Sunday, March 31, 2013

Bald Eagle Nest and Update

So, Saturday I headed out to Orr Road in Ross County, Ohio, to check out the local Bald Eagle nest. I'm not exactly sure how old it is, but I do know this nest site is at least a few years old. NOTE: If you go to see this nest site, notice it is on PRIVATE PROPERTY, and you should never leave your car. Not only is it illegal to get closer, it also causes the eagles unnecessary stress, and I don't have to point out what that could do.

We traveled on down the road, constantly scanning the tree line for a giant nest. Finally, I spotted it off in the distance along the Scioto River (which Orr Road travels along at some parts).

Pulling up, we were greeted with this:

Obviously an eagle nest. The thing is massive! But it was pushing the range of my measly 200mm lens, so let's see if we can zoom in without too bad of a result...

Not the best quality, but you get the point. You can see a Bald Eagle sitting on the nest. The mate was just off screen a few trees over. I couldn't get any awesome photos, so this will have to do for now. The nest was right along the Scioto River which offers these eagles plentiful and easily-caught food. And if that isn't enough, Bald Eagle hunting ranges very from 1,700 to 10,000 acres. There are tons of lakes, ponds, and so on within that range, so these guys are set.

On another note, Spring is finally coming... I think. The recent weather has thrown everyone for a loop.

Regardless, as of Tuesday morning, I'll be in sunny Florida! The Circleville Marching Band, of which I am a mellophone player, is going down to perform at EPCOT and just generally enjoy Disney World. I might have a small post on anything interesting I see there, but I'm not sure. I want this to stay Ohio oriented, but... I don't know. I guess we will see. Have a great week!

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.