We first scheduled this unique field trip last August and it proved quite popular and successful. So why not do it again. If you have never been to these locations you are in for a surprise. Rocky Fork Lake and State Park is probably the least visited of our regions State Parks and large reservoirs by local birders. Brookville, Hueston Woods, Caesar Creek and East Fork all get more birding attention. But as a birding destination the Rocky Fork region is every bit as productive and diverse as any of these other hotspots. Certainly located on what we consider the periphery of our Greater Cincinnati birding area, it is only about 43 miles east of Milford and no more distant than some of the previously mentioned locations (depending on your starting point).
Before you get to Rocky Fork, there are several old quarry’s and gravel pits (Highland Stone) located about 30 miles east of Milford and just south of US 50. These pits are filled with water, creating a large lake which is surrounded by grassy fields and brushy edges, plunked right down in the middle of farm country. The adjacent gravel roads are quiet and seldom used and make access to the area easy. The bird life here is outstanding and is a great example of how little known unprotected areas such as gravel pits can be magnets for wildlife.
Both, Highland Stone Pits and Rocky Fork SP, provide excellent birding at any season. Since this trip is scheduled for late summer we don’t expect to find too much on the water at either location. But early fall migration is just underway by this date and migrant herons and egrets, shorebirds, terns, ospreys, large numbers of swallows and several species of songbirds will be on the move and some will quite likely be seen. It’s also a good time of year to find a rarity or two. Nesting Bald Eagles are a daily site at Rocky Fork.
But the focus of this trip will be on grassland species. The many grassy, weedy fields found at Highland Stone and Rocky Fork Lake is great for a number of grassland species that are otherwise scarce to absent over much of our region. Some open country species we found on last year’s trip, and expect to find again this year, include; Northern Bobwhite, Blue Grosbeak, Dickcissel, Lark Sparrow, Henslow’s Sparrows (large numbers at Rocky Fork), Grasshopper Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows and Bobolink among others.
Our trip leader, Bill Stanley, is a very skilled and veteran birder who knows these areas very well. We will meet Bill at the Fayetteville Marathon Station (see directions below) and caravan from there. Bill will lead us to the Highland Stone Pits from there, about a 14 minute drive, where we will spend some time birding along the quiet roads. From there, Bill will lead us to Rocky Fork Lake SP, about a 20 minute drive. Rocky Fork Lake and its environs are quite large, so Bill will lead us to several spots around the lake to maximize our birding. Expect a bit of driving interspersed with several short walks.
Bill figures this trip will run a bit past noon, or even longer if the birding is good. After the trip is “over”, Bill might make another stop or two on the way home. Remember that it is perfectly fine to leave a field trip any time you like. Walking will be on level ground and at a moderate pace. It can be very hot in late August so you may want to bring water, sun screen, insect repellent and a hat to make your trip more comfortable. There won’t be an “official” lunch break but there will be ample time for you to eat, so you may want to bring food and drinks along. Bill will plan restroom stops along the way. There is a restroom at our meeting location and several at Rocky Fork. There are no restrooms at Highland Stone. Feel Free to contact Bill if you have any questions.
Directions to Marathon Gas & Food Mart in Fayetteville, Ohio:
From I-275 at the Milford Parkway/US 50 Exit # 59, take US 50 east for about 20 miles to the intersection of US 68 in Fayetteville, Ohio. The Marathon Station is located on the NW corner. Meet in the Parking Lot but park away from the front doors if possible.