This morning the local chapter of the Audubon Society, to which I belong, held a birdwalk at Battelle Darby Creek Park, the Columbus Metro Park that is closest to where I live. Although the temps were in the 20’s F. shortly before I set off, the sun was trying to shine, so I put on two pairs of wool hiking socks, my rubber boots, lots of layers of fleece and my puffy jacket, gloves and a hat, and set off to find the group.
It is a huge park, over 7000 acres, so I left early in order to track down the group.
The birdwalk didn’t start until 9 am, which is pretty late in the day for birding, but it turned out fine because of the low temperatures. I’m a novice birder, with only 4 group birdwalks led by an expert under my belt. The great thing about this is that almost everything I see is a new “life bird.” 🙂
We were at the Wet Prairie Access/Darby Plains Wet Prairie Restoration Area in the Nature Center Area of Battelle Darby Creek.
Our friendly and very helpful leader was Chris Lotz of Birding Ecotours, which arranges small-group and custom-made birding adventures worldwide. Chris and his wife are from Joburg, South Africa, where my friend Anastacia Tomson is from. They’ve been here in Central Ohio for about a year and find the people to be very friendly, which I’ve heard from my other international friends as well. 🙂
Chris was especially nice to me as a beginner, showing me just where to look to glass birds first spotted by himself or others. He’ll be making a report to eBird (the Cornell Lab of Ornithology) on the species and numbers of birds he saw today, and another one to the Audubon Society.
So here are my morning’s life birds. I have put them in the order that I spotted them on the walk. All the bird photos are courtesy of the National Audubon Society.
Northern Harrier Hawk:
Virginia Rail (this one I only got an auditory on, all the others I got visuals, as well):
Blue Winged Teal:
Lesser Yellow-Legged Sandpiper:
Without the assistance of the more-experienced birders and our leader, I would have had no idea what I was seeing! 😛 It was a veritable cornucopia of birds.
One of the things I liked best about how Chris led the walk was that he would play for us the calls of the various birds we were spotting. I recently got the second edition of Birds of Ohio Field Guide with accompanying audio CD’s by Stan Tekiela, because I have noticed that more-experienced birders often locate birds first by their calls, before they see them or even know in which direction to look:
I was too busy trying to handle my binoculars and actually glass these birds to take any photos of them. However, I did manage to take a couple of photos of that rare species, Homo sapiens, that I spotted on the walk:
I got behind the group because one of my lens covers fell off and I backtracked to find it. Luckily, the grass on the trail was still very short this early in the spring, and so I did find it! 🙂
But then I had to leave early because of an appointment. While walking back to the parking lot on my own, I was accompanied by several gorgeous redwing blackbirds. I also saw an otter in the marsh, but by the time I got my phone out, it had disappeared.
At one point, the marsh had to be forded. On the way out, I trekked way-far-around the deepest water with some other folks. But a number of people waded straight through. So on the way back, since I was in a hurry, I went straight through the deeper muddy water.
Big mistake! 😛
The water turned out to be higher than the tops of my rubber boots. When they filled up and the mud was trying to suck them off, I lost my balance and fell into the water, up to my chest. Like a hot mud bath, except COLD. 😛 At this point, it was in the upper 30’s F. and the sun was gone.
I managed to haul myself out of the mud and water and get back to the car, where as always I had plenty of towels, wool blankets, and plastic tarps on hand in the hatchback of my Honda Fit. I try to live by the Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared.” Although I was never a Boy Scout, since I was a girl, my older brother was one. I think I was more into the whole Boy Scouting thing than he ever was! 😉
Luckily, although my binoculars did get wet, their lenses are sealed and waterproofed. I’m glad I paid the extra money for that feature. They are Eagle Optics Shrikes.
And even more fortunately, I had just sprayed waterproofing on my small daypack before I hiked in the rain a couple of days ago, so everything in there, including my phone, was dry. I had just put my phone back in the daypack instead of in my puffy jacket pocket. Everything in that jacket pocket became totally waterlogged! 😛
My little birding journal managed to more or less survive its dunking:
So now I’m waiting for my soggy muddy birdwalk laundry to be done… 😛