Sunday, May 24, 2015

Oak Openings 5/15--Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Red-headed Woodpecker, Swainson's Thrush, Blue-winged, Nashville, Mourning, Chestnut-sided, Blackpoll, & Wilson's Warblers, Lark Sparrow, HENSLOW'S SPARROW, Scarlet Tanager

Lark Sparrow
Photos: Shari Zirlin
We signed up for a van trip to Oak Openings Preserve Metropark, west of Toledo. It meant getting up at 4:30 in the morning. The weather was rainy and the leaders were young. They may know their birds, but they were very inexperienced in leading a trip. However, Oak Openings presents very unusual habitat for that part of the country--essentially oak covered sand dunes. It reminds me a little of the Pine Barrens since very little grows there other than scrub oak.
Red-headed Woodpecker

Most of the birds we get in Ohio we will probably get in New Jersey if we look hard enough, but there are a couple of sparrows that are found in Oak Openings that are respectively, very hard to get in NJ and practically impossible.  Those were the birds I was especially interested in. Happily, so were the leaders.

Lark Sparrow I've seen a couple of time in NJ, both times I believe at Sandy Hook, but Oak Openings is the place to go in NW Ohio to find them. It took some doing, but finally, toward the end of our stay there we found one very accommodating bird that posed for us on the roadside.

Earlier in the day we spent a long time staring into a grassy field. It looked a lot like the fields in Colliers Mills here in NJ and it too had Grasshopper Sparrows. But that wasn't the bird of interest. After much time looking and listening I was finally able to home in on the "Gdip" of a HENSLOW'S SPARROW, a very secretive, hard to find prairie grasslands species. This was our only life bird for the trip. Hearing isn't as good as seeing but it counts and for a bird this small and furtive I count it a success, especially since two years ago we didn't even get that close. (Spoiler alert: the next day, in Sandusky County, I actually caught a glimpse on one.

When we first arrived, in the rain, the group gathered in a very fancy blind of the kind that many of the Metroparks have--Windows on Wildlife. But it was stuffy and the birds I could see were the birds I get at our feeders. Another group had a report of Mourning Warbler just behind the building, so despite the drizzle and damp, Shari & I followed them and were fortunate to see this always sought after warbler, high in a balsam fir tree, which in itself was very unusual, since the MOWA's are usually ground skulking birds.

Oak Openings is also a great place to find Red-headed Woodpecker and it lived up to its reputation. Across the field from where the Lark Sparrows nest we found at least 3 of them, feeding eye-height on the dead trees.

We spent around 7 hours at the park and garnered 68 species, 12 of them year birds. It was definitely worth the trip, even if I did feel that we could have blundered around the park just as well on our own. I doubt I would have heard the Henslow's if we had.
68 species
Canada Goose  2
Wood Duck  2
Turkey Vulture  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Mourning Dove  2
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  2
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Red-headed Woodpecker  3
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker  1     heard
Northern Flicker  1
Eastern Wood-Pewee  1
Eastern Phoebe  4
Great Crested Flycatcher  2     heard
Eastern Kingbird  1
White-eyed Vireo  1     heard
Yellow-throated Vireo  1     heard
Warbling Vireo  1
Red-eyed Vireo  3
Blue Jay  1
American Crow  1
Tree Swallow  2
Barn Swallow  1
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Tufted Titmouse  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
House Wren  2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1     heard
Eastern Bluebird  1
Veery  1     heard
Swainson's Thrush  2
American Robin  2
Gray Catbird  1
Brown Thrasher  1
European Starling  1
Ovenbird  2     heard
Blue-winged Warbler  1     heard
Black-and-white Warbler  1     heard
Nashville Warbler  3     heard

Mourning Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  5
American Redstart  2
Magnolia Warbler  1
Yellow Warbler  3
Chestnut-sided Warbler  1

Blackpoll Warbler  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
Canada Warbler  1
Wilson's Warbler  2
Eastern Towhee  3
Chipping Sparrow  5
Field Sparrow  4
Lark Sparrow  1
Grasshopper Sparrow  2
HENSLOW'S SPARROW  1     heard
Song Sparrow  2
White-crowned Sparrow  2
Scarlet Tanager  2
Northern Cardinal  4
Indigo Bunting  2
Red-winged Blackbird  2
Eastern Meadowlark  1
Common Grackle  1
Brown-headed Cowbird  6
Baltimore Oriole  14
House Finch  2     heard
Pine Siskin  2
American Goldfinch  5

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