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Snowy owls irrupt!

This winter is shaping up to be another decent-sized irruption of snowy owls in the Great Lakes region, and points east. We've had a few dozen reports here in Ohio - mostly along Lake Erie but a smattering well inland. Not all of which have made the birding networks. For instance, I heard about one that was seen at the main post office in Columbus. One wonders how many owls pass through undetected, or set up turf in remote agricultural country and never come to light.
Some owls do become celebrities, and this post is about one of those owls. On Thanksgiving day, a gorgeous snowy owl appeared at a farm in Holmes County, and has been there ever since. I finally made the pilgrimage last Monday, and photos from that excursion follow.
The family that owns the farm has been exceedingly gracious to visiting birders. Even their signs reminding people to stay out of the fenced fields are very nice, and prefaced with a big WELCOME. At least 700 people have visited thus far, and unfortunate…
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Epic Green Lawn Cemetery tour!

A month or so ago, I visited Columbus's famous Green Lawn Cemetery with cemetery board member Randy Rogers. Our main mission was to look at some of the massive old trees that are harbored in the cemetery. I wanted to write one of my Columbus Dispatch columns about the cemetery's ancient timber, and did so RIGHT HERE.
As I penned the column, the thought occurred that some people might like the opportunity to visit the cemetery in the company of guides who know the nooks and crannies of the sprawling 360-acre park/cemetery. So, I messaged Randy and he agreed that this was a good idea, and would co-lead the excursion with me. Excellent news, as I don't think anyone is as well rounded in their knowledge of the cemetery - its residents and human history, trees, and wildlife - as is Randy. So, I slipped a note into the column about the field trip, and that any and all were welcome.
Last Saturday was the day for the trip. Any interested parties were to convene at the administrat…

Nature: Calliope hummingbird excites birdwatchers in central Ohio

A calliope hummingbird in Delaware County/Jim McCormac
Columbus Dispatch December 3, 2017
NATURE
Jim McCormac

The most famous bird in Ohio right now is a tiny puffball that weighs little more than a penny. Nearly 650 visitors from at least nine states have fawned over the wayward visitor. The tiny bird even has its own Facebook page (with hundreds of “likes”). This avian notable is a calliope hummingbird, and it is only the second one to appear in Ohio. The first was in 2002, in Chillicothe, and both birds are among very few records east of the Mississippi River. A calliope hummingbird in Ohio is decidedly off-track. The species breeds in mountainous regions from British Columbia to Washington, Oregon, Idaho and nearby states. These sprites undertake an incredible migration proportionate to their size. Most of the population winters in southwestern Mexico. Some birds probably migrate nearly 6,000 miles annually. Only the familiar ruby-throated hummingbird regularly shows up and breeds in…

Photography workshops and expeditions 2018!

A Baltimore oriole is nicely accentuated by the flowers of a chokecherry, Prunus virginiana.
I am pleased to announce that master photographer Debbie DiCarlo and I are partnering to present a series of field-based photography workshops in 2018. Nearly all of the details have been settled, and you can see the offerings and details RIGHT HERE.

Both Debbie and I have extensive experience with helping others to improve their photography, and very much enjoy working with photographers of all levels. We each bring different skill sets to the table; Debbie is one of the premier landscape and night sky photographers, and plenty of evidence of her skills can be seen at her website, RIGHT HERE. I tend to specialize more in species-specific photography, but certainly cross-pollinate my work with forays into about every photographic facet, as does Debbie.

A colorful carpet of blue-eyed mary, Collinsia verna.
These workshops  focus on Nature and its many facets: spring wildflowers, butterflies, wat…

Beaver Valley Christmas Bird Count: December 16

Your narrator's car - several years back - sits along a rarely traveled lane in rural Jackson County, Ohio. I was searching for birds during the Beaver Valley Christmas Bird Count (CBC). This census, which is part of the National Audubon Society's massive effort to conduct winter bird surveys from roughly mid-December through early January, is one of several dozen such counts in Ohio. And it is one of the more interesting ones, as the Beaver circle is sparsely populated, and contains a diversity of habitats.

This year's Beaver CBC falls on Saturday, December 16 and you are invited. If you are interested in joining one of the teams, please send me an email: jimmccormac35 AT gmail.com.

Below is a (somewhat crude) map of the count circle:

Click to expand image
We nearly always find interesting species, especially half-hardy birds like pine warbler, Wilson's snipe, eastern phoebe, gray catbird, chipping sparrow, and more. In general, the count circle is a birdy place and …

Nature: Green Lawn Cemetery’s majestic old trees leave lasting impression

Randy Rogers provides scale for the Green Lawn Cemetery tree estimated to be about 313 years old
Columbus Dispatch November 19, 2017
NATURE
Jim McCormac

A century before Ohio became a state, a white oak acorn fell on gravelly terrain in what’s now the southwest side of Columbus. The following year, 1704, the fruit sprouted and a seedling arose.

That year, the first regular newspaper in the thirteen colonies was printed: the Boston News-Letter. One hundred sixty-seven years would elapse before the first edition of The Dispatch appeared.

Seven decades after the oak’s emergence, Americans, chafing under British rule, would fight for independence. By the time the Revolutionary War broke out, the acorn had matured into a large oak.

When the acorn sprouted in 1704, Ohio was pure wilderness. The city of Columbus’ predecessor, Franklinton, would not be platted until 93 years later, and it was 15 more until the “Borough of Columbus” was established.

This oak still stands, aged an estimated 313 ye…

Sandhill cranes, in two photos

Pulaski County, Indiana, a few weeks ago...