Thursday, April 23, 2009

Birds in the Hocking Hills

While I was taking photos during the Shoot the Hills photo competition this past weekend, I made sure that my ears were "on" so I could listen for birds. I was not disappointed.

I was absolutely delighted to hear my first Wood Thrush of the season (haven't heard any in our own woods yet), and I also heard my very first Hermit Thrush - EVER! Unfortunately I didn't see either of them, but their haunting, beautiful songs were rewarding enough. The Hermit Thrush should be preparing to head farther north to its breeding territory, whereas the Wood Thrush is just migrating into its breeding range from down south, so I imagine the window of time of being able to hear both of these thrushes on the same day is probably pretty small. How fortunate I was!

I also heard plenty of Phoebes, a Chipping Sparrow kept me in constant company at my campsite, and I was lucky to hear (but not see) the Black-Throated Green Warbler. One of the easier warblers to identify by ear, it has an easily recognizable song of "zoo-ZEE, zoo-zoo-ZEE!" I heard them all over the place, and was happy to be sharing space with them as they make their migratory way through to points farther north. Apparently there were also Blue-gray Gnatcatchers in the area, because several folks captured photos of them, but I didn't see any personally. (The Photographer's Choice winner was an wonderful photo of a Gnatcatcher perched on a blooming Redbud tree.)

One place in the area to stop for some good water bird photography is Lake Logan. The north end of the lake is quite the haven for Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Mute Swans and Canada Geese. I'm sure other birds like it there, too, but these were the most obvious species. I also heard lots of Red-winged Black Birds around, too, but did not spot any of them.

Here's a Great Egret coming in for an awkward-looking landing (please excuse the photo quality - shooting right into the sun here):

Here is a Mute Swan in the middle of flapping his (or her?) wings:

There was also a female Mute Swan on her nest:

... and in mid-preen:

Finally, I got a series of photos of a Great Blue Heron catching his dinner:

Afterward he had to shake it out and got his feathers all floofy:

Only to quickly return to his calm, cool and collected self:

Hocking Hills State Park naturalist Pat Quackenbush informed us that Double-Crested Cormorants and Red-throated Loons have also been spotted at the lake, passing through on migration.

Coming up... wildflowers of the Hocking Hills!


North West Birds said...

Awesome heron photos!!

An Open Heart said...

I really have become quite addicted to your blog. I check it everyday after lunch, you've usually posted and I can enjoy some beautiful wildlife. These bird photos are terrific. The Swan is my favorite, both of them. I really love the one of the female on her nest. I wonder if you publish your photography anywhere else, or if you sell your photos?

karen said...

Hi Heather, You've posted some extraordinary photos today! Thanks so much for sharing with us! You were indeed lucky to hear both thrushes at the same time. The first time I heard a hermit thrush, up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, it stopped me dead in my tracks. I think that moment was when I became more than a backyard birder!

Kelly said...

Wowsers! You really went to town on these. Fabulous photos and great commentary.

Kelly said...

...almost forgot. I hear the White-throated Sparrows singing in my yard this morning!! Must be a new band migrating through. (I haven't heard the Wood Thrushes yet at the trail. Their song is incredible...beautiful...magical...I could go on and on.)

Ginnymo said...

Hi Heather. It's amazing to me that you know all those bird sounds. And what great photos of the geese and heron. I probably won't be near any water this year so I really love looking at others photos of water birds. Awesome!! Thank you!!

Heather said...

Northwest Birds - Hi there! Thank you. I've never been that close to a heron before without it caring that I was there.

OpenHeart - Thank you again for your kind words. I submit photos to Cornell from time to time (as you saw in my other post), but that's about it. I have dreams about selling my photos, but haven't figured out how to put the dream in motion yet.

Karen - Aw, thank you. Your story about the Hermit Thrush is very familiar to me. The first time I heard the Wood Thrush's song was when I became addicted to bird song, and it launched me into deeper learning about and appreciation of the birds.

Kelly - Oh I am so happy to hear you have White-throated Sparrows back in your yard! Weeks ago I told my little guys that they needed to send some of their friends to Cincy to see you - took them a while, but they finally made it! Yes, that Wood Thrush song is something special. It brought tears to me eyes to hear it last weekend.

Ginnymo - If I get photos of any other water birds, I will certainly post them. The bird sound knowledge comes with lots of hard work, and trust me, I'm still learning. I had to look that warbler up when I got home! ;)

Heather said...

Kelly! I JUST heard it... my first Wood Thrush. Couple that with the song of the first Ovenbirds of spring this morning before leaving for work, and my first Hummingbird as I was preparing dinner... a big spring bird day on the home front!

RuthieJ said...

Oh Heather, those photos are amazing--especially the great blue heron.

I heard a hermit thrush a couple weeks ago when we were out turkey scouting. Haven't heard a wood thrush for years though. I think all of the thrushes have the most beautiful calls. How fortunate you have them right in your own backyard.

Heather said...

Ruthie - Thank you, I like those heron shots a lot, myself. Yes, the thrush's songs are truly amazing (even the Robins and Blue Birds!). I've yet to hear the Veery, though... have you?

Nature As Is said...

I've just started following you, and I'm very impressed with your swan them.

Heather said...

Nature As Is - Hello, and welcome! Swans are so regal and majestic, aren't they? I will come over and check out your site.