Date: 2/19/18 3:47 am
From: Jon Cefus <jcefus...>
Subject: [Ohio-birds] Guernsey Co. Birds

I just now have a few minutes to sit and compose a bit about this past Saturday in Guernsey County after Ben Morrison, Kent Miller, and I headed down to continue our 2018 county survey. We had a pretty remarkable day.

We began at Salt Fork State Park hoping that the ice would be giving way and some dabbling ducks would be around. The ice was giving up in some areas, mostly at water inlet sights, but the majority of the lake is still frozen. We did have a group of Common Mergansers right along SR 22 just east of the park entrance. At the feeders at the Park Offices, we were fortunate to briefly spy the Northern Shrike that has been in that area for at least a month now. We also had a female Purple Finch at the feeders. We were not able to relocate a Short-eared Owl that has been working the beach/nature center area, but another birder did report seeing it.

We then made our way to Seneca Lake (the portion in Guernsey) to look for ducks. We did not relocate the Common Raven that we found the previous week, but we have seen reports that others have successfully found the bird. Most have at least heard it in the area and then seen it fly off. It seems quite wary of people. Sometimes Crows will give away it’s location. Seneca Lake was ice-free in all the areas we checked. We immediately saw some new birds for the year by the dam (Herring Gull, Horned Grebe, American Wigeon, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Mergansers, Greater Scaup) and then set off to check other areas along the north edge of the lake (SR 313). At our first stop by the marina, Kent spied a Long-tailed Duck mixed in with a few Scaup. In an effort to try to get a better photo of the bird, we went down a road called Bass and got a few better shots and then picked up a bonus bird, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. This bird could have wintered around the lake in the coves and creek inlets that surround the lake.

Two species had continued to defy us up to Saturday in the county. Northern Harrier and Horned Lark. We finally saw a Northern Harrier along SR 821 near SR 146. It has been surprising that this species has been so hard to locate in this county, particularly when you consider that the western border of the county is just a couple of miles from the Wilds in Muskingum Co. Horned Larks, however, continue to present a challenge and we did not find any. Part of the challenge in our minds is the dominance of grazing cattle rather than milking cows being raised, which requires a lot of manure spreading. Spread manure has typically paid off in past winter efforts on our part for locating Horned Larks, Snow Buntings, and Lapland Longspurs. We have seen none of those 3 species yet, although a local Guernsey birder has seen some (Horned Larks) this year and in recent years.

We then checked a spot along SR 146 NE of Cumberland where we had a blue-phase Snow Goose last month. There were many geese in the corn stubble including a blue-phase snow goose (same one? We think so). The snow was picking up, but we were able to see what appeared to be a Greater White-fronted Goose in the mix, so we moved the car to a better position and saw that there were 2. They were moving away from us, so getting good photos was a serious challenge, but we were able to get some poor, but diagnostic shots. As we tried to find a road that would provide better photos, word came in via the Bobolink Area Facebook Page that Rich Pendlebury found a Ross’s Goose along SR 22 east of Salt Fork. We entered the address into the navigation system and set out on our first “chase” since we have been doing these surveys beginning in 2014. We have tried to relocate other birds seen by other birders, obviously, but this was the first time in the years that we have been doing these county efforts that someone was in the county at the same time as us and found a great species that we were compelled to chase down! So, a big thanks to Rich for finding that bird and giving us one more bird that can be so difficult to find in any county survey!

Adding that Ross’s Goose brought our total in the county to 86 for 2018. That is the highest total to that date in February that we have had in any of the counties we have checked so far. In 2014, we had 85 in Stark by that date and we had the aforementioned manure birds, as well as some premium gulls on the list, which we do not in Guernsey thus far.

I cannot recommend highly enough that folks consider birding around Seneca Lake more. We have come to learn that this is one of the most under-birded places in Ohio and likely holds great waterfowl that slip under the radar year after year. In Noble, we have had Black and Surf Scoters, Red-throated Loon, and a fisherman showed us a picture of a beautiful Red Phalarope in 2015.

Happy birding!

Jon Cefus
Stark Co.


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