Monday, March 15, 2010

Hawks at work

Today our Red-shouldered hawks are calling and continuing to build their nest. It seem that an old squirrel drey caught their eye and they have been carrying branches and sticks to it all day. I am hoping that they stay so we can continue to watch them.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Going Gold

This morning the nyger feeder is bustlinr with activity. With only 6 posts, each is filled with and eager American Goldfinch, and a half dozen more wait in the wings for an opening to appear. They are louder than they have been in the last few weeks and there at least three times more of them. Other than there being more than last week I notice that they are beginning to get gold-er, not quite the bright and flashy colors yet, but more and more yellow-ish.

They are adamant that no one else get a chance at the feeder. They have fended off the six House Finches that bully the feeding station. The Downy Woopeckers are steering clear of the feeding frenzy. Even our bold little Black-capped Chickadees are minding their own business.

Their twittering songs fill the backyard today and we are enjoying the show. Soon black and yellow will dominate the feeders.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spring is really coming......finally

   Well it's been a tough winter here in Ohio. It was long and cold and there was more snow than I can remember in a long time. The last few days have been mild though. Warm breezes and sunshine bring that smell of pre-spring that comes before the really pretty smells of spring. It's that wet smell; the smell of earth and leaves that have been covered in snow and ice for too long. It's the beginning. The first Red-winged Blackbirds were at the feeder today. A welcome sight.

     The snowdrops are blooming, their delicate white heads looking to the ground as the sun warms their backs. The branches of the trees are swelling making it more difficult to see through the bare woods. The call of a killdeer as it flies by brings a smile to my face. As I look up to try to find it, I catch a glimpse of the large dark shape of my first Turkey Vulture of the spring.

     The warmer nights bring out the spring peepers. Their hollow calls echo in the wet woods behind the house tonight. The rain softly pads the ground and loosens up the last of the snow and ice. It smells fresh tonight; no wonder those peepers can't sleep either. It's a great feeling knowing that the worst of winter is behind us. Even though more snow may come, and surely there will be cold, it can't last. It won't hold it's grip, spring will prevail, and it will bring with it all of the amazing wonders that spring has to offer. I treasure these days when I notice these things for the first time. They free my soul.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


So here it is, already Feb. 17th, 2010. My life is kind of a shadow of what it was in the past few years, but that doesn't bother me much. What bothers me is that I sometimes feel like I don't possess a great will to finish things or do things the right way, right as everyone else sees them anyway. I've spent the last few months trying to figure out what to do next, what is my next step; what the hell do I do now? The only thing that brings me any real joy anymore is being outside, findings birds and critters and watching them. I don’t even photograph things as much as I used to....but I still do love it. So how do I parlay that into a career or a living to get by on? My brain is all a mush with all of it so I keep putting it off.....and then it dawned on me that I missed it: The New Years Resolution! The most important thing to do every year. Make promises to yourself and try like hell to stick with them!

So here it is....or here they are:

1. Above all else, do what makes me happy, regardless of the odds

2. 350 on my life list would be nice, I'll settle for 250-260 Ohio

3. I want to be in the best shape of my life by my next birthday

4. Make time for the important people in my life whenever possible and do what I can for them

5. Get involved-I'm not 100% sure what this means yet, but I still feel that I need to champion a cause to get back on track in life

6. Be green-er

Ok so I will stop at 6, but add only that I intend to write a lot more often. Be it a trip report, a ramble, a whine or whatever, I want to put it all out there and see what comes of's a new day...

Thursday, February 11, 2010


February is that month where you just kind of dig in, hibernate and try to get things done inside, while dreaming of being outside. The snow drifts and piles up, the wild howls and the only time I seem to go outside is when it is a necessity. But even though February is the short month and the time should fly by, it doesn’t; it drags and I feel like I need to get outside even if it is for just short time or a nice drive to awaken the senses from that winters respite. Even though it seems bleak and desolate at first glance, a longer look reveals the beauty and the evidence that though it is cold and snowy, life goes on.

That perfect white blanket of snow is completely devoid of human presence. The sun glistens on the ice crystals in the early morning light. The frost hangs heavy on branches and limbs and adds a glow of amazement to the landscape. Ice covers the streams, ponds and lakes concealing what swims beneath from what walks above. I love those winter mornings when the sky is bright blue and the clouds are fluffy white. Those are the days I need to go outside to warm my spirits in February, because it is on those days that the world around me shows me the clues that even though it is winter, spring cannot be that far away. Footprints in the snow show me where the squirrels, rabbits and deer have been. The tracks of birds feet in the snow are delicate and small. A perfect set of wings imprinted on the snow show us where an attack from above may have taken place the night before. The evidence is all around goes on around us.

Sometimes these drives and outings in the winter turn up amazing things. I was recently at one of my favorite places enjoying the winter scene in a completely peaceful setting. The water here is from an underground spring and it never freezes. Bald eagles are always about as are juncos, cardinals, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers. The ever-present belted kingfisher scolds when it is chased from its perch. Bluebirds, robins, titmice, yellow rump warblers and nuthatches make an appearance as well. This day however I noticed from the car some whitish-yellow drippings on bare branches next to a small evergreen. I knew before I even saw the suspect and my heart skipped a beat. The evidence was right in front of me and it had led me to the first Northern Saw-Whet Owl I had ever found.

Roosting in the densest part of the pine, its yellow eyes stared down at me as I approached and took a few photos. It didn’t move or make a sound; it simply stared at me from five feet away and I respected its privacy after a few moments. These creatures of the night never cease to amaze me. It was a great day to get outside.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Century

January comes on the heels of the busy holidays and brings with it the promise of a new year; a fresh start. It also brings a challenge. The January 100 - the Century - 100 different species of birds in 31 days. And those 31 days can be some of the coldest and most brutal on the north coast of Lake Erie. This year I roped my mom into being my birding partner in crime. We spent most of the month driving around to different parks, wildlife areas and nature preserves following web posts and rare bird tips in search of our 100.
It all began on January 2 and ended on January 26.
Our first bird was of course a European Starling and they were seen everyday in large numbers. American Robins were also a star this month. Large flocks seemed to materialize and the disappear in minutes as they fed. Eastern Bluebirds were also a welcome find at multiple locations every other day or so. Red-tailed Hawks, always along the highways, were in smaller numbers than we both remembered, but not a day went by without at least a few. The Bald Eagles of the western counties were seen and enjoyed periodically as well.
Although all of these birds are great to see, especially in January in Ohio, not much compares to the owls. We managed to find four species in this cold month. A pair of Great Horned Owls were spotted at Maumee Bay State Park. Two Long-eared Owls were observed in a cedar tree in Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area. Five Short-eared Owls put on a show over the Big Island Area at dusk. And a Barred Owl was found in Blacklick Woods Metropark sitting, plain as day, in a large Beech tree. Not all of our findings were perfect. We found a Northern Saw Whet Owl, an Eastern Screech and a Great Horned Owl along Route 2, all the victims of car collisions. Though sad, we were able to really get a good look at each one before reporting them to the Black Swamp Bird Observatory.

Our final two birds were found at Killdeer Wildlife Area on the 26th of January.
A Northern Shrike was sitting atop a small shrub along route 115. We both had great looks and enjoyed my 100th bird with smiles. Not 30 seconds later a beautiful Rough-legged Hawk soared over the field ahead of us and hovered for a while affording us the opportunity to really study this beautiful raptor. That was it, one hundred birds in the cold month of January in Ohio. We did it. Of course now we are both excited to see just how many birds we can find in 2010….only time will tell.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

On the move

Maybe I am just lazy. Maybe I am impatient. Maybe I have an attention disorder. Maybe all of the above. I call this blog Drive-By Birding because that is what I do. I can spend an entire day driving around without being out of the vehicle for more than a few minutes at a time. And honestly, it usually takes something pretty special to make me stop and get out. Of course I have my favorite areas that I drive to with the intention of getting out to walk: the Magee Boardwalk, Sheldon, O'neill Woods, and Headlands Beach to name a few. But for the most part I like to keep moving, see what is in the area, photograph what I can and move on. If it wasn't for the GPS I would get lost a whole lot. I know most of the birding community like the Delorme Atlas as a way of finding their way, but I prefer the ease of pushing a few buttons and off I go, and unlike a human copilot, the little voice, "my little woman", that directs me is very rarely wrong. Occasionally she gets confused and has to "recalculate" and sometimes I just hit mute and disobey any direct orders and proceed on my way depending on what roads look like and what I see ahead of me.

The other day I decided to just drive. Not really a birding adventure, more of a need to listen to really loud music, break a few speed limits and feel, for the moment, like the white lines on the highway could lead me to a better frame of mind. This usually works for me, a few hours of rebellious escape, a case of Diet Coke, a few packs of smokes and a handful of snacks equal piece of mind. Well six hours later I was pretty far south and for the first time in a long time, I had no idea where I was. I had exited the highway somewhere south of Columbus and just kept driving westward when I noticed a flooded field full of ducks. It was late in the day and there were a lot of ducks, mallards, pintails, shovelers, ring-necks, gadwall, wigeon and course Canada geese. I parked off the road, got out and walked over to a small patch of phragmites near a power pole to partially conceal myself and set up the scope to get a better look at the gathering in the field. At the precise moment I focused on the first group of pintails every single bird in that field took to the air. I watched them all take flight in a wave across the field until the amber sky was full of ducks going in every direction, each making their own panicked sounds. That was when I looked back at the field and noticed seven rather good sized animals loping across the field where the ducks had been moments earlier. The wooded lot behind them must have been their cover but unfortunately I had missed the initial attack sequence.

Their tawny and gray fur glistened in the setting sunlight and their half open mouths gave way to sharp, shiny teeth. They were coyotes. I have seen them before in my travels. Pretty much always from the car while doing a drive-by. This was the first time I was out in the open with them. They knew I was there and I was instantly aware that the distance between me and them was a little closer than the distance between me and the car. They stood their ground for a moment. The lead canine looking directly at me while the others sniffed around and watched the cyclone of ducks and geese overhead. I suppose I should have been frightened. I guess I should have felt threatened. Of course all I could do was stare at them, at 20 yards away, in a state of awe and wonder. They looked soft but strong at the same time. They looked beautiful. And they looked big, especially this leader. I considered for a second trying to get my camera out of my pack but didn't really want to look away or make too much movement. The leader of the pack kept looking right at me as if waiting for me to make a move. I was remembering watching an Animal Planet show about animal attacks and what to do if presented with the unique opportunity of being approached by wild carnivores. Now what was I supposed to do? I couldn't really remember and kind of laughed at myself. My thought was to just wait it out and see what they did.

Three of them started to wander off back toward the wooded area behind them while two others began sniffing and moving in my direction. The leader and another just watched. Some of the ducks and geese were beginning to land in the far end of the field apparently satisfied that I was distracting their hunters. The two coyotes that were moving closer to me had cut the distance in half when the largest member began a slow walk towards me with his companion in tow. The next few seconds happened so fast I almost couldn't comprehend it. A flush of feathers and sharp, fast calls filled the thirty feet between me and the hunters. A half dozen Wilson's Snipe had been flushed from the soggy field between us where they apparently had the same 'wait it out' idea I had. The coyotes were distracted. Two of them leaped into the air trying to snatch the snipe in flight while the leader and the other ran and stopped short watching the birds swirl around. A part of me wanted to watch, but the larger part of me said it was time to move. I began to back away and then turned and moved quickly (okay, I ran like hell!) to the van. As soon as I got in I felt much better and scrambled to get my camera. The daylight was fading fast but maybe I could get a few quick shots of these awesome predators. By the time I was ready to go only the large leader and the smaller wingman were still there. They were standing right next to my scope but as I rolled down the window they began to move.

Content with my escape and safely in the vehicle I started the engine and watched as the remaining coyotes as they trotted into the field. Their retreat flushed a few more snipe and the ducks that had settled nervously farther afield. I pulled forward and got out to retrieve the scope while still watching the animals. The leader still watched me intently. With some silent sign, in unison all four of the coyotes lunged into the field back towards the woods. With a sigh, partially of relief and partially of regret, I packed up. I sat at the side of the road for a few minutes reliving what I had just witnessed. With a grin I thought that maybe drive-by birding really is the way to go. I pushed the Home button on the GPS and my little woman began directing me on my way.