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Showing posts from 2007

Mistletoe

This odd plant would seem a seasonally apropos topic, although seeking strange plants wasn't my number one priority today. Nope, birds were the target today - it was the running of the re-scheduled Beaver Christmas Bird Count, and I went down to the hill country to cover my favorite CBC area. I've been doing the same Jackson County patch since the inception of this count, in the early 1990's, I believe. My turf contains a real diversity of habitats, and is very rural. It's great to be able to stop nearly anywhere, as traffic is nearly non-existent.
Today, Blue Jays, which are truly a botanical bird, ruled. They were everywhere; the Numero Uno species. This abundance of Bluish Screamers undoubtedly speaks to the lush acorn crop, and the woods in my area are mostly upland oak-hickory that produced plenty of Blue Jay bounty. There were other goodies, too, chief among them a Wilson's Snipe in a wet pasture that often has them if conditions have been mild enough. Also ha…

Winter Botanizing

Last Saturday was the Wooster Christmas Bird Count, organized by Roger Troutman. He's been at it a while, like 50 years or so. It's an interesting count circle, containing Killbuck and Funk Bottoms wildlife areas among other good bird-seeking spots.
My area included what is easily the most interesting botanical feature in the count circle, but hey, this isn't the Christmas Plant Count. Nonetheless, I made a point of walking through the swamp woods that buffer Brown's Lake Bog, and on into the bog. As any seasoned birder knows, you'll find more birds when you are out and about on foot, when all of your senses can come into play. In fact, just south of the bog, we were walking McFadden Road when I heard approaching geese. In addition to the Canadas, the high-pitched tinny calls of Cackling Geese rose from the pack, and moments later three of these pint-sized honkers passed over with a number of Canada Geese. They really sound different, and we would have never found t…

Strange place for an owl...

This was THE YEAR for Northern Saw-whet Owls. Fall 2007 saw unprecendented numbers of the tiny hooters moving south, no doubt because favored prey such as Red-backed Voles had crashed in the north woods. Probably somewhere on the order of 200 were reported from Ohio between mid-October and now, which surely crushes any existing previous tallies. Much of the total is attributable to two banding stations, one in Chillicothe and Tom Bartlett's efforts on Kelleys Island.

Bruce Peterjohn, in his book The Birds of Ohio (2001) states "Their fall migration has never been well defined in Ohio". Probably true at the time Bruce penned those words, but it shows how fast our knowledge of a species can evolve. Almost entirely because of banding studies, we are learning much more of the southward movements of these furtive hooters.

But, surprises always await, and Laurie Boylan sent along a neat one recently. Her friend Audrey Dragony was exiting the Diamond Building in downtown Clevelan…

A Tough Little Hummer

Most people think of hummingbirds while sharing thoughts of warm weather and abundant flowering plants. After all, hummers are truly botanical birds, thriving on nectar. The amazing eons-long process of evolution has sculpted the bills of hummingbirds into amazing appendages, aptly suited for reaching into all manner of flowers and extracting the goods.
There is also a frequent misconception that hummingbirds are rather wimpy and certainly not cold-tolerant. That's not true, at least in many cases. I think this is in part because they are so small, and to many of our minds, cute. So, something so small and cute can't possibly endure the rigors of an Ohio - or Wisconsin (think Green-breasted Mango) winter. But they can, and do. As for wimpy, well, if most hummingbirds were the size of swans, we'd all be dead. They'd impale us on those spike-like bills and cast us aside if we horned in on their action. Just watch some hummingbirds around a feeder, and how they deal with e…

Pine Warbler, Take 2

Josh Dyer, a naturalist with the Crawford County Park District, saw my recent post about Cathy Herm's Pine Warbler in Wooster, and sent along one of his own. Josh reports that it has been hitting the feeders at the Lowe-Volk Park Nature Center since November 30th.
Tough Crawford County Pine Warbler. Probably not too many winter records of this species from the county that brought us the Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival. Maybe none, for that matter. In fact, I wonder why it would show up there as a winterer, when the closest place that they breed is probably Mohican State Forest, which probably does have occasional wintering Pine Warblers. But, there's plenty of big pines and hemlocks at Mohican, which is your best bet for finding them, even in winter. Crawford County is distinctly un-Mohican-like in regards to habitat. But, it looks like the blurry green in the background of Josh's photo could be the boughs of white pine, so maybe there's some nice conifers at this park that …

Christmas Bird Counts

Over on the OOS website, Mike Busam has posted some interesting compilations from Roger Troutman's epic tome documenting Ohio's history of the venerable Christmas Bird Counts. Check it out right here. You'll learn fascinating tidbits such as Downy Woodpecker and Northern Cardinal are the all-time leading native species found on Ohio counts, and that the 1956 Buckeye Lake CBC set the record of 96 species, which the Millersburg count tied much later, in 1995. It'll be a hard record to beat, but there are some other contenders. For instance, the Toledo CBC - which always stands out in my mind due to the amazing 112 Eastern Screech-Owls they tallied in 1981 - had 90 species last year.

Speaking of that 1956 Buckeye Lake CBC, the legendary Milton Trautman ws no doubt a participant. And Milt's name is on the list of the 78 people that have participated in at least 50 counts. I really thank Roger for assembling that, and Mike posted it on the website. Mainly because looking…

Pine Warbler

When it comes to warblers, the Yellow-rumped Warbler is the indisputed cold weather champ of the bunch. Most of the warblers that breed or pass through Ohio are long gone, basking in the warm tropical climes of places like Costa Rica, Honduras, even Venezuela. Not so the "butter-butts", which routinely overwinter here, becoming largely frugivorous and eating such botanical delicacies as poison ivy berries.
A close second is the Pine Warbler in terms of hardiness. At least some no doubt winter in Ohio every year, but when they are out in the woods in places like Shawnee Forest, no one is likely to detect them. However, Pine Warblers do have a penchant for visiting feeders, and then become plain as day. Cathy Herms wrote me about a Dendroica pinus that is frequenting her suet feeder in Wooster (county seat of Wayne County). Linda Stoller snapped the followong photos and was good enough to let me put them up.
Pine Warblers also eat seed. I remember being at a B & B in Tenness…

Refuges and the Economy

An interesting study that evaluates the role that Federal Wildlife Refuges play in local economies was recently released, and provides much ammo for justifying land protection on a level that doesn't get the scrutiny it merits. The report, entitled Banking on Nature 2006: The Economic Benefits to Local Communities of National Wildlife Refuge Visitation, can be found it its entirety here.

Ohio's own Ottawa NWR tallied about 177,000 visitors in 2006, and they collectively pumped about $3.5 million into the local economy. At Ottawa, it's estimated that about $21 was produced in terms of of local economic input, for every $1 spent on the refuge by the Federales. This is an aspect of land protection that I don't think gets the due it deserves. We should take a longer view regarding large-scale land protection, and recognize that it benefits not only plant and animal populations, but humans as well. Also of interest is the conclusion that, at Ottawa, around $3.2 million was b…

OOS Donates $10 K to TNC

For me, one of the highlights of last weekend's Ohio Ornithological Society Bird Conservation Conference was the formal donation of ten thousand dollars to our partner the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. Nobody does land conservation better than TNC, and no issue is more pressing than the need to protect land if we want to protect birds. It was a good feeling to know that, even with only 3 1/2 years under our belt, the members of the OOS could come together to raise enough money to provide this important match grant to TNC.
The $10K is a necessary match for Clean Ohio money that enables TNC to buy a very significant 24-acre parcel adjoining the 14,000-acre Edge of Appalachia preserve in Adams County. Known as the Conrad tract, this 24 acres supports mixed mesophytic forest, upland oak-hickory associations, and exposed dolomitic limestone outcrops with rare White Cedar trees. A number of neotropical breeding birds nest here, and the acquisition of this property is another ke…

Ohio Bird Conservation Conference

This weekend marked the Ohio Ornithological Society's first conservation conference focusing on the larger picture of protecting birds. We were fortunate to be able to partner with the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy to make this event happen, and appreciate their support immensely. A big thank you to all who attended, and especially those that donated their time and talents to pull the conference together. I think that I can speak for many in the birding community when I say that there is a real need for birders to band together and support active conservation; i.e. land acquistion. The OOS and its members can help with that through outright donations to organizations that have a successful track record of owning and managing land, such as TNC. We can also, as a group, do our best to educate about the importance of conserving landscapes for birds, and why we need to do so. I think a bit of both were accomplished this weekend.

Our venue was the lodge at Deer Creek State Park

Pine Grosbeak

One of the most exciting birds of late is the Pine Grosbeak, Pinicola enucleator, discovered by Matt Anderson back on November 21. The bird has been frequenting an area next to the Oak Openings Metropark in Lucas County, not far from Toledo. Displaying amazing site fidelity the likes of which we've not seen here before with this species - at least in modern times - it is still being found in this area. Many an Ohio birder has gotten their state or even life Pine Grosbeak because of Matt's find. And an amazing bit of birding skill it was to find this jumbo finch. The area in which it occurs is not exactly eye-catching, nor a spot that most birders would probably spend much time in.

I was fortunate enough to see the bird myself last Sunday. Shortly after arriving at the spot and joining several other birders in the stakeout, I heard the grosbeak calling not far off. A minute later it shot right over our heads and landed near the top of a tall Hackberry tree, offering us stellar v…

Sabine's Gull

Wow, an extraordinary number of unusual birds have been appearing of late, stimulating rarity fever amongst the masses. Matt Anderson's fantastic discovery of a Pine Grosbeak leads the list in terms of sensationalism - the last dates from 1987. This beak is nearly everyone's state Pine Grosbeak, of those who have been lucky enough to see it. I was one, and have some photos that I'll blog later.

Late hummingbirds are also appearing. One came to light today near Toledo, that appears to be our record late Ruby-throated Hummingbird. I got a call about another today at a Cincinnati-area feeder and will hopefully get photos soon. These late ones really need scrutinized closely, especially as most are females/immatures and often not readily separable from other similar species. Don't just assume Ruby-throated...


I also just received word of a very interesting Northern Saw-whet Owl that was captured at the Chillicothe banding station already sporting a band. This one has come a …

Butterfly Named for Ohioan

Check this out... Apparently having a butterfly named in one's honor does not come cheap. But, if that is what you desire and can pony up some serious bucks, might as well choose something showy like one of the oddly named owl-butterflies... Cassia's Owl-Butterfly, Opsiphanes cassiae. Not the species named for Mrs. Kitzmiller - read AP story below - but presumably somewhat similar.


Butterfly naming rights draw $40,800 bid; named to honor Ohio woman's memory The Associated Press
Tucson, Arizona Published: 11.23.2007

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A butterfly species discovered in a Florida museum has a new name after an anonymous bidder paid $40,800 for naming rights in order to honor a woman who died in 1972.
The butterfly's common name will be the Minerva owl butterfly. It's being named after the late Margery Minerva Blythe Kitzmiller of Malvern, Ohio.
While the bidder's name was not disclosed, the payment was made on behalf of Kitzmiller's grandchildren.
The butterfly&…

Everything is Rare, Somewhere

One of the most abundant birds in Ohio and much of North America is the Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura. Hardly a soul over here would walk two steps out of their way to admire one. Not across the pond, though - read the following BBC blurb kindly sent along by Kathy Mock. DEFINITION: "Twitchers" is Brit-speak for rabid listers. You know, the type that would appear at Conneaut Harbor within two hours should a rarity like Horned Puffin appear there.

American dove attracts twitchers

The American mourning dove has caused a stir

A dove spotted only a handful of times in the British Isles has drawn dozens of bird watchers to North Uist.
The American mourning dove was first seen by Brian Rabbitts about three miles (4km) from where he previously saw one in 1999.
Wildlife guide Stephen Duffield said more than 100 twitchers had flocked to the Western Isles to see the bird.
The British Birds Rarities Committee said it was aware of the sighting and was awaiting a recording.

Fall Colors

I was able to spend some time in a remote, off-the-beaten path glen in the Hocking Hills today, and it was well worth the hike. Many of the trees still retained splendid colors, and mosses and lichens are at their crusty best at this season. Following are a few of the few hundred photos that I snapped.

Sandstone outcrops define this site. A rocky mesa juts above the surrounding valleys, and the core rocks are fractured into crazy slump blocks. In places, it is like a rocky maze of narrow tunnels, each filled with a bed of newly fallen leaves.
The leaves still impressed. The orange-red mist is the foliage of Sourwood, Oxydendrum arboreum, our only tree in the heath family. It grows in the poor soils of rocky ridges, such as this one. The pale yellow leaves are those of Chestnut Oaks, Quercus prinus. It is another tree of acid ridgetop soils, and festoons sites like this in abundance. That big, left-listing trunk is a Chestnut Oak. This photo really demonstrates the rocky nature of the gr…

Northern Saw-whet Owl Invasion Update

I made a trip back down to Chillicothe last night, to re-visit the banding station that is focusing on capturing and banding Northern Saw-whet Owls. Thanks, as always, to Kelly Williams-Sieg, Bill and Donna Bosstic, and Bob Placier for being so gracious about hosting guests. With endless amounts of patience, they allow us hangers-on to ogle the tiny hooters, and ask all manner of questions. These small owls of the North have proven to be outstanding avian ambassadors, undoubtedly being the "spark" to who knows how many folks to get them interested in birds. But, the data that is being generated by the efforts of this group and many other banding stations that are part of Project Owlnet is also offering previously unknown insights into a secretive species that we hadn't known very much about.
And man, I was glad some owls turned up last night! We had a rather celeb cast on hand, partly on my invite, and we would have felt bad if no owls showed. They did, fortunately, with …