Thursday, October 3, 2013

Snipe, Blackpolls, Dogwoods, Moorhens, Autumn Meadowhawks

Wilson's Snipe and Belted Kingfisher. Field Sketches by Ken Januski.

During the last week or so we've encountered herbicide spraying in a state park, deer archery hunting in a state park, unknown spraying and government shutdown affecting a National Wildlife Refuge we visited, even the transmogrification of the road leading to the NWR into a one-way road whose direction changed every few minutes due to road construction. I've never thought about having to worry about leaving an NWR and wondering if I was about to drive the wrong way into head-on traffic.

But this is what we remember from the week: Wilson's Snipe that seemed to forget anyone was near; ubiquitous, and that's an understatement, Blackpoll Warblers; almost as ubiquitous Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies; large groupings of Common Moorhens; the only good look I've ever had at a Philadelphia Vireo;  Northern Swamp Dogwoods filled with warblers predictably at about 5 p.m., and strikingly beautiful on their own, with or without migrating birds; American Copper and Variegated Fritillary butterflies.

Though we enjoy spring birding which is accompanied by all the signs of spring there's surely something to be said for autumn birding when vegetation seems to have one last burst of color before winter. That color accentuates the subtle beauty of migrants like the Blackpoll Warbler. Together they make a visual feast.

The high point of the trip though I think had to be the Wilson's Snipe that we saw each of three days on the auto tour at Ottawa NWR near Toledo, OH. We always love to see snipe but rarely do. Most often is just a squawk and the sight of a vanishing shorebird that might or might not have been a Wilson's Snipe. Over three days in more or less the same location they seemed oblivious to humans and everything else. I took the opportunity to do the field sketches above. They're quick and nowhere near as developed as I'd like but they do capture their essence I think. It's had to notice much other than their long bill and striped back without really concentrating, something that's there's rarely time to do.

After doing a sketch I'd turn to photos hoping to get more detail from them and use the two for more developed work. But in most cases they were too far away to get as much detail as I would have liked in the photos. After I'd looked at them for awhile I decided to risk scaring them off by walking closer for a better look and photo. That's what happened below. Then I walked even closer and off this one went.

Wilson's Snipe at Ottawa NWR. Photo by Ken Januski.

Over a number of days we saw numerous warblers in a plant we later identified as a Northern Swamp Dogwood next to the nature center at Maumee Bay State Park, near Ottawa NWR. We were nearly knocked over by the warblers flying in and out of them. They're truly a beautiful shrub that are made even more so by their attractiveness to birds. We really didn't know all Blackpolls before we arrived in Ohio. We'd seen them occasionally but not often. Last week they were everywhere and they might have become our favorite bird, well at least MY favorite bird, next to the Wilson's Snipe. Below is one of many photos I took of them. I didn't try sketching them but almost think I could draw them from a mental image if I tried.

Blackpoll Warbler in Northern Swamp Dogwood at Maumee Bay State Park. Photo by Ken Januski

The last Philadelphia I thought I saw was also in this area, two years ago in the spring on the boardwalks of Magee Marsh/Crane Creek. But I just wasn't as certain as I would have liked. So I did a lot of studying of how they differed from Warbling Vireos. When this one popped up into a dead tree next to some of the Northern Swamp Dogwoods I had no doubt what it was. I just wish he'd stuck around for Jerene to see and me to sketch. His photo is below

Philadelphia Vireo at Maumee Bay State Park. Photo by Ken Januski

I do wish I had more sketches to show. And I'm severely limiting the photos I show. There should be a Cape May Warbler here, and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and one of many Common Moorhens, and Autumn Meadowhawk and Variegated Fritillary. But I'm just going to include this one last photo, of a bird we rarely get a good look at except in Illinois is fall.

Below is a Tennessee Warbler, with its extraordinarily short tail, perched in a shrub that, now that I look at it looks surprisingly like the Northern Swamp Dogwood. This picture was taken at Kickapoo State Park in central Illinois.
Tennessee Warbler at Kickapoo State Park. Photo by Ken Januski.

With sights like these who could be bothered by government shutdowns and closed parks everywhere we turned? Every obstacle took us to an alternate location that dished up something special.

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