Sunday, February 16, 2014

Twice in One Week?

On Friday, the 7th, I packed up and drove to Ohio with my friends, Beth and Chad. My target: Northern birds. Yes, we are planning a trip to the Sax-Zim Bog for this upcoming weekend (the 22nd), but I wanted to knock out as many northern wintering birds as possible before the trip, since we are driving it and won't have mountains of time to chase birds.

First stop- Deer Creek State Park in Mt. Sterling to see a reported Long-tailed Duck. I already had this bird for my list, but Beth and Chad didn't, so I wanted to swing in and nab it for them.

Next, we would head northeast over to Woodbury Wildlife Area in Coshocton. Last year, this was a super reliable spot for Northern Shrikes, but we would dip on these and continue on to Cleveland.

We hit 72nd Street and start scanning the ice for gulls. Great Black-backed and a lone Glaucous are present along with some Lesser Black-backed and hoards of Ring-billeds and Herrings. We would see Red-breasted and Common Mergansers in decent numbers in some of the only open water on the lake.

Next- we travel over to Lorain County airport to try to nab some Short-eared Owls (again, for Beth and Chad), but dip on these as well. We drive back east, towards Warren, to hit Mosquito Lake in the morning for Long-eared Owls.

At the crack of dawn, we're up and getting ready to head out. I was given explicit instructions on where to find the Long-eared Owls. It was snowing pretty heavily... and Beth and I decided to walk the road so we could see better. (Not to mention, it was quieter than puttering along in a car) We walked for over an hour, scanning the area they were to be found, and nothing. Chad swears he heard them hooting in the distance, and I accepted the possibility that they roosted high to ride out the weather, as they were found later in the day by somebody else. Really disappointed to dip on these guys, as I've been searching years for them and have never seen one.

The snow holds us back, and even through that, we swing over to the airport in Wayne County where a Snowy has been seen. The snow is heavy, visibility is terrible, and there's no sight of the owl. Just another species to dip on...

We are behind, but make two stops in the Dayton area- the first to nab White-winged Scoters for Beth and Chad, and then to nab some Trumpeter Swans. I am counting these birds, due to the fact I am not submitting my Big Year to the ABA, and it's not necessarily known where these birds actually originate from. I am comfortable counting them, and have for my list. In the grand scheme of things, eliminating one bird from my list wouldn't be the end of the world, and I would do it if I felt I had to.

I started the Ohio trip with a target list of 17 species and came home with only 7. While 7 is better than none, it certainly bummed me a little to miss out on so many.

However, I decide to head north again on Wednesday (the 12th) to chase a Prairie Falcon at the Sommerville Mines in Indiana. This trip would prove to be successful. 

The drive to the hotspot was actually very easy, and short (considering my other trips). From my door to the spot was about 4 1/2 hours. Approaching the hotspot around 7 in the morning, the first bird to notice as I was driving up Indiana-61 was none other than the Prairie Falcon himself (herself?)! Obviously, since I was driving, there is no picture to be had. However, it's not a bird that any semi-experienced birder would mistake for anything else. Too light to be a Peregrine, too big for a Merlin, and all sorts of beautiful. 

I would continue to drive around the mines, hoping for some Short-eared Owls to pop up. I wouldn't see any (they are a photo nemesis bird), but I would flush a male Ring-necked Pheasant, and see a Northern Shrike in my searching. I only had one target bird for this drive, and racked up two extra year birds- bringing my year total to 220.

This week, I have a trip to Tallahassee to meet up with a birder I know to nab some more year birds, and then the big Sax-Zim Bog trip this weekend. Stay tuned for more Big Year updates!

Until next time-
Happy birding to all of you!

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