Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The tug of war continues...

The tug of war of the seasons continues.  As I write this post, snow is on the ground and it is only 34° with a freeze warning issued for tonight calling for temperatures in the 20°s.  Just yesterday, it was 80° here.  I enjoy watching the change over of our "winter" birds to that of our "spring" birds.  It just feels like the spring birds don't get here fast enough after such a hard winter.  Some Red-necked Grebes are still lingering, but the scoters seem to have finally headed back north.

The Juncos are singing, along with Chipping Sparrows.  Makes one think they are hearing Pine Warblers.  They are back, but I just don't see many of them around the east side where I bird.

Fox Sparrows have been numerous on the north side of East Fork.  I love to hear them sing.

Fox Sparrow

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are all over everywhere as they slowly creep northward.  

Fluffed Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Brown Thrashers are back in force, meaning it is officially Spring despite the snow on the ground.  Love this bird.

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers are everywhere, they seem to have just went from none to everywhere.  I always enjoy having them back.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Yellow-throated Warblers are back in force.

Yellow-throated Warbler

Pine Warblers are around, I went to Shawnee State Forest, where they are a little more easier to get.  Many think of them as a drab warbler, but they are nice to look at me thinks.

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Northern Parulas are back, but not quite in numbers yet.

Northern Parula

While at Shawnee State Forest (Southern Ohio), Black and white Warblers were back in force this past weekend.  I love this warbler.  I still remember seeing this bird in my grandparents yard when I was a kid and not knowing what it was.  I remember looking in books after books till I finally found out what it was.

                               Black and White Warbler

Black and White Warbler

As the snow slowly melts away to reveal the greened up look of the landscape, I can only look foward to the warmer temps later in the week.  The changeover of the seasons seems to be going slow, but eventually it will be over.  Make sure you get out there to see the warblers trickling back!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Red-necked Birding...

Winter and Spring continue to battle it out.  This winter just doesn't seem to want to end anytime soon.  As I write this post, it is raining and 38°.  It is supposed to end as snow, and then be close to 70° Monday. But despite this crazy weather, it is officially Spring and the birds definitely know it!

This colder than average winter has been one to remember birding wise here in SW Ohio.  After the invasion of northern ducks, came an invasion of Red-necked Grebes.  My last post has the closest shot and view of one that I have ever had...  Until this invasion.

There has been as many as 20 or so Red-necked Grebes reported at one time on East Fork Lake.  This is an unprecedented number for the whole SW Ohio area, let alone just one location.  And the odd thing is, they are staying around and many are in full breeding plumage.  Some males are even displaying.  Again, I don't know what this means in the big picture, but I choose to just enjoy them.

I have never seen one in breeding plumage before, so when I spotted a few close to the shore, I watched them for a while and noticed that many were very close to breeding plumage.

Here is a sight that you just don't see here in SW Ohio.

Red-necked Grebes

3 Red-necked Grebes in one view.  And there were many more.  

Red-necked Grebes

Haven't never seen them up close, and only a handful of times before this day, I chose to just watch them.  They were feeding on crayfish and vocalizing with a clucking sound.  

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Looks like a dinosaur!

Red-necked Grebe

Here, I almost thought that one was preening the other, but that is not the case.  The one in the back was playing with a feather in the water.

Red-necked Grebes

I often wondered if I would be able to tell apart a Horned Grebe and a Red-necked Grebe at a distance, having only seen Red-neckeds a few distant times.  After this day, I don't think that will be a problem!

A Horned Grebe came by for nice comparison views.  

Horned and Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked and Horned Grebe comparison

As you can see, there is a considerable difference in shape and size.  The Horned Grebe was not yet in breeding plumage.  The Horneds were feeding on fish.  The Red-neckeds seemed uninterested.  They stuck to crayfish, even moving rocks underwater near shore.  

Horned Grebe

Horned Grebe

Horned Grebe

There are other birds around besides the grebes, believe it or not.  The ducks continue to show in good numbers.  This time of year is the best time to get good looks at breeding plumage ducks.  They usually only have one thing on their minds.  Here are some species that I have been seeing pretty close (in breeding plumage).

Northern Shoveler
Northern Shoveler Male

Green-winged Teal
Green-winged Teal Male

Blue-winged Teal pair
Pair of Blue-winged Teal

Ruddy Duck
Male Ruddy Duck 

Yeah, I love breeding plumage ducks.  But Spring is here and other birds are getting into Spring as well.  I was very surprised to see this male American Kestrel watching me near a nesting box.  I have never seen anything but starlings in it, but I didn't see a female, so it is doubtful.  

American Kestrel

He was giving me the eye.

American Kestrel

And then, out of nowhere, he started screaming at me!

Screaming American Kestrel

Hope for Spring and keep watching birds.  The warblers will be here soon!

Monday, March 03, 2014

From long tails to long bills...

The winter that everyone wishes would just go away continues to just keep on being mean.  As I write this post, another major winter storm is in progress.  It is 16° F and snowing with a coating of ice on everything.

But a "bad" winter isn't all bad.  The unusual cold has caused waters up north to freeze and stay frozen.  Open water has been hard to find down here SW Ohio.  East Fork froze almost completely and even the Ohio River froze over for a brief period.  The ice has since began to recede and disappear, however East Fork remains half frozen, while the river is thawed.  

This has caused a good number of ducks that are usually considered rare for this area down here in amazing numbers.  While I already blogged about the large number of White-winged Scoters being seen, they continue to add up.  I don't ever recall seeing so many in so many different places since I have started birding.  Another duck that I haven't seen much in my years birding is a the Long-tailed Duck.  Such a gorgeous bird, I don't remember ever seeing a male in breeding plumage.  Reports of multiple birds in multiple locations along the Ohio River had me pumped up.  I was hoping to see a nice looking male close up.  Well, I got that opportunity!

Male Long-tailed Duck

Look at that tail!  Many of the ones I have seen has had its tail broke off.  A nice looking duck for sure!

The duck was not by itself and was very close to shore.  It later joined up with another flock of ducks.  

Raft of ducks - Redhead, long-tailed duck, WW Scoter, Scaup

Any long time birder in the Cincinnati area would note that you just don't see this down here!  This year is off the hook.  Here is a closeup of a pair of ducks where just seeing one species would be a very good day birding in SW Ohio, but this??!!

Male Long-tailed Duck with male White-winged Scoter (also redheads and a scaup)

I'll take it!

Here are some more pictures of such a handsome duck.

               Male Long-tailed Duck with redhead

LTDU Looking at me

Male Long-tailed Duck preening

Male Long-tailed Duck looking odd

Male Long-tailed Duck with Canvasback, Redhead and scaup

Male Long-tailed Duck with redhead

With such a handsome duck to watch, it is hard to take your eyes off of him.  But he isn't the only duck around.  The river has been hopping with all kinds of ducks and mergansers.  

Common Mergansers everywhere.  Not always easy to find around here.

Common Merganser

And of course this Motley Crew, Red-breasted Mergansers.  Love the hair do.

Red-breasted Mergansers

And lots of different species of ducks including, Redheads, both scaup, Canvasback, Bufflehead, Ring-necked.

Male Redhead

male Canvasback

You can notice sun in these pictures.  We were granted a very brief preview of Spring by mother nature, and it was much appreciated by me and the birds.  Love to watch ducks get funky while doing their courtship rituals!

Green-winged Teal pair

Love Green-winged Teal.  Their sounds are odd for a duck.  I don't see them much around here, so they were welcome.  So gorgeous!

And of course, so are the other ducks ---->

Male Readheads

male American Wigeon

                        Males Bufflehead and Redhead

With all this duck action, it is hard to remember that there is other birds to be seen.  I noticed the Medahl Dam Peregrine Falcon chowing down while watching the ducks and gulls.

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

As the temperatures gradually warmed, the birds began singing more and more.  This male Horned Lark was just singing away at the beach at East Fork recently.   

Horned Lark

This Barred Owl was out soaking up the sun, something that sounds nice right about now.  

Barred Owl on the side of the road

But it just ins't Spring without the sound of one bird in particular.  That one bird is my "Spring bird".  That bird is the American Woodcock.  With the weather, I really wasn't expected to see any during a short warm spell that we had recently.  But, just after dark, I heard the sound.  And it begins...   Peent!  It is spring!

               American Woodcock in the headlights
Spring migration has already begun, as it is triggered by the days getting longer rather then the temperatures.  
Here is a Red-necked Grebe that has been hanging around the south beach at East Fork for a couple of days.  This is the best look yet I have of this species.  Would be nice to see in breeding plumage.

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

With this crazy weather, I look forward to what it may bring.  I try to ignore the implications of this odd weather, and just focus on what good birds may show up as a result.  Keep birding and keep warm!