Sunday, August 10, 2014

If only the birds could talk...

Fall migration is off to a good start so far this season.  I haven't been out as much as I would of liked to, mostly because of work and other commitments.  I had made one trip to see a particular bird, but I will save that for another post.

This time of year is always exciting to me.  It marks the start of seeing shorebirds on the beach at East Fork State Park.  This unusually cool summer and the recent blue-green algae - microcystin bloom has lowered the amount of people using the beach this summer.  This has allowed some shorebirds and terns to remain on the beach for a little while and allow people to see them.  There is not much in the way of shorebird habitat in Clermont county, so it is nice to be able to show people birds fairly close without a scope.  So far this season, I have seen or seen confirmed reports of Least, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Sanderling, Short-billed Dowitcher, Semipalmated Plover, Spotted and Pectoral Sandpipers.

I have met a few more people out watching birds in the last few days.  One was an Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Watercraft officer, which is nice to see.  I also met a couple of ladies who I noticed were watching the gulls on the beach.  One was trying to get pictures of the Caspian Tern that was on the beach.  The lady she was with had a small dog in her arms.  They were walking up to the gull flock, putting themselves between the birds and the water.  One of the women came to me and stated that she can't get any close up pictures of the tern.  I suggested that for one she not walk between the birds and the water, they don't like that.  Another suggestion I made, was that she try not to approach them with a dog in her hands.  While this may sound like common sense, she made the statement that she never thought of that and that the dog would never harm them.  I then asked her how the birds would know that?  After her friend backed off with the dog, she was able to approach the flock to about 8 ft.

As many people are unaware, East Fork State Park is an Ohio Important Bird Area.  It is important for both breeding birds as well as a migration stopping/refueling point.  There is very little area that is suitable at the right times of year for shorebirds along the lake.  This is mainly because of the fact that the shore is rocky and the water comes very close to thick forested vegetation.  Being a man-made lake, the water level is pretty constant during fall migration.  Most shorebirds prefer wide open areas, so that they can keep a weary eye to the sky for airborne predators such as falcons.  There is just such a spot that exists to the left/west of the south public beach that contains shallow water and rocks that harbor food for shorebirds.

So, what are all the birds at East Fork squawking about??

Great Blue Heron


Caspian Tern


Keep talkin'

Imagine my horror and surprise to see this sign erected by Ohio Department of Natural Resources today in this very spot!  

DSCN1839

This area is a very small area, but it has proven important to migrant shorebirds.  

                DSCN1837

While I am not anti-dog, birding and off leash dogs just don't mix.  I have been bitten before while birding at East Fork by off leash dogs.  I did not feel it necessary to file a report (years ago now).  

Here is a sample of the HOW and WHY I say this little area is very important for stopover shorebirds and even other migrants.  Most of these birds didn't venture far from this little area.  

Purple Sandpipers
PURPLE SANDPIPERS


Black-bellied Plover
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER


American Golden Plover juvenile
AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER


Upland Sandpiper
UPLAND SANDPIPER


Juvenile Ruddy Turnstone
RUDDY TURNSTONE


Cattle Egret
CATTLE EGRET 

While it is possible that these birds could use other areas of the lake, it also proves that they are willing to put up with human disturbance to continue to feed here.  This says to me that this area is prime habitat.  Even though it is a small area, it has proven to be very productive bird wise.  

That is why I suggest that ODNR consider removing this area from a pet swimming area.  There is also one of these signs on the other side (east/right) of the beach.  While, I have seen shorebirds on that side, all of the above birds stuck strictly to the left side of the beach.  The right (east) side also gets a good deal of disturbance from a private boat dock used for boat rentals. ODNR most likely doesn't have a clue to the importance of this area to migrating shorebirds.  I know from being there that the Purple Sandpipers brought some birders from quite a distance.  I also know many birders for which these birds were spark birds.  Therefore, I would appreciate if birders who bird East Fork State Park  would let the Division of State Parks know your concern for the birds that rely on this area for refueling during migration.   You can do so by calling or emailing the contacts listed in the link above for East Fork.   Email ohiostateparks@dnr.state.oh.us 

Thank you and I hope to see you at East Fork birding soon!

UPDATE:

Thanks to the many birders that emailed ODNR, the sign has been removed and will not be returned.  The area to the right of the beach will remain designated as a pet swim area.  

A special thanks goes out to ODNR, Ohio State Parks and ODNR employees.  Specifically Chad Smith and Martin H McAllister.  Thank you for listening and caring for the birds!

On a side note, I am in brainstorming mode on a way that birders could hold a public event/program centered around birding/birds found at the park.  Suggestions would be welcome.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

American Avocet - life bird, finally!

There has been an American Avocet hanging out at a big mud puddle at Lost Bridge for a while.  I usually don't like to travel far for life birds, however the avocet is an awesome looking bird that I want to see.  I kept hoping that I would one day see one land on the beach at East Fork, but with all of the ever increasing human use, it was/is becoming more and more unlikely.  I got to thinking, since I now work in Hebron, KY, Lost Bridge is only a couple exits from work.  So I decided to make the trip out.

When my girlfriend and I first pulled up, I saw a couple looking out over the water.  I pulled off the road and got out of the car and found the bird quickly.  It was very far away.  Since I had my scope stolen, I really couldn't get a good look at it.  I thought dang.  I need to just keep waiting.  I am glad I did.  Here it comes!

American Avocet in flight

The bird landed right by the road.  I got in the car and pulled up right next to the bird, using the car as a blind.

American Avocet

What an awesome bird!  Gorgeous! 

American Avocet

Love everything about this bird, the pattern on the back is cool.

American Avocet


American Avocet


American Avocet

I think this is my favorite shorebird.  The bird started calling and flew over the car out of sight to a gravel pit on the other side of the road.  

American Avocet calling


A couple of birders pull up right at the same time.  They said they were looking for a bird.  I asked them what bird and they said avocet.  I told them that it just flew to the other side of the road.  I thought, dang, was I lucky!  We searched and searched for the bird, but could not relocate it.  As I was getting back in my car, I noticed a large shorebird hunched down in the vegetation back at the big mud puddle.  It was the avocet.  I showed the couple the bird, for which it was very near on the close shore.  They were very thankful that I spotted it, cause it was concealed in vegetation.  I am glad that I got to show them this awesome bird.    

I got to thinking...  I have gotten my lifer Wilson's Phalarope at this same spot years ago.  There were flocks of shorebirds flying in and out the whole time I was there.  This place is only a shallow scrape in the mud that is used as a topsoil operation.  It would not be hard to recreate this same type of habitat in a river valley.  If only I had the money...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Spring surprise!

Well the hotter than normal weather has now become the cooler than normal weather.  Temperatures of 85° in the daytime will now be replaced by 60° high temps.  The cold front that had brought this change brought some nice storms.  I know by experience that after such a storm is a good time to check the beach at East Fork State Park for fallout shorebirds and other waterbirds.  I had Spotted, Least, Semipalmated Sandpipers, and Semipalmated Plovers with Killdeer.  But I wasn't expecting to see this:

Franklin's Gull

Franklin's Gull

A 1st summer Franklin's Gull.

I thought when I first saw it that it might be a Laughing Gull, but the white spots on the primaries proved otherwise.  It was flying around the parking lot area, landing and taking off again.

Franklin's Gull


Franklin's Gull


Franklin's Gull

The bird was very skittish and was always moving around.  Always remember to bird the weather.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Behold the colors of Spring!

I have been spending my entire weekends off looking at birds!  But, who wouldn't with all of the beautiful birds, wildflowers, and life!  Migrants are continuing to pour in, and I am ready to greet them.  It is nice to wake up to the songs of Chipping Sparrows and the spunky little House Wren that hangs out by my window.

Chipping Sparrow


Chipping Sparrow


House Wren peeking out.

The last couple of weekends, a friend and I have been visiting Shawnee State Forest in southern Ohio.  It is much easier to see how birds migrate in waves here.  One visit, a certain bird will be everywhere, and then a few days later, another bird will be everywhere and so on.  Last weekend, the American Redstart was everywhere.  They are still around, but not in the numbers as last weekend.  I love watching them.  

American Redstart


American Redstart

Wesee, wesee, wesee - O!

American Redstart

American Redstart

Love that long, colorful tail.

American Redstart

One warbler that I always thought was a drab warbler, but never really seen real good was the Worm-eating Warbler.  They are often heard only birds.  But, we got lucky at Shawnee and they were all over this one hillside.  They are actually more yellowish than I thought, really a striking warbler.

Worm-eating Warbler


Worm-eating Warbler


Worm-eating Warbler


Worm-eating Warbler

Love the blue of the Tree Swallow.  This one was keeping an eye on me as I was walking past.

Tree Swallow

The blue on this bird is just awesome in the right light.  I don't see this bird much, so I was very happy to see this one after I heard it.  It came down to eye level and fed for quite a while.  The Cerulean Warbler, love them in redbud trees!

Cerulean Warbler


Cerulean Warbler

Red is one of my favorite colors, and this bird has plenty of it!  It is hard to describe the intensity of the red of this bird.  It is a more vibrant red than that of the Northern Cardinal.  A gorgeous chick-burring bird is the Scarlet Tanager!

Scarlet Tanager

Here is one eating a katydid.


Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager

Here is another bird with some awesome red!  I love this bird.  Gorgeous is the massive billed Rose-breasted Grosbeak!

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

There were two males at Shawnee State Forest just chowing down on Elm tree seeds.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak


Rose-breasted Grosbeak


Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Even the back is cool!

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

How could anyone stay inside and watch TV when these colorful and lovely sounding birds are moving through?  

Monday, April 21, 2014

Spring has won!

After this seemingly extreme winter, I think I can finally say Spring has won out.  As of the writing of this post at noon today, it is 72°F.  It is finally green out and the birds continue to trickle in.  I say trickle because it seems as if we are at a slightly slow pace migration wise.

Louisiana Waterthurshes have been back for a while, they are settled in.  This one just got done mating (this is a female ;-)

Louisiana Waterthrush

Love their song!
Louisiana Waterthrush

Prairie Warblers have just got back.  Love them.

Prairie Warbler

Prairie Warbler

Ospreys are also back.  I think they are nesting at East Fork.  This one made a visit to Crooked Run yesterday.

Osprey

Green Herons have also just got back.  Yesterday, I seen 4 at one time.  I think this is a record for me.  They were at the wetlands at Crooked Run NP in Chilo, OH.  I used to seen this bird in my yard as a child, they seem to be harder to find nowadays.  

Green Heron

But THE bird that spells SPRING is this bird.  I call it the sunshine bird, the Prothonotary Warbler.  It seems to bring warmth and sunshine to wherever it is.  Just can't never get enough of this bird!

Prothonotary Warbler


Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

The American Kestrel pair that was at Crooked Run NP is nesting somewhere in the park.  I seen European Starlings using the box, so I think they are in a dead tree somewhere.  I heard and then saw the male kestrel flying and calling near by.  I watched and saw that he had a snake.  He then flew to his mate, presenting it to her.  She didn't really seem too interested in it.  She flew away...

Kestrel Pair with snake

The male decides to eat the snake for himself.

Kestrel with snake


Kestrel with snake


Kestrel with snake

But, the snake may have worked.  They mated soon after he finished eating the snake.  It was a cool event to see!  This is why Spring is my favorite season.

So much to see and witness outdoors right now.  Make sure you break away from the daily hustle and bustle to see the natural world!!