I got him!

I’ve been chasing a few rares here in Ohio recently. I’ve been fortunate enough to score a Prairie Falcon on my third trip to Weston, and a Northern Shrike also on my third trip to Sandy Ridge. I caught a Brant on my first trip to Friendship Lake. But my biggest bird thus far I finally caught yesterday… the ever elusive – for me – Snowy Owl!

I was hanging at home yesterday, early afternoon.. raining outside and generally a yucky, windy, wet day. A friend sends me a Messenger note… posted just several minutes earlier, someone had spotted a Snowy Owl at Cleveland’s Hopkins Airport. Do I go? Do I forget about it? I have already struck out four times in trying to see this, my favorite bird, including just this week at Burke Lakefront. I decide to go… no guts, no glory, right?

I quickly gathered my stuff, hopped in the car, gassed up and was on the way… at like 75mph up 77! “Please be there, please be there…” It was reported to be seen from the vantage of the 100th Bomber Group restaurant lot, so that’s where I headed. When I pulled in the lot, I’m thinking that this bird is not going to be here. There were a couple of other cars pointed in the right direction when I arrived, giving me hope. I then pulled up to park in front overlooking the highway, and started searching when, to my surprise, I spotted a white blob in the field by a taxiway.

Snowy Owl (yes, he’s there! #notaplasticbag) taken with my iPhone

Another person was there, camera in hand, and I gestured, “is that him?’ An affirmative response. I just couldn’t believe it! Finally, the Snowy. The last time I had seen a Snowy Owl was around 1975 I believe, the year everyone was going nuts over a little gull in Newburyport, the Ross Gull. My father used to take me to Parker River NWR, which I called Plum Island, and it was there that I first glimpsed the Snowy Owl through another birder’s scope (interestingly, along with a Tufted Duck). it’s been my favorite bird ever since.

I spent about 30 minutes observing the Snowy yesterday, as best I could with a 10×42 bin. It was just so great to see a Snowy again. I am wondering if this is the same bird that has been seen at Burke Lakefront? They have a tendency to favor airports, which could be a health hazard… I am hopeful that once I get a spotting scope, I can see them again…

Chasing birds…

Or what I believe is called to “twitch..”.

Last Wednesday found me out in Weston, Ohio, southwest of Bowling Green and Toledo, in search of three possible regional rares; a Prairie Falcon, a Snowy Owl, and Eurasian Collared Doves. I had created a nifty sight chart based on recorded observations of all three species before I headed out early in the morning. On the ground in Weston, I spent four hours driving around the field grids, but came up empty on all three rarities I had wanted to see, I didn’t even see a single dove anywhere, Eurasian or otherwise. I did manage to see several Merlins, a Red-Tailed Hawk, a huge Bald Eagle just sitting in a field, but that was about it. Needless to say, I was very disappointed, especially when I discovered that three others had observed the falcon. The Snowy, come to find out, had flown due south to the town of Wood, where he was observed right alongside the road.

This morning, I went chasing another bird, a female Harlequin Duck that had been heavily observed at the Rocky River Park. Heading up there this morning, I first stopped at Lake Rockwell, and finally saw some Hooded Mergansers, an immature Eagle, some Scaup, and a ton of Canada Geese, of which I am almost certain there was a Cackling Goose hiding – they are actively avoiding me. I honestly really need a spotting scope, and hoping that something comes in for me this month, I have my eye on a Zeiss Harpia 95. That’ll certainly up my game!

Arriving at Rocky River, there were a few people already there. I climbed up a small bluff overlooking the stormy Lake Erie, and met David, a birder from Columbus who, it turns out, was also looking for the Prairie Falcon on Wednesday and also came up short. He asked if I were there for the Harlequin, and pointed the way. Score! What a beautiful little grey bird, bobbing about in the heavy turbulent waters of the lake, not too far offshore. IO was able to observer for several minutes, before she drifted to the west behind the rocks and out of sight. But at least I got to see her!

So I’m currently running about 50-50 on my bird chases. I am thinking of giving the falcon another try this week… we’ll see. I’m also wanting to work on my 2020 list, so I’ll be hitting up some of the hotspots in Ohio and Pennsylvania.. can you say Presque Isle? Thinking ahead, May is going to be SO busy! I cannot wait!

Birding in Ohio

About three weeks ago, I started getting back into my birding with vigor. So far, my travels have taken me to Mosquito Lake, Cleveland Lakefront Park, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Rocky River, Fairport Harbor and Mentor Marsh. I have seen many things, the majority of which are birds that I have observed previously, but still spectacular.

I think one of the most amazing sightings I’ve had so far is observing a Pileated Woodpecker at Mentor Marsh. Such an amazingly beautiful bird, that big red plume and massive white patches on his wings. I spent several minutes watching him work a tree. Did you know that one “pile-drive” by a Pileated Woodpecker equates to a force equal to your crashing your head against a brick wall at 16 MPH? And yet they do it all day long in search of carpenter ants.

Northern Saw-Whet Owl

I’ve also had the good fortune of seeing two owls: a Northern Saw-Whet Owl at Cleveland Lakefront, and an Eastern Screech Owl at Ottawa.

Welcome to my birder blog

I was a pretty big birder in my mid-teens and early twenties. I used to spend my summers at Ocean Park, Maine, which is where I got my start in birding. My grandmother took me to the Scarborough Marsh Nature Center one day, and we climbed the small observation tower. A gentleman was there, looking through his spotting scope at some birds and he asked if I would like to take a look. The very first bird that I saw was a Little Blue Heron, and I will always cherish that event. It was the beginning of my serious birding adventures. I was hooked.

While a teen, one of the only things that my father did for me was to take me birding to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts. We spent several weekends going there in the winter, and the one day I will not forget is observing a Tufted Duck and a Snowy Owl out in the marshland, again with the help of other birders using spotting scopes. Parker River, which I called Plum Island, was always my favorite place to bird, but funnily, I didn’t do any birding there in the summertime – that was for Maine. We also visited Marblehead and Newburyport, and one weekend tried to chase down a rare Ross’ Gull sighting in 1975, but never saw it. I do remember all the birders who flocked (pun intended) to Newburyport however!

In the summers of 1976-77, I became very involved in birding in Ocean Park. My two primary birding mentors were Ms. Genevieve Webb and Ms. Edith Stephenson. Both were year-round residents of Ocean Park, and both were big birders. Ms. Stephenson actually had a marsh in her backyard, where one could observe Glossy Ibises, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, and other birds. We used to go birding very early in the mornings to Scarborough Marsh and to Biddeford Pool. That summer, we also published the very first “Birds of Ocean Park, Maine” list, and I also founded the Ocean Park Bird Club, which would be short-lived. Additionally, I found myself leading bird walks… at 15.

In my twenties, most of my birding was at Long Island’s Montauk Point, running trails by the lighthouse and also Oyster Pond. I spent summers there, observing Tanagers, Avocets, Oystercatchers, and numerous sandpipers and plovers. Winters would be spent observing all the various sea ducks, loons and grebes. I also managed to make it to Cape May, New Jersey for the fall migration one year, which was spectacular.

So now, after all those years, I am getting back in to birding. I am retired, and I can truly enjoy it, and chase the birds where they may be. Now, I’m concentrating on birding in Ohio, and am ambitiously exploring all that Ohio has to offer for birds. and looking forward to my first spring migration at Magee Marsh. Join me on the ride…