Ohio, Crane Creek: May 2009

‘This year’s eastern Midwest tour produced a wide variety and quantity of migrants.  Crane Creek was particularly noteworthy with large quantities of eastern warblers, many of which were literally at arm’s reach.  In the end, we recorded 36 species of warblers missing only the scarce Connecticut and had all of the eastern flycatchers.  We had good views of Kirtland’s Warblers near Mio, but also had a female at Crane Creek, Ohio.  Our day in southern Ohio produced the usual southern species of warblers, plus good views of Henslow’s Sparrows and Blue Grosbeaks.  A White-faced Ibis east of Bay City, Michigan was certainly noteworthy.  Also noteworthy, but under the exotic category were an adult Whooping Crane also east of Bay City and a well documented female Linnet on May 20th at Tawas Point.  Two immature Rough-legged Hawks were exceptionally late.

Our tour began with a late afternoon trip to the Voice of America site in Butler County, Ohio.  Here we searched for Henslow’s Sparrow without success, but did see many male Bobolinks at close range, many of which were in display flight.  The group also had great views of several Eastern Meadowlarks.  A briefly seen adult male Blue Grosbeak was a bit north of their known breeding range.

We departed early the next morning for Adams and Scioto Counties, in extreme southern Ohio.  Here we met Sue Tackett and Charlotte Mathena who assisted us in searching for southern species.  We started off in a weedy field owned by the Nature Conservancy where we had good scope views of Henslow’s Sparrows, a scarce and very local species.  Amongst numerous ticks (of the non avian variety!) we also had Prairie Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Field Sparrow and Blue Grosbeak.  A singing male Wilson’s Warbler was a migrant.  Nearby we encountered Black Vultures and had point-blank views of a singing Grasshopper Sparrow.  We found another pair of Blue Grosbeaks at the Nature Conservancy Headquarters.  We then headed east to Shawnee Forest in Scioto County where we added several more eastern breeding warblers.  These included Blue-winged, Yellow-throated, Pine, Cerulean (several gorgeous singing males seen at close range), Kentucky, and Louisiana Waterthrush.  That evening in Portsmouth, an old steel town, we listened to Common Nighthawks in the darkness overhead.

The next morning as rain approached, we birded a bit at Scioto Trails.  While we did call in a Worm-eating Warbler, it didn’t remain long and some of the group missed it.  Later in the morning, we watched a couple of nesting Yellow-crowned Night-Herons in a posh neighborhood in Columbus.  After lunch we headed straight for the boardwalk at Magee Marsh (Crane Creek) and had our first experience in seeing many warblers at arm’s reach.  Over the next few days we spent most of our time here recording nearly all of the remaining eastern warblers nearly all of which were just a few feet away and giving exceptional views.  

Notable daily concentrations included 30 Chestnut-sided, 50 Magnolias, 15 Black-throated Blues, 40 Bay-breasts, 18 Blackpolls, including a female with male like characters, and 20 Canadas.  Several Mourning Warblers were well seen as were a couple of Prothonotary Warblers, several pairs of which are nesting here this year.  Very late was a Louisiana Waterthrush found by Stuart.  Our best sighting was a female Kirtland’s Warbler that turned up behind the state park headquarters.  We kindly received word from Ian Campbell who also relocated it for all to see.  After some fifteen minutes it flew off and to my knowledge wasn’t seen again.  Migrant Kirtland’s are only very rarely seen, but Ohio and Pt. Pelee have most of the migrant records and it is worth remembering that the species was described to science from a specimen taken of a migrant in northeast Ohio.  Other highlights at Crane Creek included both species of Cuckoos, and good studies of both Yellow-bellied and Acadian Flycatchers, the latter species being rare this far north as a migrant.  Our visit to Oak Openings produced several Lark Sparrows here at the eastern end of their breeding range, and a pair of Summer Tanagers.  After a final morning in northern Ohio where we recorded the arrival of Willow Flycatcher and were able to see the Kirtland’s Warbler described above, we headed after dinner to Leamington, Ontario.



 – John Dunn


Sample from Ohio, Crane Creek: May 2009