Sunday, January 27, 2008

Green Lawn Cemetery beasts

Precious little time to blog of late. Getting ready to head off to Costa Rica on Tuesday, and trying to wrap up a number of odds and ends prior to that, provision for the trip, and STUDY!

Cheryl Harner and Jason Larson went around thestate the other day, bird-seeking. Jason is attempting to reach 100 species for January, and helping him reach that milestone was part of the mission.

They saw some interesting sights at Columbus's Green Lawn Cemetery, and Cheryl snapped some photos that she was good enough to pass along. Green Lawn (not Greenlawn) is a legendary Ohio birding locale, and has been for a long time. Founded in 1848, it is one of the oldest big cemeteries in the state, and the second largest at 360 acres. Only Cincinnati's Spring Grove Cemetery is larger.

A true urban oasis, the green grounds, huge trees, and miscellaneous brushy habitats of Green Lawn support a surprising array of wildlife, considering its location. Birders have been going there for many decades, and the cemetery sports a large bird list, including many rarities. I saw my only Ohio Swainson's Warbler there in 1985, as did many others. CeCe Johnston, in her first year of birding, found that one. Numerous Kirtland's Warblers have been found as well, and the migrant fallouts can be great.

So can winter birding. Numerous large conifers can host winter finches, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and a Pine Warbler has been there lately - not unprecedented at Green Lawn in winter.

Star of the show the past two winters has been one, sometimes two, Merlins. These bullet-like falcons are always of interest, and the Green Lawn birds have been normally easy to spot and observe.

Cheryl managed this photo of Green Lawn's Merlin. Looks like it's sitting in the thick, gnarly branches of a Kentucky Coffe Tree. Often rather confiding, the bird doesn't seem to mind an audience. Merlins wintering in urban cemeteries in Ohio are on the upswing, and cemeteries in Cleveland and Cincinnati also host them. The species is becoming more frequent in general in Ohio. I will go out on a limb and predict that by the end of the ongoing Breeding Bird Atlas, they'll have been found nesting in Ohio, probably in a Cleveland-area cemetery or elsewhere in northeast Ohio. I know, not exactly rocket science, but nonetheless having these little falcons as a part of Ohio's breeding avifauna again would be very exciting.

Cherly and Jason also caught a fleeting glimpse of this large dog-like animal - a Coyote. We knew they were in there, as grounds workers report them from time to time and I've seen one or two other photos of Green Lawn Coyotes. Still, they're always exciting to see, and a bit of a surprise in a place like this. Coyotes also have expanded rapidly throughout Ohio in past decades and are now common in all 88 counties.

Thanks, Cheryl, for sharing your photos!

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