Friday, March 28, 2008

Going after some migrants tomorrow/Life of the Skies giveaway

Some birding buddies have invited me along to chase some Evening Grosbeaks at Mohican State Park and then an Eurasian Widgeon somewhere else. I don't need either bird for my state list but both would make great additions to my year list.

Also, the blog 10,000 Birds is giving away five copies of the new book Life of the Skies by Jonathan Rosen at this link:

This book just got on my to-read list, it looks like a thoughtful examination of WHY we bird, and what that means in modern life. It's pretty highly recommended.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A good end to a day of birding: Red-necked Grebe

Saturday was our monthly Avid birders' trip. We decided that the action was at the Lake Erie marshes, so we headed north, unaware that the 1-2 inches of snow forecast had turned into 6 inches of snow. The roads were generally awful until about noon, when the sun came out and the road surface re-emerged. We had to push Paul's car out of the ditch twice!

We hit a few different places, starting at Pearson Metropark for feeder birds, including a nice Fox sparrow, then hit Maumee Bay SP in search of waterfowl and Rusty Blackbirds. The best blackbird of note there was Eastern Meadowlark, although for me the best bird there was Tundra Swan, year bird number 100. We only spent 15 minutes at Ottawa NWR, as the parking lot near the dikes was unplowed, but we did add Red-shouldered Hawk to the list. We then headed to Metzger Marsh, where I added Lesser Yellowlegs to my year list, and we sorted through thousands and thousands of ducks hoping for rarities. Metzger Marsh is where I saw my life (and only) Eurasian Widgeon, but no such luck today. Diving ducks were the vast majority of the huge mixed flocks, and seemed to be mainly Redheads, with large numbers of Canvasback, Ring-necked Duck, and Lesser Scaup as well. Gadwall and American Widgeon were present as well.

Then it was off to Magee Marsh, a very productive location for us. I added Wilson's snipe, Tree Swallow, Winter Wren, Rusty Blackbird, and Northern Shrike to my year list, and we had another good look at a Fox Sparrow, as well as a first year Bald Eagle. I also got a free "Warblers of Ohio and Eastern North America" song cd at the Sportsmens center. It was interesting walking through 4 inches of snow on the boardwalk - the next time I will probably be there will be in May, when it will be thronged with many birders and hopefully even more warblers.
Northern Shrike, Magee Marsh

Wilson's Snipe, Magee Marsh

First-year Bald Eagle, Magee Marsh

Our last stop was Hoover Reservoir back in Columbus, where a number of rare migrants had been reported, including Red-throated Loon, Eared Grebe, and Red-necked Grebe. We never found the Eared Grebe, but had good looks at the Red-throated Loon, and I got a decent but breif look at the Red-necked Grebe before it dove and disappeared. Also present was an Eastern Phoebe, a nice addition to the year list to bring me to 133 for the year and 110 for Ohio.

The Red-necked Grebe was the bird of the day for me, as it was a new bird for my Ohio list. It was also not one of the 14 target birds from my earlier post in February - somehow I managed to overlook it. So, I have 12 left before 200, but still have 13 birds on that target list. Pretty good omen, I hope.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Ohio bird #287: Golden Eagle

Yesterday I ticked off my first target bird of 2008, Golden Eagle. As readers may recall, Golden Eagle is on the list of 14 most likely bird species I can observe to hit 300 Ohio species. I went out yesterday to The Wilds, an area of reclaimed coal mining lands in Muskingum County that has been turning into a rolling grassland, and has somewhat of a Pleistocene feel to it, as it is home to large fauna such as bison, bactrian camel, native white-tailed deer, Przywalski's horses, giraffes, rhinos, cheetahs and the like (The Wilds is a 10,000-acre wildlife conservation and restoration facility). Of course, the African species aren't out and about in the winter, but the effect is still there. As a side effect, the Wilds habitat is highly attractive to grassland birds, and in the winter is known for its high numbers of Northern Harriers and Rough-legged Hawks. In the past five years or so, it's attracted a couple rarer birds to Ohio: Prairie Falcon and juvenile Golden Eagles. The Prairie Falcon was a one (possibly two)-year wonder, but Golden Eagles have become regular visitors, albeit challenging to get good looks at. Since 2004, I've tried at least 15 times to see the Golden Eagle at the Wilds, and failed every time.

Not so yesterday! I arrived at the Wilds about 9 am and drove the roads, enjoying the singing Eastern Meadowlarks and the aerial displays of harriers and "roughlegs". About 10:30, I was at the birding station overlooking a large section of the Wilds and got my scope on what appeared to be a dark raptor with a large wingspan as it flew away and disappeared behind a hill. My fellow Avid Birder, Jay Lehman, showed up at this moment and we spent about 20 minutes scanning the skies until we found the bird again. It soared high into the air and about all we could say was that it sure looked like a Golden Eagle, but not 100%. The bird then flew north and descended to the level of the hills and headed back south. This allowed us several excellent looks at the bird in full sunlight, and we were able to clearly see the golden color to the plumage of the head and upper wing surfaces, as well as the white feathers at the base of the tail. Juvenile Golden Eagle - no doubt about it!

As an added bonus, Jay noted an early Osprey on the nesting platform at the pond below the station. This could be the first Osprey reported for Ohio this year, but I'll need to check. All in all, a fine morning, and mission accomplished!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Vicarious birding

Having been stuck inside all week due to weather/lack of car/illness, I must take my birding where I can get it, and that means webcams.

Here's my new favorite, the Owlcam:

And the old standby is the local falcon cam:

Cornell Lab feeder cam:

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

20 inches of snow=no birding for me

The weekend blizzard meant I was camped inside all weekend. I had to satisfy myself with vicarious birding through people's feeder reports to Ohio birds.

Reports of Rusty Blackbirds and Fox Sparrows at Blendon Woods has me itching to get out, but my wife has had the car the last two days. Maybe tomorrow while the snow is still around and driving birds into feeders...

On another note, I have decided to start tallying the birds I see in our neighborhood, using two ravines as my north and south boundaries and a couple major streets as east -west boundaries. The best bird so far is Common Nighthawk, but I'm betting this spring I can add neotropical migrants in the ravines.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Red knot action

I'm going to be calling up some New Jersey senators and urging them to take action to extend the moratorium on horseshoe crab harvests. You should, too:

New Jersey Audubon offers legislature contacts here:

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Birding here and there

So, originally for the past weekend, I had planned to hit the Wilds for Golden Eagle. However, I got invited to go birding with a couple of pals, and birding with friends always takes priority over birding alone. We ended up hitting three southern reservoirs because of the amount of ice on central and northern reservoirs and lakes has concentrated the better birds to the south. Plus, there was a chance we could get Jeff's 300th Ohio bird on the trip.

We hit Caesar Creek Lake, Cowan Lake and Deer Creek Lake. It was a pretty productive trip. I added 12 year birds, including a couple of the more difficult birds to see in Ohio: Purple Finch and White-winged Scoter. The scoter turned out to be Jeff's 298th Ohio bird, as close as he would get to 300 that day. I also added Common Merganser to my Ohio year list (I had seen them in Michigan in January), as well as Killdeer, Belted Kingfisher, Red-winged Blackbird, Red-shouldered Hawk, Horned Grebe, Northern Shoveler (for Ohio, had it in New Mexico in January), Barred Owl, Northern Pintail and White-throated Sparrow. We dipped on birds others reported at the same locations that day, such as Cackling Goose and Greater White-fronted Goose, but I may be able to swing by a good spot on my way back from checking out a project area for work and pick up the Greater White-fronted Goose tomorrow.

Yesterday was the first nice day of the spring (didn't last), so I took advantage of the weather and hit Greenlawn Cemetery at lunch. I missed the Merlin yet again, but did pick up Pine Siskin for the year list. I also had Pine Warbler, which made me think that if only a Pine Grosbeak would show up, I'd have a fine pine trifecta. Alas, it was not to be.