Prior to getting my new Dodge Dart serviced after 18,000 miles (already!) and to maintain warranty, I birded in my neighborhood for a short period. Early at about 6:30 am I walked in my immediate neighborhood and heard a brief song of a Blackpoll Warbler and a Cape May Warbler. In addition, I can be on my deck and check out my neighbor's large oak trees. Warblers love the blossoms to find the larva of acorn maggots. From my deck, I heard the "cinch" call of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and then a short song for another new bird for the year. The "cinch" call of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak sounds like the squeaky noise that a sticking door makes when one opens or closes it from the stuck position. Later, I walked down my street to Camargo Road and walked about a mile south on Camargo Road. On my way to Camargo Road, I heard a Magnolia Warbler singing from the vicinity of Norway Spruce trees in my neighbors' yards across the street from my house and also heard a Yellow Warbler. The local Yellow-throated Warbler is still singing in my neighborhood. Along Camargo Road, I heard a Red-eyed Vireo singing, a new bird for the year and found a second one singing in the mile or so that I walked. I heard two American Redstarts, one Nashville Warbler, one Tennessee Warbler singing and at least two Louisiana Waterthrushes. The American Redstarts and Louisiana waterthrushes are on territory, because they breed there. Also, I heard Great Crested Flycatcher and Wood Thrush along this stretch of road as well as Eastern Phoebe, all of which nest there.
After completing the car service, I went to Ellis Lake, a local spot where shorebirds feed during migration in the flooded fields. I have seen White-rumped Sandpipers and Wilson's Phalarope in this spot during spring migration, but not today. Then I continued west to the Lost Bridge area near Elizabethtown, OH in the southwest corner of the state near the Ohio-Indiana state line to check for Cliff Swallows, which nest under the bridge over the Great Miami River south of the juncture with the Whitewater River. I was not disappointed. Cliff Swallow is a new bird for the year. I got great views of the Cliff Swallows at point blank range from the bridge as they swooped up under the bridge. It's great to have a recent comparison with Cave Swallows seen recently in Florida. The rump patch on the Cliff Swallows is a much lighter buff color than the dark brownish-orange color of the rump patch on the Caribbean race of Cave Swallow in Florida. In addition, the pale forehead of a Cliff Swallow is white or nearly white but that of the Cave Swallows in Florida and the Mexican race in Texas is cinnamon. I drove Kilby Road to head to Miami Whitewater Park to try for some additional birds. I intended to stop by a maintenance barn along Kilby Road where Grasshopper Sparrows have bred in the past. As I was approaching this area, an American Bittern flew over the road heading southwest. I could tell that it was an American Bittern by the size, largish, medium sized heron-type with short legs, not the long-legs like a Great Blue Heron, with a long bill not the shorter bill of a night-heron, and with the humped posture with the head lower and protruding straight out rather than with the neck kinked. The wings were pointed and not rounded as in a night-heron. That's a great new bird for the year, one I was worried that I might miss this spring. There are multiple old gravel pits in this area with marshy area on the edges, so there is habitat for American Bittern in this area. I stopped at the maintenance barn but did not find any Grasshopper Sparrows. They should be back on territory but may be silent due to the earliness in the season or the lateness in the day. I continued to the Bolles Woods area of Miami Whitewater Park to look for vireos, flycatchers and warblers.
I parked at several areas as I drove up the hill and walked to listen and look. The first new bird for this area was a Red-eyed Vireo, doing its preacher bird thing, a repetition of the same short phrases, punctuated with a raised inflection at the end as if to say "You see it. You know it. Do you hear me? Do you believe?" I finally found the bird just before it flew to a new tree. Vireos can be hard to see, because they are often in the tops of the trees in the canopy of leaves and sitting still or moving slowly. In comparison, warblers are smaller but move more frequently, and therefore can be found by movement. Further up the road, near the top of the hill, I heard the distinctive song, "three-eight" repeated, of a Yellow-throated Vireo, another new bird for the year. After a diligent search, I found the Yellow-throated Vireo sitting atop a dead snag showing off its bright yellow throat and singing.
Finally, just before leaving the area, I heard the "pee-a-wee" song of Eastern Wood Pewee, another new bird for the year. Before leaving this area. I also heard or saw, Great Crested Flycatcher, Pileated Woodpecker, Ovenbird (about 4), first seen a few weeks ago in Florida, Kentucky Warbler and Cerulean Warbler, singing on territory and first seen in Texas this year and the Kentucky warbler also photographed there, the ubiquitous Red-bellied Woodpeckers, singing Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Summer tanager and at least three singing Scarlet Tanagers, and four singing Wood Thrushes. These first birds are likely setting up territory to defend against later migrants of the same species.
I continued to the wetlands area to look for and listen for Willow Flycatcher, which breeds there. The presence of Eastern Wood Pewee suggests that the Willow Flycatchers may be back, except for the fact that the Eastern Wood Pewee, usually arrives on territory a little before the Willow Flycatcher. I was not successful in finding a Willow Flycatcher, but did see a very close Sora out in the open from the viewing platform.
Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Red-eyed Vireo, American Bittern, Yellow-throated Vireo, and Eastern Wood Pewee raises the total to 401. Finally 400 + species for the year!