July 14, 2013  - Here, There Be Ticks! My wife and I had planned to go do some hiking and shooting on Sunday. My first thought was to ...

ON LOCATION - Battelle Darby Creek - Galloway, OH

July 14, 2013

 - Here, There Be Ticks!

My wife and I had planned to go do some hiking and shooting on Sunday. My first thought was to go to Cleveland to see the Brown Pelican, but 6 hours in the car does not make for a happy (non-birder) spouse. So I decided on Battelle Darby Creek MetroPark.

Due to a mishap involving high heels (Friday) and moonshine (Saturday), my wife decided not to accompany me on my early morning trip to Columbus. (I really think it was me telling her that the part I like is lacking trails, but makes up for it with lots of ticks!)

At 8:00 AM before I pull out of my driveway I make sure I have everything for the hour and twenty minute drive. Mountain Dew - Check; Binoculars - Check; Camera and such - Check; Bug spray - Double-Check... Cranked up Pearl Jam on the iPod and hit the road. Felt like it was going to be a good day!

The good day started as soon as I hit I-70...

Somehow I've managed to avoid I-70 since the speed limit changed. Had no idea this was happening. Very happy about it, though. This got me to Darby by 8:55 even after stopping at Speedway to pick up some of these!

When you turn down Darby Creek Dr. It is very easy to get distracted (see below). There is so much to look at and birds are everywhere. Try to keep your eyes on the road until you get to Kuhlwein Rd. It is the first street on the left and offers parking for the Greenway Trail. 
Park here, get out, put on your bug spray... put on more bug spray... a LOT MORE... and then you're ready to go.

Field Sparrow
Birds will be all around you. Red-Wing Blackbirds, American Goldfinch, various Flycatchers, and lots of different sparrows. Most too fast to identify. But that's ok, we'll see them all again later. For now, head east on Kuhlwein road and watch the fields on your right... when you feel brave enough, we'll plunge right in.

There are no trails in the wetland portion of the park. You have to make your own way to the pools favored by shorebirds, and through the wheat and weeds to find the others. I usually cut in at the first strand of trees on the right. There is a single parking space/turnaround and it offers the chance to see Northern Cardinals, Brown Thrashers, Indigo Bunting, Song Sparrows, and lots of Field Sparrows.

Just past the big tree is the first pool. If you're quiet and careful, you're sure to find shorebirds here. They venture back and forth between the pools either from being startled, or out of boredom.
At the first pool I spotted a juvenile un-spotted Spotted Sandpiper (That's a tongue twister!) along with one with spots.
Spotted(?) Sandpiper

The spotted one flew off before I could get a photo, but will try for him again later. Nothing else of interest at this pool today. It can change from day to day and hour to hour. If you have the time, always try to check the pools more than once.

At the second pool there were a few Killdeer, a Mallard, and the Spotted Sandpiper. He tried to take off before I could get a photo, but I caught him in the air.

Spotted Sandpiper
And then something peculiar happened. Every time I've seen a shorebird they have been, of course, on the shore. Whether the shore of a lake, a pond, or even a puddle, I've only seen them on the ground. This sandpiper decided to land on a tall weed. Maybe he has been spending too much time around the sparrows.

Spotted Sandpiper
As the sun came on full strength I stopped taking pictures and focused on seeing as many birds as possible before passing out from sunstroke. I swear it is 10 degrees hotter in the wetlands than it is in the park. Before heading back to my car I saw Grasshopper, Chipping, Song, Savannah, and Vesper Sparrows. The Vesper gave me 200 Ohio birds! 

There were also Horned Larks, Eastern Meadowlarks, and Mourning Doves. Also had flyovers from Turkey Vultures, American Crow, Great Blue Heron, and about 40 Blue-Winged Teal! 

Back to the car, and down the road to the Wet Prairie area. There are grass trails here that make the walking a little easier. Before heading onto the trails, more bug spray and a quick tick check... just one (that I found at the time!).

When you enter the Wet Prairie you have the option of following the Teal Trail to the left or the Harrier Loop to the right. The Harrier Loop is only 0.8 miles, while the Teal Trail is 1.5 miles. Since I had never taken the Teal Trail, that was the one I chose. Apparently I forgot how hot it was outside. Jeans, long sleeve shirt, backpack full of lenses, heavy camera, binoculars... ugh!

Soon, my troubles lifted, though! Kind of like this!

Sandhill Crane
One wonderful thing about birding is that when you are trudging along, tired, and hot, and hungry - all of that is quickly forgotten by the sight of a interesting bird. I had seen Sandhill Cranes before at Killbuck Marsh, but never this close. I watched as it circled around and landed next to another Crane out near the water. Suddenly my pack is light. I'm not hot at all, and I'm trying hard not to run to where I saw them land.

Watching through my binoculars I noticed that Great Blue Herons don't really like Cranes. A pair were trying to bully the Crane into going elsewhere, but like most bullies, the Herons backed off when the Crane confronted them. Eventually the Herons flew off and left the Crane on its own.

Sandhill Crane
This trail loop is really amazing. Great scenery.

Teal Trail
And the sky was so perfect that I decided to try another pano.

Click for larger image
Not much else to see on the Teal Trail today. May have just been too hot. I never saw another person on the trail the entire time I was there. Song Sparrows and Red-Wing Blackbirds were the only birds.

Decided to head to the Harrier Loop and then over to the Rail Way trail.

More Song Sparrows, and lots of Dragonflies, like this Wandering Glider:

Wandering Glider
A member of the forums on whatbird.com told me that they can actually cross oceans and that they are found throughout the world in the tropics. 

The Harrier Loop is also a good spot for Dicksissels. I have seen at least one pair every time I have taken the trail. They are always on the right (west - toward the road) side of the trail.

Just past the Dicksissels, the trail connects with the Rail Way trail which leads to a short boardwalk over a pond. There is always at least one Spotted Sandpiper here; also Barn Swallows. In the past there have been Virginia Rail and Sora here. But not today. Today, only the sandpiper. It's a beautiful, well-maintained spot.

Rail Way Trail
I stood in the center of the board walk an shot a 360 degree pano.

Click for larger image
Suddenly the wetland filled with sirens as police cars, ambulances, and firetrucks raced down Darby Creek Drive. Looking across the field with my binoculars it looked as though they had all converged around my car in the parking area. I hustled back that way.

Turns out an accident had occurred right in front of the parking entrance. Like I said, it's very easy to get distracted on that road. Always watch where you are driving! (disclaimer - my wife gets on me for watching for birds more than I watch the road). Fortunately everyone was OK!

These are only two of the many trails at Battelle Darby MetroPark. Next time I'll explore the woods, and maybe check out the Bison (yes, really - there are Bison there!). Should be a wonderful place to visit in the fall!

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