Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sandusky County 5/16--Alder Flycatcher, Willow Flycatcher, Bobolink

After the blast off of the first day, it wasn't reasonable to expect a large number of new birds. We went on a van trip to "private lands," places that are usually restricted but whose owners had given permission to have them birded during the festival. As it happened, they were all in Sandusky County, south of where we were staying. One them, Harder's Grasslands, we had previously visited two years ago.

It was another damp morning and it was led by the two rookies again. My estimation for the two leaders changed with one going up to much higher levels, while the other fell into the basement. What we thought was a team turned out to be a random matching--the Biggest Week folks apparently don't give a lot of thought to team chemistry when they assign the trips. None of this really mattered aside from my personal prickliness--the sites were good and the value in trips were, as far as I was concerned, just getting us to different places we wouldn't know the what & where of.

Since my sense of Ohio geography is just a little sketchy, I can't say exactly where the first place we birded was, but I did recognize the spot when we passed it a few days later. It was called Christy Farm Nature Preserve and was serving as a Boy Scout camp when we arrived. Not a particularly birdy spot, but we did hear and see our first Willow Flycatcher--"fitz-bew!"

I make the point of the explosive song because essentially, the only way to separate Willow Flycatcher from our next year bird is by voice. We went to our next stop, McClure's Marsh, a relatively large man-made wetlands, and the birding there was better. In a fallow field that looked much like the ones outside Bombay Hook in Delaware we found a Horned Lark, as we also would in DE, and Purple Martins were abundant.

Photos: Shari Zirlin
As we walked around the marsh we were accompanied by the family dog who, when she wasn't rolling in the grass, liked to take a quick dip in the marsh. She also had bowel and stomach issues, so as the walk progressed she went from being the Big Wet Dog, to the Big Wet Tick-infested Dog, to the Big Wet Tick-infested Diarrhea-spewing Dog, and finally to the Big Wet Tick-infested Diarrhea-spewing Belching Dog.  Someone in our group scratched her behind the ear but thought better of it when she heard the name.

I spotted another flycatcher which struck me, for no good reason I can say, as not a Willow and it sang, something to the effect of "ree-bee-a." In any case, not the easily identified "fitz-bew." I had a good look at the Alder Flycatcher in my binoculars and it does look identical to Willow--no wonder they were both considered one species in the recent past.

At our next stop, Arnold Marsh, we were again greeted by the family pet, this time a Helmeted Guinea Fowl named, I believe, Petey. This dopey bird followed us along the entire trail with his owners, occasionally attacking someone's shoe and trying to untie their laces with his mouth. It was funny for the first 5 minutes, bizarre for the next 5 minutes, and just plain annoying after that. We saw and heard a few interesting birds like Black-crowned Night-Heron and Trumpeter Swans, but we didn't find anything new and we certainly couldn't count the Guinea Fowl.

Our last stop was the place Shari & I had gone on a trip two years ago, Harder's Grasslands which is exactly how it sounds--acres and acres of grasslands with the expected grassland birds. The target bird here was Bobolink and after walking out along a mowed path for about a quarter of a mile we found at least 3 of them displaying and singing, looking, as Peterson describes them, as if they were were wearing their dress suits reversed.

It is also perfect habitat for grassland sparrows and after some looking and listening our guides redeemed themselves in my eyes when they were able to put a Henslow's Sparrow in the scope. I got a brief look, let the next guy behind me see it, and after he saw it he accidentally kicked the scope, preventing Shari from getting a view. I rarely see Shari upset by something like that (I'm usually the one in a rage) but this time she was very unhappy.

We had 64 species for the county so I count the excursion a success:
Species     Location
Canada Goose     McClure's Marsh
Trumpeter Swan     Arnold Marsh
 Wood Duck     McClure's Marsh
Mallard     McClure's Marsh
Double-crested Cormorant     McClure's Marsh
Great Blue Heron     McClure's Marsh
Great Egret     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Black-crowned Night-Heron     Arnold Marsh
Turkey Vulture     Harder grasslands
Northern Harrier     McClure's Marsh
Bald Eagle     McClure's Marsh
Red-tailed Hawk     Harder grasslands
Killdeer     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Dunlin     McClure's Marsh
Caspian Tern     McClure's Marsh
Mourning Dove     McClure's Marsh
Ruby-throated Hummingbird     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Red-bellied Woodpecker     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Downy Woodpecker     McClure's Marsh
Hairy Woodpecker     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Northern Flicker     Harder grasslands
Eastern Wood-Pewee     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Alder Flycatcher     McClure's Marsh
Willow Flycatcher     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Eastern Phoebe     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Great Crested Flycatcher     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Eastern Kingbird     Arnold Marsh
Red-eyed Vireo     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Blue Jay     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
American Crow     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Horned Lark     McClure's Marsh
Purple Martin     McClure's Marsh
Tree Swallow     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Barn Swallow     McClure's Marsh
White-breasted Nuthatch     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
House Wren     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Marsh Wren     McClure's Marsh
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Wood Thrush     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
American Robin     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Gray Catbird     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Brown Thrasher     McClure's Marsh
Ovenbird     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Common Yellowthroat     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Yellow Warbler     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Blackpoll Warbler     McClure's Marsh
Chipping Sparrow     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Field Sparrow     McClure's Marsh
Savannah Sparrow     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Henslow's Sparrow     Harder grasslands
Song Sparrow     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
White-crowned Sparrow     McClure's Marsh
Scarlet Tanager     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Northern Cardinal     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Indigo Bunting     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Bobolink     Harder grasslands
Red-winged Blackbird     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Eastern Meadowlark     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Common Grackle     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Brown-headed Cowbird     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
Baltimore Oriole     Christy Farm Nature Preserve
House Finch     Arnold Marsh
American Goldfinch     McClure's Marsh
House Sparrow     McClure's Marsh

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