View of reservoir from Miller Park, November 19, 2010
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 24mm f1.4L II lens
f11, 1/160th sec., ISO 320

Ohio has a lot of great places to bird. Many can be great for photography too. I wouldn't really put Deer Creek near the top of the list for either birding or photography, but for me it has over the years become my default place to go. Convenience just wins out sometimes. I can get there in about a half an hour, and it is an easy ride without a much traffic to deal with. My spotting scope gets a lot more use at Deer Creek than my camera ever does. Most of my other favorite places in Ohio require a drive of about one to two hours or more from Columbus. What is Deer Creek? It is a reservoir surrounded by a state park and a state wildlife area. It is primarily in Fayette and Pickaway Counties with a bit of the north end in Madison County as well. The combined public land stretches from just south of Mount Sterling in the north to New Holland in the south. Besides the convenience of the location, I find it an interesting place to explore and have accumulated many interesting records for central Ohio there over the years. Despite being so close to Columbus, it really receives very little regular coverage from birders other than myself.  At least the whole area doesn't. My main contribution to the Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas II (OBBAII) project was covering the Deer Creek area. I took on 6 atlas blocks here and made contributions to corners of a couple of others. I did most of that during 2007, but have visited it all since annually and outside of the breeding season. Doing the atlas work I covered the area thoroughly and found lots of fascinating nooks and crannies that I probably wouldn't have otherwise bothered to ever check out. Similar areas in Ohio with state parks and wildlife areas surrounding reservoirs such as Buck Creek (C.J.Brown Reservoir), Caesar Creek, and Cowan Lake all get a lot more attention from birders in Dayton, Cincinnati, and Springfield, but Columbus birders all seem to congregate at only the reservoirs north of the city such as Hoover.

To reach Deer Creek from Columbus, the quickest route is to take I-71 south to Rt. 56. Take Rt. 56 to Mount Sterling and head to the area on Rt. 207. Visitors coming from the Cincinnati area on I-71 might want to take other exits and should consult a map. The Deer Creek area can be entered from the south on several roads that head north from Rt.22 which connects Circleville and Washington Court House. This is a good way to enter the area if you want to spend the morning in a State Forest such as Scioto Trail or Tar Hollow and the afternoon exploring other habitats at Deer Creek.

The official map from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources can be downloaded at their website. To see the map and follow along as I describe the various places use the link below and the map will open up on a separate page. Click on the link to the map to open a large PDF file :

Deer Creek Wildlife Area and State Park Map

When viewing the above  map keep in mind that that it is oriented with the north on the left and the south on the right and not the usual map format with the north on the top.  Increasing the magnification above 100% and scrolling will make the details easier to read on most monitors. For birding purposes the Deer Creek area can be separated into four different areas : the reservoir itself,  the wildlife area north of the reservoir, the wildlife area south of the reservoir which is managed as wetlands, and the state park land east and south of the reservoir.

A list of birds recorded in the Deer Creek area can be found  HERE . Please let me know if you find anything not yet recorded there.

The Reservoir itself is the main birding focus at Deer Creek from late October through early April when waterfowl and other water birds are moving through Ohio and water levels are drawn down.  As a general place to look for and observe birds, the whole area can be interesting throughout the year, but the reservoir is heavily used for recreational purposes during warmer months. In the map linked above it should be obvious that this lake has an unusual shape. To scope out the whole reservoir many stops are needed. While that may not be of convenience to the tick and run folks, it is good for those who want to really see every bird there since the reservoir is nowhere too wide to see across with a good spotting scope. The reservoir is popular with fishermen and boaters. Their concerns are more important to the powers that be than those of the Semipalmated Sandpipers passing through Ohio in September. Unlike some of the other Ohio reservoirs such as Hoover, the Deer Creek Reservoir is kept full late into the fall. They usually don't begin drawing it down until October. The exact date varies from year to year, but it seems to get later every year. Unfortunately it is full during the main passage of shorebirds through Ohio in late August and September and there are no mudflats available during that time in the reservoir. In October when the reservoir is drawn down only the tail end of the shorebird migration can be witnessed at the Deer Creek Reservoir, but it is an attractive place for the birds moving through at that time.  The most common shorebirds seen on most visits in November when the mudflats appear are Killdeers in large numbers, typically over 100, followed in number by Dunlins. Both yellowlegs, Least and Pectoral Sandpipers, and Wilson's Snipes are also usually present in November. Long-billed Dowitchers, Western and Baird's Sandpipers, and Red Phalarope have also put in an appearance in recent years, but should not be expected on every visit. On the state park beach the occasional Black-bellied Plover or Sanderling can put in an appearance after the summer beach activity dwindles. Spotted Sandpipers nest around the edges of the reservoir and can be found anywhere in the area as well. After the first big freeze the shorebird numbers rapidly dwindle and focus can be turned to the birds in the water. Since every year is different, it is impossible to give dates. The number and variety of birds present during the winter from December through February depends on the weather really. Some years the reservoir freezes over entirely for long periods while in other years there can be open patches throughout the winter hosting a variety of waterfowl. That's part of what makes it an interesting adventure. You just don't know what you'll find when you go there. 2010 was unusual in that the entire reservoir froze over by the end of the year, but most years that is not the case. The reservoir is sure to be open during the main passage of waterfowl during early spring and again large numbers of birds can be present. Since there is no hunting during the spring, more birds are usually present and they tend to linger longer. The list of birds recorded in the reservoir is a long one and includes most of the waterfowl that can be found in Ohio, at least away from Lake Erie. My gull list at Deer Creek now stands at 10 species : Bonaparte's, Franklin's, Laughing, Ring-billed, Herring, Iceland, Glaucous, Lesser Black-backed, and Great Black-backed Gulls, with the addition of a Black-legged Kittiwake in Nov., 2014. There is also a record (not by me unfortunately) of an eleventh species, Sabine's Gull. It is always worthwhile to scope through all the gulls in the reservoir as thoroughly as possible although during most periods with a lot of gull activity there will only be large numbers of Bonaparte's and Ring-billeds with some Herring Gulls. Of the other gull species mentioned, only Franklin's can be considered somewhat regular, but they never seem to linger as long at Deer Creek as they do at Caesar Creek. Common Loons, and Pied-billed and Horned Grebes gather in good numbers during migration in the reservoir, and Red-throated Loon and Red-necked Grebe have also been recorded in recent years. Snow Geese are seen annually, and there are several records for Ross's Goose in the reservoir. All the expected puddle and diving ducks in Ohio can occur in the reservoir, some in huge numbers in the spring especially. Long-tailed Ducks are seen regularly both in the fall and spring. Scoters are scarcer, but all three species have been recorded in recent years. An American White Pelican overwintered one year when the reservoir remained open. For some people Deer Creek is a place to only be visited in November when Sandhill Cranes pass through. They are annual at Deer Creek, but numbers fluctuate a lot. Some years only a few put in a brief appearance, but hundreds can visit other years.

There are seven key areas to scope out in the reservoir. Consult the map and increase the size of it if all the road numbers aren't easily read. The different areas of the reservoir vary in productivity for birds as the reservoir is drawn down and new mudflats are exposed. Also in the coldest months there is sometimes only open water in the deepest parts in the southern part of the reservoir closest to the dam.

1 - Start in the north end along D-58 just north of Pancoastburg. This area can be birded from the car, but you'll probably want to get out and scope it out when there are fresh mudflats. When the reservoir is starting to get drawn down this is the first area where there is exposed mud. In the spring and summer a conspicuous Osprey nest can be seen along this road where there is a nesting platform for them. While it might be tempting to try to get close to the shorebirds present for photography, don't try it. The freshest mud that attracts the shorebirds is very soft and you'll get hopelessly mired long before you could ever get close enough for a photo. American Pipits are often found in migration along this northern stretch of the reservoir and may be also present in mid-winter some years. I have also seen Snow Buntings here, but they aren't regulars.

North end of reservoir, November 10, 2010
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 24mm f1.4L II lens
f11, 1/500th sec., ISO 320

2 - Continuing southward, the next place to stop and have a look around is " Miller Park", the end of D-12 on the map, which is the eastward continuation of Miller Road (TR 129). This is just south of Pancoastburg off of Rt. 207.  As the reservoir is drawn down this area offers a good vantage point to scope out a wide area. There is a good sized stretch just east of Pancoastburg that can't be seen easily from either D-58 or Miller Park and walking north along the edge of the reservoir from here (or south from D-58) is necessary during the periods when the freshest mud is between these two areas. If you do that, stay as close to the bank as possible since the mud gets very soft very quickly away from the bank. The wooded area around Miller Park is worth poking around while you're there for passerines. A good variety of nesting and wintering woodland birds can be found in the vicinity.

Mudflats viewed from Miller Park, November 23, 2010
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 70-300 f4-5.6L IS lens (at 70mm)
f14, 1/200th sec., ISO 320

3 - Just south of Miller Park off of Rt.207 is D-10 which heads to the marina and the boat launch area. As the water levels of the reservoir get lower, this area is often where the action is at and is always worth a check on every visit. The marina itself is sometimes gated off after the water levels recede, but you can always walk in the area to the edge of the reservoir. The end of the road to the boat ramp is always left open. When the mud is dry enough it is a good place to walk around along the edge of the reservoir. A Merlin that returns to the area annually can sometimes be found in the trees by the boat launch during the late fall and winter. Large numbers of Turkey Vultures often roost here in the fall with usually a few Black Vultures in the mix. In the winter only the Black Vultures remain and can be seen anywhere in the vicinity of the reservoir.

Evening view from boat launch, November 26, 2010
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 70-300 f4-5.6L IS lens (at 70mm)
f13, 1/60th sec., ISO 400

Evening view from boat launch, November 26, 2010
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 70-300 f4-5.6L IS lens (at 236mm)
f11, 1/100th sec., ISO 400

Evening view from boat launch, December 8, 2010
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 70-300 f4-5.6L IS lens (at 104mm)
f13, 1/320th sec., ISO 320

View from boat launch, December 27, 2010
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 14mm f2.8L II lens
f10, 1/1000th sec., ISO 320

4 - The next area that is a must to check out is the southwestern corner of the reservoir. This is often the most productive area of the reservoir, especially for ducks and gulls that can congreate here in huge numbers in the early spring. Unfortunately the road here isn't labeled on the ODNR map, but the latrine is marked with a triangle on the map. There is a turnoff on the east side of Rt.207 south of the marina and just north of a bridge overpass. Parking areas for the state wildlife area are on the other side of Rt.207. You can't miss it, but if you come to the intersection with Egypt Pike and Crownover Mill Roads, you've gone too far, so turn around. After you get on the turnoff, take a right down the hill where there is a parking area and grab your scope. You can walk north along the edge of the reservoir from here to get closer looks which is usually necessary since birds are often widely scattered in this area.  The mud dries up quickly in this part of the reservoir, so getting mired isn't a problem here.

Evening view of southwestern corner of reservoir, December 8, 2010
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 24mm f1.4L II lens
f7, 1/50th sec., ISO 400

5, 6, 7 - The next three areas to scope out the deepest parts of the reservoir are on the south side and I'll lump them together since they can all be accessed from the state park. To get to these areas from the previously mentioned areas off of Rt.207  turn east onto Crownover Mill Road (TR 125). Follow the signs to the beach into the state park. For some reason the actual road that you take into the state park isn't shown on the map, but there is one and it is well signposted to the beach. Once in the park you will come to an intersection in the road. Take all three of the of the options to the next three viewing areas. Turning left on D-5 will take you to a series of picnic spots (area #5) with a good overlook into the south end of the reservoir. The first picnic spot is usually the best one to easily view from, but you may want to continue to the last ones. The bluff from the picnic spots over the reservoir is quite high and the wind can really whip here. Dress accordingly for the season and be careful since you will need to cross the wooden fence to set up your scope. Continuing straight ahead after entering the state park on through the intersection will take you the the beach. This is area #6 to check out and gives you a good a good view of most of the southeastern part of the reservoir. The beach itself can often host roosting gulls and shorebirds, especially in the mornings before there is any activity on the beach. The list of species that have shown up on the beach is a long one and includes American Avocet, Hudsonian Godwit, Black-bellied and AmericanGolden-Plovers, Black, Common, Forster's, and Caspian Terns, and Franklin's and Laughing Gulls.  Due to vandalism at some picnic sites Road 5 was closed for a while during the less busy times of the year. Fortunately for birders it now is open at all times. The last spot to scope out (#7) is the right turn at the intersection after entering the state park. This will take you to a parking area by the dam wall which offers a view of a corner of the reservoir that can't be seen from the beach. While in the area also take time to poke around the fields, brushy thickets and wooded areas south of the reservoir. The area is attractive to a wide variety of nesting, wintering and migrating passerines throughout the year .

The Deer Creek Wildlife Area north of the reservoir covers a large area surrounding the Deer Creek before it enters the reservoir. The state wildlife area also continues southwest of the of the reservoir to New Holland. South of Dick Road is managed as a wetland and will be discussed separately. The area is popular with hunters and many birders will probably feel most comfortable poking around here away from the roads in the spring, summer, and early fall. These are the times when the Deer Creek Wildlife Area is most productive for birding anyway.  Nesting and migrating passerines get top billing here. While the creek and the wooded riparian corridor around it are a main feature of the area, there are also fields with scattered small woodlots and hedgerows that can also offer productive birding. Large areas of successional habitats are missing although many species of such habitats can be found at the edges of the wooded areas. The wooded riparian corridor is  narrow for the most part. The surrounding fields are rotated on an annual basis between various crops and grasses. Someone from ODNR gave me the rundown a few years ago, but I really don't remember the details at this point. Needless to say, the areas with crops are by far the least interesting for birding. As a birder I must say that I really don't like the way it is managed, but it's not my call, and I try to enjoy it for what it is.

Deer Creek north of reservoir, November 10, 2010
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 14mm f2.8L II lens
f11, 1/160th sec., ISO 320

Deer Creek north of reservoir, December 8, 2010
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 24mm f1.4L II lens
f8, 1/50th sec., ISO 400

Deer Creek north of reservoir, December 27, 2010
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 14mm f2.8L II lens
f10, 1/400th sec., ISO 320

So what birds can you find in the Deer Creek Wildlife Area? Pretty much what you would expect. The list of migrant or possible migrant passerines includes just about every regular migrant through the state. The river course is a big magnet to migrants passing through, especially in April and May, since mainly farm fields surround it for miles in every direction. This is one of the least appreciated aspects of the DCWA by birders. Since that time of year is busy for me with a long list other places to visit, I haven't explored it enough then myself, but I have had some very productive May visits. In the winter both the fields and river course host all the usual central Ohio species of those habitats. Deer Creek runs through the glaciated area of Ohio and species of the forests of unglaciated Ohio not far away are missing. I don't think I've ever even seen a single Blue-winged or Prairie Warbler at Deer Creek even though you would think that there would be plenty of suitable habitat for them, at least during migration. Warblers and other migrant passerines heading further north, however, can be quite common along the Deer Creek.  I had one memorable May visit several years ago, for example, when I found a Mourning Warbler or two just about everywhere I went. The list of breeding warblers in the DCWA is a short one. As expected, the fields and edges host good numbers of Yellow Warblers and Common Yellowthroats with Yellow-breasted Chats locally common also. Breeding warblers along the river course include Yellow-throated Warblers, which are invariably singing within an earshot anywhere you stop from late April through early July. Widely scattered Prothonotary Warblers also nest along the river. Unlike Hoover where nest boxes are placed for them, Prothonotaries along the Deer Creek have to make due with what they can find so their numbers are obviously much lower than at Hoover. During my OBBAII work along the Deer Creek, I found 3 nesting pairs of Northern Parulas and have also found them in subsequent years. They are a species that are only recently colonizing river courses away from the unglaciated counties in central Ohio, and it's nice to see the Deer Creek being used too. I had isolated single sightings of Black-throated Green, Black-and-white, and Kentucky Warblers in the DCWA during the breeding season while doing my atlas work, but I doubt that any of them were nesting in the area.

All seven Ohio regular woodpeckers can be found along the Deer Creek. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, of course, is only present in migration and possibly in the winter. Downy, Hairy, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Northern Flicker are conspicuous all year long. Pileated and Red-headed Woodpeckers nest along the Deer Creek and are most easily found in the spring and summer. Red-headeds may be scarce or absent during the fall and winter.

Northern Flicker, November 9, 2010
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 600mm f4L IS lens + 2x
f11, 1/640th sec., ISO 320

Flycatchers are also numerous during the breeding season in the DCWA. Eastern Wood-Pewees and Great Crested Flycatchers are especially common along the river and in woodlots, and Acadian Flycatchers are common too in lesser numbers in the same areas. In the fields Willow Flycatchers can be considered abundant and plenty of Eastern Kingbirds nest in the area. Eastern Phoebes are also locally common nesters especially at structures such as bridges and overpasses. Least Flycatchers, as expected, are common migrants along the river. Alder Flycatchers have been heard in the same areas that host Willow Flycatchers in May, but I didn't turn any up during the breeding period during my atlas work. Deer Creek is too far south for them.  Migrating Yellow-bellied Flycatchers undoubtedly stop in the area too in late May, but I don't recall ever seeing one. If you see one, let me know and I'll add it to the list.

Other common nesting species along the Deer Creek include Wood Duck, Great Blue and Green Herons, Spotted Sandpiper, Great Horned and Eastern Screech-Owls, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Yellow-throated, Red-eyed, and Warbling Vireos, Blue Jays, Tree and Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, House and Carolina Wrens, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, American Robin, Wood Thrush, Gray Catbird, Cedar Waxwing, Scarlet Tanager, Eastern Towhee, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Indigo Bunting, Common Grackle, Baltimore Oriole, and American Goldfinch to name some of them. Bald Eagle, Barred Owl, and Hooded Merganser were also recorded along the creek during the breeding period for the OBBAII. While Yellow-billed Cuckoos are common throughout the Deer Creek area during the breeding season, I've only seen Black-billeds during migration and they went unrecorded for the OBBAII as confirmed nesters. I would suspect that some almost certainly nest there in small numbers some years. Although there is much overlap in the areas used, additional species that I would consider more common in the fields and thickets than along the river course in the breeding season include birds such as Killdeer, White-eyed Vireo, Brown Thrasher, Field and Vesper Sparrows, Eastern Meadowlark, Red-winged Blackbird, and Orchard Oriole. Blue Grosbeaks were recorded in three of my six atlas blocks for the OBBAII in 2007, but could potentially show up in any of them as their population expands in Ohio. Since 2007 they have been found in several other areas. Dickcissels were recorded in all 6 of my atlas blocks in 2007, and were downright abundant in most of them. That species, however, is an irruptive nester in Ohio and they have been scarce (2012) or completely absent from the area since but will probably show up again the next time they nest in Ohio in big numbers. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are always common migrants along the Deer Creek. The nesting status is more erratic. Some years they seem to be completely absent in the nesting season, while in other years they can be fairly common and widespread.

Some other species are actually easier to find just outside the official boundary of the DCWA in adjacent farmlands. Horned Larks, of course, fit into this category and are present all year long. They can occasionally be joined by Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings in the winter.  The brutally cold 2013-2014 winter produced exceptional numbers of Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings when both species were present in the hundreds in both Fayette and Pickaway Counties not far from the Deer Creek boundary, but such numbers are unusual for this far south. Grasshopper and Savannah Sparrows are common nesters in the grasslands south of Dick Road, but only nest north of there in small numbers. They are more likely to be found in adjacent farmlands near ditches and in fallow fields. Vesper Sparrows occur throughout the Deer Creek area including the edges of farm fields bordering the DCWA. For the casual visitors they are probably easier to find by driving along farm roads just outside the DCWA than in the DCWA itself. Bobolinks too were found in most atlas blocks for the OBBAII, but they were mostly outside of the ODNR property. Particularly disheartening when doing the OBBAII was to see fields where Bobolinks were singing and certainly nesting being mowed for hay before any birds could fledge. This is a problem throughout the Bobolink's range and not specifically around Deer Creek unfortunately. It would really be nice if just a few of all those crop fields managed in the DCWA could be optimized for Bobolinks with no mowing until after fledging occurs, but nope. After the nesting season in August and September flocks of Bobolinks can sometimes be found in the fields in the DCWA itself. They are most numerous in the wetlands, but have also been seen in large numbers further north in weedy fields. One other species of the fields that I tend to forget about is Ring-necked Pheasant. For listers in the state, the DCWA is an area where they can be officially counted. Unlike some other state wildlife areas (like Killdeer Plains for example) Deer Creek's pheasants aren't restocked. There haven't been any introduced populations there in decades. That is not to say that if the lands weren't managed for them that they would be able to continue there in the numbers that they are considering the heavy hunting pressure on them. Northern Bobwhites were formerly present in the Deer Creek area for the first OBBA, but have long since disappeared without any reintroductions. Wild Turkeys, however do occur throughout the area and I came across them in most of the atlas blocks. American Woodcocks put on quite a show at dusk in late March and early April throughout the Deer Creek area.

In the fall, mainly October and early November, the fallow fields and hedgerows in the DCWA can hold huge numbers of migrating sparrows. Anyone visiting the receding reservoir at that time of year should also spend a bit of time to look for sparrows too. Field, White-throated, White-crowned, Song, Lincoln's, Swamp, and Fox Sparrows, especially are numerous in these fields. Vesper Sparrows can also sometimes be seen in numbers in the recently harvested fields and can also join other migrating sparrow flocks. Migrating Savannah Sparrows can turn up anywhere there is suitable habitat. As November progresses American Tree Sparrows become the most abundant sparrow in the Deer Creek area and that remains the case throughout the winter. Song, and White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos are also numerous in the winter. Field, Savannah, Swamp, Fox, and White-crowned Sparrows remain in smaller numbers throughout the winter too. I have one record of Lark Sparrow in the DCWA from early fall. It could have been a migrant from who knows where or a bird that nested in a nearby quarry. Considering the huge number of White-crowned Sparrows that stop in the DCWA during migration,  Harris's Sparrow could show up possibly with them. One crop that is planted in the DCWA that actually is excellent for birding is sunflowers. There is usually one place in the wildlife area that is planted with them, but the location changes annually. It is worth looking for since large numbers of seed eating birds are attracted to the area in the fall. Typically American Goldfinches are the most abundant birds feeding on the sunflowers, but there are many other species that feed on them as well. Even woodland birds such as woodpeckers, titmice, chickadees, and nuthatches can be found in these sunflower fields. In 2013 some fields were planted with sorghum, which in turn held huge numbers of sparrows the following winter.

American Tree Sparrow, December 29, 2010
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 800mm f5.6L IS lens + 1.4x
f11, 1/800th sec., ISO 320

Since the whole DCWA changes a lot from year to year because of the land management, it is hard to give exact details about where to find what species in the fields. Areas to access the river can be found on the ODNR map. In case you don't have it open on a separate page here is the link again :

Deer Creek Wildlife Area and State Park Map

Certainly the most convenient places to view the Deer Creek are from the ends of the roads that head there off of Rt.207. D-51, D-52, and D-57 all end in parking areas along the river. Fishermen's trails provide paths to explore further, but those are often overgrown in the summer so you have to do a lot of bushwhacking. As can be seen on the map, a handicap accessible road for hunters is provided running north along the river off of D-51. This road is unfortunately closed to public traffic. I had permission to drive down it while doing my OBBAII work, but otherwise you have to walk it. It is a good area to explore, and if you have the time and inclination, it is definitely worthwhile. That road ends along the river in the northern reaches of the DCWA and is a good point to embark on a canoe or kayak trip down the creek, which I also did during my OBBAII work. This is a very enjoyable way to bird the creek in the breeding season. Park a second vehicle or arrange to be picked up near where the creek enters the reservoir. Permission should be asked before parking a vehicle at the end of the handicap access road, but I can't imagine ODNR not granting it during the summer months when there is no hunting going on. If taking a canoe or kayak down the creek be aware that you'll have to get out several times and carry it where there might be fallen trees or shallow stretches that can't be navigated. D-51 and D-52 are easily checked on every visit even if you don't want to explore the creek. Those roads head into some of the most productive spots for sparrows in the fall. Northern Harriers also can usually be seen in the winter. Some springs when the creek floods over the fields can be filled with water offering temporary habitat for migrating shorebirds. When such habitats exist anything can turn up, but Killdeer, Pectoral Sandpiper, and Wilson's Snipe are the most likely candidates to be seen.

The Northeast corner of the DCWA can be accessed from Clark's Run Road (CR34) in Pickaway County. An inconspicuous parking area at the end of public right of way into the DCWA can be found about a mile and a half southeast of Mount Sterling. This is an out of the way area, but very enjoyable to explore. The path here goes though  more fields, woodlots, and thickets before ending up across the river from where the handicap access road ends. Most of my time I have spent here was when doing my OBBAII work, but have found it so enjoyable and secluded that I have visited it annually in the spring since. Pretty much the whole list of DCWA passerines can be found in this area. Even the farmland around the right of way held Vesper Sparrows, Dickcissels, and Bobolinks when doing my OBBAII work. Other areas on the east side of the Deer Creek are less accessible and you'll have to do a lot of bushwhacking to explore it by foot.

Other fields, woodlots, and thickets can be explored in the DCWA west and southwest of the reservoir. There are parking areas along Rt. 207 and Egypt Pike Road. It's all public land open to explore. Again, spring and summer is best for these areas since they are popular with hunters in the fall and winter. When the breeding passerines are present you'll have it all to yourself. Both Blue Grosbeaks and Bell's Vireos have been found in these areas on occasion.

The Deer Creek Wildlife Area Wetlands occupy the southern portion of the DCWA south of Dick Road all the way to New Holland. This is an interesting area worthy of far more attention from birders than it gets. Since much of this is relatively newly created habitat the list of species in the area seems to grow on every visit.  On the Deer Creek Wildlife Area and State Park Map it can be seen that the wetlands are in three tracts.

The northern tract runs from Dick Road to a dike that crosses through the area. The middle and southern section are separated by another dike. Nowhere here is there an area that appears to be managed for shorebirds, but they will utilize the area when and if there is suitable habitat available. The northern section is the oldest. It can be viewed from Dick Road and from the dike (the thick dotted line on the map) south of it. There is a small parking area along Egypt Pike Road at the dike. A new short boardwalk has been constructed for wheelchair accessibility to hunting blinds on the north side, but I doubt they will be of any use for birders. A viewing platform is located on the NE side of the northern tract off of Dick Road, but it too isn't very well located for birders being too far away to see much. This northern tract is usually filled with water too deep for shorebirds, but ducks and coots can be abundant in the spring. The water level can be low or bone dry at unexpected times. When conditions are right shorebirds can show up in the northern section. One fall several years ago a pair of American Avocets spent nearly a month in the northern tract, but suitable habitat hasn't been available for them since. Rusty Blackbirds are seen most years along Dick Road in both the fall and spring.  During wet springs the farm fields east of Dick Road along Mouser Road flood and are attractive to puddle ducks and shorebirds, sometimes in large numbers. Included in the long list of species that have been seen along Mouser Road in early spring are Ross's Goose, Eurasian Wigeon, and American Golden-Plover.

The middle and southern wetland tract are best explored by parking a bit further south along Egypt Pike Road. The parking area is not marked on the ODNR map, but it is where the short right of way into the area from Egypt Pike Road is shown. This is south of the large dike and north of the intersection with CR27. Park at the designated parking area and walk eastward to the wetlands. Driving through here isn't allowed to the public. The woodlot and brush to get to the wetlands offer excellent birding year round for passerines. The farm field south of the path is often flooded in the spring and filled with shorebirds such as Solitary, Pectoral, and Least Sandpipers, and Wilson's Snipes. The path itself is often flooded over too in the spring and boots are often necessary. You'll want to wear them anyway in the wetlands if you want to explore.  The middle wetland tract is a large shallow pond that is especially attractive to puddle ducks in the spring and large numbers can be present. Red-necked Grebe, Tundra Swan, Greater White-fronted Goose, Snow Goose, Ross's Goose, and Eurasian Wigeon have all been seen here in the spring. In the fall shorebirds will utilize the edges and any islands that may appear. Before the reservoir is drawn down this is the best place to look for shorebirds in the Deer Creek area in August through early October, although some years are better than others. 2013 was especially good with 14 shorebird species present in late September and again in late October with a large flock of Dunlins. In 2014 the pond dried up earlier than usual, but Buff-breasted Sandpipers made an appearance after some goon rains in September. Northern Harriers can be found all year long. Bald Eagles can be present most of the year and nest nearby as do Ospreys. Rough-legged Hawks and Short-eared Owls often patrol the area in winter.

Middle wetland tract, December 29, 2010
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 14mm f2.8L II lens
f11, 1/800th sec., ISO 320

Middle wetland tract, December 29, 2010
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 14mm f2.8L II lens
f11, 1/1000th sec., ISO 320

Southern wetland tract, October 17, 2010
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 14mm f2.8L II lens
f10, 1/250th sec., ISO 400

The southern wetland tract is the newest, shallowest, grassiest, and most interesting area for birding. Shorebirds can be found here in the spring most of the time since there is usually some habitat for them. The surrounding grasslands host a wide variety of nesting species and migrants. Savannah Sparrows and Bobolinks can gather in large flocks here in the fall, and other migrant wetland species seen here recently include American Bittern, Black Tern, Common Moorhen, Sora, Nelson's Sparrows, and Sedge and Marsh Wrens.  Sandhill Cranes have occured here in their early spring migration. The grasslands also host a good variety of nesting sparrows including Savannah, Grasshopper, Henslow's, Vesper, Field, and Song Sparrows. Dickcissels also occurred here in 2007 when I did my OBBAII work, but they haven't nested here since. The grassland on the east side of the middle tract is similar and can be explored from the east ends of either of the two dikes. I found 3 pairs of nesting Blue Grosbeak in the drier open areas around these wetlands when doing my OBBAII work. Bell's Vireos were also confirmed nesters in hedgerows. Two pairs were found in 2007 with one confirmed nesting. One singing male was again heard in 2008, 2009, and 2012.  I didn't find any Bell's Vireos in 2010, 2011 and 2013, but the area is huge and there is a lot of suitable habitat available for them in the Deer Creek area. In 2014 two Bell's Vireos again appeared in the same area and continued singing late into the nesting season, apparently successfully nesting. Two additional Bell's Vireos were also found further north in the DCWA west of the reservoir in 2014.

There is one more entrance to the southwestern corner of this tract in New Holland worth mentioning. It is not shown on the map either, but if you want to poke around this end of the grasslands it is worth the effort to find and since it can be the most interesting part of the wetlands for marsh and grassland birds seasonally, especially in late September and October. A gap in the fence surrounding the DCWA can be found on the corner of East St. and Water St. in New Holland (shown, but not named on the map). Google Maps shows Water Street named as "Walnut St.". Other maps on the web such as Map Quest and Yahoo maps and, more importantly, the actual street sign call it Water Street. There isn't a conspicuous parking area, so just park along the street or on the grass and enter the area where the fence ends just north of the corner. Walking eastward from this entrance a short way takes you to some shallow depressions filled with sedges that look like they were transported right out of North Dakota. LeConte's and Nelson's Sparrows and Sedge and Marsh Wrens are among the species recorded here in fall annually since 2011.  Henslow's Sparrows nest in the drier margins and have lingered into early winter. This area deserves further exploration and is easy to reach. Walking northward from this entrance will take you to the area described in the previous paragraph. The only word of warning for this area is that the pathways both eastward and northward from the entrance aren't mowed and maintained consistently. In 2012 Marsh Wrens nested throughout the area and Sedge Wrens arrived from elsewhere for a second nesting later in the season, possibly as many as 25 pairs of them. Least Bitterns, Soras, and Virginia and King Rails are also on the list of probable nesters in this area in 2012. On the Deer Creek map a fork in the actual wet part is shown. Although it may be dried up by fall some years, it is always covered in cattails. The most productive way to bird this area is to walk along the edges of these forks. Since there has been some confusion amongst some birders as to where exactly I am talking about, below is the southern part of the map :

The red "P"'s are the unmarked parking areas mentioned above. The best place in recent years for Nelson's and LeConte's Sparrows in October have been at the southern end of the southeastern of the two forks shown (the area circled in orange). To get there from the New Holland parking area walk eastward past the shown pond (which is usually dry in the fall) until you get to the cattails surrounding the fork. Not shown on the map just south of the SE fork is another pond filled with sedges and also surrounded by catttails that may contain some water. While the southeastern fork has been the best specific location to find these Ammodramus species in recent years, the whole area of the southern wetlands offers much similar suitable habitat and they could possibly turn up anywhere.

Savannah Sparrow, October 17, 2010
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 600mm f4L IS lens + 2x
f10, 1/500th sec., ISO 400

Nelson's Sparrow, October 17, 2010
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 600mm f4L IS lens + 2x
f10, 1/400th sec., ISO 400

The Deer Creek State Park surrounds the reservoir on the east and southern side. While the overall list of birds that occurs in the state park is similar to what has already been mentioned for the wildlife area, there are some differences due to land management. There are far more successional wooded areas in the state park and associated species such as White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Eastern Towhee, for example, are far more plentiful in the state park. Since nest boxes are present for them, Eastern Bluebirds occur in bigger numbers in the state park than the wildlife area in the breeding season, although they disperse widely during other times of year. Since there is no hunting allowed in the state park proper it can be a better place to get out and about for long walks in the late fall and winter than the wildlife area. In the spring and summer the reverse is true since the state park is then used for a variety of recreational purposes.

I'll try to offer what I think are the best areas to check out in the state park for birding away from the reservoir. The south end is the best known to most birders since the beach is often the only place some people bother to visit. A Northern Shrike wintered in the area on three occasions in the past decade, but it hasn't been seen for a couple of years. Deer Creek is well south of their typical winter range, but the habitat is certainly suitable for them and that species could occur again. Loggerhead Shrikes were confirmed nesters in the Deer Creek area for the first OBBA, but that species is now a review list species in Ohio and hasn't been recorded in the Deer Creek area in well over a decade.

Southern end of state park, November 21, 2010
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 24mm f1.4L II lens
f10, 1/320th sec., ISO 250

Also on the south side of the reservoir in the state park at the western end of D-5 is what once was a mountain bike trail that is also suitable for hiking. The path is no longer maintained very well and you may want to carry pruning shears with you, especially in the fall. It is one of my favorite places to walk around. It circles through wooded and successional habitats and offers excellent birding any day of the year and can be one of the better places to find migrant warblers in the Deer Creek area.  Among the long list of notable migrants seen here include an April record for Clay-colored Sparrow and a September record for Olive-sided Flycatcher. The vicinity of the dam wall is a good place to see all 6 Ohio nesting swallow species during the late spring and early summer. Purple Martins can be seen on the east side of the dam wall where there are nest boxes for them along Deer Creek Road. Cliff Swallows nest right on the dam structure in small numbers. Bank Swallows nest nearby down the road in a quarry on Crownover (not Crownover Mill) Road. I was granted access to this area for my OBBAII work, but Bank Swallows come to the reservoir to feed and may also nest on the south bank of the reservoir itself. The spillway below the dam is also always worth a check. Even if the reservoir is frozen solid above the dam wall in mid-winter, there will always be open water below the dam. This area is popular with fishermen and sometimes ducks too. In the winter and spring some usually very wary ducks can be sometimes be viewed at close range in the spillway. A White-winged Scoter spent two weeks in the spillway in January, 2014, and most of the following month hosted Long-tailed Ducks with 11 present one day. Great Blue Herons also roost in numbers south of the dam all winter and nest in the area during the breeding season. One year a hardy Great Egret joined them through the winter. It is possible to bushwhack a bit further south along the Deer Creek, but you probably won't find anything that you won't find more easily along the creek north of the reservoir.

On the east side of the reservoir in the state park proper after entering on D-20 are numerous areas to walk around. A series of bridle trails can be hiked any time of year. They meander through various habitats. Maps can be obtained from the state park office.  A open swath made for a gas line running through the park can also be explored from the edges. Two areas stand out for quicker visits, and are spots to check if you're just passing by. They are the Horseman's Day Use Area and the Group Camping Area, both well signposted turnoffs from D-20. At the Horseman's Day Use Area is the water treatment pond for the state park and it can attract good numbers of ducks in the spring even though the large reservoir is nearby. The brushy areas there are usually swarming with passerines too. The Group Camping Area on the other side of D-20 is a quiet spot that is little used out of the summer season. The wooded area around it hosts a good assortment of passerines all year and can br very productive for migrants seasonally. A pond down a short path often hosts Rusty Blackbirds in the fall.

American Robin, December 29, 2010
Canon EOS 1D MarkIV, Canon 800mm f5.6L IS lens + 1.4x
f10, 1/500th sec., ISO 320