Birdbrain Blog

Meet the Author

Lakewood Library hosted a virtual “meet the author” event to discuss my books about Ohio birds and how birding is a form of mindfulness, the state of being conscious and aware. Watch on YouTube

Laura McDermott Lakewood Library event

March Update

As I begin this blog, Ohio is doing its whole “April showers bring May flowers” bit. We already have lots of flowers but they probably do need a bit of moisture. In March, I went to Belize where it was SUNNY ALL THE TIME, and they still had flowers. So I think Ohio is being a bit dramatic with the April showers. I must admit, I appreciate the sunny day photos all the more as a result.

Gartered Trogon hangs out for a moment. As I note in my book on birds of Belize, trogons generally make excellent photography subjects as far as birds go because they are colorful and relatively still.

Ivory-billed Woodcreeper prepares to leave the scene. We have Brown Creepers in the eastern U.S. and they are tiny things, about the size of a chickadee. I presume this creeper is in the same family and is impressively large, probably a good 7 inch bird.

Given my love of hummingbirds, a stop at the Green Hills Butterfly Ranch was a must do during the Belize tour. This White-necked Jacobin is opening its mouth to cool off. The ranch grounds are a rich habitat for all kinds of butterflies, birds and other critters.

A Vermilion Flycatcher male perches between food dives. Like other flycatchers, these birds dart rapidly into the air after insects and then often return to the same spot. Unlike other flycatchers, their coloring is anything but dull and they are pretty easy to identify.

February Update

As I look back on February, I experienced the best weather I can recall in Ohio in the second month of the year EVER. I have no data to back up my claim, but we had several days in the 50s and 60s. Those temps are quite pleasant by Ohio February standards, in my opinion. Contrast that with my January update; I thought I was never going to see the sun again considering the number of days with fog and cloud cover. I didn’t get out a ton for birding in February, but the times I did get out I was pleased to see some birds returning from their wintering grounds and to hear calling birds. So I’ll call that a win for the end of winter.

Red-winged Blackbirds have started calling and performing their puffing routine in the last couple of weeks. The calling will get louder and the red more pronounced as the light cycles increase and the competition heats up for a mate.

Often when I see Eastern Meadowlarks, they are well hidden and or very far away. Battelle Darby is a great place to spot them near the bison enclosure and occasionally they get close enough for a decent picture. Their call is fantastic and carries well so I regularly hear them more than I see them.

A Pileated Woodpecker was thoroughly inspecting this hole for food and or possibly nesting purposes. Prairie Oaks Darby Bend Lakes is one of my favorite places for spotting woodpeckers, including Pileated as well as Red-headed.

Is it cheating if I put pictures from my backyard on my blog? If so, I’m cheating. This particular Downy has become accustomed to my regular tromping around in the backyard and will usually stick around even when I am out, making it an excellent candidate for a photo.

January Update

This just in: 99% of Ohioans are glad this January is over. I do know some people enjoy January for skiing and generally like the cold weather. But our January in Ohio was cloudy 24 days and dreary with fog 18 days and an extreme cold snap in the middle to top it off. So it was not just our imaginations; the weather sucked. But I will also say on the positive side, the length of daylight is increasing and as a result, bird activity is starting to increase slowly but surely.

Our local eagle couple, Annie and Apollo have been working on their nest and starting to mate, despite the weather. Apollo is seen here enjoying one of the seven sunnyish days to get his vitamin D and do some feather grooming.

Ohio’s state bird is a reliable bright spot in our winters here on the east coast. The Northern Cardinal is also the state bird of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia. Fun fact: the Blue Hen Chicken is one of two domestic poultry birds with the honor of being the state bird of Delaware.

Mute Swans are frequent visitors to Quarry Trails Metropark and look lovely to my eyes against the tans and browns of winter vegetation. As an introduced species, Mute Swans can be a concern to native populations, such as Trumpeter Swans. But in this park, the two swan types divvied up the lake areas and stay out of each others ways for the most part.

Mourning Doves are common and not Ohio’s most popular bird. However, many people enjoy their cooing which is about to start up in February and March, signaling the coming of spring. And this was again a rare sunny day photo that looks way better than the cloudy alternatives from this birding month.

And finally, my update as of 2/3 could not be complete without mention of the Groundhog’s forecast. Good old Punxsatawney Phil did NOT see his shadow which is a sure sign (!?) of an early spring. I hope you have a wonderful day and month.

December Update

Hard to believe how quickly December passed. I am lucky to have a wonderful round of holiday activities that keep me hopping all month. On the flip side, the busy-ness and weather keep my birding and photography to a lower level. So if you look at these photos and think “hey, is she just mailing it in this month?”, it would be fair feedback.

Also, we are currently fostering a pair of kittens and their wonderful mom. That has been very distracting in a good yet busy way. They are internet famous, garnering 1.8M likes on Tiktok and 200k on Instagram. They require constant care (not really) and me taking tons of pictures (because I want to). Again, contributing to my posts for December being so-so at best as far as my portfolio goes.

All the same, I hope you enjoy the pictures and more importantly, take time today to breathe, look around and appreciate what is going on around you right this moment. For the good, fun and joyful which is easy to enjoy as well as the sad, hard and taxing which in time makes us stronger and appreciative of the good.

Double-crested Cormorant dries its wings and says “why is it so stinkin’ cold?”

Hooded Mergansers swim away on a cloudy day

Common Goldeneyes avoid me on a chilly day

Great Blue Heron fishes and wishes for spring

November Update

Better late than December, right? Been a busy month but I snuck out birding a few times and saw some cool stuff. I am also fostering kittens and their momma so posts on social media include one small orange and one small black bundle of fluffy energy.

Fox Sparrow looked so much bigger than the other sparrows around it. They are visitors from the north and only here into the late winter.

Eastern Bluebird, a sighting that never gets old

Trio of Trumpeter Swans at Prairie Oaks Metro Park. I haven’t seen these swans at that location and this looks like a juvenile in the middle.

Greater Yellowlegs, I think. I still have a hard time telling apart the Greater from Lesser and besides, Greater sounds better even it is the other one…

September Update

September is a magical migration month for many of our bird friends who have journeyed north. We start to see the young heading back south for the winter with their parents. Since birds are not calling as much as the leaves are still on the trees, it is a tough time to get good sightings and photos. But since I’m always up for a challenge, I spent several blissful hours chasing down nice bird sightings. I hope you enjoy September’s crew.

Wilson’s Snipe is one of my favorite migrants I have only seen in the fall. I love their long beak they use for digging up food in the mud. I saw this one with another (possibly its sibling) early on a Sunday at Battelle Darby wetlands trail.

Warblers are another group of my favorite migrants. These are a pair of Tennessee Warblers splashing in a stream at Mohican State Park. I always think about it like a rest stop on a long trip when I see them taking a bath, doing some cute splashing at the end of the day.

Great Blue Heron strikes a perfect pose. These herons are not migratory as far as I know but I couldn’t resist including this lovely shot in my post of the month. This particular heron seemed perfectly at home and groomed and grunted during its photo shoot.

I saw one Ovenbird in September and this is it. Another warbler migrating through, Ovenbirds spend more time on the ground than many warblers. You would think that would mean I would see them more often but as you can tell their coloring helps them blend right in.

August Update

As summer starts to wind down, migratory birds begin their journey south. Parents continue to raise their young and many of the calls you hear at this time of year are juveniles practicing their tunes. I also believe, although I’ve not seen research on it, many calls are families traveling together and communicating their location. I hope you enjoy the photos I’ve taken showing the journey and more importantly that you are enjoying the journey yourself.

Eastern Screech Owl

For sure one of my most exciting finds of August was this Eastern Screech Owl who winked at me. I heard a great commotion of chickadees and titmice and they were sounding the alarm that this owl was nearby. I have never before seen one in the wild so this was quite a thrill. It stayed long enough to get some photos but never came out from behind branches. It knows something I don’t.

Trumpeter Swan Family

Trumpeter Swans have had their challenges from a conservation standpoint so I always find it enjoyable to see their population thriving. This handsome family of 3 babies with their parents was enjoying breakfast at Battelle Darby park on the Teal Trail. They were not cooperating for a family photo with all of them together with heads above water so here’s an action shot. Just like our families, right?

Cooper’s Hawk Juvenile

“Mom, Dad, what’s for breakfast???” This youngster was making a ton of noise and being less than stealthy the morning I saw him or her. I always wonder if the parents come back and ‘shush’ the young for making so much noise. But I get it, I get hangry in the morning too.

Little Blue Heron Juveniles

We don’t often get Little Blue Herons in Ohio, except during migration season. And this year for whatever reason, we’ve had a bunch. This photo was taken at Scioto Audubon and I saw one at Battelle Darby also. They will become blue next spring / summer.

July Update

During July, most birds are busy raising fledglings, showing them the ropes on where to find food and proper manners. Birdsong starts to diminish as they no longer need to defend territory or attract mates. The singing we hear in many cases is a parent teaching its young and or a youngster practicing its new songs.

Common Yellowthroat

This beautiful warbler breeds in central Ohio and continued to sing in July. Most of the time, they sing from hidden locations but this guy held a beautiful pose while singing at Battelle Darby metropark.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Not to be confused with a Red-headed Woodpecker, the Red-bellied Woodpecker has a nearly but not fully red head. This lovely bird was working on finding insects in the tree and yet called softly as she / he worked.

Eastern Towhee

Another bird who usually sings from hidden locations, this one was up and visible early in the morning at Cedar Ridge trail at Battelle.

Willow Flycatcher

OK sure, I posted a Willow Flycatcher last month. But I couldn’t resist sharing this picture of this one in mid chirp.

June Update

Spring migration wound down in June and most birds were busy with nesting and raising teeny tiny fledglings. The weather was quite lovely for the most part, getting out for walks and birding.

Black-crowned Night Heron

I see this guy or gal on a somewhat consistent basis on the bike trail near my home if I’m out early like 6:30AM. I didn’t hear it calling though its beak was opening and closing; maybe it was talking to itself.

Tufted Titmouse

This bird was doing some morning stretches and grooming in between calls and I got this great shot where you can see the feathers.

Eastern Meadowlark

A beautiful, flutelike call is usually what tips me off to an Eastern Meadowlark being nearby. They often disappear into foliage but this one was briefly out for a video and photo shoot.

Willow Flycatcher

Another cool sounding bird who is tough to spot, more easily heard than seen.

May Update

No other time of the year is more exciting for birding in Ohio than now, early May. As I write this blog, unusual visitors are hopping about in the treetops of my backyard and neighborhood. Who woulda thought a Black-throated Green warbler would hang out in an urban setting? I hope you are enjoying the warming temperatures and beautiful days of May as much as I am.

Bald Eagle baby a.k.a. tiny dinosaur

Two eaglets arrived in our local nest in late May and people from all over have enjoyed watching them grow up.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

One of the many migrating species who, in my mind, is brave to migrate the distance he or she will go. Not sure why the term ‘yellow-bellied’ arose to imply someone who is not brave.

Blue-winged Teal

Ever think to yourself “why do they call that bird a (color + body part) that? I’m not seeing it. Well here you go, a Blue-winged Teal shows his lovely blue wing patch which I almost never see.

Eastern Towhee

One of my favorite spring sounds / calls is the beautiful whistle of the Eastern Towhee. They often hide well in forests and bushes so tough to see but in spring, they are vocal and more visible.