Saturday, April 25, 2009

Warblers and a Spring Bird Walk at the Cincinnati Nature Center

This morning I woke up bright and early and joined a bird walk at the Cincinnati Nature Center. Right off the bat, we saw two gorgeous Baltimore Orioles in the tree by the parking lot. Their orange plumage color was spectacular -- a combination of fresh new feathers at the height of their color and the warm 8:00 a.m. sun. What a fabulous photo it would have made. I had decided for this walk I was going to bird like I used to bird, and that was with no camera...just a journal and a pencil. Ack...these orioles alone would have been worth the effort of lugging the big camera around. Also near the parking lot was another nest under construction by Blue-gray Gnatcatchers! Great luck finding a nest Thursday and Saturday.

It was a wonderful trip. I met a lot of nice birders, and our leader, Dave, had a phenomenal ear and was very knowledgeable. We started by hearing a Scarlet Tanager off in the distance. Soon we saw a Chipping Sparrow, a Downy, a Brown Thrasher singing up a storm, many Field Sparrows, a Song Sparrow and all the usual suspects too. Finally, we stumbled across an immature Red-tailed Hawk on the roof of the old cabin. We were so close, but he didn't seem to care. He posed for a long time, eventually swooping down to a Tree Swallow's nest box and perching on top. The Tree Swallows, of course, became quite agitated and began dive bombing the poor thing over and over.  At one point, the mama Tree Swallow hovered right over our group chirping out her troubles, seeming to ask for help in ridding her nest box of That Big Thing on top. Eventually he left, but not before landing in a tree well lit by the morning sun, and once again, striking beautiful poses, which, I know, would have made the best photos ever, and I will probably never again find a Red-tailed Hawk in such a perfect pose with such perfect light, so close that a 70-200mm lens would have been just fine.  ;-)

While watching the gorgeous red-tail, we could hear an Eastern Towhee demanding that we "Drink our teeeeeea!" and so started looking for it. Eventually we found him in a tree claiming his territory. What a gorgeous bird he was. Then not 15 feet from the towhee, Dave heard an Indigo Bunting and we soon found three males singing and foraging in a tree. They were migrating or just beginning to settle in without a claimed territory, otherwise, one would not have tolerated the other two in his space.

Two birders from Michigan dropped in and asked us what we had seen in the way of warblers. We explained we had just started a short while ago, but I mentioned I had briefly caught sight of a Yellow-rumped Warbler in the woods by the front trail. She said, "I've heard a few...I don't bother looking for those..." (demonstrating with her facial muscles it was a junk bird). Whoa.......yikes......I had never heard anyone say anything like that before. I seem to hang with birders that love hearing and looking at all birds (with a few exceptions, and you know which birds those are). "Um...oh....well, I'm an artist and I just like looking at their color and markings," I quietly replied, which is a good example of the different types of birder lovers out there--researchers, artists, writers, photographers, listers, and bird snobs ;-)   

Not 3 minutes after that, we walked on and a Black-Throated Green Warbler started to sing!! (I must admit, it is more exciting to hear and see a bird not quite as abundant as a Yellow-rumped Warbler--especially because it was a Life Bird for me, but I still LOVE my Yellow-rumps and always take the time to look for them when I hear their call.) The Black-throated Green Warbler stayed around for quite a bit foraging in the tree looking very dapper and NEW, and then immediately behind him, a Blue-winged Warbler started singing and eventually dropped very low in a tree not 10 feet from me just under eye level. Wow! What a cutie....and so close....so close he was blurred in my binocs and I had to watch him with my own two eyes!

We crossed the street and a lovely Rose-breasted Grosbeak let us know he was there with his beautiful song and we soon found his rosy patch lit by the sun high in the tree. As we watched him, a Great-crested Flycatcher flew by and started singing. High in the sky, a Red-shouldered Hawk was looking for something to eat. Further up the road, Dave heard a Nashville Warbler, and we had to do a bit of searching to find him, tramping through a mucky, wet, sinking, mudflat (which was kind of fun to squish through). This bird really melted my heart. His little white eye ring and soft coloring were beautiful. After watching him for a while, he finally decided eats were better in a tree not within our viewing range, so we headed back to the road. When we came into a clearing, I looked up and saw another across the road. We were probably about 20 feet....close enough to see him with the naked eye, but far enough to see him really well with the binocs. That was a great surprise, and maybe added to my affection for my NEW Life Bird. Dave said the Nashville Warbler probably arrived early this morning and should be a daily bird for the next couple of weeks in our area.

We crossed the street to reach the great field, and Field Sparrows again were everywhere. I caught sight of one with a bill stuffed full of nesting material. It's really hard to beat the sweetness of a pink bill tightly clamped down on grass strands and a tiny twig. Dave soon heard the call of a Prairie Warbler that was very vocal, but pretty far off. He decided to whip out the iPod and use Bird Jam to lure him in. After a few calls, the warbler decided to come over and investigate and he landed right above us. Yes.......another warbler within feet of me and my non-existent camera lens, but that's okay. I actually wrote about my birds today, which is what I always used to do before I started blogging. I wish I had had time for sketching, but I didn't even try because the group was on the move in between sightings (and I kind of prefer sketching alone), but I have their visions in my mind, and will probably paint a few over the next couple of days. I like both ways of birding...photo journaling and regular journaling (comparing the two sounds like a good blog entry for a rainy day).

As we were heading for home, Dave caught sight of a Hermit Thrush probably getting ready to head north. Hermit Thrushes can be found in our area all winter and head out when the Wood Thrushes show up for the spring and summer. Soon we were back at the visitor's center (and I was getting very hungry). If you count all the "regular" birds, such as the Downies, Cardinals, Goldfinches, etc., our total came to 33, which isn't bad for a couple hours of birding on a Saturday morning. 

...I almost forgot! For the past three mornings, I have heard a White-throated Sparrow singing in my yard. Finally! I don't think this is a bird from our winter flock that went AWOL, but maybe he is. I assume he's a new guy migrating through. Either way works for me as long as I can hear his sweet spring call. I'll try to stick to photos in the future so you don't have to read so much the next time!!

20 comments:

Kallen305 said...

Kelley, now that is some bird trip. I can't get over all of teh birds that you saw. That warbler would have been a lifer for me too! You did excellent! The RT Haw and the Tree Sparrows must have beens some sight!

E said...

Very interesting, Kelly, great trip, thanks for sharing. Hugs.

Roy said...

Cameraless, It pays to do that occasionally Kelly and just walk with the binoculars. I think that you actually pay more attention to some birds that you probably wouldn't give a second look to normally. You also tend to look for more and may end up seeing more as a result. If hat makes sense.
Did you do any of your great field sketches?

Abe Lincoln said...

This has been an odd year so far for me. I read in blogs, like your blog, about Baltimore Orioles and Eastern Towhees but for some reason they must have skipped my place this year. Or at least I have missed them. And the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks...where are they? Your bird trip, Kelley, sounds perfect to me. I wish I could walk like that without stopping to huff and puff.

Laure Ferlita said...

Sounds like a marvelous two hours to me! And Dave sounds like a national treasure with his ear for bird song. Very nice outing and I agree with Roy, sometimes to walk without the camera really strengthens your observation skills.

How about trying some memory sketches? Go into your mind's eye and draw what you see. It takes practice but can be very rewarding in situations like you were in on Saturday. Looking forward to whatever you do!

Roy said...

I didn't take any pictures yesterday during the Earth Day group walk in Ballard Park, either. But I was hearing lots - White-throateds, lots of Cardinals and Bluejays, a couple of Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Titmice, and a Flicker who got really noisy at one point. Today I'm going back with the intent of taking pictures!

Of course, I did manage to pop down to Gooseneck Cove afterward to find that awesome Snowy Egret. Heh, heh!

Ginnymo said...

Wow! You sure saw a lot of different birds!! Seeing that Red-Tailed must have been awesome! I haven't seen any Red-Breasted Grosbeaks yet. But I have spotted a couple in the past. I enjoy hearing about your walks.

Mary said...

You describe your walk so well, we don't need to see photos! The swallow/hawk story alone is worth reading this. However, I know it must have been killing you to not record some of those things! Every time I don't take a camera, I end up kicking myself. I'm such a visual person, I want to SEE and then see again.

Kelly said...

Thanks, Kallen!

Enita...thank you...hugs to you too!

Roy...You're right. I do pay more attention because I'm trying to take a mental picture and soak it all in....plus, I write in my journal and capture my thoughts (which I usually forget within seconds it seems!). Your logic makes total sense. We were moving to fast for sketches, but I have them in my mind and want to try a few sketch/watercolors.

Abe...yes, for a an odd year also, as my White-throated Sparrows headed out by March this year. Hearing them over the past three days has been wonderful....also....we have had no Towhees at our house either. (I huffed and puffed a little--If I had had the camera with me, yikes!)

Laure...I'm going to try.....I focused a lot on the birds "feel" and how he moved in the trees. I took written notes and am going to try to do a few sketches from memory. We'll have to see. I'll post whether they are "good" or not!!!

Roy....and you Snow Egret photos were great!

Ginny...thanks....I hope to see more. I keep listening to bird call CDs. Hearing the song and recognizing it definitely makes it easy to find the bird.

Mary...thank you very much... Yes, your phrase "end of kicking myself" made me laugh. Exactly how I felt, but then I said, it's okay....it's in my mind, and that's good too!

Montanagirl said...

Wow, that was quite a trip! You saw such a variety of birds. Isn't it fun?

Uncommon Depth said...

Sounds like a fantastic time. I'm not a good birder - have trouble identifying a lot of the birds by song, but I'm working on getting better. About the camera.....I think sometimes we have to put the camera down to get a fresh perspective and really see the big picture!

Warren Baker said...

Nice trip kelly! 33 species well done, and a lifer too!

RuthieJ said...

Oh Kelly, what a great birding trip you had! I hope having Dave with his good ears encouraged you to work on your bird song ID too. You'll be quite amazed at how many more birds you can find on your own if you know their different calls.

Shellmo said...

Well I like the yellow rumps and I'm from Michigan - :-)! I would've love to have accompanied you on this field trip - sounds great! And I bet that tree swallow was asking for help - I do believe birds can sense kindness....
(Loons have been known to seek help for their baby chicks when they're in trouble.)

Larry said...

I think you made up for the missing photos by painting a nice description of the days accounts.It sounds like you are ahead of us in terms of what birds you are seeing.The camera is one thing I don't need to worry about right now.I have one of those small ones with the built in zoom. They aren't as good as a real camera but they are light enough to carry around on a case that hooks to my belt.I think most birders may tired of seeing certain birds but if someone is telling me about a particular bird I don't think I would have that response. Isn't that the way that all those photo opportunites come up when you don't have your camera-

troutbirder said...

Pretty impressive outing I would say. Way to go!!!

Kelly said...

Montanagirl...yes...it's the first "Bird Walk" i've ever taken with a group. It's the way to do it, because with all the eyes and ears looking and hearing at the same time, you see more.

Uncommon....you are right. I realized how much I missed writing about my birds. For years, I wrote in my field journal. I need to do that more. I'm still learning their calls too....I listen to CDs all the time (to the thrill of my hubby! Although, he now can recognize a hummer's call.)

Thanks, Warren...I actually ended up with 2 lifers...yahoo!

Ruthie...yes...Dave's birding by ear, really brought home the importance of learning the calls. I've been working hard on them for the past 4 years. It seems my brain cells have aged prematurely and have decided to take their time locking in the memory of the calls. I'll get there, though!!

Shelley....I knew you would love the Yellow rumps...you appreciate the beauty in each bird. I'm sure the mama was asking us for help....interesting about the loons (I didn't know that).

Larry...thank you. Dave, the guide, indicated that he felt a few of the warblers had arrived early this morning. They were completely new to the nature center. It's going to start to get exciting! I'm going to go out without my camera every now and then and continue to write about the trip (like the good old days with me!) :-)

Troutbirder...thank you very much! I hope to find another bird walk soon...

The Early Birder said...

Hi Kelly, I tend to agree with Roy that birding thro the bins (without a camera) allows you to appreciate the subject rather than trying to get that 'great' photo & probably missing the activity of the birds. Great post by words only & thanks for sharing your experiences.

Kelly said...

Frank....so right. When I don't have the camera with me. I slow down and study and soak in the experience. This is a good study and I should write about it.

Heather said...

The migrants must all be hitting southern Ohio at the same time, Kelly - your walk sounds very similar to some birding I did in my own woods this weekend, but minus a lot of the warblers. The comment about the fellow who raised his nose at the "junk bird" was interesting... I look for each and every bird I hear, even if it is "just" a robin or cardinal! Oh well, to each his own. I really enjoyed your narrative, and I know it would have been awesome to get photos of all those fantastic birds, but it's really okay that you didn't. I've gone on bird walks the past couple of springs during International Migratory Bird Weekend (comin' right up!), and tried taking both my camera and bins, and it just wasn't worth it taking the camera. I was trying to absorb so much other information with my eyes and ears that the camera was worthless to me.