Northern Bobwhite by James Muller

As the name suggests, this was a long one! With Donna Kuhn as the fearless leader, there was only myself as a participant on this trip. We hopped into one car and headed south before first light. Although our first destination was the Crown City Wildlife Area, we got a lucky bird before we even arrived: a Common Raven flew over the road, flanked by two harassing American Crows! It was shaping up to be a good day.

When we arrived at the Wildlife Area we were a little unsure of the best place to start; at over 11,000 acres, it’s a big place to bird! We decided to head down Mercerville Road first in the hope of finding some woodland birds. We weren’t disappointed! American Redstarts seemed to be everywhere, and other warblers with them; we found Kentucky, Cerulean, Blue-winged, Yellow-throated, and more. A young family of Red-shouldered Hawks disturbed a couple of Pileated Woodpeckers, and a Louisiana Waterthrush fed from the banks of a creek. We submitted our first checklist with 39 species on it after only an hour!

Henslow's Sparrow by James Muller
Henslow’s Sparrow by James Muller

We moved along to the grassland part of the Crown City WA that makes it popular for Ohio birders. Here we quickly found Yellow-breasted Chat, Henslow’s Sparrows, and Grasshopper Sparrows. The Henslow’s Sparrows, normally a very skulky species, seemed to have no fear of us and sang a short distance from our car.

Prairie Warbler by James Muller
Prairie Warbler by James Muller

We got brief looks at a Prairie Warbler, and caught our first glimpse of a startled Northern Bobwhite as it flew to find a hiding place.

Moving into Lawrence County along Turkey Creek Road we passed several farms surrounded by Barn and Rough-winged Swallows. The real highlights of this area were a pair of Yellow-billed Cuckoos showing off near a pond and a Blue Grosbeak feeding on the roadside. It was still relatively early, so we decided to make another pass through the grasslands for better looks at bobwhites. These eastern quail can be secretive, and their numbers are declining, so Crown City is one of the only places in Ohio to reliably find them. The warm weather was as good for reptiles as it was for birds, so on the way we found an Eastern Box Turtle on the roadside! These turtles are on the decline in Ohio, so I stopped to help him across the road.

We took a different route through the grassland this time, and before long we heard bobwhites singing from multiple spots. We decided to try a stakeout for awhile in hopes of seeing the birds. While we waited, we were able to see an Orchard Oriole and I was thrilled to get a look at a Black-billed Cuckoo!

Black-billed Cuckoo by James Muller
Black-billed Cuckoo by James Muller

These birds are as stealthy as the quail, and have much softer songs; it had been about two years since I’d seen one, despite them being Ohio residents. However, the singing bobwhites never showed up!

Eastern Box Turtle by James Muller
Eastern Box Turtle by James Muller

After escorting another Box Turtle across the road, we picked a third route through the grasslands that seems likely to put us in the middle of the quail territory. As we came around a bend, we finally found one! A handsome Northern Bobwhite sat just off the road, possibly eating gravel or seeds from the roadside. We stopped the car, and I managed to snap a few pictures before the bird flew into the nearby trees. We caught a few glimpses of some others, but the one on the roadside would prove to be our best look. We decided that we’d had the best of what Crown City had to offer, so we headed back north a bit to Chillicothe.

Along the road, we were shocked to see another raven fly over! Was this a sign that ravens are moving more aggressively into Ohio, or is this area just under-birded? In any case, we had our sights set on another Ohio rarity, a Mississippi Kite.

Mississippi Kite by James Muller
Mississippi Kite by James Muller

For the past several years, the kites have been nesting near the Calvary Apostolic Church in Chillicothe. We hardly had to wait a moment before we saw one of the kites cruising through the air! Since it happened so quickly, we decided to wait for better looks. A Black Vulture on top of the church kept us company while we were treated to a variety of raptors; including the kites, we also saw Cooper’s Hawk and Broad-winged Hawk! A friend had recommended that we stop at the Casa Del Taco, so we enjoyed some Mexican fare before heading back south.

Black Vulture by James Muller
Black Vulture by James Muller

Our plan was to visit the Edge of Appalachia Preserve in Adams County, a great place to hear nightjars after sunset. We stopped on the way for the Eurasian Collared-Doves in Waverly, and then at an old barn near the preserve. As I opened the door, I caught a glimpse of the resident Barn Owl as he scuttled away into the cupola! Unfortunately, he didn’t reappear, but it was good to know that the owl is still there. Working our way through the preserve, we were able to get great looks at Scarlet Tanagers in the treetops! These brilliant red birds are somehow able to conceal themselves in the canopy, so they’re much more often heard than seen. As we racked up Prairie Warblers and Indigo Buntings, I got to help a third Box Turtle across the road!

We headed up the steep driveway of the Eulett Center as it grew dark. Shortly after 10 PM, we heard a bizarre call from the edge of the woods and then saw a huge nightjar silhouette take to the sky: a Chuck-will’s-widow! We were able to hear the more common Eastern Whip-poor-wills singing their namesake songs as well, so we decided to call it a successful trip and began the drive home just as it started to rain.

Canada Goose
Northern Bobwhite
Wild Turkey
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Black-billed Cuckoo
Eastern Whip-poor-will
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Great Blue Heron
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Mississippi Kite
Cooper’s Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Barn Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Willow Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Kingbird
White-eyed Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Purple Martin
Barn Swallow
Tree Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
American Goldfinch
Grasshopper Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Henslow’s Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
Yellow-breasted Chat
Eastern Meadowlark
Orchard Oriole
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Common Grackle
Louisiana Waterthrush
Blue-winged Warbler
Kentucky Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
American Redstart
Cerulean Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Blue Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
House Sparrow