Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sandhill Cranes migrate over Ohio Young Birder Club visiting Blues Creek...

Young birders explored Blues Creek Preserve, Preservation Parks of Delaware County, Ohio Saturday, November 1.

Over one-hundred American Goldfinches and dozens of Eastern Bluebirds foraged weedy parking area fields heavy with ripe seed and ornamental fruits. Bluebirds under blue skies in crisp air flavored the clear autumn morning--birding was beautiful beginning in the parking area.

Sapsucker sap wells drilled into the base of a maple tree last year no doubt provided sweet water for migrating Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. Sapsuckers often linger to tend their wells and glean insects. Young birders learned to watch tree trunks and listen for the "Morse code" tapping of sapsuckers drilling wells.

Quiet steps and low voices stalked the nearly dry gravelly creekbed of Blues Creek dissecting the Central Ohio Clayey Till Plain in western Delaware County alongside venerable Ohio birder, Charlie Bombaci, and Park District Education Coordinator, Jackie Bain, with your blogger in tow.

The riparian belt along Blues Creek was laden with wild fruits attracting frugivores. Creekside common hackberry treetops peppered with round fruits drew hundreds of American Robins and small flocks of Cedar Waxwings.

Chicken of the woods, a.k.a. rooster comb (Laetiporus sulphureus), a common fungus found on a dead stump along Blues Creek. Identifying the fungus among us is not one of my strengths but I'm pretty sure this is a small dry growth of rooster comb. This fungus grows large bright sulphur-yellow clusters of wavy fleshy shelves. Some say the fleshy parts are good to eat.

Eagle-eye Charlie spotted cranes high overhead and counted 35 birds so high up we could not hear the croaking calls characteristic of Sandhill Crane flight chatter. Others busy inspecting an interesting tree could not pick out the high specks in the endless blue sky.

Several deeply scoured meanders along Blues Creek were found holding deep pools of water though the last rain and runoff were long ago. Young birders concluded that small fish in these pools survive long bitter winters by staying deep in water warmed by the slowly flowing groundwater. The water seeps into pools from upstream channel reservoir then seeps through and into the gravelly streambed downstream again.

Modern water tables are lower than when local fields were first cleared. Some streams dry up entirely, ground water is too deep nowadays to keep them wet: ground water is below the deepest meander scours. Many of today's dry stream miles used to support diverse small fish species and mussels year-round which have since gone the way of our once upon a time giant trees.

Lots of birds were found feeding along Blues Creek; Eastern Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet (one), Golden-crowned Kinglet, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Song Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, White-throated Sparrow, Blue Jay, American Crow, Red-tailed Hawk, Hairy Woodpecker, Song Sparrow and so on.

A gnarled survivor (the tree) along a dry flood swale beside Blues Creek. Long ago windfall partly pinned the much smaller younger tree. It survived by sending two rapid growing leaders toward sunshine to fuel recovery and return to vigor. Trees retain their mangled shapes from long-ago injuries. Your gnarled blogger below for scale.