Sunday, March 23, 2008

Birding at Hoover Reservoir

Spring break is ending today, and I enjoyed taking some time off from my office. I spent the week recovering from a very busy winter quarter, and I enjoyed doing activities other than teaching, grading, and lecture prep. The weather hasn't been particularly nice, but at least I had some time at home. On Friday afternoon, after Steve got off work, the weather looked a bit nicer, and so Steve, Meghan and I hopped in the car to go up to Hoover Reservoir to check out the birds. Someone had been reporting a red-throated loon, and that was enough of an excuse to get out and see what was on the lake. We didn't see the red-throated, but I did score a new life bird from spotting a pair of common loons by the dam. They were too far away to photograph, but we had a beautiful view of them in our scope.

There were a lot of gulls at the reservoir - Bonaparte's, as shown here and in the next couple of pics, and ring-billed.

We saw a lot of horned grebes, red-breasted mergansers, hooded mergansers, coots, ring-necked ducks, lesser scaups, pied-billed grebes, and canada geese, plus a few bufflehead ducks near the dam.

This horned grebe was grappling with a fish that looked way too big for it to swallow, but it did eventually get it down.

The fish looked to be larger than the grebe's mouth and throat.

It made me wonder how often these birds eat fish of this size, and how often do they eat? It seems as is this fish would provide enough food for a day, but I don't think that's the way it works.

Meghan wasn't interested in birds, but she did enjoy the scenery. She took a lot of photos with her digital camera.

We've had a lot of rain and snow recently, and big floods in southern and western Ohio. I don't recall seeing this much water over the spillway in the past several years.

After our stop at the dam, we drove up to Oxbow Road - another favorite birding spot for seeing waterfowl. At this location we saw a flock of 100+ red-breasted mergansers. They were kind of far off in the water, so my pics aren't very good, but you can see the field marks pretty well.

I enjoyed watching them take off for flight. They run across the water before getting enough momentum to fly.

There was a lot of courtship going on out there on the water, also.

Here was the second life bird on my list from this trip: Greater Scaup. I think I've probably seen these before, but I always error on the side of caution and call them lesser scaup. However, the field marks here are pretty clear - much more rounded head as compared to the lesser scaup, very white sides, and robust bill. Lesser Scaup have more of a peak on their crowns, and their sides are more grayish white than bright white.

The other interesting sighting of the day was the huge numbers of turkey vultures. One of the kettles of vultures we saw had several dozen birds circling. This pic shows only a subset of the turkey vultures in this kettle. They're in their migration right now, but it was pretty amazing to see so many at once. There had been a report of black vultures mixed in with the turkey vultures, but we didn't spot any of the black ones.

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