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Northwest Ohio Tour – Fort Defiance, the Maumee River, and Fallen Timbers.

April 6, 2019

Fort Defiance Park

The Maumee River

Battle of Fallen Timbers Monument

Last autumn, I spent a few days traveling around northwest Ohio.  I was seeking out birding spots and historical sites, playing the tourist from Columbus.  I had a good time- here’s some of what I saw.

I stayed a couple nights at a small cabin at Grand Lake Saint Mary’s State Park in western Ohio.  This was my base of operations for traveling through northwest Ohio up towards Michigan.

Grand Lake St. Marys State Park is a public recreation area located on 13,500-acre Grand Lake in Mercer and Auglaize counties, Ohio.  Grand Lake is the largest inland lake in Ohio in terms of area, but is very shallow, with an average depth of only 5 to 7 feet. The state park is open for year-round recreation, including boating, fishing, swimming and hunting. The park consists of the lake and park facilities scattered all around the shore intermingled with private property and a facility operated by Wright State University.  It is west of St. Marys, and south-east of Celina.

Northwest Ohio contains a lot of flat cropland- this is the till plains (and lake plains) region of the state.  Western Ohio is largely farmland, while eastern Ohio has a good amount of forested hills.

As always, I enjoy the backroads and visiting small town Ohio.  I spent a lot of time on Route 127, which went south-north through the area I was visiting.

Here’s Paulding County’s courthouse.  I’m going to do a post on Ohio’s county courthouses some day- they are excellent studies of 19th-century architecture.

Occasional industrial facilities dotted the rural flatlands.  Lima’s oil refinery was of particular interest.

Paulding and Wan Wert Counties had large wind farms out amidst the farmlands.  It’s hard to get a feel for how tall the wind turbines are without being directly under them.

Halloween was on the way, and occasional houses were well-decorated to suit the season.

This Red-Tailed Hawk perched on a power line.  I was in full birding mode!

I stopped at a few reservoirs along the way, looking for waterfowl and shorebirds.

One of the highlight stops for birds was the Black Swamp Nature Center in Paulding County.  I saw some Yellow-Rumped Warblers and Rusty Blackbirds there.

Up in the very northwest corner of Ohio is Williams County.  I visited George Bible Park there, and noted that the trees were more colorful there than the trees in central Ohio at that time.

Fort Defiance Park

One of the highlights history-wise of my trip was a visit to Fort Defiance Park in Defiance, Ohio.  As you can see in the above pictures, only the fort’s earthworks are visible now, but the park has lots of signage to give you information about the site.

If you remember my post about historic Fort Recovery Ohio, you’ll be familiar with the earlier part of the story of Fort Defiance.  General Wayne and his Legion of the United States, flush from victory at Fort Recovery, moved up towards the Native American stronghold area near the British Fort Detroit in 1794.  He built Fort Defiance at the confluence of the Maumee and Auglaize Rivers.  He used Fort Defiance as the jumping-off point for the decisive Battle of Fallen Timbers further north, which was the battle that claimed the Old Northwest Territory for the fledgling United States.

There are plaques at every location in the fort where a room or feature used to be.  I was glad to see this documentation, it made the fort more real for me.  I was slightly surprised that the fort was as small as it was.

Here’s where the Maumee and the Auglaize Rivers meet- at the heights where Fort Defiance was built.  It is a solid strategic location for defense and control of movement and trade.  The Ohio Territory wouldn’t become a state for another 9 years.

The inscribed stone above is a bit hard to read, but it commemorates the Native American Peoples and the herds of buffalo that originally lived in the area.

It’s hard to believe that there were such things as wolves, elk and buffalo in Ohio at least up until the early 1800s.  It is also amazing to think that White-Tailed Deer were once nearly hunted to extinction in the early 1900s.

Here’s an example of wildlife living in the park today- a black squirrel (a recessive coloration of an Eastern Gray Squirrel).  There is a theory that all Gray Squirrels used to be black when forests covered most of Ohio centuries ago, and that their current gray coloration is more adaptive to the current environment.  I mentioned this in my post about black squirrels years ago.

Defiance’s Public Library sits next to the park- it’s a nice building in its own right.

 

Maumee River

A nice view of the Maumee from Fort Defiance.

The Maumee River gets its name from the Miami tribe of  Native Americans; the river used to be known as the Miami River for that same reason.  Pronunciations by the settlers of Native American words was usually a bit off.

A view of the river a few miles away from Defiance.

The Maumee River is the largest watershed of any river feeding the Great Lakes, traveling through the breadbasket of Ohio from its origins around Fort Wayne Indiana.  From Fort Defiance, I followed the river up towards its terminus in Lake Erie.

Here’s the Weir Rapids area of the Maumee.  One can imagine the canoes of Native Americans, French Woodsrunners, and British and American traders plying this area like they did for centuries.

Ring-Billed Gulls and Dunlin shorebirds hung out in the shallows.

Much of the area of the Maumee watershed used to be the Great Black Swamp, a large area of glacially-fed wetlands in northwest Ohio.  It was drained by the late 19th century and provides rich agricultural soil.  This ended the serious problems with malaria the area had had for thousands of years.

 

Battle of Fallen Timbers Monument

As the Maumee River gets close to Lake Erie in the greater Toledo area, there is the Battle of Fallen Timbers Monument, recognizing General Wayne’s greatest victory over the Native American Confederacy led by Blue Jacket and Little Turtle.  This decisive victory by the forces of the young United States opened up the Ohio Territory and ultimately the Old Northwest Territory to American settlement.

The park is long but fairly narrow.  From the parking lot you walk towards a cluster of plaques, monuments and statuary.

The Battle was at a place called Fallen Timbers, where a tornado had jumbled up many fallen trees.  A description of the battle can be found in the book Autumn of the Black Snake: The Creation of the US Army and the Invasion that Opened the West by William Hogeland.  The battlefield is a quarter of a mile north from the monument.

The statue shows General Wayne with a frontiersman and a Native American.

Turkey Foot Rock was the location where Me-sa-sa, an Ottawa Indian chief, died during the Battle of Fallen Timbers.

Me-sa-sa was one of the principal leaders of the Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers on August 20, 1794. General Anthony Wayne and his Army of the Northwest marched against Indian forces in northwestern Ohio along the Maumee River. The Indians prepared to attack him in an area known as Fallen Timbers. It was a place where a tornado had knocked down many trees, and the natives intended to use the fallen trees for protection. Although the Indians used the fallen trees for cover, Wayne’s men quickly drove the Indians from the battlefield. As the Indians were retreating, legend has it that Chief Me-sa-sa jumped on top of a boulder at the base of Presque Isle Hill, hoping to rally his forces. At the time of the battle, the rock was supposedly more than five feet in length and at least three feet high. According to surviving accounts, Me-sa-sa was immediately shot and died next to the boulder. His attempts to rally the Indians failed. The white Americans had thirty-three men killed and roughly one hundred wounded, while the Indians lost approximately twice that number. The fight became known as the Battle of Fallen Timbers.

Following the battle, the boulder where Me-sa-sa was shot become a shrine in his memory. Locals routinely found offerings, such as beef, corn, and trinkets, on the boulder. Indians had left these offerings to honor their deceased chief. The boulder became known as Turkey Foot Rock. It remains unclear why the rock was named Turkey Foot Rock. One possible explanation is that whites called Me-sa-sa Turkey Foot. A second explanation is that the rock had carvings on it in the shape of a turkey’s foot. Some accounts claim that these carvings existed on the rock before Me-sa-sa’s death, while others claim that Indians made these carvings to honor the deceased chief. The boulder and some of the carvings is still visible today at the site of the Battle of Fallen Timbers.

A Fox Squirrel watched me closely from a nearby park bench.

Autumn wildflowers- Calico Asters- were blooming.

I walked across a pedestrian bridge over a highway just to the north and looked at some of the land that the Battle of Fallen Timbers was actually fought upon.

Eventually it was over the river and through the woods back to the cabin.  I visited a couple other places that will have to be given their own blog posts eventually.  Stay tuned!

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A West Coast Bird in a Cleveland Cemetery.

March 2, 2019

Varied Thrush

Lake View Cemetery

At the beginning of 2019, a friend and I piled into his SUV and went on a road trip one Sunday, from Columbus to Cleveland Ohio.  A rare bird had been sighted regularly there, and this life-lister would be worth the 2.5-hour drive.

Road trip!

Cleveland’s skyline

Passing Cleveland steel mills

Progressive Field, the ‘new’ sports stadium

East Cleveland at last!

I always have an eye out for interesting architecture…

Case Western University district

And suddenly we were at our destination- Lake View Cemetery.

Lake View Cemetery is on the east side of Cleveland, Ohio, along the East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights borders. More than 104,000 people are buried at Lake View, with more than 700 burials each year. There are 70 acres remaining for future development. Known locally as “Cleveland’s Outdoor Museum,” Lake View Cemetery is home to the James A. Garfield Memorial, Wade Memorial Chapel, which features an interior designed by Louis Tiffany, as well as an 80,000,000-US-gallon  capacity concrete-filled dam.

Lake View Cemetery was founded in 1869 and sits on 285 acres of land. The cemetery is so named because it is partially located in the “heights” area of Greater Cleveland, with a view of Lake Erie to the north. It was modeled after the great garden cemeteries of Victorian-era England and France. The Italian stonemasons brought in to create the Cemetery founded the Cleveland neighborhood of Little Italy just to its southwest.

One thing I noticed was a fair amount of Egyptian symbols upon century-old gravestones.  Back in the 1920s, Howard Carter had sparked an Egyptian antiquity craze by discovering King Tutankhamen’s tomb.  The interest was plain to see.

Cemetery symbolism is a fascinating subject.  Take, for example, the draped urn.

The widely used draped urn is one of the many symbols that humans have used to represent their views towards death and the immortal spirit. The urn itself represents a classical funeral urn used for cremains. A revived interest in classical Greece led to the prevalence of the draped in urn in cemetery symbolism, even though cremation was not terribly popular at this time ( mid to late 1800s). The urn was also thought to stand for the fact that we all return to ash, or dust; the state from which God created us.
The meaning of the drape on the urn can mean many things to many people. Some feel that it symbolizes the final, impenetrable veil between the living and the dead that awaits us all. To others, it symbolizes the human shedding their mortal body and trappings to join God in Heaven. The drape can also stand for the protective nature of God over the dead and their remains, until the Resurrection occurs. 

 

Mausoleums dotted the cemetery.  This particular one was near where the bird we were seeking slept at night.

The most spectacular sight in the cemetery was the James A. Garfield Monument.

 

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the James A. Garfield Monument is the final resting place of the 20th President of the United States. The monument is open daily, April 1 through November 19, from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. The building combines Romanesque, Gothic and Byzantine styles of architecture. Our staff will discuss the President’s life, and the beauty and history of the building. Items- from post cards, posters, puzzles and books- are for sale in our gift shop.

The architecture was truly a visual feast.

This scene is apparently Garfield on his death bed after being struck down by his assassin.

Unfortunately, it was winter, and the interior was closed for the season.  I very much would like to return and see the inside.

English Ivy is not an uncommon vine found in cemeteries.

Birds included White-Throated Sparrows

Downy Woodpeckers

Robins

Starlings

A Fox Squirrel kept an eye on us from a tree-trunk

Berries could be found on bushes- this is what kept our rare bird fed

Birding tip- always look for other birders to see if they see anything.

Suddenly, we all saw something in some berry bushes…

Sure enough, it was a Varied Thrush, a bird usually seen on the West Coast!

The Varied Thrush lives in dark, wet, mature forests in the Pacific Northwest. In its breeding range, which covers Alaska and tapers as it extends south to northern California, it inhabits forests dominated by coastal redwood, Sitka spruce, red alder forests, western hemlock, western red cedar, western larch, or Douglas-fir. In winter it may be found in a broader range of habitats, including parks, gardens, lakeshores, and riparian areas where fruit and berries are abundant.

During breeding season, Varied Thrushes eat insects and other arthropods from the leaf litter; in winter they eat mostly berries and nuts. They forage by seizing dead leaves in their bill and hopping backward to clear a spot of ground before examining it for prey. In fall and winter, they switch to fruits and acorns, forming loose flocks around their food. Some of their typical fruits are snowberry, apple, honeysuckle, madrone, mistletoe, manzanita, toyon, ash, salal, cascara, dogwood, blueberry, huckleberry, salmonberry, and thimbleberry.

The bird- a female- hopped through bushes and trees, even spending some time upon the ground.  It was amazing to see a bird so far from its western home.  But then again it’s been known to do this:

It is well known for individual birds to fly eastward in winter, showing up in just about any state, then returning to the west coast for breeding…This species is an improbable transatlantic vagrant, but there is an accepted western European record in Great Britain in 1982.

It was wonderful to see such a bird so far from home- may she get back safely!

 

Pictures from 2018 – Birds.

February 2, 2019
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It’s time for the 4th annual bird photo highlights, 2018 edition!

Here’s bird highlights from 2015 , 2016 and 2017 if you’d like to take a look.

This year I’ve decided to go with more ‘dynamic’ shots, and photos with stories…

This American Kestrel (Sparrowhawk) has caught a chunky rodent- it took off as soon as it saw me, carrying its meal elsewhere.  As in most of my photographs, I can remember where I took it- at the entrance of Glacier Ridge Metro Park.

This male Summer Tanager was right above me at Blendon Woods Metro Park- I think this is the only decent shot of this species I got all year.  They are lovely birds, completely red with a good-sized yellow beak.

This male Eastern Towhee was really belting out his song in the early spring.

This is probably the best photo I’ve ever taken of a migrating Fox Sparrow, last April at Sharon Woods Metro Park.

If you look closely at this little Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, you’ll see a tiny red spot on the crown of its head.  When they get agitated, they flash their red crown when they raise their feathers on their head.  I had a heck of a time getting a decent shot of this swiftly-moving bird at Prairie Oaks Metro Park last spring.

Speaking of smaller fast-moving birds…this Tufted Titmouse is also in that category.  I get a lot of blurry bad shots of them.

This Brown Thrasher was one of a few at Sharon Woods last spring singing its heart out, claiming territory in a large brushy field.

This male Downy Woodpecker posed nicely for me- he may have been courting a female at Kiwanis Park.

An Osprey (also known as a Fish Hawk) looking for prey above me at Alum Creek State Park.

This beautiful Great Egret was one of several at Pickerington Ponds Metro Park.

This Eastern Bluebird was one of a flock of 7 that was foraging for berries on a single-digit temperature day in January last year at Kiwanis Park.  Its brilliant colors brightened up a drab brown winter landscape.

Eastern Flickers commonly feed on the ground, unlike other Woodpecker species.  They like ants.

An American Robin peering intently for food.

A few female Wild Turkeys, part of the locally famous flock out at Blendon Woods Metro Park.

A Song Sparrow peers straight down.

An unusual view of a Red-Eyed Vireo I saw out at Battelle Darby Metro Park.  This bird came down to eye-level only feet away from me as it hunted for food- usually they stay higher up in the trees.

A Northern Mockingbird on territory at OSU’s Don Scott Airfield.

This male Orchard Oriole was singing up a storm out by the old Galbraith Racetrack at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

A Bell’s Vireo singing out at Battelle Darby Metro Park.  A pair nested there in the Kuhlwein Wetlands area last summer.  This species is making more and more visits as a breeding bird in central Ohio.

A female Yellow-Rumped Warbler eating poison ivy berries, one of their favorite foods.

A Palm Warbler seen at Blendon Woods Metro Park during spring migration.  Palm Warblers are more likely to be seen foraging on the ground than most other Warblers.

This Song Sparrow had lost its tail, most likely to some predator that missed making it a meal.  The tail feathers will grow back, hang in there, fella.

You can always count on Red-Winged Blackbirds to squawk their disapproval of your presence during their nesting season!

I felt sorry for this pair of Eastern Bluebirds.  A pair of House Sparrows were trying to take over their nest box and was keeping them away from their nest, which obviously had babies in it.  I hope they got to feed their offspring!

There are 5 different species of birds crowded around this popular feeder a year ago!

New bird species I saw last year included:

This is a pair of Mississippi Kites, raptors nesting in Chillicothe, Ohio.  They’ve been nesting there for a few years now.  This species is rarely seen in Ohio.

This is a Mew Gull, seen on New Year’s Day at Green Lawn Dam.  Unfortunately this rare visitor sickened and died.

These are 2 Ross’s Geese, roosting for the night with a flock of Canada Geese.  I went out three days in a row in frigid windy weather to finally spot them.

So many pictures, so little space!

 

The Peanut Gallery – 2018 Review.

January 5, 2019

Another year, another ‘what I saw on my patio’ report…number 8, to be exact!

Previous yearly reports can be found here: 201120122013201420152016, 2017.

A small place, but a lot happens there in a year.

As usual, the patio is an experiment in what nature will do when the owner lets things go…

…and I mean let things go!

The male Wild Grape vine is well-established along the back fence.

Lots of things use the Grape Vine for cover, like this House Sparrow hiding from a Hawk.

Wildflowers were less abundant this year- late summer and autumn saw the return of Lady’s Thumb (also known as Knotweed), and autumn also brought Tickseed Sunflower (that’s a wasp pollinating the flower).  I wonder at the variation of plants from year to year; perhaps it depends on what’s in the droppings birds deposit in the soil.  There also were a few Indian Hemp plants blooming, and a couple of Cottonwood saplings struggled to grow in a corner.

And now, onto the birds.

As usual, I had a Robin claim my patio as his territory in mid-late winter.  He liked eating raisins and chasing off other Robins.  Once it was spring, he was off raising a family and visited no more- easy to find bugs to eat by then.

The early winter months also saw the usual small flock of Dark-Eyed Juncoes hanging about.  They like the patch of evergreen trees next to the patio (like several other types of birds).  They left in the spring to head north to raise families.

Starlings visit my feeder far more often in the cold weather.  They can empty out a peanut bowl pretty fast when they bring their buddies.

Moving onto Hawks- there were three individuals I saw from the patio, this is an adult Cooper’s Hawk who likes to come by looking for bird or animal snacks.

Here’s an immature Cooper’s Hawk (probably offspring of the aforementioned adult) eating a snack in an evergreen above the patio.  Note the differences in the appearance of the breast (adult with fine red bars, immature with thick brown streaks).

Here’s the local Red-Tailed Hawk in a nearby evergreen, either looking for snacks or trying to hide from hectoring crows.  These hawks are more often seen soaring above, while the Cooper’s fly low and fast through suburbia bringing shock and awe to nervous critters below.

Onto another large bird- the Crows.  Year after year, the same Crow family visits for peanuts.  I enjoy watching these intelligent birds.

The weather isn’t always great, but that’s Ohio for you!

There seemed to be an issue with a certain crow this year.  A Crow would crowd out another, pushing it away from others.  Either it was a visitor from outside the extended family, or it was an extended family member- a 2-or-3-year-old that the core family decided it was time for them to strike out and start a family of their own.  Younger Crows will often stay and help their parents raise young next year.

Here’s a juvenile Crow begging from a family member in summer.  You can tell the juvies by their red mouths that are often open.  They usually show up in June or July.

Onto the Woodpeckers.  Woodpeckers are drawn in to the feeder occasionally because they see other birds there from the patch of evergreen trees right above.  Here’s the local male Red-Bellied Woodpecker grabbing a peanut.  It’s a beautiful large bird.

The other Woodpecker I occasionally see at the feeder is this female Downy Woodpecker.  She’s shy, often watching what’s going on from the fence.  Downies are the smallest Woodpecker in Ohio.

Although not a Woodpecker, White-Breasted Nuthatches behave like them, walking vertically up and down tree trunks, usually feeding off of insects and their eggs found in tree bark crevices.  You can see the upward angle of the beak that it uses as a probe to find food.  There’s a pair of these birds that fairly regularly come to my feeder.

Here’s a common feeder visitor, a Carolina Chickadee.  I have 3 or 4 of them that come around, possibly an extended family.  You’ll see younger ones show up with their parents in the later summer.  They are pleasant birds, always making their little calls, that love to stash safflower seeds in bark crevices.  This is known as caching.

Here’s another stasher- a Blue Jay.  4 of them visit my feeder from the north and often carry peanuts back the way they came.  These loud brash birds are related to Crows and are intelligent like them.

Sticking with larger birds, Mourning Doves are daily visitors to the patio, enjoying safflower seed in particular.

Evidently, word has gotten out about the goodies to be found here.  I’ve seen up to 14 Mourning Doves on the patio at once.  Last year saw an increase in their numbers here.

Ohio’s state bird, the Northern Cardinal.  A pair regularly visits the feeder, particularly early in the morning and late in the evening.  I’ve seen another male (or another pair) slip in occasionally.

This is an immature Cardinal.  Often secretive, immatures are characterized by their dark beaks.  There were 2 young birds that the local pair brought to the feeder once they were old enough.

Moving on to Sparrows.  We’ve seen the Dark -Eyed Junco already; here is a Song Sparrow.  There is a local pair that come visit my patio.  They are shy birds that avoid crowds.

This is a Chipping Sparrow- a handsome friendly bird that is here in the warm weather to raise a family, then gather in flocks in September in anticipation of migrating south.  I’ll see 1 or 2 pairs in the warm weather.  They’ll often plop right down upon the ground in front of me from a tree above while I’m distributing food.

Here’s an immature Chipping Sparrow that followed a parent onto the patio.  It’s fun watching young birds figuring out what’s good to eat and what’s not.

These are male and female House Sparrows.  Technically they are old world Finches (having been brought over form Europe), but we call them Sparrows anyway.  There is a flock of 2-3 dozen in my apartment court, and they often come sweeping in for food in a good-sized group, snatching food from under each other’s beaks and in general being raucous.  They sweep on out as one as swiftly as they arrived, being well-tuned to anything out of the ordinary, like Hawks (or an abundance of false alarms).

This young female has a big patch of white feathers on her wings.  I’m not sure if this is partial leucism or not.

It’s fun watching the juvenile House Sparrows being fed by their parents.  They wiggle their wings and gape open their mouths- feed me!

Speaking of Finches, there is a healthy local population of House Finches that nest on the apartment complex.  They occasionally come by for some coveted safflower seeds.  Native to the far West, eastern House Finches escaped from captivity in New York City and spread over the eastern half of the country.

This Carolina Wren is visiting more and more often in winter.  A small bird with a loud voice, it creeps into all sorts of nooks and crannies as it explores the patio.  It brought its mate along once.  These hardy birds stay year-round in Ohio.

This Tufted Titmouse is a rare feeder visitor, though I see them often enough in the ‘wild’.  They look like miniature gray and white Cardinals.  Another rare visitor was an American Goldfinch (no good photo, alas).

And now, onto the mammals!

The occasional Raccoon visits at night.  They are curious creatures and love peanuts.  One is shy, another bold.

Skunks are frequent nocturnal visitors (rarely during the day).  You can tell individuals by differences in their white stripes and spotted patches of fur.

A funny habit when 2 Skunks are eating near each other is for them to push against each other with their tails raised.  These 2 are most likely siblings from a litter.

There’s a rare Opossum that also visits at night, but I didn’t get a good picture of it, darn it.

Never forget the Eastern Gray Squirrel!  Several visit the patio looking for peanuts.

This is Notch- called that because of the notch in his left ear.

This is Half Tail.  Not sure what happened there!

This fellow got something yellow stuck to a foot- hilarity ensued before it came off!

Have something else for me?

This guy had some kind of issue- he’d eat while holding his food up high.  Not sure what that was about.

Ahh, youth.  One Squirrel chasing another through the trees.

It’s time for this little one to go off on its own- mom is done with feeding him/her.

It’s sad to watch the little squirrel follow mom- they just don’t understand what’s going on.

The young one eventually figured things out and is on the patio eating like the others.  We all have to grow up sooner or later.

Perhaps the most unique visitor above the patio last year was a tree-trimmer.  Hope you enjoyed the year in review!

Two Rare Birds in Ohio, October 2018.

December 1, 2018

Gray Kingbird

Northern Wheatear

It’s been a good autumn for rare birds here in Ohio.  Kirtland’s Warbler was a signal highlight.  Two others that I managed to see in October stand out.

Jim McCormac, a prominent Ohio naturalist who I’ve run into at a few rare bird stakeouts, wrote about seeing both of these birds.  Jim has a nature column he writes for the Columbus Dispatch, and deserves a shout-out for sharing his significant knowledge of natural Ohio and nature photography.

One bird showed up in Clark County, at Spangler Nature Preserve, located between Springfield and Dayton.    Jeff Peters gets full credit for identifying this bird- the first of its species identified in Ohio.  That’s a big deal!

The very day this bird was seen, I saw the report on the Ohio Birds Listserv and jumped in my car to drive out there as soon as I could.  I normally take scenic backroads when traveling across Ohio, but this bird sighting made me get on the freeway and drive as fast as I legally could to its location.  Luckily, Spangler Nature Preserve is perhaps half a mile from Route 70 at the Spangler Road exit.

I got there late in the afternoon and walked the paths through prairie grass.

Goldfinches flew about.

Late-blooming autumn flowers such as this White Aster dotted the preserve.

The path took me back to a treeline on the northern border of the park.

Overhead, military cargo planes made frequent practice takeoffs and landings to and from nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

In the treeline at northeast corner of the park, I saw a group of Eastern Bluebirds.  Suddenly, another bird flew into a nearby tree…

I could tell immediately that this was a Kingbird, a larger Flycatcher, distinguished by its larger size, thick bill and overall flycatcher looks and behavior (perching on a branch, occasionally flying out to catch an insect on the wing).

This is a Gray Kingbird, the first of its species to be confirmed visiting the state of Ohio.  It looks somewhat similar to the common Eastern Kingbird, but its most notable distinguishing mark is its black mask which reminds me of a Shrike.

This bird typically lives in the Caribbean islands, and visits the Florida coast in the summer.  In the autumn, rare individuals roam north of this range.  Ohio and Florida are quite different states and far apart, but this particular bird made it clear up here, and stayed a week.  An amazing feat which may have been assisted by Hurricane Michael (hurricanes often bring unusual birds with them, and birders are on the alert).  I was quite happy to stumble upon it mere hours after it was reported seen for the first time.  Not all rare bird sightings are so easily duplicated, I can assure you!

The other rare October bird I saw appeared in Richland County, a farming region north of Mansfield.  The area has many Mennonite family farms.  One of these families saw the rare bird and graciously allowed birders onto their farm to see it.  In my experience, Mennonites (a Christian Anabaptist religious group somewhat similar to the Amish) often enjoy birding and nature and are nice people.

From Columbus, the farm was three-quarters of the way to Lake Erie.  I took a backroads Ohio road trip, one of my favorite things to do.

I’ve often seen three tall blue and yellow crosses along roadways- and there is a story behind them.  There are always interesting things to see and learn on the road!

And then, I arrived at my destination.

The long driveway onto the farm property.  As you can see, birders had ‘flocked’ to the location.

I arrived near noon, but the bird wasn’t in its usual area.  Hours passed, birders spending the time looking around or chatting.  On these rare bird stakeouts, you often see the same people.  Stories are swapped.

Here’s the woodpile that the bird often perched upon.  The small gray structure behind the woodpile is an outdoor furnace- wood is burned and the hot water is circulated via pipe to the farmhouse and back, heating the home.

Turkey Vultures occasionally passed overhead, migrating south.

And suddenly, after hours of waiting, the bird appeared.  This is Bruce Simpson, Metro Parks naturalist and avid birder, posting via smartphone to the Ohio Birds Listserv that the bird had finally showed up while others frantically took pictures.

Here is the star of the show- a Northern Wheatear.

This bird was not shy- it came within 20-30 feet of the group of birders admiring it, seeming to pose for the cameras.

The Wheatear flew to the ground, finding a caterpillar for supper.

What’s so special about a Northern Wheatear?  This Old World Thrush moves back and forth from the northern tundras of Alaska and northern Canada to and from its wintering grounds in Africa!

I’ll quote from the All About Birds article, Migrating Northern Wheatears Go the Distance—and Pack Accordingly.

From the eastern arctic of Canada, Wheatears traveled through Greenland to northwestern Europe before flying south to western Africa. Their western arctic compatriots went the other way around the globe: they flew westward to Siberia and then diagonally across Asia to wind up in eastern Africa. The migration distances are astonishing, particularly the Alaskan birds’ journeys, which added up to roughly 15,000 km. Wheatears from the eastern Canadian arctic traveled a mere 7,500 km, although the first leg of their journey was a 3,500 km trans-Atlantic crossing to Europe with only one possible resting point, Greenland, en route.

The time that wheatears spend on these migrations was what I found most surprising: birds traveling across Asia took roughly 3 months to reach Africa and two and a half months to return to North America. That’s comparable to the roughly 3 months that North America’s wheatears spend on their nesting grounds, and is only marginally less than they spend on their wintering grounds (4 or 5 months for western and eastern American arctic, respectively). These birds were spending so little time in any one location that, if they were humans, they possibly would not be considered legal residents of any nation on earth!

This bird gets huge respect from me, traveling for a living.  They’ve only been recorded in Ohio six times.

I made it home just as the crisp autumn sky turned dark.  A very worthwhile trip- who knows when the next will happen?