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Posts Tagged ‘Shawnee State Forest’

The Kentucky Warbler was about 20 feet from us, eye level, in perfect light.  He had to have known that we were watching him, but he appeared unconcerned about our presence and sat there singing.  Birding does not get any better than this.  It was one of those magic moments that Diane and I both treasure.  We were alone on a forest service road in Ohio’s Shawnee State Forest and it was quiet except for the birds.  This spot was perfect breeding habitat for Kentucky Warblers – low ground with lots of brushy cover by a little creek.

I was too lost in the moment watching the Kentucky Warbler to even try for a photo, but I was able to get this shot of an American Redstart the previous day.

American Redstart (male)

American Redstart (male)

Diane and her husband planned to visit their daughter in Indianapolis and Diane wanted to meet for a few days of birding.  We decided on Shawnee State Forest and I was pleased that Diane liked it as much as I had on my first trip.  We arrived on Monday afternoon, April 28, and were able to bird for a couple of hours in relatively dry weather before dinner.  Unfortunately, we had awful weather for the rest of the trip.  The next day it rained until noon and was uncomfortably hot all afternoon after the sun came out.  The following day it rained non-stop.  And, then it was time to leave.  But, still, we found quite a few birds including Hooded, Prairie, Black-and-white and Blue-winged Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chats, Scarlet Tanagers, and unusually cooperative vireos, all allowing us quality views.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (male)

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (male)

We found this gorgeous male Rose-breasted Grosbeak one afternoon and he was still working the same tree when we came back a few hours later.

Trillium grandiflorum

Trillium grandiflorum

There were fewer wildflowers than last year when I was two weeks later.  But, the forest was still lovely with Trillium grandflorum dominating the roadsides.  Little patches of bluets were everywhere.  Wild geraniums were beginning to pop up here and there.  There were a few irises.  Ferns were just starting to unfurl.

On our one hot afternoon, the birds were quiet, but there was an abundance of butterflies.  My favorites were the Zebra Swallowtails, a life butterfly for me.

Zebra Swallowtails

Zebra Swallowtails

Our pet-friendly cabin in the state park was a perfect base for our stay.  The state park is inside the state forest.  The screened porch in the back was great for watching birds when we were tired of driving in the rain.  Jack and Diane’s two dogs found the cabin as comfortable as we did.

A cabin in the woods also let me find a few spring moths.  I was too tired to stay up late, but saw these pretty little moths just before bedtime.

Shawnee moth 1P

Shawnee moth 3

 

Other birders reported Cerulean Warblers in the cabin area. We did not see them, although we thought that we heard them a few times.  It was our only real miss, not too bad considering the weather.  We enjoyed the forest and the birds so much that we talked of going back next year.  I hope that we are able to return to my new favorite spring birding location, Ohio’s Shawnee State Forest.

Our cabin in Shawnee State Park

Our cabin in Shawnee State Park

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Sandy Beasley and I arrived at Shawnee State Forest late in the afternoon on May 17 after driving from Magee Marsh.  We had just enough time for a stop at the Shawnee State Park office to pick up a “birding map” created by the park naturalist.  The state park is nestled in the middle of the state forest and contains most of the recreational facilities.  Hundreds of athletes participating in the American Triple-T triathlon filled the area and we were happy to get away and drive a peaceful gravel road.  Immediately, we were struck by the spectacular beauty of the forest.  And, even late in the afternoon, we could hear birds singing everywhere.  While Magee hosted mostly tired, hungry migrants, Shawnee was home to breeding birds.  And an ideal home it was, providing 65,000 acres of high-quality habitat.  We had made reservations for one night, but after our 2-hour scouting trip, we decided to stay for two nights so that we would have an entire day to enjoy the forest.

Kentucky Warbler

Kentucky Warbler. Photo © http://www.BirdPhotos.com.

On Saturday, we drove the Panoram Loop which was mostly gravel roads.  Wild geraniums and ferns carpeted the edges between the roads and woods.  We didn’t see as many birds as we had at Magee, but the ones that we did observe made the day a joy.  Cooperative birds that gave us great views included Hooded, Worm-eating, and Kentucky Warblers.  We heard Wood Thrushes singing their ethereal songs and Ruffed Grouse drumming.  The songs of Red-eyed Vireos and Ovenbirds filled the air.  Yellow-breasted Chats gave their raucous calls.  We observed several pairs of Scarlet Tanagers at eye-level.  We saw only a few cars or bikes on the road and met only one other birding party.

Worm-eating Warbler

Worm-eating Warbler. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo.

Even with a map, we had a difficult time finding our way out of the forest.  After going the wrong direction twice, Sandy flagged down a truck.  The driver was Chris Glassmeyer, who didn’t just give directions, but led us back to the highway.  Chris was very familiar with the forest as he had worked there for the Ohio Division of Forestry a couple of years ago.  We talked about the management of the forest and learned that there is logging, but that the Ohio Division of Forestry received certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) in December 2010 for all 21 state forests.  Still, Chris had tired of seeing trees with dollar signs on them and recently went to work for The Ohio Nature Conservancy, where he is an Area Steward.  As supporters of TNC, Sandy and I share Chris’ values and we all seemed energized by the conversation about Shawnee and its birds and other wildlife.  We enjoyed meeting Chris as much as seeing Shawnee’s beautiful birds.

Blue-winged Warbler

Blue-winged Warbler. Photo © http://www.BirdPhotos.com.

We had planned to leave for home on Sunday morning, but the forest called us back, so we spent another few hours in a different area that was recommended for birding.  As soon as we turned onto the forest service road and pulled over beside the little stream, we heard birds.  Carolina wrens, Gray Catbirds, and Common Yellowthroats called and then we heard a new song.  Yes, a male Cerulean Warbler right over our heads!  Thrilled that we had decided to spend more time in the forest, we continued on down the road.  We saw the first Blue-winged Warblers of the trip – right at eye level.  Other highlights included Kentucky and Hooded Warblers.  Acadian Flycatchers, Wood Thrushes, and Ovenbirds sang as we slowly drove down the country road.

Cerulean Warbler

Cerulean Warbler. Wikipedia photo.

Those last three hours in Shawnee State Forest were an absolutely perfect end to our Ohio birding adventure and the perfect complement to Magee Marsh.  We had a total of 116 species of birds for the trip, including 30 species of warblers.  Sandy and I look forward to returning to the forest as much as to Magee, but next time we will go earlier in the year when the trees are not fully leafed out.  I’ll also work harder to review warbler songs before the next trip.  I’ve already written about learning bird songs and I’ll be using Larkwire as I discussed in that post as well as listening to CDs of bird songs.

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