Friday, October 9, 2015

Ornithology Lab, October 7

This is the fifth installment in a series of weekly posts for my ornithology class at Ohio University. We go out in the field every Wednesday (weather permitting) to do some birding and/or bird banding. One of our assignments is to write a blog post about each of these field trips, which is what this series will be about.

First Post: September 2
Second Post: September 9
Third Post: September 16
Fourth Post: September 30 

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As the goldenrod and asters fade, and the leaves begin to change to more colorful hues, so comes Autumn; and with Autumn comes a whole new array of birds to Ohio. Most of the summer neotropical breeders have left, and now many Canadian birds are moving southward for the Winter months. Dark-Eyed Juncos, Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers, Golden-Crowned Kinglets, and all of those typical Winter birds are making appearances all around Ohio, and now the birders know it is indeed Autumn.

For this week's lab trip, we went once more to Lake Hope State Park in Vinton County, Ohio. Overall it was a pretty quiet day, so this post won't be that lengthy. Here are the highlights:

Arriving at 7:30 AM, we first stopped at the dam overlooking the lake. Two Belted Kingfishers patrolled the waters, a Great Blue Heron stood like a sentinel on the beach, and a few Canada Geese swam around. It was a normal day on the lake. The previous night must have been a huge movement day for Eastern Phoebes, as they were literally everywhere. It seemed like every other tree had at least one Eastern Phoebe in it, and they were by far the most numerous migrant of the day.

Next, we moved on to a small wetland that had been created when some beavers dammed up a small creek. Upon stepping out of the vans, over 20 startled Wood Ducks took flight and escaped the group of birders. Once again, there were more Belted Kingfishers and more Eastern Phoebes. We decided to walk a short distance along a trail that led us through some thick shrubs and young trees. As it is in the midst of sparrow migration, we were hoping for some interesting sparrows, but we only had a Song Sparrow. Elsewhere in the area were Indigo Buntings, a very cooperative Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, Golden-Crowned Kinglets, and the usual Carolina Chickadees and Eastern Towhees. 

Moving on to a very large marsh/lake down the road from the park, we hoped to find some more ducks. Once again, there were only Wood Ducks. Another Belted Kingfisher sat atop a snag. That was about it for birds at the marshy lake complex. By far the highlight of that specific area were some tiny yellow flowers in the water near the bank. Upon closer inspection I was surprised to find out it was a bladderwort species of some sort! Bladderworts are a species of carnivorous plant which trap small aquatic creatures, like protozoans and rotifers, in tiny traps that dot their free-floating root systems. After some research later on, I discovered that the bladderworts we saw were Humped Bladderworts, Utricularia gibba. This is a species which I've seen before at Calamus Swamp in Pickaway County. You can read about it, and other plant species, on my Calamus Swamp plant post.

Piling back into the vans, we turned around and headed back to the park. We ventured up a ridge to the Nature Center and campground section. This is a wonderful area to see Red-Headed Woodpeckers, which was why we checked the area out. It was quiet at first, but soon the forest came alive with dozens of Eastern Bluebirds, like the one pictured above. We noticed one area where two or three bluebirds were foraging on the ground. Soon, Pine Warblers joined them. Then Chipping Sparrows joined in. Walking onward, we scared up a group of Dark-Eyed Juncos, my FOS (first of season) for the year. Only a little bit later we found my FOS Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker. Then, to much excitement, a Red-Headed Woodpecker flew in. The Red-Headed Woodpecker is an absolutely stunning woodpecker, but sadly it is becoming harder and harder to find. It's always a treat to see it when I do.

It was then that I noticed we had seen every single species of normally-occurring woodpecker in Ohio. Throughout the morning we had a Downy, Hairy, Pileated, and Red-Bellied Woodpecker. We also had a Northern Flicker and Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker in addition to the Red-Headed Woodpecker. These seven species make up the regularly-occurring group of woodpeckers in Ohio, and I've never had a "complete" woodpecker day before! It was a wonderful way to end the morning.

Here's the complete list of birds I observed that day:

1. Canada Goose
2. Wood Duck
3. Great Blue Heron
4. Turkey Vulture
5. Yellow-Billed Cuckoo
6. Belted Kingfisher
7. Red-Headed Woodpecker
8. Red-Bellied Woodpecker
9. Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
10. Downy Woodpecker
11. Hairy Woodpecker
12. Northern Flicker
13. Pileated Woodpecker
14. Eastern Phoebe
15. Blue Jay 
16. American Crow
17. Carolina Chickadee
18. White-Breasted Nuthatch
19. Carolina Wren
20. Golden-Crowned Kinglet
21. Eastern Bluebird
22. American Robin
23. Pine Warbler
24. Black-Throated Green Warbler
25. Chipping Sparrow
26. Dark-Eyed Junco
27. Song Sparrow
28. Eastern Towhee
29. Indigo Bunting
30. American Goldfinch


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  2. ...sounds like a fantastic class (I would love the "field trips"). My family and I were in your neck of the woods a few weeks ago (highlight was a Lincoln Sparrow), and then my husband and I came back this week (highlights were Hermit Thrushes). The color was at the're lucky to see it daily!