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!


  1. Dang Donald,

    We've had a annoyingly warm winter here in Phoenix, but I gotta say I envy those Scoter and Long-tail sightings (and surely the Woodcock too).

    One more sally before the big thaw eh?
    Good birding.

  2. Great shots of the Long Tail, we have had a few here this winter but not in breeding plumage.
    All the best Gordon.