What a truly superb outing this proved to be! The birding was even better than expected, and the group of 13 birders who joined were brilliantly fun to spend the morning with. This week, the weather was a real threat, as Columbus was experiencing amazingly late snowfalls as well as lots of rain, along with literally freezing temperatures. But the sun came out just in time for this CA outing, and the weather actually proved good (although we were all dressed in many layers to keep warm). I actually managed to get slightly sunburned, which was a big surprise to anyone enduring this April’s weather in Columbus.
Bird-wise, April is a challenging yet exciting month in central Ohio. It’s tough to know what to expect: will there be late winter birds, or will there be early migrants? Well, we got both!
We started the outing by walking part of the Wet Prairie Teal Trail to look for water-associated birds. Then we drove to the nearby Cedar Ridge area to search for woodland species. And in both cases we got good numbers of winter type birds as well as migrants returning from the south.
Quite a number of people in the group really wanted to see American Bittern, and this huge metro park must be the best place around Columbus for this species. We were not disappointed. We got numerous bitterns flying past, often showing really nicely and at times giving prolonged views. We also heard their strange calls emanating from the reeds a few times, sometimes amazingly close to us. Unfortunately (as is usual for this skulker), we couldn’t find any on the “ground” and had to rely on “in flight” views.
There were numerous Sora and Virginia Rails calling, sometimes close-by, but we didn’t manage to get visuals on either of these two species. A couple of people in the group commented that they really enjoyed learning their calls and hearing them so well, though.
Northern Harriers were seen many times. This is a beautiful raptor that hunts low over the wetlands. It abounds here at Battelle Darby in winter but is present only in tiny numbers in summer. Clearly, they haven’t left yet as we saw good numbers of them – I guess they think it is still winter.
Winter duck species were the highlight of this outing for me, as they were out in force (I wasn’t sure whether there would be many of them left now in late April). Ruddy Ducks were a highlight for quite a number of people in the group. These are beautiful birds and they showed really well, in good light. Bufflehead was another beautiful duck that was present in good numbers. Quite a few Lesser Scaup and a couple of Ring-necked Ducks were also around. We also saw Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, American Black Duck, Northern Pintail and Blue-winged Teal (another bird the group enjoyed as they were seen on the water as well as flying by and showing the beautiful blue on their wings).
Nine Lesser Yellowlegs in breeding plumage stayed a while but eventually flew off, giving their flute-like calls as they departed. Near the end of the wetland part of our outing, we saw a majestic Bald Eagle flying towards us.
Swallows had arrived – mainly Tree Swallows but also a few Barn Swallows. Eastern Meadowlarks put on a good show as we approached the cars just before we drove to the Cedar Creek area for a bit of woodland birding.
Around 11:00 am (after almost two hours of birding in the wetlands), we drove the short distance to the Cedar Ridge section of the park. Here we birded the Hawthorn Trail, as well as the parking area, for about an hour and a half. We were pleased to find a beautiful Yellow-throated Warbler, a couple of Yellow-rumped Warblers and a rather fleeting Northern Parula. An early Hermit Thrush was also located. It’s good to know that these migrants have just started to arrive in central Ohio! Two Eastern Towhees and two Brown Thrashers were also good to see. Some lingering winter birds were also still around, such as a couple of Dark-eyed Juncos and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Both kinglet species were around but we only got good views of Ruby-crowned; we could hear Golden-crowned ones above us in the treetops at one stage though. A couple of members of the group found a Winter Wren as well. Bob and Sara spotted two Pileated Woodpeckers just after the rest of the group had left.
All in all, we recorded 59 species – not bad for a fairly relaxed session of birding at this time of the year. Numbers of species should increase greatly very soon, with the pending big arrival of all the spring migrants.
You are welcome to contact me if you have a couple of birds you really want to see around Columbus. Last year many people wanted to see Sedge Wren and we arranged a few very successful outing for this species. I always like to have an excuse to get out birding!
Check out the blog post about the wetlands portion trip written by one of the participants (Timi)! Sadly she had to leave before the woodlands part. As you’ll see, she ended her morning with an extra adventure!
Here’s the list of the 32 species seen in the wetlands:
American Black Duck
Here’s the list of the 32 species seen in the woodlands: