Monday, April 30, 2018

Birding Southern Ohio's Shawnee State Park in Late April

The title I chose for this posting was a little more conservative than my (now alerternative) title: Birds, Butterflies, Bourbon but no Bastards!

I made a long 5-hour trip with my wife and two kids to the beautiful Shawnee State Park in Portsmouth Ohio. I have been to this location now about 3 times and I just think its a wonderful place to spend some time... Especially if you are a nature lover.  During the last weekend in April, the Ohio Ornithology Society has a big event at this location. There is a conference center, hotel, and some adjacent cabins which you can rent out.  Shawnee State Park is a 60-80,000 acre forest on the southern border of Ohio. I heard about it by reading Jim McCormick's great blog about Ohio Nature ( )

In the past, I had officially joined the conference event by becoming a member of the OOS, and registering but this time around, I just figured I would do my own birding without the help of group leaders etc. Amazingly, I did join up with some group leaders and I decided to donate some cash to offset my lack of paying my fee for admission.

I was invited to go at 8-9pm for a car ride which would allow me to hear Chuck wills widows, but I was content just to cup my ears at night behind my cottage to hear Eastern Whip Poor Wills singing!

I woke up early on Saturday and Sunday and birded with one of the 3 OOS groups and basically left the group at noon to re-join my wife and two kids. I hope that as my kids get bigger, they will want to join me in my birding efforts, but right now, they would be bored to bird for several hours on end.

Anyway - the group leaders warned us that everything is slower and late this year due to the cold weather. But --- I still found the birding to be amazing.  From the moment I got out of my car Saturday morning, Yellow throated Warblers were singing from the tree tops in the parking lot!  Hooded Warblers, Prairie Warblers, Northern Parulas and Worm Eating Warblers were easily come by.  My group did not cross paths with a Kentucky Warbler while I was with them, but several were seen by other groups. Same with Cerulean Warbler which also breeds in the park.

I had a tonne of first year birds ... which is pretty obvious since not much has shown up in Southwestern Ontario yet. Some non-warbler species include:  RT Humingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Great crested Flycatcher, Scarlet Tanager, Yellow throated, white-eyed, and red-eyed vireos were all seen and heard. Blue grey Gnatcatcher were very present and I also had some breathtaking looks at Pileated Woodpeckers on several occasions this weekend. Amazingly, Tufted Titmouse and Carolina Wrens were everywhere but I did not hear a single House Wren!

In terms of Butterflies - I had the potential for several new life species. Orange tipped Falcate, Henry's Elfin (which is extirpated from Ontario), Harvester are all expected at this time of year and I feel I was only able to definitely see the Orange tipped Falcate. At one moment, I had seen a small orange-brown butterfly, which I suspect may have been a Harvester, but it did not land and I had completely lost it from my sight while attempting to photograph it despite my best efforts!

I will do a "photo dump" of some noteworthy species that I was able to see below.  I seem to be less and less concerned with photography as the years go by but I still enjoy trying to capture the beauty of nature if I can. I also find that I am cropping with a wider and wider perspective as well.

Would this be a Sleep or Dreamy Duskywing?

So, its yet another road trip in the books. I could have definitely birded more and racked up more species, but I attempted to find balance between birding in the early AM and then spending the rest of the day with my wife and two boys. I couldn't help but notice that when I was in town, there were 50 or so Chimney Swifts in the air over Portsmouth Ohio. And, since the town borders with Kentucky, I couldn't help but buy a small bottle of 101-proof Wild Turkey.  A little bourbon at the end of a day well spent in nature is almost mandatory when you're this far south.

I will update this posting with an Ebird Link but a warbler listing is as follows:

1-Yellow Rumped Warbler (10)
2-Yellow throated Warbler  (5)
3-Northern Parula (8)
4-Pine Warbler (3)
5-Black and White Warbler (3)
6-Louisina Waterthrush (3)
7-Black throated Green (1)
8-Ovenbird (3)
9-Prairie Warbler (3)
10-Blue-winged Warbler (1)
11-Hooded Warbler (3)
12-Palm Warbler (1)
13-Blackburnian Warbler (1)
14-Worm eating Warbler (4)
15-American Redstart (2)

(Cerulean, Kentucky were seen by others)

Lifer species:
Black Ratsnake (Found by my son!)
Falcate Orangetip Butterfly
Potential Sleepy Duskywing...

Lets hope some of these birds make it into SW Ontario soon!

Good birding!

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