Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Birding at Fort Ancient State Memorial in Warren County, Ohio

I think I’ve found a new haunt—Fort Ancient! Located just 15 minutes up I-71 from where we live in Warren County, Fort Ancient is located on a gorgeous wooded plateau perched 245 feet above the Little Miami River. What makes it special? It is the largest prehistoric earthen hilltop enclosure in the United States. Built 2000 years ago by Mound Builders, the earth walls stretch 3.5 miles, enclosing over 100 acres of hilltop. Mound Builders used small baskets to move more than 553,000 cubic yards of soil to form the earthen walls that reach from 4 to 23 feet in height. Amazingly, most of the earthworks are still visible and retain the same form they had over 2000 years ago! Archeologists estimate it took about 400 years (100BC – 290AD) to build the entire complex.

A 2000 year old earthen wall at Fort Ancient State Memorial.
As you drive through the park, you can see earthen walls rimming the plateau. Believed to
be a gathering place and religious ceremonial complex, Fort Ancient has specific ties to the Summer and Winter Solstice.

I love these signs....thank goodness some of the mounds and earthworks in our state have been protected and preserved.

While I was there, I visited the bookstore (of course) at the museum and found two really nice books to help me learn about the Hopewell Culture and the Mound Builders of Ohio:

Ohio Archaeology, by Bradley T. Lepper
This book is fabulous. It chronicles all the earthworks in Ohio. It will be my primary reference as I learn more and more about these prehistoric sites scattered throughout our state. It's loaded with survey maps, photos, the most recent analysis of the purpose of the earthworks, and history. I already caught Matty reading it too. It's very interesting.

The Fort Ancient Earthworks, Prehistoric Lifeways of the Hopewell Culture in Southwestern Ohio, Edited by Robert P. Connolly and Bradley T. Lepper.
This book is specific to Fort Ancient and is a bit more technical. I don't think it was written for lay people because it was based on a symposium sponsored by the Ohio Historical Society, but I'm crazy for it!! It's loaded with survey maps and in-depth articles on all aspects of Fort Ancient.

To top it off, I heard and saw lots of birds and will definitely be back for more birding as well as studying the magnificent earthen walls. I'm sure Fort Ancient will be a jackpot during spring migration. Among the highlights of Sunday's birding was a huge flock of Cedar Waxwings hawking insects above the North Overlook of the South Fort. I've seen large flocks of Cedar Waxwings along the Little Miami River near where we live systematically moving from tree to tree and devouring insects on the wing, but this flock was larger than any I'd ever seen. A constant flurry of activity, the birds were thick in the air as they constantly dove out to nab insects, returning to the towering oaks for just a moment before launching back out for another snack! Tiny flakes of tree debris kept falling all around me as the birds disturbed the upper branches en masse. It almost appeared they were using the twigs for springboards to launch themselves back out into the sky...

18 comments:

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Kel, It looks like you have found a little jewel---not that far from you. That is so neat that they have preserved this wonderful history. How Special...

Can't wait to see some of the birds you will visit in that neat area.

Hugs,
Betsy

Warren Baker said...

sounds like an amazing place Kelly. I bet it feels old and ancient when your there on your own.

Roy said...

I've always been fascinated by the Mound Builder culture. How cool that you live so close to one of the sites.

Kelly said...

Betsy...I think it's a little jewel too. I hope to get back up frequently!

Warren....it does. Just thinking about how old they are--and that they've survived all these years--just mounds of dirt--is amazing.

Roy...I know. Plus, there are other cool sites within driving distance, Serpent Mound being one. I want to get out to visit it as well--that's a day trip, however!

holdingmoments said...

Sounds like a very promising place Kelly.
And what a great name; Fort Ancient.

Roy said...

Hi Kelly, looks like a nice place to visit and should provide you with plenty of photo opportunities.

Warren Baker said...

Kelly,Re
The rooks bill (on My Blog) has a grey look at the top. This is where there are no feathers. Rooks eat carrion,and the featherless parts are easier to keep clean!

Chris said...

Hi Kelly,
wow nice to have such a place not so far from home! Ancient place like this probably also have a long bird history, maybe that's why you observe so many there... Flocks of cedar waxings would be a dream for me definitively... I'm already happy when I see four bohemian here, so imagine if I could see tons of them... I'm eager for next spring now and your future nice pictures of birds from this area

JKoenig said...

How interesting. We have a Mounds State Park here in Indiana, but I have never been there. Maybe it is a stop we should make sometime.

Jenny said...

Your excitement and enthusiasm shines through your words Kelly. I'll look forward to more trips from this place in the future!

Busy Bee Suz said...

It sounds like you will be a 'regular' there! How interesting to learn all of this and you live so close. COOL!

Ken Browne. said...

Hi Kelly.How nice to find somewhere lovely so close to home. I wonder what wildlife it holds for you to photograph?

The Early Birder said...

Looks similar to the many Hill Forts throughout the UK. Another great location, with history, for you to explore. FAB

► Abraham Lincoln said...

My kids are almost all in the 50s now and the last time we were at Fort Ancient, they all rode in the back seat with us. LOL I remember how humid it was.

The chipping sparrows are still here. I saw a parent feeding a youngster today. Several others are here as well. They don't seem anxious to leave yet.

Andrea said...

Sounds perfectly enchanting.

JeniQ said...

I love Fort Ancient it's absolutely beautiful, peaceful and historic.

Kel, if you ever want a walking partner send a word my way.

Elaine said...

How exciting to discover an exciting new spot close to home and to see a large flock of the Cedar Waxwings made it even better. I'll look forward to seeing some photos from there.

Hilke Breder said...

Kelly, I love your blog. You always have something interesting to report and your photos are fabulous.