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Showing posts from March, 2008

Northern Fulmar - New to Ohio!

This bird is just too exciting to tarry about with endless blathering build-ups - we'll cut to the chase. A Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis, was discovered today at Alum Creek Reservoir in central Ohio. While not entirely unexpected, this is a new species for the state, and certainly the best find of the year, possibly even longer.

The fulmar was discovered near the dam, out on the largest part of this massive, sprawling lake. It was found by a visiting birder from Queens, NY, Al. B. Trossle, who is quite familiar with the species from his work as a seabird counter in Atlantic waters off the coast of Delaware. Al reports that "I was white-faced with shock when I saw the bird. Being that this is Ohio, I knew it had to be a wolloping doozy".
Alum Creek State Park ranger Gil O'Motte reports that the throngs of birders have already begun, as is to be expected with the find of a major rarity these days. Said Gil "I mean, we see birds around here all the time. Can&#…


Seeing any species of wild cat is always a thrill. Just about all of them, at least in the Americas, are uncommon and very secretive. Wild cats are among the hardest of the large mammals to observe.

Thus, it was exciting to get a beautiful photograph of a Bobcat, Lynx rufus, sent to me by Laura Stalder. Laura captured it on film over in Monroe County in the fall of 2006. Monroe County, in extreme eastern Ohio, probably is near the center of Bobcat abundance in Ohio, as most of them are found in the hilly unglaciated southeastern region of the state.

One of the best shots I've seen of a wild Ohio Bobcat. These are not large animals; they average about 36 inches long and a big one would be 30 pounds. Larger house cats, especially brown or silver forms of cats like Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest Cats, can be mistaken for them and sometimes are. That's why it's great to get absolutely convincing documentation like Laura's photo.

Bobcats nearly disappeared from Ohio in the e…

OOS Annual Conference

The earth is really putting forth the vibes of spring right now. It's great to walk out early in the morning, and hear a symphony of American Robins, Mourning Doves, Northern Cardinals, and Song Sparrows in full song. The longer days are stimulating these early birds to fire up the old vocal tracks, and begin the melodies of spring. From here on out, it'll be an ever-increasing cascade of birds and song, peaking in May, when both migrant and resident birds are at their peak in Ohio.

And that's when we're holding the 4th annual conference of the Ohio Ornithological Society - May 16-18 - a good time to find migrants AND enjoy all our breeders, too. The place is Mohican State Forest, which is one of the richest Ohio woodlands for breeding bird diversity, including a number of rarities.
We're especially glad to have three stellar speakers for the weekend, starting off with Dana Bollin, who is naturalist at Maumee Bay State Park and a long-time birder, and OOS board membe…

A bit more on the Ivory-billed Woodpecker

For some reason, the Blogger gods are preventing me from reading or posting to my own comments. All comments made to my blog do come to me as e-mails, though, so I do see them.

For a tiny but interesting glimpse into the emotions that swirl around the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, often veering off into personal politics and a thorough abandonment of any scientific method, take a look at the two comments posted to my Pale-billed Woodpecker post by someone who chooses to remain anonymous.

Several of the issues that serve to discredit some - not all, just some - rabid pro Ivory-billed believers come out in those comments.

He/her states "Links below TO A FRACTION of the material and reports out there but appartently [sic] all completly [sic] missed." She/he then goes on to give links to Geoff Hill's page on the search for Ivory-billeds in Florida. These pages are rich in circumstantial evidence, both poor videos and sound recordings, none of which can be unequivocally proven to be …

Ivory-billed's little brother

I think everyone wants the Ivory-billed Woodpeckers to exist, in spite of growing suspicions that the entire, I don't want to call it debacle, but.., was perhaps based on faulty evidence. Certainly no indisputable and compelling concrete evidence has yet been produced, and that's what it's going to take to convince the non-faith-based ornithological community.

My experiences with the tropical Pale-billed Woodpecker in recent years have caused me to wonder about our Ivory-billed Woodpecker situation all the more. Pale-billed is a big woodpecker in the genus Campephilus, same genus as the I-B. And just as the I-B must have been, Pale-billed Woodpeckers are large, extraordinarily showy, and often quite obvious birds.

In the past three years, in Costa Rica and Guatemala, I've seen many Pale-billeds and heard many more. That's the key - heard - that makes me more doubtful about the continued existence of I-B's in our southern swamps. The woodpeckers in the genus Campe…

Night of the Tiger

This is about the only time of year I really look forward to rain, along with all of the other salamander enthusiasts. Just like these low-slung amphibians, we emerge on the first warm, rainy nights of early spring and patrol vernal pools, damp woodlands, and slowly cruise back roads in suitable habitat.
The first warm rainy nights around this time of year stimulate mole salamanders - genus Ambystoma - to emerge from underground haunts and march overland to favored breeding pools, just as they've done for eons. If you've never sought mole salamanders, it really is quite interesting. I was out last night, until about 1 am or so, and while I don't think the big emergence has yet come, at least where I was, there was certainly no shortage of action among the amphibians.
There is an area over in Logan County that is pocked with gorgeous glacial lakes, as well as prairie and fen remnants. I've known and been interested in this region for a long time, and have spent much time …

Birding the Temples of Tikal

An interesting twist of birding Guatemalan is the fascinating culture. The Department of Peten, in the northern reaches of the country, was a center of Mayan life, and the temples at Tikal are among the most spectacular of the surviving relicts of Mayan cities. Many tourists come here to marvel at the awe-inspiring structures that typified this advanced civiliation, and so did we. The temples at Tikal were built well some 2,000 years ago, and remarkably, the Mayans did not count the wheel among their tools when they built the temples. The largest, Temple IV, is over 20 stories tall and juts high above the tallest jungle trees.
But there is far more to see at Tikal than the temples, other buildings, and steles, although these certainly dominate the landscape. The birds are incredible! Nowhere have I seen so many parrots, toucans, and aracaris, among many others. As Tikal is sacred, and quite well protected by the Guatemalan government, poachers are not part of the scene and the bird lif…

Steve and the monkey

One of the great things about my recent Guatemala trip was the people. A veritable who's who of British, Guatemalan, and North American birders, and it was great to meet so many new friends, and get to spend time afield with them. I want to share more about them in later posts, but for now I'll mention THE MAN of Central American birds.
I was thrilled to see that Steve Howell was along, and never expected the opportunity to meet him, or spend time in the field with Steve and be able to discuss birds and the tropics with him.

Steve is author of the benchmark Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America, the gold standard reference of birds of this region. Steve made his first visit to Mexico in 1981, and since then has spent countless hours in that country as well as all of the Central American countries. No one knows the region's bird life like Steve, and he generously shares his knowledge. The above book was published in 1995, and provided the first comprehensive reference …

Army Ants

On a recent jungle trek into Guatemalan jungles, the cry went up: "Army Ants!!!". And this was met with glee, as for birders, stumbling across massive columns of these voracious but Lilliputian warriors can mean only good things. The ants have been over-dramatized and probably vilified to some degree, with tales of them devouring people and anything else in their path.

While I certainly wouldn't want to get caught sleeping in their path, they pose little threat to us. Anything else that isn't alert and somewhat mobile, all bets are off. Numbering in the millions, these armies of Eciton burchellii (the most used Army Ant by birds) swarm everything in their path, and everything from spiders, crickets, mammals, and lizards trip over themselves in a mad rush to get the heck out of the way.
Enter the "ant birds", and the source of birders' glee.

A column of army ants crosses a jungle road in Guatemala. Like well-disciplined soldiers, they condensed into a tight…

Horned Guans and the Volcano

Wow! Freshly back from the jungles of Guatemala, and what a trip it was! Magnifico in nearly every aspect, and a bit of a shock to arrive back to Ohio and some 21 inches of white stuff blanketing the ground.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to the 4th International Bird Watching Encounter, organized and sponsored by Inguat, the tourism arm of the Guatemalan government. They are proactively - and wisely - marketing the great natural resources of their country to the ecotourism crowd, and I suspect Guatemala will be increasingly known as one of the must-see places in Central America.
Scads of photos here, still in a bit of disarray, but I wanted to slap something up right quick, and what better way to begin than with the marvelous Horned Guan. These pheasant-sized oddities are quite rare, with an estimated 1,000 birds surving in scattered locales of Guatemala and adjacent Mexico. And one must work to see one. No free lunches here. Story below.

The mighty San Pedro volcano looms from th…