Monday, October 13, 2008

Big Sit at the Falls of the Ohio

The Beckham Bird Club in Louisville, joined The Big Sit sponsored by Bird Watchers Digest yesterday. Our club sat at the Falls of the Ohio, in a circle made from an orange extension cord, (clever, I thought) from 9 am to 6 pm. The Falls are a good place for bird watching in general, since it has shore and water birds along the Ohio River, woodland areas for forest birds, an area with feeders, and the possibility of seeing various raptors. The Falls has resident Peregrine Falcons and Ospreys.

By the time Dick and I arrived at 3 pm, the hot sun (a record 87 degrees) made the water sparkle like millions of diamonds. Very pretty, but also very difficult for birding. I just purchased a new broad brimmed birding hat, and baptized it at the Big Sit. Our group recorded 44 species till then, but no raptors at all. Some watched across the water through scopes, but hikers on the fossil beds scattered the few birds crazy enough to come out in the heat. Others watchers turned towards the woods with binoculars. Hurricane Ike blew the tops out of many trees, and we gazed hopefully at the bare limbs. The only ducks we saw were Mallards (pronounced Ma-llard with a French accent - it makes them feel special.) Even the vultures had gone someplace else. Overall, it was not an encouraging time. We weren't allowed to count the Great Brown-tailed UPS birds (you've seen it - big, silver body, and brown tail) that flew over constantly during the afternoon.

Then, out of the blue, a huge kettle of Black Vultures filled the sky, wheeling and soaring overhead. Of course, we scanned them, hoping to see a not-Vulture in the crowd. I see something white, but it isn't a wingtip. It's a tail. The bird turns a bit more. Now I see what looks like a white head. Let's see, large, dark body, white tail, white head -

omigosh! IT'S A BALD EAGLE!!!

I start to shout and jump around, unable to describe where the bird can be seen, but fortunately the other Beckham people are good birders, and they quickly find it too. Corroboration! Now, I'll admit, I pulled this picture from some older files. I wasn't fast enough yesterday to take a picture of our Eagle on the wing. As it passed behind the Interpretive Center, and reappeared on the other side, we saw another large group of birds in a straggling V formation. Sandhill Cranes! someone shouts. Sorry, not this time. I did not know that Cormorants travel in big Vs, but that's what they were. Later the Cormorants landed on the river for a little snack and to spend the night.

When we packed it up for the day, our total species count was a round 50. Click the link to see what species we spied. We did finally see the Peregrine and a Red Tailed Hawk. The Osprey decided to stay at his favorite fishing grounds downstream apparently. Ah well, there's always next year.

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