Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ohio's best grassland birding-

May has swooshed by in one amazing fog!  Your blogger has traipsed all across this state and into another!  I admit, these blog posts got a bit behind as I was just running too hard and having too much fun to sit down to write.
Greg Miller birding with Ronnie and Sharron from Nova Scotia
My friends and I traveled from  Shawnee State Park (Flora-Quest) and Forest, to Maumee Bay (Biggest Week in American Birding), to Mohican State Forest, Byers Woods, Hocking Hills, and Cranberry Glade, WV.
Sharron and Ronnie- doing what birders do.
 We found nice, quiet spots off the beaten path, where we enjoyed both birds and botany throughout Ohio.

The Greater Mohican Audubon Society spotted Cerulean Warblers from the Mohican Covered Bridge.
Some of these travels were "pay back birding."   Ronnie was my birding host when I visited Nova Scotia in search of Atlantic Puffins last year.  In return, I promised to help him find Cerulean Warblers.  This photo was from the day we saw at least four Ceruleans singing their hearts out along the Clear-Fork River in Mohican.  Debt paid in FULL!

Sharron Marlor, Luisa Martinez and Ronnie D'entremont at Byers Woods, a landfill- turned bird sanctuary.
Of all our jaunts, Ronnie spent the most time working his photographic charms at Byers Woods.  He was amazed at the numbers of Bobolinks we found there.  In addition to numbers, the shear proximity to these grassland birds is a bit mind boggling.  You don't even need binoculars for the most part.

Bobolink with landfill vent in the background, photo by Ronnie D'entremont
This stunning in-flight photo of a Bobolink was taken by Ronnie.  We counted over forty Bobolinks in flight- calling across the grassland looking for love.  Most Bobolinks land in all the WRONG places- farm acreage that will be mowed or harvested before the young are able to fledge from the nests built on the ground.

Bobolink in grassland repose, photo by Cheryl Harner
By now the Bobs have found their mates, built nests on the ground and may well be incubating their eggs.  It could be tough to see much activity during this quiet period.

Welcoming sign at Byers Woods
We know this timing well, because the Greater Mohican Audubon Society hosts a festival to celebrate the Bobolinks at Byers Woods each year. Join us on June 22nd and you'll be likely to see some active Bobolinks feeding young in their nests.

Join us for a fun free event. You'll see more Bobolinks than you can shake a stick at!  We have come a long way with 6 years of conservation.  Go to the GMAS website for more details.  This is your opportunity to go on a walk with Jim McCormac, Lisa Rainsong, or take the beginner's walk with local expert Tim Leslie.  Greg Miller will also be there to help you see a Bobolink in a spotting scope.

Bobolink numbers have been in great decline all across the country.  It is not just Ohio that has seen changes in their numbers.  For more information, the University of Connecticut has a Bobolink Project for the protection of Bobolinks.  

It seems we have been leaders in conservation right here in Ashland County!  Thanks to all of their friends in Greater Mohican Audubon and the Ashland Park District, central Ohio's Bobolinks have a place to call home.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Glade tidings of great news...

 Not a half day's travel from Ohio, but an ice age removed from the rest of West Virginia lies a botanical location that has fed my imagination for numerous years.  Being long overdue for some pleasure travel, this is the place I chose to spend some time.

 The Cranberry Glades Botanical Area in Pocahontas County West, Virginia is well known to birders and botanists alike.

 Sure it has all my wetland favorites, like Skunk Cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus (as in fetid smelling) and the always lovely Marsh Marigolds, Caltha palustris.  Both are common enough in my favorite Ohio woodlots.

 The Glade also offers up a carnivorous vegetable- the Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia purpurea. Woe to the insect who checks into this hotel.  But, this plant too can be found in Ohio, although not in my own county.

These unfurling leaves were something altogether new to me: False Hellebore, Veratrum virde.  It has several other common names (which is why we try to post the Latin bi-nomenclature as well)  like American White Hellebore, Bear-corn, or Duck-retten.  What the heck is a "Duck-retten"?  I know not, but I do know this plant is in the Lily family. Wouldn't it be grand to see it in bloom?

 A bit up the road from the bog, or glade as it is called, there is the very attractive Cranberry Glade Nature Center.  It has many excellent displays inside and some very active bird feeders on the outside.  It is popular with all the visitors to the area, especially birders and reptile-ophiles.

Around back of the building is a nature trail with an excellent display of native flowers.  This Large-flowered Trillium, Trillium grandiflorum in a shade of petal pink was a real show-stopper.

The Painted Trillium, Trillium undulatum blooms a bit later and is found predominately in the glade, but a few scattered samples grow along the nature trail as well. This stunner was an unexpected pleasure, which I have not seen since childhood.  Hello, old friend!

As luck would have it, I stumbled upon a life sedge!  This rarity, Frazier's Sedge (or Lily-leaf Sedge) is not even known from Ohio; it is strictly a southern and central  Appalachian endemic.  The Latin name has bounced around a bit, but an animated conversation on Facebook's Ohio Sedges group has it pegged as Carex fraseriana. Only a fellow Sedge-head might understand what it means to find this unusual plant, and to know intuitively that it was going to be something good.   

This alone made the trip worth while, and we haven't even gotten to the birds!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

More Fun from Biggest Week

So what do eco-tourism guides do on their day off?  Go birding of course!  

We enjoyed the Window on Wildlife at Pearson Park so much, Greg Miller and I decided to return for more photos.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Note the rose colored patch on male Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.  They are surprisingly variable in size and shape.  This one is rather jagged and "lighting" like!

Red-bellied Woodpecker
BEHOLD!  The belly is red!

One of the great mysteries of life: why did they call them "Red-bellied Woodpecker"?
In this rare shot, you can actually see the red on the woodpecker's belly.  Another birding mystery: solved.

Screech Owl
Does anyone else think this Screech Owl closely resembles Oscar-the-Grouch? I took this picture from the  boardwalk behind the Nature Center at Maumee Bay State Park.

Woodchuck, or Whistle-pig?
In Pearson Park, a Woodchuck (A.K.A. Whistle-pig) was feeding on the seed beneath the bird feeders.  It was fun to have a mammal present, besides the usual feeder-crashing squirrels. Although technically, a Woodchuck is the largest member of Ohio's squirrel family.

Eastern Chipmunk
Showing those chippy colors: yipes, stripes! We could safely say Chippies are the smallest of Ohio's squirrels.  Somehow this blog has become the Biggest Week in American Squirrels.  I am prepped to be a guide for that event!

Raccoon taking an afternoon snooze.
All this birding (and squirreling) wore me out.  I was pretty jealous when we found this raccoon taking an afternoon snooze at Maumee Bay.  We can only hope there were no Wood Ducks, past or present, inhabiting that box.  I fear the outcome would not be so good.

It was wonderful to see so many friends and spend time with fellow eco-freaks in northwest Ohio.  For now, I bid you good-bye and plan to get caught up on a little rest myself.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Biggest Week and Beginning Birders

Wednesday morning was bright and beautiful along Lake Erie.  We are visiting with friends and meeting folks at the Biggest Week in American Birding.  Les Payton and I must have pulled the lucky straw, as we were offered one of the best gigs around: the beginning birders' trip.

A "Birds and Blooms" moment with Blue Jay.
Too often we long-time birders forget to enjoy the "common" birds.  It is wonderful to spend time with folks who are happy to look at the real stunners, like a Blue Jay.              

Les Payton (wearing gold guide's hat) and our group of birders.
 We started off at Pearson Park's window on wildlife.  Les gave a little information on binoculars and we started looking at everyday birds: Northern Cardinals, Black-capped Chickadees, and Blue Jays.  We got lucky with some unusual birds: Eastern Phoebes, White-crowned Sparrows and Purple Finches.

A female Purple Finch gives us a modeling session.
 There were a number of  female Purple Finches coming into the feeder and this apple tree.  This was an excellent opportunity to note the white eye-line that most easily sets them apart from the more common House Finch.

A Pheasant Back fungus. 
Next we walked the trails of Pearson Park, which offered a wonderful wildflower display, and we also enjoyed a bird of another sort- a Pheasant Back fungus.

Weedpicker Cheryl drives the BSBO bus.
 We loaded up the troops and headed to Pearson Park's wetland area to get a good look at a few other species.
Female (left) and male Red-winged Blackbirds
Unpredictably, the most difficult bird to get for the group was the female Red-winged Blackbird!  The males were numerous and conspicuous, but the females were quite shy.  Perhaps they were already tending to nesting chores.  We tried (and failed) to get the females in spotting scopes, but finally this pair came out to wave good-bye as we left the marsh.  Go figure.

 Off again to Metzger Marsh, where we studied two egrets, the Great and the Snowy Egret.

Snowy Egret dancing in the marsh.
 Les commented on the feeding differences between Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets.  Snowys hop and dip, chasing about in a frenzied manner.  The Great Egrets hunt with more dignity and reserve.

 This is Les.  No he is not hiding from our group, he was trying to get enough shade on his cell phone screen to file a twitter report on the Snowy Egret.

Thanks to all the great guides, and support staff (Rob Ripma, Kim Kaufman, Delores Cole, and Ryan Steiner) who make these trips possible.  The new and old birders alike are enjoying the Biggest Week in American Birding.  Thanks to Black Swamp Birding Observatory in their efforts to educate and conserve birds.  They are doing incredible work!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Some days you get the bear, and other days- it gets you.

Today, you might say I got the bear. Or at least,

the black bear's cub.

We saw no signs of it's mother, of course we didn't look very hard.  We admired the view, took a few documentary shots* and moved on.

                  Hope you had a great day too!

*All photos were taken from the comfort and safety of my car.