2015 Summer, Fall and
 Year End Summary at Deer Creek
(A map of the Deer Creek Reservoir, State Park, and Wildlife Area can be downloaded  HERE)

 This page takes over where the previous Deer Creek Seasons 2014-2015 leaves off. Sort of. That page ends in March and this one starts at the end of May leaving out most of the spring altogether. That's the way my calendar worked out this year.  My only chance to travel this year was in early April and again in late April and early May since I had to be home in June when I usually take a trip somewhere. When home between those trips and immediately before and after them I was very busy with the Columbus Symphony and couldn't get away for any birding besides what I could find in my local area in Columbus along the Scioto River. While April and May is usually the best time to be in Ohio birding, it's also the best time to be in a lot of other places as well. Taking a year off from spring birding in Ohio was put to good use in Florida and Arizona to be sure. It was already May 24th when I had a chance to do some Ohio birding this spring. I had missed the main spring passage through the state for just about everything, so I concentrated on finding all the regular nesting birds that had arrived while I was gone. I visited Deer Creek several times in the following weeks as well as other favorite places such as Scioto Trail and Zaleski State Forests, and the Tri-Valley and Crown City Wildlife Areas. Of all those places mentioned, Deer Creek has the least predictable nesting populations for many species. The fields change yearly and the condition of the wetlands and grasslands do as well. Species nesting along the creek itself and in the wooded areas at Deer Creek are more regular with few surprises from year to year.  Starting with Bell's Vireos, I was happy to easily find two singing males back at the same spots they occupied last year with a third bird also on territory nearby. Since I photographed them last year as well as the western subspecies in Arizona this year, I didn't feel any need to photograph them again. I was disappointed to find few unexpected birds nesting in the wetlands this year. The marshes at the south end looked to be in great condition for hosting many species, but I could find no rails, Least Bitterns, or Marsh Wrens on territory. All those species nested in 2012. Since then there have been dry years or lack of good habitat early in the spring when those birds may have been looking for nesting spots, but that wasn't the case this year. I did find some Common Gallinules nesting as they also did in 2014, but nothing else really notable. Even the grasslands surrounding the southern wetlands hosted few birds early in the spring. That area was supposed to be burned, but it apparently never was.

The fields in the northern parts of the Deer Creek Wildlife Area were of the greatest interest to me this summer. Many fields were planted with crops last year were at their earliest stages and just left fallow this year. In May they were sparsely covered with clover, but out of them could be heard Grasshopper Sparrows in unprecedented numbers in the DCWA. Some hosted Savannah Sparrows as well in smaller numbers. Similar fields west of the Reservoir also held some Vesper Sparrows. While Henslow's Sparrows didn't utilize those barren fields they could frequently be found on adjacent tracts using fields that were at a similar stage in 2014 and held Grasshopper Sparrows. When I did most of my breeding bird atlas work at Deer Creek in 2007 no Henslow's at all were found. In 2008 several pairs occupied the grasslands surrounding the newly created wetlands. Henslow's have consistently nested in that area since, and only in that area. In May and June none could be located there, but they turned up in at least four or five different fields elsewhere in the DCWA for the first time since I've been exploring the area. The problem with really checking out these areas thoroughly during the hot months of early summer is that there are no accessible roads away from the edges of some of them and the few established paths are overgrown and full of ticks and chiggers.

Henslow's Sparrow, June 10, 2015
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 800mm f5.6 L IS lens + 1.4x
f10, 1/800th sec., ISO 400

Henslow's Sparrow, June 10, 2015
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 800mm f5.6 L IS lens + 1.4x
f10, 1/500th sec., ISO 400

Grasshopper and Henslow's Sparrows always make for good photo ops in the summer since they can be found out in open areas. At least you'd think so. The problem is that even in June their plumage is past it's prime on most birds. I have probably deleted more photos of Grasshopper Sparrows than any other species because chunks of feathers were missing somewhere. I've done the same with Henslow's as well. The above bird looks to be in pretty nice condition, but notice that white eye ring has already mostly disappeared.

Field in northern DCWA, July 16, 2015
Canon EOS 1D X, Canon 16-35 f4 L IS lens at 16mm
f14, 1/80th sec., ISO 200

By July the barren fields that were sparsely covered with clovers in May were covered with Queen Anne's Lace giving the Grasshopper Sparrows some exposed perches off the ground.

Grasshopper Sparrow, July 23, 2015
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 800mm f5.6 L IS lens + 1.4x
f10, 1/400th sec., ISO 400

Willow Flycatcher, July 21, 2015
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 800mm f5.6 L IS lens + 1.4x
f11, 1/1000th sec., ISO 400

Of course Henslow's and Grasshopper Sparrows are not alone in these fields. They are joined by many other species that either nest in them or nest in the trees at their edges and forage for insects in the fields.  Willow Flycatchers are always common in these areas and have been for years. One species that has had a dramatic upswing in numbers recently in the DCWA is Blue Grosbeaks. I saw and heard a few over the course of the summer just by driving around and looking around the area, but it wasn't until nesting was completed in early August that I really had an idea how many Blue Grosbeaks really were present in the DCWA. Blue Grosbeaks aren't especially loud or persistent singers. The rows of trees that they tend to nest in can be found far from the roads and they can be lost in the sea of louder and more vocal species with a similar sing-songy voice such as Orchard Orioles and Warbling Vireos. Once their chicks hatch both the males and females venture out in the open fields to forage and the males sing in more exposed places. By early August I realized that there was probably a pair of Blue Grosbeaks in every long row of Black Locusts at the edges of the weedy fields in the northern part of the DCWA. In early August I knew the whereabouts of at least ten pairs when in July I knew knew of only a few. In 2007 when doing my atlas work I found only a few pairs of Blue Grosbeaks, mostly in the southern part of the area. While the main party for Blue Grosbeaks mostly ends when the males stop singing, a few lingered on afterwards and my final date for them for 2015 was October 4th. In the past when Ohio's population of Blue Grosbeaks was smaller seeing them in September or October was very unusual, but as their population continues to grow there are more frequent fall sightings in the state.

Field in western DCWA, August 7, 2015
Canon EOS 1D X, Canon 14mm f2.8 L II lens
f14, 1/100th sec., ISO 200

Field in northern DCWA, August 9, 2015
Canon EOS 1D X, Canon 14mm f2.8 L II lens
f14, 1/40th sec., ISO 200

The above two photos show the difference between the type of fields utilized by Grasshopper and Henslow's Sparrows, at least what they look like by the time they were done using them in early August. The top of these two photos shows a field covered completely with the Queen Anne's Lace was used exclusively by Grasshopper Sparrows. The field on the bottom photo was used only by Henslow's, although Grasshopper Sparrows nested across the road from this field and would occasionally venture into it and even sing. In late July some Sedge Wrens sang on territory here for a week or two but didn't stay to nest in this spot apparently. This was not a big year for Dickcissels in Ohio, but two males were heard not far from this spot in a very similar looking field in June.  I last saw some adults with young at yet a third nearby field on August 9th. Another highlight from the late July/early August period from this area was the presence of a Lark Sparrow on July 30th up the road just N of the reservoir in a gravel area used mainly as a parking area for fishermen. The Lark Sparrow was seen in the area for most of the day flying around between the gravel area and an adjacent field. Although they are very scarce in Ohio, this was not my first record for them at Deer Creek. They are known to nest in quarries in Ohio. There is a suitable quarry for them SE of the Deer Creek dam. Although that area is off limits, I do suspect that some might nest in that area some years and the birds that have appeared in Deer Creek state land have been post nesting dispersals. This birds appearance on July 30th would fit that timeline just about right.

I can't continue without mentioning the lens used above. Canon's 14mm f2.8 II lens was one of my favorites for years when I only used 1D camera with the 1.3x crop. I couldn't see what exactly the very edges looked like with the lens. When I finally bought a full-frame camera last year that lens had some serious issues. The corners were terrible. It looked like someone smeared vaseline on the edges of the sensor. It was like that at every aperture and it was still terrible at f11 and f16. I immediately sold it. There was obviously something wrong with it and an element was misaligned somewhere. Maybe I should have sent it to Canon to see if anything could have been done, but I don't know if they could have made it into a great lens. Ultra-wides like this 14mm are known to be inconsistent to begin with. I have read a lot of good and bad things about this lens over the years, mostly good things, but there are definitely some bad copies out there and some owners of them have been very vocal on the internet. After buying the fantastic Canon 16-35mm f4L IS lens last year I really thought I was all set. I really was, but then Canon introduces their new 11-24 f4L lens earlier this year. I got a serious case of lens lust for that thing. When reality set in and I had a chance to hold that thing I realized that it was far more to carry around than I wanted to deal with, not to mention its price tag is way beyond anything I could justify for my uses. I have seen some amazing photos taken with that lens, but those at the widest settings that I have enjoyed most have all been architectural photos, meanwhile I saw some amazing photos taken with the 14mm and that my old lens really should have been better. So to make a long story shot, I got another copy of the 14mm to try out, and indeed it was much better on a full frame into the very edges when stopped down where I use it. Meanwhile it has the same feel and saturation that I loved from before. It's definitely not a necessity lens. Let's be realistic. The difference between 14mm and the 16mm end of the zoom isn't that great, especially outdoors when you can step backward or forward a few feet if needed. Maybe for indoor architecture in confined spaces it makes more of a difference. The 14mm is just a fun lens to own and use, and I do get my money's out of it for that reason.  My 16-35 isn't going anywhere though.

Juvenile Grasshopper Sparrow, August 9, 2015
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 800mm f5.6 L IS lens + 1.4x
f11, 1/500th sec., ISO 500

Getting back to the birds, by August 9th juvenile Grasshopper Sparrows were everywhere in the fields where they nested. Little groups of them were flying all over the place and on the adjacent gravel roads. The males were still singing. Then it was all over a couple days later. The males had stopped singing and no juveniles could be found anywhere in any of the fields. Where did they all suddenly go? I have no idea. I saw no Grasshopper Sparrows at all this year after mid-August. Some years I might see one or two somewhere or another into October, but not this year.  Henslow's Sparrows on the first nest in these fields would continue singing a full week longer and I would also see scattered juveniles in these fields through the end of August. I'm glad that I did get this portrait of the juvenile Grasshopper Sparrows when I did. It allowed a close approach when it popped up on this mullein stalk to fluff its feathers on a dewy morning. Notice that juvenile Grasshoppers have a streaked necklace in their plumage while the adults don't. The opposite it true with juvenile and adult Henslow's Sparrows.

Bobolink, August 9, 2015
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 800mm f5.6 L IS lens + 1.4x
f11, 1/640th sec., ISO 400

This year was typical for Bobolinks at Deer Creek except that everything seemed to happen a full month ahead of schedule. Like always, none were found nesting on state land within the DCWA, but were easily found in hayfields when driving around the general area. I get the impression that they had fairly good nesting success since the fields I kept my eyes on the closest weren't being mowed. Most years their numbers peak in early September, but this year I had the highest tally for the season for them during the second week of August. The bird above is posing on a goldenrod stalked that hasn't begun to flower. Most years I'm used to seeing them well camouflaged in flowering goldenrods. The field where the above bird was photographed held at least 75 individuals that day and another dozen were in the same area where the previous Grasshopper Sparrow was taken. At the same time at the other end of the DCWA in the grasslands surrounding the wetlands there was a flock of 25 or so roving the area. The numbers this year never went beyond that. Most year they remain numerous through September and they start trickling out in October. I saw my last Bobolink in the DCWA wetlands this year on Sept. 26th, although I would later see one more a few counties to the north at the Big Island Wildlife Area on October 6th.

Northern Field in DCWA, August 25, 2015
Canon EOS 1D X, Canon 14mm f2.8 L II lens
f10, 1/250th sec., ISO 250

The fields in the northern DCWA become more and more quiet as August progresses. Many species leave altogether and the most persistent singers such as Indigo Buntings and Common Yellowthroats become silent by the last week of the month. Henslow's Sparrows had nested in the quiet field above.

Southeastern Wetlands, August 2, 2015
Canon EOS 1D X, Canon 28mm f2.8 IS lens
f14, 1/50th sec., ISO 200

As already mentioned, the southern wetlands looked healthy this year but it wasn't an especially interesting year for nesting birds. Although the above photo was taken in August, the area also looked green and lush when I first checked in May. It would have its time in 2015 with an interesting fall migration a couple of months later.

Southeastern Grasslands, August 13, 2015
Canon EOS 1D X, Canon 14mm f2.8 L II lens
f14, 1/200th sec., ISO 250

Although the Sedge Wrens I first found in the northern part of the DCWA in late July didn't stay for long, I was glad to find more on the southeast side of the southern wetlands in August. Most Sedge Wrens that nest in Ohio do so late in the season when they arrive for second nestings from areas further north. They are erratic nesters wherever they do occur in the state. They had a big year in these southern grasslands in 2012 when I estimated about 30 pairs in the area. Some came back in 2013, but not many, and I saw or heard none last year. This year I found about a dozen singing males by mid-August, but only on this east side of the wetlands. In 2012 they were more widely distributed and I would continue seeing adults with dependent young well into October.

Southwestern Grasslands, August 25, 2015
Canon EOS 1D X, Canon 14mm f2.8 L II lens
f14, 1/320th sec., ISO 250

On the other side of the southern wetlands near the New Holland entrance some Henslow's Sparrows began arriving in late July for a second nesting. By mid-August there were about a half-dozen singing males in the area. This is a traditional spot for them, but I couldn't find any there in May or June. Earlier in the season the area was just pure grasses and only later became mixed with weedy growth as the season progressed. Perhaps that was the missing ingredient. I don't know for sure. These particular Henslow's would continue singing until at least October 6th and I would continue seeing them around until Oct. 19th.

Southern Grasslands, August 2, 2015
Canon EOS 1D X, Canon 14mm f2.8 L II lens
f14, 1/50th sec., ISO 200

The area between the two forks of marsh in the southern part of the DCWA sure looks like an inviting grassland for something, but I'm not aware of anything that actually used this area with little weedy growth to nest in besides Eastern Meadowlarks in fairly low densities.

Middle Wetlands, August 13, 2015
Canon EOS 1D X, Canon 14mm f2.8 L II lens
f14, 1/250th sec., ISO 250

August is usually a good shorebird month in Ohio for southbound migrants. It all depends on habitat availability, of course, and that was lacking in central Ohio in general and Deer Creek in particular. The best shorebirding in the state was further north in Holmes County along Wilderness Road. I was fortunate enough to swing by there on a couple of occasions when I had to visit Cleveland to take my oboe and English horn to the repair shop in August.  Otherwise there are several common shorebirds I wouldn't have seen at all for the year. The middle wetland tract shown above can be the best area for shorebirds in August and September some years. In 2014 it became bone dry in late August, but in 2015 there were never any muddy edges at all as you can see above. A few shorebirds did plop down on the state park beach during August and September, but besides Killdeer, most didn't stay too long. Among the other shorebirds I saw on the beach in August and September, some for just brief visits included Semipalmated Plovers, both yellowlegs, Sanderling, and Least, Semipalmated, Solitary, Pectoral, and Baird's Sandpipers. One of the water treatment ponds in the state park developed a bit of edge habitat in that period during weeks with little rain. Solitary Sandpipers were the only regulars there but both yellowlegs, and Spotted Sandpipers also dropped in there in small numbers. Shorebirding did get more interesting at the tail end of the season in October. More on that later. Terns only had a modest showing in the late summer and early fall with only Caspian, Forster's, and Common Terns making appearances in mostly small numbers. 2014's excellent showing from Black Terns wasn't repeated in 2015 and they went unrecorded. Despite strong easterly winds in much of August and September no Laughing Gulls showed up in 2015 either that I was aware of.

After my trip to Florida in April where I took both my 800 and 300 f2.8 lenses I wanted to travel lighter to Arizona. I knew I probably wasn't going to do much if any flight photography in Arizona and didn't want to carry both lenses around the airports along with my 70-300mm zoom. Canon's new 100-400 II had been released and was getting glowing reviews, so I decided to trade in my 70-300 L for the new 100-400mm and leave the 300 f2.8 at home. As it turned out I never used it at all in AZ. I was so focused on the songbirds there and exhausted from getting up very early every morning that I never did any photography at all other than the birds and only used my 800mm lens when I was there. By August I had owned the lens for about 4 months and was lugging it around but had never used it for anything other than some backyard tests. I was seriously thinking of selling it and getting another 70-300L, which I also never used too often, but at least it was much smaller, lighter, and fit in the camera bag easily and was there when I wanted it. With all the used copies and refurbished units readily available for the 70-300 I could also put some cash in my pocket if sold the 100-400. First I felt I really should test it out.  The 100-400L II lens is really a much more versatile lens than the 70-300L. The 100-400 focuses closer and offers a considerable bit more magnification and working distance at its closest focus than the 70-300 does. The 100-400 will also take a 1.4x teleconverter to extend its range to 560mm f8 if necessary. While I like the 70-300 for its size and design, it really wasn't useful for things like dragonflies and butterflies. Adding extension tubes to it to get the necessary magnification also meant having to get too close to the subjects. There is no shortage of butterflies and dragonflies flying around Deer Creek in the summer. Without any shorebirds around in August, dragonflies gave me something to point the camera at as well as being a good reason to pull out the 100-400 lens and put it to use. Using a crop body like the Canon 1D MarkIV gives more magnification in the viewfinder than a full fram camera does. Unfortunately (to me at least) Canon no longer makes this camera or any other 1.3x crop camera. The choice is now full frame or the 1.6x crop such as a 7DII. I do own a 7DII, but I never use it. I bought one when they first came out and sold it. I have since bought another. I have owned it for maybe 6 months now but have yet to pull it out for anything besides backyard testing. I should try it out on something serious one of these days I suppose, but I still like the files I get from the 1D MarkIV better. I know and trust the camera, so that's the one I go to.

Widow Skimmer, August 14, 2015
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6 L IS II lens at 400mm
f11, 1/640th sec., ISO 400

Eastern Pondhawk, August 14, 2015
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6 L IS II lens at 400mm
f8, 1/2000th sec., ISO 500

Ruby Meadowhawk, August 17, 2015
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6 L IS II lens at 400mm
f11, 1/320th sec., ISO 500

I'm not really sure what makes a good dragonfly photo and what doesn't. With depth of field at a minimum at the high magnifications I just tried my best to keep everything aligned so that the whole body from head to tail and all four wings are in sharp focus.  In the top photo of the Widow Skimmer the subject allowed for a close approach and I was able to take my time. The background might be a bit too busy though. Not all dragonflies rest with their wings and body in a parallel plane, so in the third photo I thought a profile would be  best.

Familiar Bluet, August 17, 2015
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6 L IS II lens at 400mm
f9, 1/2000th sec., ISO 500

Resting damselflies are pretty easy to photograph as long as you can keep everything lined up and parallel to the narrow plane of focus.

Eastern Amberwing, August 17, 2015
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6 L IS II lens +1.4x at 450mm
f11, 1/640th sec., ISO 500

Eastern Tailed Blue, August 14, 2015
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6 L IS II lens +1.4x at 560mm
f11, 1/1600th sec., ISO 500

Unlike the 70-300L, the 100-400 also takes the Canon teleconverters. At least the 1.4x is prctical and allows AF with bodies that allow f8 focusing. At high magnifications with the 1.4x and the lens zoomed all the way out it really pushes the limits if you want to try to hand hold the lens. Depth of field become paper thin and it becomes very difficult to get things like the smallest butterflies very sharp. For the above photo I set the camera in AF with the fastest tracking. Eventhough the butterfly was still, the image in the viewfindwer was not due to my own movements. I took as many shots as I could and picked the sharpest one above. As a general lens in the 600mm range, the 100-400 II + 1.4x can't touch the quality or focusing speed of the Canon 300 f2.8 L IS II + 2x. For flying birds it is no substitute. Carrying around both the 100-400 and 300 f2.8 (along with the 800mm, of course) when traveling really isn't practical. While the 70-300 is much smaller and lighter than the 100-400, the 100-400 is also much smaller and lighter than the 300 f2.8. Unless I know I will be doing a lot of flight photography, I probably won't be hauling the 300 with me on planes much in the future and just take the 100-400 instead. Unlike birds, insects really aren't that big of an interest to me. Insect photography is fun to pursue a few times a year and I will have had my fill of it.

Cicada, August 14, 2015
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6 L IS II lens at 400mm
f11, 1/160th sec., ISO 500

As August came to an end the fall migration of passerines from further north began. Since I was out of town when most of the warblers and other migrants came by during the spring, I spent more time this fall looking for migrants this year than I have in a while. Late August and early September were very hot with few northerly winds. I did just a bit of poking around at Deer Creek in late August and the first week of September. The first shift of winds from the north took place around Sept. 10th. For the next month I spent as much time at Deer Creek looking for migrants as I could when my schedule and the weather permitted. In the past most of my time looking for fall migrant passerines had been spent closer to home poking around along the Scioto River in Columbus. Many of the areas in Columbus that I used to spend a lot of time during the fall when I began birding 25 years ago have become developed with condos and apartment complexes. In recent years I have also come to appreciate the lack of traffic noise when birding at Deer Creek and don't really like poking around here as much any more.

DCWA woodlot, September 13, 2015
Canon EOS 1D X, Canon 14mm f2.8 L II lens
f10, 1/40th sec., ISO 250

As I mentioned, I spent a lot more time at Deer Creek in September and early October this year than usual. I came to discover some great spots that I didn't previously know about where migrants gather. Other spots I had known about for years. When the sun first rises on a September morning there is no better place to be at Deer Creek that at the west end of D-5, which runs along the south side of the reservoir in the state park. Birds moving along the creek through the night on the west side of the creek and reservoir come to the south end of the wooded tract that gets the first sun of the day along with the insect activity that comes with that. It's a natural migrant trap early in the morning. It can be swarming with migrants on mornings after a good movement of birds. The party never lasts too long in that particular spot. After about 45 minutes to an hour the birds start dispersing over a wider area. I was slow to realize that I should just be standing there at dawn every day with my camera ready to go. I finally got around to doing just that on September 24th and got the photos below. Next year I'll try to get a start at that earler in the season. North of here is the Miller Park area (D-10) on the DCWA map and is worth a check any day of the year. Another area that was productive this year that I have always known about is the woodlot on the west side of the middle wetlands (shown in the photo above).  The path from Egypt Pike Road to the wetlands goes through the south edge of this woodlot which is often flooded and filled with insects for the hungry migrants to feed on. While I did find a good assortment of migrants along the creek itself this fall, it really is a better place to find migrants in the spring when birds are singing in the emerging vegetation. On the east side of the reservoir in the state park I have always known that the group campground was a good area. This fall I spent more time in that area and explored it more widely than I had in the past. South of the (seldom used) group campground are some wooded ravines that drain into the reservoir. The woods there have some narrow paths used by the horse riders in the area. These sheltered ravines were very productive for migrants well into mid-day when winds picked up in more exposed places. I have continued checking this area regularly into the late fall and winter and have flushed a Barred Owl from there several times. For serious county listers it should be noted that while most of the Deer Creek State Park is in Pickaway County, the group campground and these ravines are actually in Fayette County. On the other side of county line from here is the horseman's day use area. Besides the state park water treatment ponds being of birding interest, the woodlot on the south side of this area also was swarming with migrants on several occasions. One area that only became aware of for its potential later in the fall is along the road to the Harding Cabin (D-1 on the map). There are some dense thickets and mature conifers in the area with another ravine on the west side of it with some bridle paths through the area. It hosted Hermit Thrushes and Fox Sparrows late in the fall that were easily refound already in 2016 on January 1st. I look forward to checking this area out more next spring and early fall.  In reality there are more great places to look for migrants at Deer Creek than anyone could possibly cover from early morning through about mid-day when the birds are most active. While did miss a few of the more uncommon migrant passerine species this fall, (I still have yet to see a Connecticut or Golden-winged Warbler at Deer Creek) I usually had a lot of fun and found as good of numbers of the expected species as you can find anywhere else in Ohio away from the well know migrant traps along Lake Erie.

American Redstart, September 24, 2015
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 800mm f5.6 L IS lens + 1.4x
f11, 1/320th sec., ISO 400

Magnolia Warbler, September 24, 2015
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 800mm f5.6 L IS lens + 1.4x
f10, 1/320th sec., ISO 500

By the second week of October the numbers and variety of warblers diminishes daily. Only stragglers and late migrating species are left by mid-October. Around that same time interest definitely starts picking up in the wetlands.

Southeastern Wetlands, October 6, 2015
Canon EOS 1D X, Canon 16-35 f4 L IS lens at 16mm
f14, 1/60th sec., ISO 250

Southeastern Wetlands, October 6, 2015
Canon EOS 1D X, Canon 16-35 f4 L IS lens at 25mm
f16, 1/50th sec., ISO 250

As can be seen in the photos above, the condition of the wet grasses was excellent this fall. On the other hand that made navigating through the area very difficult. I just rotated my walks in that area between two old pairs of tennis shoes. Although the water could be quite cold early in the morning by late October, it was a lot easier getting around the area without dealing with cumbersome boots. While there were still plenty of warblers and other migrants still in other parts of Deer Creek, the wetlands became productive in early October. By the 5th the first of a steady stream of Nelson's Sparrows were detected. American Bitterns, Soras, Virginia Rails, and Marsh Wrens were also using the area by that date. Sedge Wrens were still seen feeding dependant young. October 6th was a five wren species day for me at Deer Creek. How often does that happen in Ohio really? At dawn there were permanent resident Carolina Wrens singing south of the reservoir. After finding both the Sedge and Marsh Wrens again in these wetlands in the morning I went and walked around the ravines in the state park. There I found a migrating Winter Wren and what was to be my last House Wren of the year. I checked out this area shown above several times a week through the 19th of October finding one to three Nelson's Sparrows on most visits. I suspect that 5 or 6 different individuals were involved.  In late October my work schedule became too busy to check this area much and by the time I could visit again in November I couldn't find any more Nelson's Sparrows, rails, or wrens. I did locate a late Marsh Wren again on December 3rd, though. Although I did carry my my 800mm mounted on a tripod along with me most on most of my walks into these wet grassy areas I never really had much success getting any decent photos of the sparrows here this year. As can be seen in the photo above, the edges of the marsh have become overgrown with willows. When the birds get flushed from the grass and go into the willow thickets the chances of getting decent photos becomes pretty much nil.

Dry Sedge Pond, October 19, 2015
Canon EOS 1D Mark IV, Canon 14mm f2.8 L II lens
f14, 1/250th sec., ISO 400

In the past when LeConte's Sparrows have shown up they have also used the previous area shown, but this year one was present nearby in the dried out pond shown in the above photo from October 11th through the 17th. It mostly hanged around with Savannah Sparrows but on the 15th it was also joined by a Nelson's and a Lincoln's Sparrow. For comparison is the same area photographed two months earlier on August 25th when I thought to myself that if in North Dakota this place would be loaded with LeConte's Sparrows.

Drying Sedge Pond, August 25, 2015
Canon EOS 1D X, Canon 14mm f2.8 L II lens
f14, 1/160th sec., ISO 250

Savannah Sparrow, October 15, 2015
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 800mm f5.6 L IS lens + 1.4x
f11, 1/800th sec., ISO 400

A beautiful LeConte's Sparrow was with the Savannah Sparrow in the same tangle of smartweeds shown above, but only the Savannah gave me the photo op that I was hoping for. The LeConte's was less willing to expose itself fully. That's the way it goes with those birds sometimes. While the Nelson's, LeConte's, and the previously mentioned Lark Sparrow were highlights, I would say that overall the fall showing of sparrows in general was definitely sub par at Deer Creek this year. The Savannah Sparrow shown above was in a flock of no more than 20 or 30 birds at their maximum. Some years Savannahs arrive at Deer Creek in late September and are present in the hundreds during much of October. Likewise in the northern reaches of the Deer Creek Wildlife Area mixed flocks of White-crowned, Song, Field, Swamp, Lincoln's, Savannah, and Vesper some years can be found swirling around some years in massive flocks of hundreds of birds. Those flocks never really materialized this year anywhere. White-crowneds were seen passing through beginning on October 4th but mostly in widely scattered small numbers or at well established wintering areas. Swamp Sparrows were never seen in any numbers away from the wetlands. Lincoln's were few and far between this fall. After Vesper Sparrows stopped singing I never saw another again this fall. Things did pick up in mid-November when the American Tree Sparrows arrived by the hundreds and remained abundant into the winter.

View of Mudflats from Marina, November 25, 2015
Canon EOS 1D X, Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6 L IS II lens at 200mm
f16, 1/200th sec., ISO 200

As mentioned earlier, Deer Creek had little to offer the main passage of shorebirds through the state in August and September. Although I don't have a photos to show show for it because viewing distances didn't allow any close approaches, the late part of the shorebird migration was more interesting than usual. Warm temperatures in October, November, and even December kept some species lingering much later than usual into the season this year.  In early October the northern pond of the wetlands began offering some muddy edges and by the middle of October the reservoir, as usual, was drawn down. The beach at the state park also continued to attract small numbers of shorebirds after the summertime activities there waned. Killdeers like always were the most numerous shorebirds and peaked in numbers in early November with nearly 500 present at that time. Their numbers remained strong almost to the end of the year with around 250 still present in mid-December. It wasn't a freeze that drove them away as is usual, but heavy flooding in late December eliminating all their available mudflats. Dunlins also remained in small numbers until the flood, although they peaked with 84 in early November. Other species that lingered into November included American Golden-Plover, Greater Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitcher, Least, Western, White-rumped, Baird's, and Pectoral Sandpipers, and Wilson's Snipe. Many of those birds gave me new late records for the year. Another noteworthy lingering bird during the warm fall season was a Green Heron that remained in the middle wetlands until at least December 3rd, a couple of months after most of the others had departed.

first winter Franklin's Gull, October 26, 2015
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 800mm f5.6 L IS lens + 1.4x
f11, 1/1600th sec., ISO 400

Franklin's Gulls had an excellent showing at Deer Creek this fall. I saw my first one at Deer Creek on October 10th with several more individuals coming and going through the month. Large numbers were reported throughout the state in November. Although I heard about some higher tallies at Deer Creek when I was unable to get there, I never saw more than four (on Nov. 16th), but they were seen on most visits to Deer Creek in much of November with the last bird seen on Nov. 28th. Bonaparte's Gulls began trickling though in late August and were present during most of the fall, but in general their numbers were lower than usual with a steady 300 or so present from late October into December with peak counts of around 500 on Nov. 30 and 700 on Dec. 16th. With the warm temperatures, a lot more have stayed later into the winter along Lake Erie. The big influxes of Bonaparte's Gulls in quadruple digits never materialized this fall. Likewise, the fall waterfowl migration was also nothing remarkable in the Deer Creek Reservoir. It was mostly just common birds showing up at expected times in modest numbers. One notable exception was on November 29th when an impressive fallout of ducks, grebes, loons, etc. plopped down after a night of strong northerly winds. My highest tally of the season for many species occurred that day. Also appearing on Nov. 29th was a Surf Scoter, the only scoter I saw this fall at Deer Creek, and an Eared Grebe. I saw my first Eared Grebes for Deer Creek last March in the wetlands, and now this one shows up in the fall. Red-necked Grebes have become somewhat regular birds at Deer Creek in both in the fall and spring in recent years, but I saw none this fall.

White-breasted Nuthatch, November 25, 2015
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 800mm f5.6 L IS lens + 1.4x
f11, 1/1640th sec., ISO 500

Deer Creek north of Reservoir, December 16, 2015
Canon EOS 1D X, Canon 16-35 f4 L IS lens at 16mm
f16, 1/25th sec., ISO 250

December 16th was a nice warm day and typical of the season along the Deer Creek with only a jacket necessary. Like always, December is a very busy month for me. After that visit I was unable to get out birding at Deer Creek again until the end of the month on Dec. 30th, a dark and gloomy heavily overcast day. The year ended with the creek and reservoir heavily flooded. D-58 which runs along the north side of the reservoir north of Pancoastburg was under water. Nevertheless, there was still some good birding to be found elsewhere in the area. On Dec. 30th I found a very late White-eyed Vireo in the northern part of the DCWA in Fayette County mixed in with a flock of chickadees, titmice, and other typical winter flocking birds. It was feeeding on some poison ivy berries. The light that day was really crappy and I didn't want to get the camera out for it. Instead I'll offer this one last photo taken a couple of years ago at Deer Creek of a chickadee feeding on poison ivy berries in much nicer light. Although nobody to my knowledge has been able to relocated the vireo since, I was able to find it again in the same spot two days later on January 1st where it made my 2016 January list as year bird number 19.

Carolina Chickadee eating poison ivy berries, November 22, 2012
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 800mm f5.6 L IS lens + 1.4x
f10, 1/800th sec., ISO 400

The list below are the species that I personally saw at Deer Creek over the course of 2015. Keep in mind that I missed most of the spring migration for most species with no visits between late March and late May. I know of a few species that were seen by others and I missed. There were probably a lot more that nobody saw.

Birds Seen at Deer Creek in 2015

Ducks, Geese, and Swans
Greater White-fronted Goose
Canada Goose
Cackling Goose
Mute Swan
Tundra Swan
Wood Duck
American Wigeon
American Black Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Surf Scoter
White-winged Scoter
Long-tailed Duck
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck

Quail, Grouse, and Turkeys
Northern Bobwhite (probably a release)
Ring-necked Pheasant
Wild Turkey

Loons and Grebes
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe

Cormorants and Pelicans
Double-crested Cormorant

Herons and allies
American Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron

New World Vultures
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture

Ospreys, Hawks, and Eagles
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk

Rails and Cranes
Virginia Rail
Common Gallinule
American Coot
Sandhill Crane

Shorebirds (Plovers through Sandpipers)
American Golden-Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Spotted Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Baird's Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Long-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Snipe
American Woodcock

Gulls and Terns
Franklin's Gull
Bonaparte's Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Iceland Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Caspian Tern
Common Tern
Forster's Tern

Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Eastern Screech-Owl
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl

Chimney Swift

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Belted Kingfisher

Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker

American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon

Eastern Wood-Pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Willow Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird

White-eyed Vireo
Bell's Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Philadelphia Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo

Blue Jay
American Crow

Horned Lark

Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Bank Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow

Chickadees and Titmice
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse

Nuthatches and Creepers
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper

House Wren
Winter Wren
Sedge Wren
Marsh Wren
Carolina Wren

Kinglets and Gnatcatchers
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Eastern Bluebird
Gray-cheeked Thrush
Swainson's Thrush
Hermit Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin

Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird

European Starling

American Pipit

Cedar Waxwing

Longspurs and Snow Buntings
Lapland Longspur

Wood Warblers
Northern Waterthrush
Black-and-white Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Cape May Warbler
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Palm Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Canada Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat

Emberizid Sparrows
Eastern Towhee
American Tree Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow
Henslow's Sparrow
LeConte's Sparrow
Nelson's Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco

Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting

Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Rusty Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole

House Finch
American Goldfinch

Old World Sparrows
House Sparrow