Thursday, February 7, 2013

Hargus Trip and ROSS'S GOOSE!

So I headed out to AW Marion State Park in Pickaway County today. To the locals, such as myself, it's simply known as "Hargus Lake" or, even more simply, "Hargus," after the name of the lake that is the main attraction there.

So I got out, walked up and saw this chaotic and noisy scene:

This was just a sliver of the lake, but it had the highest concentration of birds. That thin line out there, was mostly Canada Geese...but...

Excuse the awful photo; he was far off.
What's that?!? A Snow Goose? Wait a minute... looks a little strange for a Snow Goose... It must be a, no way, a Ross's Goose! Yes, this little guy, with its stocky, short neck, its black tipped wings, and the tiny orange beak, is a Ross's Goose. Ross's Geese are rare in Ohio but turn up every year, mainly in large groups of Canada Geese in the winter, such as this one. This one was a "lifer" for me.

Ross's Geese migration routes are well outside of Ohio. They migrate mainly through the Great Plains and Western Portions of the US. However, just like the Snow Goose, a few stray into Ohio. This is due to a recent trend of expanding eastward over the last few decades. They breed in the arctic Tundra and winter in the south in fields and wetlands.

This male Downy Woodpecker (The head had a red dot, distinguishing it as a male) was drilling away on a small branch, and stopped momentarily to inspect yours truly. He then went back to drilling, and allowed me to come within eight or so feet of him, allowing me very close looks. Notice the short beak as compared to the head, which, along with its small size (about 6.5 inches long), help distinguish it from the very similar, and larger, Hairy Woodpecker.

His head was traveling so fast, it blurred, even with a shutter speed on the quicker side. His red patch is slightly visible on this photo. Downy Woodpeckers are known for being very calm around humans, and if you approach carefully and quietly, you will be rewarded with really good looks at this very common woodpecker.

One last photo. A "Snowbird," or more commonly known as a Dark-Eyed Junco. These small sparrows move down into Ohio during the winter, and are very common yard birds. Here was one that popped out for a few seconds after I heard their distinctive trill coming from the ground below. I did a few seconds of "pishing" and the curious Junco flew above to inspect the scene. Dark-Eyed Juncos have many subspecies, and this one is the Slate-Colored type, which is by far the most common type in Ohio. A more rarer type to show up in Ohio is the Oregon type, which has rufous coloring on its sides. There have been many reported around Ohio this winter, including a few in Columbus.

Other species: Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Ruddy Duck, Mallard, Redhead, Ring-Billed Gull, Turkey Vulture, and European Starling.


  1. I came across your blog when searching to see if the Ross's goose migrates through Ohio. I recently saw a little white goose among a flock of Canada geese at a local pond. I got one fairly good photograph of the little guy and believe he is a Ross's Goose. I enjoy taking photos of birds and am glad to read of a young person like yourself enjoying nature.

  2. Hi there I came across your website while searching for some info on birds I've been noticing birds that I've never seen in Ohio before. I started early this winter feeding my back yard birds since I knew it was going be such a bad winter for them and finding food. So I now have a heated bird bath for them and many feeders including squirrel and rabbit. I started with the birds, but the squirrels started tearing down my feeders so I added feeders for them. Then when I woke early at dusk and found eight rabbits in my yard eating the seed I had set out for the squirrels, so I started putting hay in a couple hollowed out logs and random spots in our yard for the rabbits. I don't want the rabbits to get use to humans feeding them, but I feel bad that they have had to come to scavenging for bird seed because food is scarce. So, I recently noticed some odd birds that I've never seen before, even being the daughter of an avid bird watcher. I've never noticed these ones, although I wasn't quick enough to catch pictures at first. Today I did, and found out the names of a couple,One was a Brown Headed Cow bird, and the other thanks to your page a Dark Eyed Junco. There are still two I haven't found though, one of them is the size of what I see as an "average" ohio female sparrow the body is medium to dark khaki color with a light khaki breast no marking that I could see....and the other is larger than a sparrow but not quite the size of the cow bird...all black and shiny no iridescences on the black and has a tuft on the crown like a tufted tit mouse there is no change in color on the breast what so ever. I'm intrigued by seeing new birds in my back maybe if you have seen either of these birds or can give me a few ideas on what they could be I'd greatly appreciate it. Or even if you don't know maybe someone who reads this on your page may be able to help!! Either way thanks for helping me find the Dark Eyed Junco I'm grateful! I'll check back here in a few days to see if you came up with anything...Happy watching!!

    1. Glad to hear you got into feeding! And your story is similar to many others; you start trying to feed one type of animal, and then add another, and another, until suddenly your backyard is a nature-haven.

      As to your unknown I am a visual person, so sadly I probably won't be of much help. On the sparrow-like bird, since you didn't see anything on the breast, look at Chipping Sparrows, White-Crowned Sparrows, and White-Throated Sparrows. Those are all common sparrows right now that have a bare breast. As to the black bird, the only black birds that are in Ohio right now are Common Grackles, European Starlings, Brown-Headed Cowbirds, Red-Winged Blackbirds, and that's about it. Some more black species will come in a few weeks though. Hopefully that steers you in the right direction!

      My best advice is to invest in a good bird field guide if you're interested in IDing the birds you see. I suggest "Birds of Ohio" by Jim McCormac, and also suggest Kenn Kaufman's "Field Guide to Birds of North America."