Amish farmer's feeders. On Saturday, there was a group of about 35 birders standing in and around a barn with scopes and binoculars trained on these feeders. I would say a good 2/3 of the birders were Amish themselves. We didn't have to wait at all to see the bird, which was feeding as we arrived, although it took off soon afterwards. We waited around to see if it would come back and it did, allowing for excellent looks through the scope and for me to take some adequate photos as well. The bird in question was an adult female, identifiable through the lack of streaking on the breast and rump, slightly larger appearance, frosty edges on the feathers on the back and a stubby little bill.

Hoary Redpoll, on left side of feeder.

You can really see the size difference here, as well as the difference in color.

An added bonus to this location was the general diversity of other birds. I added a number of birds to my year list for Ohio besides the redpolls, including Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Bluebird, and Chipping Sparrow. After everyone in the group had satisfactory views of the Hoary Redpoll, we started traveling towards Farmerstown to see a pair of Barn Owls at another Amish farmer's barn. The great thing about a lot of Amish folks is how welcoming they are - they enjoy having birders come visit and see "their" birds. In fact, some of the top birders in the state are Amish, and the best optics store in the state is in Millersburg, Time and Optics, owned by Robert Hershberger (It seems like there are only four surnames among Ohio Amish - Hershberger, Yoder, Miller, and Schlabach). But I digress.

The feeders, full of bluebirds and redpolls

On the way to the barn owls, we stopped along the side of the road where a farmer had recently spread manure over the fields. Here, we had a huge flock of Horned Larks, with a few Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs mixed in for good measure. The owls were splendid, with a nest full of young elsewhere in the barn. We unfortunately spooked one owl into flight, which is not something we like to do, but it did result in seeing the bird in flight in the daylight, a rare sight indeed.

Barn Owls

After the owls, we headed down to Coshocton County to try for a Harris's Sparrow that had been seen at another farm. We ended up hanging around for nearly an hour before a couple other birders went bushwhacking and flushed it out of a ravine to a tree where it tee'd up nicely for good views. The bird was a juvenile, with a small amount of black on the breast but none yet on the head. We also saw a Bald Eagle and Sharp-shinned Hawk flying overhead.

We next drove through Killbuck Marsh on our way to Mohican State Park, where Evening Grosbeaks had been reported. The marshes were mostly frozen and there wasn't much in the way of waterfowl about. At the grosbeak location, we waited in vain for the birds to show up. However, I managed to add two more birds to my year list - Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Pine Warbler.

All in all, a very good day. Hoary Redpoll is my 381st life bird, and number 339 for the ABA area. It's also my 286th Ohio bird - I have 14 to go before I hit the big 300 (A future post will discuss what I think those 14 birds might end up being).

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