Where We Are Birding – April

Where We Are Birding – April

Each month, our OOS Regional Directors are sharing their favorite birding hotspots in their respective regions – and beyond. These include some well-know destinations, specialty spots for specific species, and their own secret, treasured local patches. Have a favorite birding location? Reach out to your OOS Regional Director and let them know!

Amy Downing – Northwest Regional Director

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge – Ottawa County

It’s early migration, and I am dreaming about birds nightly, both real and dream-created birds! Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Oak Harbor holds my attention with American White Pelicans, Sandhill Cranes, Trumpeter Swans, and Great Egrets by the dozens but also new Great-horned Owlets and remaining Long-eared Owls. There are accessible sidewalks and boardwalks, soft walking trails, lake inlet paths, and grassy swamp/marsh areas to be explored in the overall 10 miles of hiking. The visitor’s center has facilities, benches, and shelter to view their many bird feeders, Purple Martin gourds, Bluebird and Tree Swallow houses, and sweet-smelling trees flowering for great birding.

Melissa Wales – Southeast Regional Director

Poston Plant Lands ​- Athens County

Poston Plant Lands is American Electric Power reclamation land a little over 2 miles west of The Plains in Athens County. Take SR 682 to Poston Road near the SR 33 interchange and head west. At Industrial Drive, turn right and keep right to follow the gravel road to a gate where you can pull off and park. The gravel road is flat and pretty even, but the gate is usually closed to car traffic and access for birders does involve traversing some uneven and not very accessible ground around the right side of the gate.

In April you will find Brown Thrasher, Field and Song Sparrows, White-eyed Vireo, Eastern Meadowlark, Prairie Warblers, and Yellow-breasted Chat. In the evening, you will hear and see the displays of the American Woodcock and might even hear a passing through Whip-poor-will. Around a mile in, you will enter a mix-forested area that becomes the Athens Conservancy Bluebell Preserve (yes, take time to enjoy the wildflowers), and will find Yellow-throated Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Northern Parula, Cerulean Warbler, and American Redstart. In about another mile, this road ends up at the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway.

Do be mindful of hunting season.

Kandace Glanville – Central Regional Director

Slate Run Metro Park – Pickaway County

Slate Run Metro Park in Pickaway county is a huge park with a wide variety of habitat that offers a good diversity of birds in early migration. The mature forest and scrub-shrub habitats yield early warblers and other migrants, there’s water birds at the wetlands, and also late winter birds like Brown creeper, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and Dark-eyed Juncos. There’s restrooms, lots of trails of varied difficulty including some easy boardwalk hikes, as well as a living historical farm you can visit!

Diana Steele – Northeast Regional Director

Vermilion River—Bacon Woods – Lorain County

Where you’ll find me in April—Looking for warblers in the Vermilion River Reservation, Bacon Woods—part of the Lorain County Metroparks system.

Down in the valley of the Vermilion River a leafy glen invites unusual nesting species for Lorain County and northern Ohio. One of the earliest species to return in April is yellow-throated warblers, which sing loudly from the tops of sycamores lining the river. Later, cerulean warblers, blue-winged warblers, and redstarts set up their nesting territories; while rarer warbler species, like golden-winged, occasionally drop in during migration.

For the best birding, turn north of North Ridge Road into the Bacon Woods section of the Vermilion River Reservation. Drive to the north end of the parking lot, and you may hear yellow-throated or cerulean warblers calling before you even get out of the car.

A wide, flat, packed-gravel path, popular with dog-walkers, heads north through the deep woods, with bluebells lining the path. This .85-mile-loop Bacon Woods Trail is easily traversed, while further paths that wind around a field (.7-mile-loop Bluebird Trail) and deeper into the woods (1.4-mile-loop Coopers Hollow Trail) are sometimes muddy. The trails are consecutive, so to walk the entire Cooper’s Hollow Trail, one also walks the Bacon Woods and Bluebird Trails, for a total round-trip of nearly 3 miles.

An unofficial “fisherman’s trail” hugs the riverbank and can be good for birders in April and May. It’s sometimes tricky to walk because it’s not maintained, and downed trees, mud, and steep portions can be an obstacle to some.

Restroom facilities are available at the parking lot.

Jon Cefus – East Central Regional Director

Conesville Coal Lands – Coshocton County

This month, you will find me birding at the Conesville Coal Lands in Coshocton County.  Many Ohio birders have made the trip to this area in hopes of hearing Ruffed Grouse drumming.  Ohio’s Ruffed Grouse population has been declining steadily for decades now.  The Conesville Coal lands is a reclaimed mining area.  Unlike some of the reclaimed areas further south in Ohio that feature large grasslands, this area is heavily wooded with many streams and ponds.  For more information about birding this area, go to the Birding in Ohio website.

Tyler Ficker – Southwest Regional Director

East Fork State Park – Floodplains – Clermont County

The Floodplains on the western side of East Fork State Park (Clermont Co) bursts with life in April when large numbers of Grasshopper Sparrows and Prairie Warblers return to breeding grounds! The forested edge to the area can provide great numbers of other migrating songbirds!

Tykee James and Bird Nerds Panel Event

Tykee James and Bird Nerds Panel Event

Watch the full video here:

 

Tykee James is the government affairs coordinator at the National Audubon Society, Co-Chair for the National Black and Latinx Scholarship Fund, and sits on the board of directors of the DC Audubon Society, Wyncote Audubon Society, Audubon Maryland-DC, the Birding Co-op, and the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University.

After moving to DC almost two years ago, he became grounded in his special role: organizing bird walks with members of Congress and congressional staff! Tykee has built residency in this work from his experience in Philadelphia, his hometown. His first job was an environmental educator and community organizer in his own neighborhood. Tykee would also serve a State Representative as her environmental policy advisor. He continues to develop himself as a leader through his membership in the Environmental Leadership Program and the Green Leadership Trust.

Tykee has been part of the birding community for almost a decade. Most recently, he earned international recognition as one of the organizers of the first #BlackBirdersWeek in 2020. 

In his personal time he is the audio producer for Wildlife Observer Network, a wildlife media project he started with some wildlife-friendly friends in Philly. Tykee hosts two podcasts: Brothers in Birding and On Word for Wildlife.

Website: WildlifeObserverNetwork.com 

Twitter: @Tykee_James

Instagram: @TykeeJames 

 

The East Clark Bird Nerds is birding club at East Clark School in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. It is comprised of students in grades 6-8 with one alumni member still active. The purpose of the club is to learn about, and appreciate, birds and the great outdoors.

The club was started in the fall of 2018 by Richard “Buster” Banish who is a teacher at East Clark School. He has been a birder for 30+ years and in 1986 he started taking 4-5 students birding for a day each May during Cleveland’s Audubon Spring Bird Walk Series. He still keeps in touch with a few of the students who went on the first birding adventure, and many others from the years after that. Many have told him that it was the best day they had up to that point in their lives, and it created a lifelong love of birds.

In the fall of 2018, Mr. Banish decided to create a birding club for students at his school and named the club the Bird Nerds. He asked students who showed an interest in birds write an essay on why they would like to join the Bird Nerds. He selected 15 students to be in the club and they held their first meeting in October 2018. The club met every Tuesday after school for an hour. During club meetings, Mr. Banish taught the students about birds and had local birding experts come and speak to the club. He also took them birding around the Cleveland area so they could practice identifying birds in the field.

Mr. Banish sought, and received, a grant from a company that his brother-in-law works for to take students to The Biggest Week in American Birding festival in May 2019. Using the grant funds, Bird Nerd shirts were purchased for each student and the trip to the Biggest Week was planned. Mr. Banish is a field tech for Swarovski Optiks and asked if the club could borrow binoculars since none of the students had them. Swarovski generously provided binoculars for each student to use.

Mr. Banish asked the Ohio Young Birders to assist as guides on the trip and one enthusiastically agreed. This allowed the Bird Nerds club to divide into two groups for the day. All 15 students participated in the trip to the Biggest Week and after a long day full of adventures, the Bird Nerds returned back to East Clark School exhausted and thrilled to have been part of the group that netted 88 species, including a Kirtland’s warbler and 17 species of warblers.

Over the past two years, the club has been on many more birding trips all across northern and central Ohio including a pelagic on Lake Erie. Club members have spoken to many adult birding groups, were interviewed on a local television program, and have been featured in several social media posts and birding publications. The have enjoyed birding with many “expert” birders such as David Lindo and several of Cleveland’s finest. The local birding community has been very generous in supporting the Bird Nerds and raised significant funding for future birding trips, last count has them visiting 50+ parks and natural areas in search of birds and adventures.

The COVID pandemic and closure of the Cleveland schools, has required that weekly meetings be held via video conference for the past year, but Mr. Banish still takes small groups of students birding whenever possible. He and the Bird Nerds can’t wait until they can start attending birding festivals and meeting with other birders again.

 

 

 

 

Get To Know Your Ohio Bird Records Committee

Get To Know Your Ohio Bird Records Committee

The nine-member Ohio Bird Records Committee (OBRC) exists to increase knowledge of Ohio’s bird life by validating records, maintaining public archives of rare occurrences of birds in the state, and establishing the official list of Ohio bird species. 

Recently, our own Jon Cefus, OOS Eastern Regional Director, was appointed Secretary of OBRC. To learn more about who they are, what it takes in keeping the records up-to-date and accurate and what you can do to help, please take the time to read Jon’s journey to the OBRC and it’s history:

Did you know that Ohio has an official list of birds that have been seen in the state? Who decides which birds do or do not count as having been seen here? 

Like many of you who are reading this, I am relatively new to birding. The advent of social media and relatively inexpensive photographic technology, along with other factors, have resulted in a huge surge over the past decade of people watching and documenting birds. From backyard feeders to “Big Years”, this hobby, or avocation for some, has become something much larger than the relatively obscure passion of a few people held together by an interest in birds and relatively small communication circles.

A significant part of the enjoyment of birding for many people is listing. Listing is the activity of keeping track of what birds have been seen within a certain defined area. The defined areas can vary greatly. From one’s own backyard feeder list to a global list that includes all birds seen on earth, the ways that people list are wide ranging. Most of the listing takes place in defined geographical areas that have human-created boundaries.  Common examples include county lists, state lists, and areas defined by birding organizations like the American Birding Association (ABA), which defines an area in North America used by those who are conducting an ABA Area Big Year.  The ABA relies on states and provinces to define which birds can and cannot be counted in their geographical areas.  I do not have time to go further into this in this article, but suffice it to say that there are many variables that go into this decision process.

The job of determining which birds go on to the official state of Ohio list of birds falls on to a group called the Ohio Birds Records Committee (OBRC). The first records committee was formed in 1981 by Ed Pierce and was called the Ohio Records Committee (ORC). This organization had no formal bylaws and existed to evaluate exceptional bird records for publication in The Ohio Cardinal. While a few other versions of that committee emerged throughout the 1980’s, in the interest of keeping this article from becoming too lengthy, I will skip ahead a bit. Around 1990, the ORC was dissolved, and in 1991 a new committee was formed in an effort to formalize the process of reviewing Ohio’s bird records by Ed Pierce and Robert Harlan. This organization developed bylaws that were modeled on the long-standing California Bird Records Committee and included defined lengths of terms for committee members and transparency in its decisions. The first OBRC members included Matt Anderson, Victor Fazio III, Jim Fry, Bruce Glick, Jean Hoffman, Tom Kemp, Tom LePage, Charlotte Mathena, Larry Rosche, David Styer, and Tom Bartlett as secretary. 

In 2004, the OBRC partnered with the newly founded Ohio Ornithological Society and became a standing committee of the state organization, all while maintaining its own Bylaws.

The process of reviewing birds by the OBRC is well described on the Ohio Ornithological Society (OOS) website:

“OBRC reviews documentations of bird sightings, not the sightings themselves. Thus, the Committee’s task is not to decide if a given species was seen, but something much more specific: that the documentation provided by observers verifies, for the historical record, the species’ occurrence at the time. As in all scientific determinations, the observer of a phenomenon must offer acceptable documentation of the observation to peer reviewers. Significant records include not only those of species rare in the state, but also rare nesting records of birds that usually are only migrants, or occurrences of birds well out of season.” 

Observers are asked to submit written documentation when they see a bird that would be a new species in the state, or when that bird species is one that is listed on the OBRC’s list of review species. The list of review species includes birds that are rarely seen in the state, and therefore require documentation of their presence. An example of this is Rock Wren, a bird that has been documented only 4 times in Ohio (3 accepted by the OBRC as of the writing of this article, and one to be reviewed). Under the Birding Resources tab of the OOS’s webpage, you will find in the dropdown menu a link for “rare birds”, which will take you to several resources as well as the current list of review species for the state of Ohio. That list will soon be reviewed and modified to reflect changes in Ohio’s birding dynamics since its last revision. 

The OBRC serves a very important function in our state. While it is true that cameras and other technological tools have made documenting rare birds much easier, there are still sightings of some birds that the person(s) were not able to get diagnostic photos, video, or audio of to add to the validity of their sighting.  In these cases, a finder of a rare bird is encouraged to write up an account of their sighting as thoroughly as possible so that the OBRC can review the report and cast votes to determine if the record will be accepted. Remember, it is not who saw the bird or whether the OBRC believes that the bird was seen, it is how well the observer documented that sighting that is being reviewed. The form for this can be found under the rare birds tab of the OOS website.  

Perhaps, like me, you are an avid user of eBird to keep track of your sightings and add audio, photographic, and video media to those reports. Does that mean that you do not need to send a form to the OBRC? This is a tricky question to be sure. It is certainly true that eBird has changed the landscape of birding, and the process of reviewing new or rare state birds has been impacted by it.  It is true that when there was no eBird, not every birder, or non-birder, was inclined to submit a report to the OBRC. Not everyone cares one way or the other whether a bird is accepted into the Ohio state records. If, however, you do care about Ohio’s official list, then it is important to try hard to properly document a sighting that represents a state review bird or a totally new state record. If you care about our state record and you are the finder of a new state record, then I am strongly encouraging you to submit that record to the OBRC for review, even if you use eBird and have done a good job of documenting the bird. 

For some time, there has been some tension between the submitting of a physical document to the OBRC and submitting a checklist via eBird in terms of whether an eBird report is sufficient to be considered good evidence of a sighting. This is certainly a fair concern. Not every user of eBird is concerned with the quality of their reports. Reviewers volunteer their time to evaluate these reports and make decisions as to whether to validate a report so that it can be included in the scientific database of eBird.  Reviewers cannot remove a bird from someone’s list, no matter how unlikely or rare the bird might be. The power of the review process only separates what is reasonably good science from poor data. Do these differences create an unbridgeable gap between the goals of eBird and the OBRC? I do not believe so. 

The process of reviewing birds is evolving and there is certainly a both/and relationship that is possible for the OBRC and Ohio’s eBird users. As you read this, a process is being developed that will allow Ohio’s state and regional reviewers to submit reports of new Ohio birds and state review birds to the OBRC for review, even if the observer does not want to send in a written report. This effort will streamline the process and, if things work as we hope, will make the job of the OBRC secretary less overwhelming, as it has been in the past. It is hoped that this will allow more time for committee members to conduct the research they need to cast a vote on a nominate species, as well as take on the task of making informed decisions about whether or not to include a species like Trumpeter Swan on to our official state list after many years of introduction efforts in Ohio and surrounding states.  

Some might think that the OBRC is no longer needed in our tech-heavy world. I disagree. This is not a zero-sum discussion. What the OBRC needs to do, as so many of our institutions do, is to evolve and grow with the world around us.  In correspondence with Rob Harlan about this article and upcoming plans for the OBRC, he wrote: “Despite its ups and downs, the OBRC has now functioned for over 30 years, has rotated in approximately 60 voting members, and has resolved well over 1000 records, providing an approving endorsement for the great majority of these. I have always felt that current and future birders are best served by a peer review panel of experienced birders from around the state, with each member relying on their own unique backgrounds and viewpoints, and all in a transparent atmosphere. In a birding world now accustomed to virtually instantaneous eBird confirmations, I worry that others might think that the more deliberate OBRC is superfluous or irrelevant. Differing methodologies certainly exist, but both organizations serve vital functions, and actually, quoting eBird: ‘Does eBird follow records committee decisions? Because the eBird review process is much faster than review by records committees, we encourage eBird reviewers to make preliminary judgments for rare species in real time. We recommend, but do not require, our reviewers to follow the decision of the record[s] committee when it is ultimately reached.’” 

Over the years, folks like Robert Harlan and the other dedicated members of the OBRC and its predecessors, have done the heavy lifting of trying to make Ohio’s official list of birds as high quality as possible, and we all owe them our gratitude. In the spirit of recognizing that heavy lifting, as Rob has provided me with much help with this article, I will give him the last words on this subject. 

“I like the idea of the OBRC working in conjunction with eBird, and of course, many OBRC members are simultaneously eBird reviewers. Room for both? I think birding will be better for it.”

 

Where We Are Birding – March

Where We Are Birding – March

Each month, our OOS Regional Directors are sharing their favorite birding hotspots in their respective regions – and beyond. These include some well-know destinations, specialty spots for specific species, and their own secret, treasured local patches. Have a favorite birding location? Reach out to your OOS Regional Director and let them know!

Amy Downing – Northwest Regional Director

Blue Rock Nature Preserve, Riverside Park, and Oakwoods Nature Preserve

With amazing weather but a busy schedule I find myself on daily short
hikes through small to medium-sized parks looking for the early migrants.
My focus is on the closest parks with dense undercover, water sources, and
high tree canopy. Hancock County is fortunate to have such places like
Blue Rock Nature Preserve, Riverside Park, Liberty Landings, and Oakwoods
Nature Preserve that are within minutes.  Today found me listening to
Spring Peepers and hoping for American Woodcock, American Phoebe, Wood
Duck on the river searching for nesting sites, Rusty Blackbirds with the
freshly arrived Red-winged, and early shorebirds in flooded areas. As
always I’m watching the skies for migrating raptors and hoping for Black
Vultures passing through with Turkey Vultures. Soon the warblers will be
coming through, so find your local parks with the right conditions for
great birding no matter length of time you have to get out there!

Melissa Wales – Southeast Regional Director

Ora Anderson Trail ​- Athens County

The Ora Anderson trail behind the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens is a delightful one mile loop. The Dairy Barn had been an active dairy for the Athens Lunatic Asylum (now known as The Ridges) and Ora Anderson, among his vast conservation accomplishments, was instrumental in the preservation of the barn, its transformation into an arts center, and the trail system behind it.

It is not accessible with a rather steep, sometimes muddy and rough loop trail that winds up the hillside and opens up to a clear cut, whose scrubby edges sometimes gift you with Fox (which I found this March) and Vesper Sparrows. The open treeless hilly area on the southern end is good for raptors, Eastern Bluebirds and more sparrows. The loop trail continuing to the north is good for migrating vireos and warblers, which are hopefully on their way now!

Kandace Glanville – Central Regional Director

Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park – Franklin County

Late February and early March sort of marks the beginning of spring migration in central Ohio, and a great place to look for this is at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park in Franklin county – specifically, the eBird hotspot “Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park–Darby Plains Wet Prairie Restoration.” Wear your muck boots, and walk the trails to look for Northern Harriers, Rusty Blackbirds, swallows, as well as Short-eared Owls and American Woodcocks at dusk. These trails are not always easily walkable, as it’s uneven terrain and often very wet and muddy. Though, if nothing else, one could stand in the parking lot of the trails and get the Short-eared Owls and American Woodcocks from there.

Diana Steele – Northeast Regional Director

Sandy Ridge Reservation – Lorain County

In March, birds are on the move! Particularly blackbirds, waterfowl, and early shorebirds. A site I like to visit in March is Sandy Ridge Reservation, part of the Lorain County Metroparks system. It’s a vast reclaimed wetland and nature preserve frequented by many different types of ducks, shorebirds, blackbirds, sparrows, and later in spring, warblers. Since it opened in 1999, nearly 250 species have been seen there. From the parking lot, the half-mile-long flat crushed-stone Wet Woods Trail leads through a woods where thrushes pop up from leaf litter and a pair of great horned owls breed. When the trail opens up at a large wetland, an eagle nest can be seen to the left. A wide variety of ducks congregate on the open water, and shorebirds forage in small mudflats. For the past two years, trumpeter swans have raised broods here, and a solitary sandhill crane, nicknamed “Kevin,” often wanders the paths along with walkers. The 1.2-mile Marsh Loop Trail encircles the 526-acre wetland, and a raised mound and viewing platform offer a wide overview of the landscape. The trail can feel very exposed in windy or wet weather. In prior years, during migration, park personnel have offered guided tram tours, which will return post-Covid. Restrooms are available at the parking lot. A second trail, the .7-mile Meadow Loop Trail, encircles a meadow; a great place to see displaying woodcocks at dusk as well as breeding meadowlarks and sparrows. Check the park website for open hours, which change seasonally.

Jon Cefus – East Central Regional Director

Various Richland County Locations

This month you’ll find me trying to locate waterfowl on their spring migration with hopes of finding something rare here in Ohio like a Eurasian Wigeon or a Cinnamon Teal.  In east central Ohio, one of the counties that is on my radar is Richland.  With multiple lakes, reservoirs, and wetlands, Richland is a perfect place to search for ducks and geese.  For more information, check the Birding in Ohio website for hotspots and birding drives.

Tyler Ficker – Southwest Regional Director

Spring Valley Wildlife Area – Warren and Greene Counties

Spring Valley extends into both Greene and Warren counties and is my favorite place to visit in March. This location has diverse habitat for early migrant species such as kinglets, creepers, and sparrows. The waterfowl diversity this time of year can be great along with some early marsh birds beginning to sing such as Virginia Rails!

Nocturnal Flight Calls

Nocturnal Flight Calls

The night before birding on a given morning during migration is spent excitedly talking about the predicted migration with my friends. Messages are exchanged on anything from wind patterns to Cornell’s BirdCast and predicting which species we think will finally make it to our area for the first time this season. Then we all head to bed, excited for the migrants that await us in the morning.

Some of these nights, there is enough activity overhead that I try to listen to what birds are flying over. When it’s quiet, you can hear faint chips overhead as birds pass by. With a microphone, you’re able to hear them much clearer and even identify them to species! These “nocturnal flight calls” provide a whole new insight and level of excitement to birding in migration!

I clearly remember sitting in the audience at one of the Ohio Young Birders Club conferences. The keynote speaker was telling us how he was able to listen to the birds migrating overhead each night and identify them to species by call or spectrogram. I was no older than middle school at the time, but it stuck with me. I knew someday I wanted to be able to do that myself, and see what birds migrated over my house on a given night.

This spring, I decided it was finally time to make the dream come true. I’d seen a lot of eBird lists coming in with recordings marked “NFC”. These “NFC’s,” or Nocturnal Flight Calls, are a series of typically short notes given by birds during migration. Many are high-pitched and similar enough that they can’t be identified to species. However, some, such as Yellow-billed Cuckoo, give calls similar to those you would hear on a typical summer morning. Thankfully, I had a few friends who had experience with these identifications, and others who were also trying to learn. This allowed us to work through IDs and technical difficulties together.

A very busy road runs behind my house here in Clermont County, making hearing overhead birds difficult at times. Once it was late enough at night, usually around midnight, I would go set out my microphone. In my case, this was a sensitive directional microphone in a 5-gallon bucket, allowing sound to be funneled into the mic. The cable was usually run 30 feet or so over to my computer, where I had headphones plugged in and Cornell’s Raven Lite software open. Some people run their NFC mics all night and go through recordings the next morning to see what calls they detect. Since I am just getting started with this, I chose to run the mic only as long as I could be awake, and listen to the calls in real time. This allowed me to learn more in the moment. As I watched the spectrogram of the live recording coming in, I would save just short segments as I heard them.

The area my house is in is relatively urban, just adding significance to the variety and numbers of species passing overhead. There is little habitat anywhere in the county for some of the species I observed to even stop, making it even more exciting to hear them!

Within my first hour of running the microphone, I was already amazed at the diversity overhead. April 23rd was still early enough in the season to detect earlier migrants, such as sparrows. My NFCs were mostly Savannah, Chipping, and White-throated Sparrows. Some of the exciting surprises were difficult birds for Clermont County, such as Grasshopper Sparrow, Pine Warbler, and Great Egret! I was very excited after this night and couldn’t wait to see what came later in the season.

The call of a Chipping Sparrow is a “U” shape, often with a second line in the middle (as shown in the second call) or sometimes a single “U” as shown in the first.

A few days later on April 28th, my sister, Cassidy, and I decided to try the microphone again. Due to less road noise in the middle of the week, we were able to start as early as 10:45pm. As I went outside to set up the microphone, I heard a Spotted Sandpiper calling overhead and knew that this was going to be a fun night to listen. A few unidentified warblers called too distantly to confidently ID, but still had me excited to see the species change in such a short time. Sparrow numbers were significantly lower, and thrushes had begun to pick up. Hermit and Veery both were recorded. The most exciting finds of the night were the Least Sandpiper (a very fun yard bird) as well as THREE Virginia Rails, one of my most wanted birds for Clermont County in general.

Four faint “Kek” calls of a Virginia Rail. They have one of the lower calls I heard over my house. They were easier to hear than the computer picked up.

The third (and unfortunately final) time I ran the microphone this season just happened to be the craziest night yet! May 18th was just after the main peak in migration for the Cincinnati area, and I had no idea what to expect. I only had an hour to run the microphone before bed, because I wanted to get early for one of the last big pushes of birds in the area. I went outside to set up the mic, and within the first 30 seconds I heard 8 Swainson’s Thrushes overhead. Once recording started, Swainson’s Thrushes were calling once every 15 seconds, resulting in a call rate of nearly 250 birds per hour! A number of Veery and Gray-cheeked Thrushes called as well. Other surprises included 45 Indigo Buntings, Blue Grosbeak, Grasshopper Sparrow, Green Heron, and two Yellow-billed Cuckoos!

One of the almost 250 Swainson’s Thrushes that passed over my house in the hour I ran the microphone! The thrushes all have pretty distinct calls while migrating.

Learning to identify these calls wasn’t easy. I spent a lot of time on both oldbird.org and eBird’s Macaulay Library, as well as texting friends for help. It took time to familiarize myself with the most common calls and learn to help classify them into families. There are certain common patterns to recognize, you must note the time and frequency of every call, and have patience while browsing other samples. These were the most beneficial ways for me to learn. It may be a bit of a learning curve, but was a very fun new way to experience migration. When birds are migrating overhead, you never know what could fly over your yard!

I was able to record a Least Sandpiper during the April 29, 2020 session below.

eBird Checklist - April 23, 2020

This checklist features 16 species, 15 with audio recordings. Click Here

eBird Checklist - April 29, 2020

This checklist features 10 species, 8 with audio recordings. Click Here

eBird Checklist - May 18, 2020

This checklist features 14 species, 13 with audio recordings. Click Here

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