Friday, June 12, 2020

Return to Bernheim?

Morning light in the forest
Dick has volunteered at Bernheim Forest and Arboretum since 2005, working sometimes with the horticulture group, planting and weeding (like he doesn't do enough of that at home?) but mostly interacting with visitors, talking to them about the wonders of nature. Last year this time, he would be at Bernheim 3-4 days a week. But last March, as the coronavirus pandemic grew, Bernheim decided to close altogether during the crisis. The crowds of people coming to see the Forest Giants just couldn't be controlled. It would be safer for all, they decided, to just lock the gates until things changed, a disappointing but understandable decision. Many of the employees have been working from home most of the time as well. Volunteer training has continued via Zoom meetings online. Dick and I helped at one just last week.The volunteers have been recording short videos of why they love nature and Bernheim. They are trying to keep their name out there, but no one can come in.
Daisy with bugs
This morning, however, Dick went out to film a video on site, and they invited me to come along and we could go birding afterwards. Dick said it felt like making a pilgrimage to return there even for just one day. After all, the whole migration season was missed by every birder! No reports to eBird from Bernheim!
As we parked the car in the shade on a cloudless blue-sky morning, we were greeted by a Bluebird who probably lives out in the big meadow.
Gray Catbird
Instead of hiding in the bushes, this Catbird called and followed us around the area near the silos for over an hour, just to see what we were up to, I think. Maybe he missed having an audience.
"Barn Owls"
I used to see Flicker woodpeckers nesting in the sycamore trees every spring, but none were there today. In fact, I have seen NO Flickers at all this spring, wherever we went birding. We did find this pair of "Barn Owl" nuts on a table.
Red-eared Slider at Kingfisher Pond
 Kingfisher Pond is too small to attract any real Kingfishers, but this 9-10 inch long slider was quite comfortable, despite all the duck weed on his back.
Barn Swallow hatchlings

Barn Swallow chicks
Almost ready to fledge

Barn Swallow adult at nest
Every year, Barn Swallows build their nests of mud under the porch roof of a building near Lake Nevin. The adults were busy flying around catching bugs, but we counted at least 22 nests with chicks of various ages. One of my favorite times and places.
Purple Martin Apartments
 Bernheim has hosted Purple Martins for many years. A volunteer keeps up with keeping them clean and ready when they arrive from the south.
Hanging around the apartment building
Iridescent Purple Martins
 Martins chatter incessantly as they catch air-borne bugs, when when they land, you can see how long their wings are and how they shine in the sunshine.
Tree Swallow
One of those shiny birds, however, was not a Martin but a Tree Swallow, who also nests in cavities. The Martin volunteer said that they were here before the Martins arrived, and wouldn't leave. Unusual, isn't it.
Green Darner
Lambs Ear and bee
Purple Coneflower and pollinators
Widow Skimmer dragonfly
 On of the things I enjoy about Bernheim is the variety of habitats, from dense forests, to streams and lakes, and the Big Meadow grasslands. Each is home to a variety of plants and animals.
Field Sparrow
Although the Field Sparrow normally stays hidden in the grass, this guy came bravely up to the top of a flower to serenade us with his bouncing ping-pong ball song. It's always a challenge to get a photo of one.
Green Heron
 The Edible Garden is a big vegetable garden, operated in a completely sustainable manner. It uses solar power where power is needed, and recycles all water. The garden beds are elevated so they can be reached by everyone, including handicapped visitors. They have bee hives to pollinate all the plants. When Isaacs' Cafe is open, all the fruits and vegetables served there are raised in the garden right across the road.
Green Heron in tree
Although I was trying to photograph nonstop dragonflies, a large bird flying across the pond caught my eye. It was a Green Heron, moving from his place of concealment along the pond's edge to an open space on a big tree!
Red-tailed Hawk
I am always excited to find raptors, no mater where we are birding. This big Red-tail was perched in a pine tree, and we ended up walking all the way around it before getting a good view of her face. She was keeping an eye on the meadow for something yummy for lunch.
Indigo Bunting
We hope that Bernheim will be able to re-open soon. Many other nature preserves have remained open for hikers, although all buildings and playgrounds are closed. Perhaps if they could find a way to close off the Giants...

Monday, June 01, 2020

How many Birds?

Black Vulture
The sun was shining this morning and we decided to take a road trip to Lexington, KY. McDonald's had about 8 cars in line, so we passed it by. Wendy's only had 2 cars, but only one person was working inside and he said it would take a while before he could get to us. We finally went into Thornton's for breakfast, which ruined my WeightWatcher's count for the day.
Black Vultures basking in the sun
 It was about 8:45 when we arrived at Jacobson's Park and all the Black Vultures were still on the ground. Are they juveniles who can't fly yet? If it's too early, why aren't they perched in a roosting tree? None of this seemed to bother them at all. They barely looked at us as we walked by.
Black Vulture - white wing tips
It was almost 11 am before we saw many vultures in the air. We submitted 34 Black Vultures to eBird, but it certainly felt like we saw more than that. When they all lifted up, I tried to take a photo but they were too far away to get the impact. Of course, we saw Turkey Vultures too, but not as many, and none on the ground. One of those soaring Turkey Vultures ended up being an Osprey!
Goose Family
When we arrived we saw this nice little goose family, walking down to the lake for their morning swim. As we began to walk down the lake edge ourselves, there were more geese. 4 + 13 + 27 + 30...You get the idea. I usually just estimate the numbers of birds we see, but I actually counted this time and submitted 173 Canada Geese to eBird!! They were everywhere on the bank. An hour or so later, they all moved into the lake for a swim too. I may need to check my new boots this evening to see if there is goose poop on them.
Common Grackle
I didn't count the Common Grackles after this guy gave me the evil eye, but I submitted 150, which may have been a little low.
Killdeer - broken wing act
 Killdeers nest right out there on the ground. Their eggs can be hard to see even though they are completely exposed. If something (like people) get too close, the adult will run squawking in the other direction, pretending to have a broken wing to distract any potential predators. The playground at the park was closed, but as we walked by, someone said, "want to see the Killdeer?" We approached cautiously, and this bird flopped around like she was  injured, just like the book says! We did not approach any closer, not wanting to disturb her. Under"normal" circumstances, they would never have laid eggs on the playground, but since there have been no people for months, I guess they thought it would be a nice place for children.
Killdeer in flight
On the other side of the lake, we must have see 5-6 of them flying overhead, calling ki-dee, ki-dee!
Killdeer - red eyering
 And this one landed close enough to see his red-eyering. Many birds get red eyes when they are old enough to breed, but most eye-rings are white or buff colored.

Mallard Mama and ducklings
There weren't large numbers of Mallards, but these babies were so cute I couldn't resist. I was disappointed (the polite word for it) by the amount of trash left on the sides of this otherwise lovely lake. OK, 'nuff said.
Mississippi Kite
I've seen reports of a pair of Mississippi Kites at Veteran's Park in Lexington, so we headed there next. I've never been there before and didn't know exactly where to look. The open areas were all mowed short, and the wooded areas were full of dirt-bikers. Surprisingly, 3-4 different walkers saw our binoculars and asked if we were looking for that "Mississippi" bird. We looked where they indicated, but didn't see anything. One guy said, "Look for Earl, with a camera and tripod," and right then Earl walked up. He had wonderful photos of the pair already. After we watched one of them soaring for a long time without flapping, he took us where they have been seen working on a nest. No luck again. But it was great to see one flying at least. We used to have a pair in St. Matthews, nearby, but they haven't come back in the last couple of years. Believe it or not, when I got home, I saw an email from a person I know in St. Matthews, and they are seeing kites with nesting materials again!!

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Morning at the Falls of the Ohio

George Rogers Clark site
George Rogers Clark Cabin
 I understand that it's a sign of old age when you start conversations with "I remember when..." although I suppose that's better than "I don't exactly remember..." I volunteered at the Falls of the Ohio State Park from 2003-2009, and enjoyed every minute. I learned the history of this area, the geology, the river, the birds and flowers, and much more. It's always a pleasure to go back down there and see what's going on. Some of the trees on the river bank have washed away, no surprise there.
Great Blue Heron at boat ramp
The river has been high for many months, and it shoots out from the McAlpin Dam with great strength. Thus, none of the wading birds can fish there on the fossil beds. We found herons and egrets circling around looking for a safe place to land.
Black Vultures on power tower
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
I learned to appreciate vultures while standing on the deck at the Falls of the Ohio. Dead fish would wash ashore, and the vultures took care of the mess. The Blacks found a beach ball one day and played soccer with it. They always waited until the sun was up long enough to create thermals before leaving their roosts in the morning. Smart birds.
Brown -tailed UPS bird
Of course, the biggest bird there is the UPS bird. They were on a strange landing path coming upstream from the west before turning to land in Kentucky. Very noisy birds. 
Goose Family
Apparently Canada Geese will adopt other goslings. This family had about 9, but they were two different ages and sizes. Didn't seem to matter as they paraded around at the cabin.
Osprey nest
Ever since 2003, or before maybe, there have been Ospreys nesting on the river. One of the power towers on Shippingport Island hosts cell phone transmission antennas, and the Ospreys always build their nest on it. Since the birds are protected, they stay there, but each fall the phone company tears it down. Doesn't discourage the birds though. I don't know if this is the same pair from so long ago. And I've always wondered why we don't see more of them on the river, since they are supposed to return to the area where they grew up when it's time to breed.
We noticed one groundhog in someone's yard as we walked down the levy (risking our lives from the bikers speeding along). One the way back the whole family was enjoying the sun and clover, with four of them visible!
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
I went for years and years without seeing a cuckoo, and now I've found them three times in about two weeks!
Cedar Waxwing

We heard that the serviceberry bushes at the Falls were full of berries, and drove over to look for Cedar Waxwings, which are berry eaters. They must have eaten all the ripe serviceberries yesterday, and we only saw red (unripe) berries and no birds. However, as we neared the cabin, there is a great big mulberry tree and it was full of both berries and birds, making our day! Somehow, Cedar Waxwings always look they they have been painted with water colors, their different colors blend so smoothly into each other. Then they must dip the end of their tails into a bucket of bright yellow paint.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Back to Beckley Creek

Baltimore Oriole preening
Migration season appears to be winding down, if not over. Our birder friends are not posting about finding unusual birds anymore. We haven't been to Beckley Creek Park for a few weeks, and decided to head back that way. "Should we bird or walk?" my husband asked. If we see birds, we'll bird. If not we'll walk, I replied. A month ago, we saw lots of Baltimore Orioles, but this time only one called to us, and he was busy preening, squeezing out a drop of oil and spreading it on his feathers, and zipping them back together if needed. "No time for you birders to take nice pictures. You already have those," he said.
Blue Grosbeak
It's funny how I associate certain birds with certain locations. For example, the only place I recall ever seeing a Blue Grosbeak is here at Beckley Creek. But none this year, so far...
Blue Grosbeak - immature
 At first, we thought it was an Indigo Bunting. You can see how similar they can look. But look at the extra large beak on this one-thus the name "Gros" or large beak. An adult bird would be blue all over, except for the rust on the wings. This one isn't blue on his breast yet, and seems to be an immature bird.
Indigo Bunting
The Indigo Bunting is one of my favorite blue birds...

Eastern Bluebird

Is this a good pose?
But the Eastern Bluebird is the best at posing. He never tries to hide in the leaves and is glad to turn around so the sun shines on his brilliant blue back!
Yellow-breasted Chat
Yellow-breasted Chat
The Chat is a warbler, although you would hardly believe it to look at him. Much larger than most of them, and Chat must be short for "chatter." The sun had been ducking in and out of the clouds all morning, but this Chat must have ordered the sun just for me to take photos of him.

Lichens on tree

Lichens on tree
You might this this is the tropical jungles by all the different varieties of lichens growing on the trees. It looks like tree lettuce! I joked that a lichenologist (not knowing the scientific name) would have a great time studying just this one tree. Just looked it up, and they are called lichenologists! Ha!
Red-shouldered Hawk couple

Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawks are always recognizable by their call - a loud keer, keeer, keeeer, that just goes on and on. The larger bird is the female, as with all raptors.
Turtles basking in the sun
There are other animals besides birds at the park, of course, and we spotted 10-12 turtles basking in the sun on the banks of Floyds Fork, which winds through the park. Can't tell which species these are, but the one on the right has a different smooth shell.
Willow Flycatcher
Flycatchers are some of the toughest birds to identify, because most of them look just alike. Even eBird has a category for generic flycatcher, and the field guide says you can't tell them apart unless you hear them. This little guy was perched out in the open in the wetlands, singing away "fitz-brew" instead of the burry "fee-bee-o" of the Alder Flycatcher. We played the "fitz-brew" song back and he answered us. Confirmation! Even if he's not in a willow tree.
Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Across the river, a large brown bird flew into a tree- a Yellow-billed Cuckoo! I go for years without seeing one, and now I found them twice in about a week. This one, however, started flipping its tail up and down. Was it giving me the bird? Was it trying to entice a mate to come in? Yep, it was the mate. Before I could get aimed and focused, another Cuckoo landed on top of her for a short while then flew off. Love on the river bank!

Now, Blogger says that the "legacy" version of the software will be going away in June, why don't I take a look at the new version. I did, and it will take a while to find the things I am looking for. Others have posted the same questions. Why do they think they have to change things, just to make them look different? Sigh. I'll try to keep calm.