Sunday, March 10, 2013

Hargus Trip

Well, I went out to AW Marion State Park. Again. It's right outside of town, so I go there a lot. It's large too, so there's always something to find. AW Marion State Park, normally known as Hargus Lake by the locals, is a decently sized state park with a man-made lake at the center. There's fishing, camping, hiking, a marina, and lots more to do there.

Anyway, I traveled out there on Friday and Saturday for about 2 hours each.

I try to do some photography in my spare time, and that was the main goal on Friday. On the 5 mile perimeter trail, there's a little area about a mile in on the dam side that has some small cascades. Here's a shot of one of the small waterfalls. When I was taking this, I heard some quiet thumps coming from beside me. I looked up just in time to see about 5 White-Tailed Deer bounding across the stream about 20 feet in front of me, and up a hill. They covered the steep hill like you or I would while walking on flat ground. It was amazing. A minute later, some dogs and a runner came down the trail from where the deer came from, so they must have scared them up.

Here's another shot of the cascades farther down the stream. To the left of this is a small, but deep, pool that's home to a few fish (including an 8 inch or so fish that my girlfriend and I found last year). While I was taking these shots, I heard some noise. I looked up, and to my surprise...

Woah! A male Pileated Woodpecker! This normally timid bird was in the process of making his nesting cavity for the upcoming spring and paid no heed to the human playing down in the creek. I took out my 200mm lens and shot off a few photos.

This gives you an idea of the size. Pileated Woodpeckers are huge. This is a large Sycamore Tree, and as you can see, the Pileated is taking up a sizable portion of it. In fact, these crow-sized woodpeckers are the largest woodpeckers in North America (barring the existence of living Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers, which are most likely all extinct). Their holes are very easy to ID. They are very squarish, with rounded sides. Unlike some birds, Pileated Woodpeckers only use their nest for one year. After that year, the cavity is now open and well-utilized by many other forest dwelling animals. In fact, next year I'm going to have to keep tabs on this cavity to see if anything else moves in, like an Eastern Screech Owl.

Here's some of the other birds present on Friday. These are two Lesser Scaups, a type of diving duck. There were a lot of them out that day, along with Hooded Mergansers, Buffleheads, and Mallards. The next day I went, Saturday, there were Red-Breasted Mergansers, Lesser Scaups, Mallards, Gadwalls, and American Wigeons. The Gadwalls, Red-Breasted Mergansers, and American Wigeons were all "lifers" for me. For those people who are not familiar with birding terms, a "lifer" is the first time a person sees a certain species. And, as always, the ever-present Canada Geese were there both days.

Here's another shot of the Lesser Scaups as they madly ran swam away from me as I approached them on the trail. At least, I'm 90% sure they're all Lesser Scaups. Lesser and Greater Scaups are almost impossible to tell apart in certain cases. If there are both species in one area, they are easier to tell apart due to size differences, but when you get a few like this, it is a lot harder. Head shape is the big diagnostic, except sometimes the feathers shift which makes them look like each other for a few minutes. In Ohio, if you see a scaup on an interior lake, it is most likely a Lesser. Greater Scaups are found more often on Lake Erie, although not always. They could be anywhere. Scaups have been my IDing nightmare bird this winter.

Spring is definitely here. Song Sparrows, Northern Cardinals, American Robins, Mourning Doves, Red-Winged Blackbirds, House Finches, and more are singing. As other blogs and people have pointed out, other harbingers are popping up, like Skunk Cabbage. Check out Jim McCormac's blog post on Skunk Cabbage to learn more about that.

The warm weather this weekend was definitely nice to have, but it looks like it's going to quickly disappear for the rest of this week.


  1. What great shots of the Pileated! Last weekend when hiking near Phoenixville, PA - my friend and I were amazed to not only get a good look at one Pileated - a male, but also its mate. Looks like you beat us out with these great photos!

    1. Thanks Wendy! I've been trying for a couple of years to get even a photo of a Pileated. I was honestly really lucky to get these. I'm sure that if he wasn't excavating his cavity, he would have been gone in a flash.