Looking for Birds But Not Warblers

It’s late March in central Ohio and the last few days we’ve occupied ourselves looking for whatever birds we could find. Rather than travelling far afield, we’ve enjoyed staying close to home and discovering all that we can along the Scioto River and Griggs and O’Shaughnessy Reservoirs. The early spring warblers haven’t yet started moving through in any appreciable numbers so what are we seeing?

A few days ago while patrolling the Griggs Park for Loons we came across a immature Bald Eagle being harassed by crows. Unfortunately, by the time the camera was ready for action, the eagle decided it had had enough of the crows and was flying off.

click on images for a better view

 

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Immature Bald Eagle, Griggs Park

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Immature Bald Eagle saying goodbye to the crows, Griggs Park

 

Not long after that we saw our first Great Egret of the year.

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Great Egret, Griggs Reservoir

Double-crested Cormorants have also just arrived.

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Double-crested Cormorants conversing, Griggs Reservoir

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A short conversation, Double-crested Cormorants, Griggs Reservoir

While I was busy taking pictures of birds that were either too far away or moving too fast for a really great picture, my wife got lovely pictures of a Downey Woodpecker and a Great Blue Heron.

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Downy Woodpecker, Griggs Park (Donna)

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Great Blue Heron, Griggs Park, (Donna)

 

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Gulls enjoying the warm sun on a cool spring day, Griggs Reservoir

Today, driving north along O’Shaughnessy Reservoir, we were fortunate to see Canvasbacks and there were even some other “bonus ducks” in the mix. However, the birds being pretty far from shore resulted in images that are not of the highest quality.

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Hooded Mergansers making a getaway, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Hooded Mergansers take flight, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Canvasbacks, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Ring-necked Ducks, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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American Coots, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Greater Scaups, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Canvasbacks, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

Finally, the latest addition to my birding equipment is the “Bird Bike”. It allows more ground to be covered but when something of interest is spotted it’s easy to stop and hop off.

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Bird Bike

Would The Last One Out Please . . .

Yesterday we set off on another training walk for our upcoming hiking trip. Since it was going to be a long walk we decided to travel light and take only a few snacks, small 8×25 binoculars, and our Canon SX260 cameras. This decision was also prompted by the fact that on recent walks we hadn’t seen as many waterfowl in the reservoir/river and the spring wildflowers were just starting to stir.

But with this kind of a lead in you probably suspect that we must have seen something special and you would be right.  As we walked along the Scioto below Griggs Dam, other than a few Mallard Ducks there were only two other birds of interest visible on the river. The larger one, without the help of binoculars, appeared to be a Common Merganser. A bird that we’ve seen quite often this winter. But a closer look through the bino’s revealed it to be a Red-breasted Merganser. A bird that we’ve seen less often and seldom at this close distance. Tagging along behind was a female (confused?) Bufflehead. Given that in recent days the majority of the ducks had moved on and for one of the last that we might see this year to be such a beautiful and illusive bird, left us feeling ecstatic. We spent some time looking and savoring the moment.

The lesson in this story may very well be, Always make sure you have to right equipment. Evident from the pictures below, wonderful little camera that it is, the Canon SX260 is not the best bird camera.

click on image for a better look

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Female Bufflehead and male Red-breasted Merganser, Scioto River below Griggs Dam, Canon sx260, crop to apprx, 30% of image

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Male Red-breasted Merganser, Scioto River below Griggs Dam, Canon sx260, crop to 15% of image.

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Thanks for stopping by.

White-winged Scoters on Griggs Reservoir

It’s always exciting when something unexpected is discovered. Since Griggs Reservoir and the park that runs along a portion of it’s eastern shore are located within the city limits of Columbus, our expectations are not always real high when it comes to seeing unusual wildlife. Such was the case during yesterday’s walk along the reservoir.

It was a cold, windy, but sunny day and the even though the temperature was below freezing the ice was mostly off the reservoir due to recent warm weather and heavy rains. The first thing we noticed was the unusually high number of Ring-billed Gulls. Some were in large groups and others scattered about. Some were in the water and other were relaxing on the numerous ice rafts still floating in the reservoir.

It soon became obviouse what was attracting the gulls. Numerous dead, but remarkable “fresh” looking, shad were on the ice, in the water, and along the shore. Recent high water and turbidity, rapid rain induced temperature fluctuations, and lack of oxygen due to the winter’s heavy ice cover may have all led to their demise.

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Ring-billed Gull with shad, Griggs Reservoir

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Ring-billed Gull, Griggs Reservoir

With the reservoir mostly free of ice waterfowl had dispersed from open water areas in the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers. We saw Goldeneyes, Hooded Mergansers, and Ringed Necks. Unfortunately they were all swimming along the opposite shore so no National Geographic quality photos were possible and those taken fell into the category of data acquisition.

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Common Goldeneye, Griggs Reservoir

But the highlight of our day was the unexpected sighting of six White-winged Scoters.

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White-winged Scoters, Griggs Reservoir

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Thanks for stopping by.

The Swan was Mute

Yesterday, after returning from a short trip to Florida, we decided to recondition ourselves to the winter weather by taking a walk along Griggs Reservoir.

Because it was slightly above freezing, the 8-10 inches of snow still on the ground was very wet so we decided to walk the plowed road running through the park rather than our usual route.  The reservoir was still iced over which may be a record for recent years. Last year, ice covered the reservoir for at most 7 days compared to this years thirty plus.

Walking along the reservoir, robins and woodpeckers greeted us with song sparrows singing like it was a sunny spring day.

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Red-bellied Woodpecker in front yard.

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Downy Woodpecker along Griggs Reservoir, Donna

Scanning the reservoir we noticed what appeared to be a strangely shaped clump of snow. The binoculars revealed the clump to be a Mute Swan. It appeared to be relaxing on the ice in the middle of the reservoir. A rather odd sight.

Mute Swan on Griggs Reservoir

Mute Swan on Griggs Reservoir

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Mute Swan

Why it choose that location to relax is anybody’s guess. In the winter we’ve seen swans in the river below the dam but never on the ice in the middle of the reservoir. One thing is for sure, it didn’t have to worry about predators sneaking up on it. About an hour passed and it was till there went we left the park amazed by what we’d seen.

Winter and an Unlikely Bird

 

Yesterday we decided to check out the area below Griggs Dam for eagles or whatever else might show itself. We drove to the park rather than walked as we wanted to use our “bird cameras” which are a bit of a chore to carry six miles.  No sooner had we parked the car it started to snow. Not just snow but wind. It swirled around the car as we got our equipment ready. Better try to tuck this 500 mm lens under my coat as I don’t think Canon said anything about it being snow/water proof!

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts our explorations often involve picking up and removing trash from the areas we visit. Trash and dumping seems to be the plight of parks especially in the city. On this day our efforts involved lassoing and dragging a large Sony Trinitron TV up a hill and out of the woods. The park guys are great about doing the rest if the item is left adjacent to a trash container. The TV was more work than I expected as it was very heavy. But these efforts are always worthwhile, and this one was no exception. Now when we explore this area, we’ll be greeted by trees, birds, and other wildlife not a Sony Trinitron!

With the unsavory part out of the way we continued our exploration of the area along the river in, colder than the thermometer indicated, blowing snow. The light didn’t inspire pictures but my wife managed to get some interesting shots of ice formations and designs in the wood of decaying trees and I some nice shots of a Tufted Titmouse. . Beautiful landscapes were not the order of the day.

Tufted Titmouse fluffed up against the cold.

Tufted Titmouse fluffed up against the cold.

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

Ice Sculpture, Donna

Ice Sculpture, Donna

Designs in Wood, Donna

“Here’s Looking at You” designs in Wood, Donna

Ice along the river, Donna

Ice along the river, Donna

Today the reservoir was again frozen over so a return visit was in order to finish cleaning up glass from the TV and to see if we could spot any interesting waterfowl or, maybe just maybe, an eagle! But exploring nature, even in the city, is always full of surprises. No eagles were seen and the waterfowl were just starting to regroup in the river. However, we did see six Red-tailed Hawks circling over head. We’re they getting ready to mate? We also continued to see Golden-crowned Kinglets, but the real surprise was a Hermit Thrush, a bird we never would have expected to see here in the winter. Pretty exciting!

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Red-tailed Hawks soar overhead, two of about six.

Hermit Thrush along the Scioto in January

Hermit Thrush along the Scioto

Hooded Mergansers returned to the river after the reservoir iced over.

Hooded Mergansers returned to the river after the reservoir iced over.

Lichen and Devonian Fossils, fossils in upper left hand corner.

Lichen and Devonian Fossils on rock face, fossils on the left.

Scioto River Landscape

Scioto River Landscape

A gathering of waterfowl on the Scioto

A gathering of waterfowl on the Scioto

A Carolina Wren greeted us as we arrived home.

A Carolina Wren greeted us as we arrived home.

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Thanks for stopping by.

After Christmas Kinglets and Smallmouth Bass

It was the morning of the day after Christmas and seemed like a good time to go for a long walk as a way of atoning for the sins of the last few days. Being a rather windy blustery day we didn’t anticipate seeing many birds so we decided to keep the equipment light.

Equipment

Equipment taken when we don’t think we’re going to see anything

We walked for some distance along the Griggs Reservoir and, not seeing many birds, were kept busy picking up bottles and cans deposited along the shore by high water caused from recent heavy rains. Continuing to an area along the river below the dam, debris was clinging to trees indicating that the water level had been much higher during the previous two days. The water was still running high, swift and muddy.

We noticed a solitary fisherman, and given the time of year and conditions, couldn’t help but think he was wasting his time. But to our surprise, he motioned us over, and low and behold, he’d caught a nice small mouth bass. It’s appearance was ghost like compared to the summer but it was a small mouth and we were amazed. It was released it soon after the picture.

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Scioto River Small Mouth during the summer

TJ with SM Bass

TJ’s December Scioto River Small Mouth

The small mouth seemed to be an omen of things to come because not long after we took the picture of TJ with his bass, a flock of about 30 Blue Birds flew overhead and we then started seeing Downy Woodpeckers, some Golden-crowned Kinglets and even a White-throated Sparrow hiding in the brush near the river.

White-throated Sparrow Hiding

White-throated Sparrow hiding at rivers edge

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet, Donna

The walk definitely exceeded expectations and I’m now thinking there may be room for another piece of pie.

A Winter Bird

It’s mid November and the winter birds, migrants from further north, are taking up residence in Columbus. One of our favorite places to look for them is along Griggs Reservoir. As mentioned in previous posts, it’s a six mile hike  (round trip) from our house so we get a little exercise and also get to look for any creatures that might feel like showing themselves.

Along the reservoir we couldn’t help but notice the leaf bare Sycamores with their white bark highlighted against the blue sky.

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Sycamore

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Looking back at the same tree from the opposite direction. What a difference light makes.

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As we continue on along the reservoir there are the usual suspects, Great Blue Herons and Mallard Ducks.

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Great Blue Heron, Donna

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Great Blue Heron in flight, Donna

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Mallards

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When it didn’t look as though we would be rewarded with anything special in the way of birds, we spent some time looking for fossils. The fossils we see in the shoreline rocks are from the Devonian Period about 350 million years ago.

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Assorted fossils

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Fossil 2

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Fossil 3, Donna

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Fossils, 4

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We continued on, looking for a Chickadee or Titmouse which might be part of a flock that could contain something less common. Seeing a few birds in the tree tops, I get excited and train my binoculars on them. They turned out to be Gold Finches. Meanwhile my wife is enthusiastically whispering about something and I assume she must be looking at the same birds. Looking away from my binoculars I realize she is excited about something flitting around in the nearby shoreline brush.

Forgetting about the treetop birds, I join her as we both peer intently into the brush and are rewarded with great views of Golden Crown Kinglets, a winter resident in our area. How a bird, that essentially weighs the same as a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, can get two adults so excited is hard to explain, but the little guys sure made our day.

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Golden Crown Kinglet

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Golden Crown Kinglet 2

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Golden Crown Kinglet 3

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Golden Crown Kinglet 4, Donna

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Thanks for stopping by.

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