The rest of my week-plus of vacation did not go a lot better than the start of it. The last three days, though, were relatively nice days. Saturday was a bit too nice (right, that is a thing).
Friday (11/27), I got up and headed down to Monroe Reservoir. I had two goals in mind: photograph Common Loons and photograph Red-breasted Nuthatch. I arrived on a mostly cloudy morning and headed down to the docks at Paynetown. The loons were there in numbers. Fascinating birds. They are much bigger than I have ever realized. I usually only see them at some distance, but these birds were as close as 20 feet away. After a bit of shooting, the sky clouded over a bit more, and I headed off to look for Red-breasted Nuthatch. I found one bird that I could get a photo of. I eventually ran into Scott Evans and Joe Bailey and tagged along with them for a bit. Two excellent, local birders, they lead me around to a few different places to look for some more nuthatch. Down on Tower Ridge Rd, we had around a dozen birds calling in the treetops. A very cool experience.
I left Monroe County and headed west to Greene County. After some debate, I decided to finish the day at Goose Pond; in the hopes of photographing Short-eared Owls. I arrived with a little time to kill; so, I drove around a bit. While looking around, I found a pair of Whooping Crane. They were very distant. After watching them a bit, they perked up and started dancing around a bit before they started foraging for food.
As dusk grew closer, more and more people started showing up. Anticipation for a lot of owls was high. Goose Pond is a great place to bird, and we are fortunate to have a place like it in the state. It is a Fish and Wildlife Area, and it is primarily setup for hunting. So, there are not a vast number of parking areas. On the flip side, you can pretty much walk wherever you want to go; barring there is not an active hunt taking place. What you cannot do is park in the road or (especially) block it. Unfortunately, this is exactly what was happening. You have to know the limits of the place you are birding. For their part, the owls stayed pretty distant from the lot I parked in. With a larger lens and a high megapixel body, I was able to get some okay distant shots, but they were not the quality I was hoping for.
Saturday (11/28), I opted for a little extra sleep and got up to bird Eagle Creek Park. Eagle Creek is another place we are fortunate to have in the state. It is a pretty large city park with a diverse set of habitats. It was chilly on Saturday, but I spent most of my time there walking around; so, it was not too bad. I found some Eastern Bluebirds feeding on crabapples. Other than that, the park was pretty slow.
That afternoon, I met up with my brother at Celery Bog for some shooting. The plan was to shoot some duck shots and then check out a nearby spot for Short-eared Owl. The full name for the park is Celery Bog Nature Area. You can tell a lot about a place by its name. Nature Areas (and Nature Preserves) are places set aside for nature. People are a secondary concern, here. There are trails and rules. There is also an owl, and that seems to make people forget rules. The rule here is that you have to stay on the trail. The sign placed in front of the owl roost and the brush piled along the path are pretty good indicators that not everyone is playing by the rules. Know your location; know your limits. Besides, you can get a perfectly fine photo from the path.
Down by the shore, we were surprised to find a Surf Scoter nearby in good lighting. There were also a good number of Gadwall harassing the American Coot. A lot of coots had their own attending duck. Every time a coot came up with something to eat, its attending duck would relieve it of its burden. We ran into Dan Miller, a great local photographer and introduced ourselves before heading out to go look for owls. Unfortunately, we struck out, but it was good to see my brother and spend a bit of socially distanced time.
Sunday (11/29), I was moving a bit slow. I was just dragging myself out of bed when I got a message that a pair of Evening Grosbeaks had shown up at the feeders at Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary. Why was I getting a personal message? Well, you would have to back up to the day before. I had contacted Amy Wilms about shooting off the porch there, the day before. I knew there were Purple Finch and Red-breasted Nuthatch showing at the feeders there. I also knew the place was currently closed to the public; so, I contacted Amy to get permission to shoot there. Amy was gracious enough to allow me to come shoot. She also informed me that the Evening Grosbeaks she had previously reported had not been seen recently. I was fine with that. I was really just hoping for the finch and nuthatches. Fast forward back to Sunday, and I am rushing out the door with camera and face mask in hand to, hopefully, shoot some Grosbeaks off their back deck.
It was a great experience, and I am grateful to Amy and Carl for allowing me the chance to come shoot. They are great people and run an amazing place. Sadly, they have a tough road ahead of them. With the ash borer infestation in the state, they have a large number of ash trees that are dead and need felled. It may take a while for them to get things open there.
Thanks for reading,