Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Shawnee State Forest in the spring

Last Saturday's Avid Birders trip was to Shawnee State Forest in Scioto County, with a few visits to places in Adams county afterwards.

Overlooking the Ohio River from Shawnee State Forest.

Shawnee State Forest, or just "Shawnee" for short, is a favorite place for many Ohio birders for early spring migrants. This is a great place to tick off the arriving warbler wave, and Saturday was no exception, with 20 species of warblers sighted or heard by the group (I myself only had 17 species in Shawnee, with an additional species sighted in Adams County). Highlights included great views of Broad-winged Hawks, Orchard Oriole, Scarlet Tanagers, White-eyed Vieroand of course, the warblers. The best warbler of the day was an obliging Cerulean Warbler, who came down and foraged just above eye level for us (on a side note, after getting back and taking Henry the Pug for his walk, I had even better looks at a Cerulean Warbler in Walhalla Ravine!). Shawnee is gorgeous in the spring, with all the dogwoods and redbuds blooming, imparting a palette of pastel whites, pinks and greens to the landscape - a perfect background to the boldly colored birds! I took a lot of photos, but only a few really came out. The best ones are below.

Cerulean Warbler

Worm-eating Warbler, living up to its name

Prairie Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

In all, I saw 81 species on Saturday, a pretty awesome day of birding! I added 30 new birds for the year, so I'm now at 191 species for the year and 168 for Ohio. My first of year birds from Saturday include (species followed by location of first sighting):

Green Heron (Shawnee Marina [SM])
Broad-Winged Hawk (Shawnee State Forest [SSF])
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (SSF)
Great Crested Flycatcher (Edge of Appalachia Preserve, Adams County [EA])
White-eyed Vireo (SSF)
Warbling Vireo (Pike County)
Red-eyed Vireo (SSF)
Bank Swallow (SM)
Cliff Swallow (Pike County)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (SSF)
Gray-cheeked Thrush (Walhalla)
Wood Thrush (SSF)
Gray Catbird (EA)
Blue-winged Warbler (SSF)
Northern Parula (SSF)
Blackburnian Warbler (SSF)
Prairie Warbler (SSF)
Cerulean Warbler (SSF)
Black-and-white Warbler (SSF)
American Redstart (SSF)
Worm-eating Warbler (SSF)
Ovenbird (SSF)
Kentucky Warbler (SSF)
Common Yellowthroat (EA)
Hooded Warbler (SSF)
Yellow-breasted Chat (SSF)
Scarlet Tanager (SSF)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (SSF)
Indigo Bunting (SSF)
Orchard Oriole (SM)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Some nice neighborhood finds this morning

I decided to get up a little earlier than usual and take Henry out for a morning walk to Walhalla Ravine, to see if any warblers had decided to show up yet. I wasn't disappointed, having a look and listen to a Yellow-throated Warbler and a Black-throated Green Warbler. Besides these warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a Veery also made it onto both my neighborhood and year lists, while a Chipping Sparrow was new for the neighborhood. Pretty productive little walk, although I did end up missing my bus!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Getting close to Florida time

Tomorrow marks two weeks from the start of my Florida birding trip. This will be my first week-long birding adventure that I've ever taken. Previously, the longest stretch of time I've spent that was solely devoted to birding was a three-day weekend a couple years ago in New Jersey. That trip was originally meant to be a pelagic outing, but the company canceled the trip due to heavy seas while we were already halfway to New Jersey, so we just went ahead and birded the coast.

This trip promises to be exhilirating, with tons of life birds awaiting me. I think at a bare minimum I will add 20 life birds and three ABA region birds to my list, but I bet I'll double those numbers, as I'm going to be traveling with some really good birders. I'm still figuring out the best way to pay for the trip - Bush's $600 bribe, I mean rebate, will cover most of it but that check will probably not arrive until after the trip. I may just take some money out of savings and replace it with the federal bribe money.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Rails, banding, and the first swift of the year

This weekend, I went birding with my friend Brad at Springfield Marsh State Nature Preserve in Seneca County. Our objectives were Sora and Virginial Rail. We arrived about 7 am and were greeted by more singing Swamp Sparrows than I've ever heard in my life. We had a little trouble at first with the rails, trying to call them in with Brad's palm pilot loaded with some birding software. We did get a nice look at a Sora eventually, and heard a Virginia Rail calling. I managed to add a few year birds there besides the rails, including Brown Thrasher, House Wren, Yellow Warbler, and Northern Rough-winged Swallow.

While we were there, we ran into Tom Bartlett, who was doing some banding with a college class. We got some great close-up views of some birds I couldn't count for my year list due to ABA rules: Ruby-crowned Kinglet and White-eyed Vireo. We also got to admire Brown Thrasher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, and numerous Swamp Sparrows among others.

We then headed to Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, where a friend of ours had seen a bunch of golden-plovers the previous day. We dipped on the plovers, but I was able to add Pectoral Sandpiper, Dunlin and Barn Swallow to my year list there. Killdeer Plains is (or was) a birding hotspot for north central Ohio, and it's a good place for waterfowl and winter raptors. But it's getting tougher to bird there, as the state DNR has closed the main east-west road through the area and there are no trails.

Finally, I added Chimney Swift to my year and neighborhood list yesterday - had one over the Giant Eagle grocery store as I went in for bread and wine last night!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Neighborhood birding - the map

I created a google map of the neighborhood I bird in. Up to now, I've only mentioned the two ravines, Walhalla and Glen Echo. There's also a good little wetland and a riparian corridor that are actually closer than I thought, but a little too far for walking the dog. I can probably go there on an early weekend morning and bird - perhaps this weekend if I don't go chasing a Eurasian Green-winged teal that's shown up in Ohio, although I promised my wife I'd stick close to home. So, probably no teal for me.

View Larger Map

Monday, April 14, 2008

Birding close to home

Since the wife is away at a conference and visiting friends (and has our car), any birding I do and have done while she's gone is confined to places I can reach on foot. As I noted in an earlier post, I am fortunate enough to have a couple of "bird oases" if you will within walking distance of my house.

Saturday, I took Henry the pug out for a walk in the morning to the ravine north of me, hoping for early warblers. No warblers. But I did see my first Hairy Woodpecker of the year for Ohio, so that was a bonus. Hermit thrushes were also present and at least three phoebes were singing away.

Later that day, I took Henry to the ravine south of me, which has been partly converted into a neighborhood park. It's not as birdy as the other one, since it has a lot of lawn space and not as much undergrowth, so I don't go there as often (even though it's closer). However, luck was with me and I saw my first Brown Creeper for 2008 - really cute little bird.

If it's not raining later, I'll hit the good ravine after work with Henry and see if anything new has moved in. I'm hoping for Yellow-rumped warblers at least!

Friday, April 11, 2008

More birds appearing in my neighborhood

As I've mentioned previously, I live in a neighborhood in the middle of a big Midwestern city, and I have about as bird-unfriendly a yard you can have without it being bare concrete. However, I am fortunate enough to live between two wooded ravines that are accessible by pedestrians - Glen Echo and Walhalla Ravines. Lately, I've been spending more time in Walhalla Ravine since I've added it to the dog walking route. I'll take Henry, our pug mix, for his walk and bring along my spare binoculars. He gets to sniff all the dead leaves he wants while I look at birds. It's a win-win situation.

Anyway, I started keeping track of the birds I see in the neighborhood between the two ravines. I added three new birds yesterday, Northern Flicker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Eastern Phoebe. The phoebe was a bird I had expected to see before now, since the Walhalla ravine seems like great habitat for them, but I'm just glad to have it. Last weekend I saw a Winter Wren in the ravine, so now I'm hoping for Louisiana Waterthrush when I take Henry for an early morning walk tomorrow. I haven't been in the ravine in the morning yet, usually I take the dog out after work.

So far, I have seen/heard 34 species in or over my neighborhood:
Turkey Vulture
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Re-tailed Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Common Nighthawk
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
American Robin
European Starling
Eastern Towhee
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Common Grackle
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Monday, April 7, 2008

One of my photos is on 10,000 Birds


Scroll down to the seabirds section and see the Greater Shearwater I photographed on my honeymoon!

Saturday: Dipping on birds for my state and life list

I went out with a couple buddies on Saturday, hoping to get to see or at least hear some Ruffed Grouse at Tar Hollow State Park in southeastern Ohio. No such luck. We did get our first Louisiana Waterthrush of the year, with obliging views. I just missed adding Marsh Wren to my life list at a nearby swampy area - it was singing, but I just felt weird adding this bird when I knew I could probably see it as well. As my friend Brad said, "The hormones aren't flowing yet." I may go back on the 19th and try for both the grouse and wren again. The day wasn't a bust, it was beautiful out and I had my first Ohio Field Sparrow, Purple Martin, Swamp Sparrow, Golden-crowned Kinglet and Hermit Thrushes for the year, and we ended the trip by looking at some Great Horned Owls in a nest.

I just made my reservation for the Dry Tortugas ferry for my Florida birding adventure. Our first stop on the trip has the good possibility of netting me at least an even dozen life birds. I'm kinda starting to twitch already...

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I'm in Indiana

Not birding, but for work. Still, when you are an archaeologist, you tend to get to work outside every now and then, and the last two days have been spent walking up and down a field in Gibson County, looking for artifacts. I don't get much chance to look at birds on this sort of project, since I'm staring at the ground most of the time, but I do get to hear them, and that got me a couple of good birds today - an early Eastern Wood-Pewee in the wooded area next to the field, and a singing Western Meadowlark. Now, if I can only get that Western Meadowlark to follow me back to Ohio so I can stick him on my state list...

I also kept my eyes out for Eurasian Collared Dove, but so far, no luck. We finished our first round of fieldwork today. We're supposed to come out again next week to finish surveying the rest of the area after the rains come and go again. Perhaps then I'll get that bird, although I'd rather get it in Ohio.