Sunday, May 30, 2010

Birding at the Edge

I'm just back from a very productive weekend of Birding at the Edge. The Edge of Appalachia Preserve in Adams County, that is. The Ohio Ornithological Society, along with partners the Cincinnati Museum Center and the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, organized a two-day foray to see birds. Lots of birds. Ground zero for our operations was the spectacular new Eulett Center - above - which looks out over the Ohio Brush Creek valley.

This event was limited to 22 people, and we divvied up into two teams. Scouring Adams and Scioto counties over the past day and a half, we found 102 species, and all but one was a local breeder. Not bad, considering that probably not many more than that breed in that region in total.

Major thanks go to Cheryl Harner of OOS, for her incredibly competent logistical work; Ned Keller for leading the other team; Marc Nolls, and Greg and Leslie Cornett for helpful support; and Chris Bedel, Mark Zloba, and Pete Whan and Lucy Miller for lending their fab field skills and the use of the Eulett Center.

We didn't have to go far this morning. Here's our group, standing at the bottom of the driveway to the Eulett Center. Some really great birds are easy pickings right here. And it's nice to bird in a place where there is next to no traffic!

Early morning fog mists the fields along Ohio Brush Creek, creating a slightly surreal scene. That is primo Blue Grosbeak habitat, and indeed one is teed up on the tip of that roundish tree in the middle of the field. We watched it sing away through the scope for quite some time. A clownish Yellow-breasted Chat amused us with its antics, as it hooted, grunted, squawked, and made machine gun sounds. At times, the chat would perch on the roadside wires, and we were witness to its amazing flight display, in which this most unwarblerlike warbler flutters into the air, legs a dangling, offering up all manner of bizarre vocaliations. To cap it, we had great looks at three Henslow's Sparrows lurking in the field.

Out popped this freshly washed female Prairie Warbler, and she preened herself back to order about 20 feet from our group. Prairie Warblers are a dime a dozen in this area, and their fast-pitched rising scales are a regular part of the avian symphony.

After sating ourselves at Eulett, we traveled a short ways to an abandoned bridge over Ohio Brush Creek. This was an excellent spot, and among other goodies we had a gorgeous Yellow-throated Warbler singing from a sycamore snag, and he had the good manners to stay put long enough for us to admire him through the scope.

The main reason we came here was to observe a colony of adobe-building Cliff Swallows. From the old bridge, we were at eye level with the new bridge and the swallow colony. A buffy-rumped swallow zips into one of the mud huts, which are engineering marvels.

As a finale, an exceedingly tame Northern Parula flew from the adjacent silver maples and alighted on one of the bridge support struts. And this was only our second stop!

We went on to see many other birds, such as 1st-year bearded Orchard Oriole singing nearly side by side with a fully adult male; a stunning male Summer Tanager, Red-headed Woodpecker; another Blue Grosbeak; Grasshopper Sparrow; an out-of-season Ring-necked Duck and many others.

Thanks to all who participated in the Birding at the Edge event, and it looks like this may be one to repeat next year.

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