May 31, 2015 - We received this message from Jeremy as we were driving up the street to the Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron spot in Bexley,...

No Bird... Not a Big Surprise - By Chris Collins

May 31, 2015 -

We received this message from Jeremy as we were driving up the street to the Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron spot in Bexley, OH - "No Bird... Not a Big Surprise." Though both of us had seen one before, Dan and I had driven an hour and a half to try to see this amazing bird right here in Ohio! We did not plan to be disappointed..

Jeremy says, "No Bird"
We were a block away from the location when the message came in. I said to Dan, "It's here. We'll find it." I made a left onto Dale Ave. and stopped at the corner of Preston Rd. I could see Jeremy's car sitting near the last known location of the bird, but no Jeremy. I looked in the tree above his car, and there was the Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron!

I sent Jeremy a message asking him if he was in his car. I thought it would be funny if he was sitting right under the bird and didn't know it. He replied that, after not finding it in the tree, he had walked down to the creek to look for it and was heading back in our direction. It took a minute or two to get him on the bird, but once we did it was high-fives and fist-bumps all around!

Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron - Photo by Chris
As we watched the bird, folks from the neighborhood approached us asking if the herons had returned. They shared stories of how they used to sit outside and watch them or would check on them during their evening strolls. Based on their reports, and information from Doreene Linzell, the Yellow-Crowned Night Herons had previously nested along the Scioto south of Greenlawn Ave. They first appeared on Preston Rd. in the late nineties. Four adults were using two nests, while a third nest went unused. In 2011-2012 there were only three adults reported, and in 2013 only two. Last year only one bird returned to the area and the final nest was blown down in a storm. We all assumed that would be the last opportunity to see them easily in Ohio. This bird showing up, perhaps the same one that made an appearance last year, was a BIG surprise to everyone.

Thanks to Jay Lehman, from Cincinnati, OH, we were able to obtain this photograph of the YCNH nest as it looked in June of 2007.

Preston Rd. Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron nest circa June 2007 - photo by Jay Lehman
After watching the heron for 30-45 minutes, we started discussing where to go next. We had one other "target" in mind: a Bell's Vireo for Dan. It would be a lifer for The Lieutenant.

We debated heading 45 minutes north to Delaware County or out to Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park 35 minutes west. We decided on Battelle because it was a spot where Jacob and I had seen a Bell's last year, Ronnie Clark had reported one the day before, and it was on the way home.

Bell's Vireo - Photo by Dan
When we pulled into the parking lot we heard a Grasshopper Sparrow on the south side of the lot and two guys clapping and hollering for a dog on the hill (this will become relevant in a bit). While trying to chase down the sparrow Jeremy heard the Bell's Vireo on the north side of the parking lot. We made a beeline for what seems to be its favorite tree - the same one I saw it in last year.

We had a hard time pinning down the bird as the tree was busy with Cedar Waxwings, American Robins, and an Eastern Kingbird. It would occasionally pop out and we would move frantically trying to get a clear shot at it. Though still high up in the tree, the Bell's eventually settled on a branch allowing Dan and I to nail down identifiable photos.

While we were watching the Bell's a park ranger pulled in and she asked us to keep an eye out for a missing dog. Turns out the guys on the hill had not found him yet and the ranger was getting the word out. The missing dog was an English Pointer named Mikey. Shortly after she left the lot and we began down the Teal Trail Jeremy and Dan heard a dog bark. We scanned the area but could not locate the dog.

Willow Flycatcher - Photo by Chris
A bit further up the trail I spotted a white "something" moving through the field way out in the tall grass. We could hear the dog owner behind us still calling for Mikey. Dan put his bins on whatever was in the field and it was Mikey! Dan and Jeremy started calling for the dog and I started yelling for the owner. Mikey, with that look on its face that dogs get when they've had an unauthorized adventure, walked up to Jeremy and sat down and waited for his owner to come and get him. It was nice to see how relieved the guy was to get his dog back. Smiles all around!

We walked the teal trail and found Least Bitterns (heard), Willow Flycatchers, and a couple of Marsh Wrens. The Willow Flycatchers were so close to the trail that even I could hear them.

Ring-Necked Pheasant, Orchard Oriole, Wilson's Snipe, and a Great Crested Flycatcher were the other highlights. We had a few Henslow's Sparrows calling, but they wouldn't come out for a photo no mater how hard we tried to find them.

Dan and Jeremy looking for Henslow's Sparrows
All-in-all it was a good day! A new Ohio bird for all three of us, a Lifer for Dan, and a few year birds made for a nice time! We also saw lots of frogs and butterflies and dragonflies. Though the ticks were crazy annoying, we had fun seeing who could get the most - Dan won with 16!!

Bird On!

Here are a few additional photos from the day...

Northern Leopard Frog - Photo by Chris
Bronze Copper Butterfly - Photo by Dan
Searching for Sparrows - Photo by Chris
Carolina Saddlebags - Photo by Dan

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  1. Congratulations to all ! Amazing and funny too....Love your pictures. "Bird On" Barb


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