Monday, May 9, 2011

Tired But With Rewards

I'm pretty beat.

Beginning this past Friday, I have been going pretty hard. Sure, work, but play time, too.
Birds, birds, birds, birds and birds.

Friday morning, by 7:45am, I was in northwest Ohio.  As predicted by some (certainly not me), it was an outstanding day for birds!  The trees were drippin'.  While some people are known as a "two-fisted drinkers", I was a "two-fisted birder" - binoculars in one hand and a camera in the other. 

The Black-throated Green Warbler (below) is hands-down one of the most memorable shots in recent months.  While hardly a rare bird in migration, this charming fellow was feeding only feet away. At one point, I watched him snag a midge and start munching.

Prothonotary Warblers are birds from the Deep South.  The Michigan/Ohio line is right on the edge of their range.  I have a few local records, but they are getting much easier to see in Ohio.  Perhaps we will see more of them in Wayne County in the coming years?

One of the oldest tricks in the birder's ID book is to know what you should see during a given time of year. A Red-breasted Nuthatch in Ohio in May was simply not on my radar!

Often, one hopes for some surprises.  While I walked the boardwalk twice, I missed this little fellow on both passes. I suspect you can see why!  About the size of a baseball, this Whip-poor-will was sitting pretty. If you look closely, you can make out the bill and one eye.  A nocturnal hunter, your best bet to finding this cryptic little bug-eater is to find them on a roost.  He was sitting about 12" off the ground. 

On the subject of surprises, the Barn Owl was a complete and total shocker!  While I have seen Barn Owl in Ohio before, the thought of one on the boardwalk at Crane Creek was just silly. But, sure enough, there it sat.  I have no idea who found it. Impressive find, eh?

An often over-looked bird would have to be the Red-winged Blackbird.  Noisy, obvious, and a life-style that would make a soap opera look tame, Redwings just don't get the credit or attention they need.  The bird seen below is a female. 

It is not always about the birds, by the way.  One of the fun aspects of birding in a regional mecca is the opportunity to bump into people you don't see as often as you like. Within minutes of my arrival, I was birding with my good friends Josh and Kara Haas.  Josh, a real honest-to-goodness photographer (unlike me - I'm a hack) has given me tons of pointers over the years.  Needless to say, when three birders/photographers get together, days can be fun!

The Red-winged Blackbird photo above turned out much better that it normally would have based on his simple but advanced thought - change the background.  The sky would have been at the top of the photo. By basically saying "Stand up here!" (on the bench), the angle changed and so did the picture. 

Saturday was a work day.  Busy busy.  But because I had to start early, my day ended early.  By getting off at 3:00pm, I had plenty of time to take a quick drive down the road.  I-75 that is.  I went to a suburb of a little town I suspect you know.  


"Why?"  you ask?  Once upon a time, a little old duck from the Old World (Europe) took a wrong turn and landed in southwest Ohio.  The Garganey is considered one of the rarest ducks in North America simply because it is not supposed to be here!   Once they get here (it has happened in the past), they seem to think they can get along with Blue-winged Teal.  

In the poor pic below, you can see the Garganey (life bird #642) on the right.  It is the one with the pale gray/blue side, brown head, and giant eyebrow stripe.  The left most bird is a male Blue-winged Teal while the right-most bird is a hen teal. She would, on occasion, smack  the crap out of the Garganey. What a horrible way to treat an out-of-town guest!

Knowing I had to be at work again at 7:00am on Sunday, I drove back home. Really.  3 1//2 hours to southern Ohio.  60 minutes to find and view the bird.  A quick bite at Subway.  3 1/2 hours back.  I was home by midnight and sleeping by midnight + one minute.

No, the drive was not bad.  In another post, I'll tell you about my new ride.  At speeds in the order of 75mph, I was still getting 40 miles per gallon!
In the meantime, I will be turning in soon.  Birding can be pretty tiring....

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