Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Burrowing Owl!

Kudos to Robb Clifford for bringing to light a bird that even trumps the famous Black Rails down in Pickaway County. Through some odd luck, Robb - who works as a naturalist for Darke County Parks - heard about a bird that sounded like it must be a Burrowing Owl. He ran over to the site, and was able to find the bird and confirm it. I got an email just as I was leaving work late this afternoon and got Robb on the phone as quick as possible. Now that we knew the bird was good, the big issue to address ASAP was the local landowners. Luckily it isn't that far to buzz over there, so Bernie Master and I headed off to meet Robb and see the lay of the land.

To make a long story short, we all met both landowners who own the turf where the owl is, and both are the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet. They are fine with any and all birders coming over, and Tom (one of them) even graciously permitted people to park in the driveway of his barn.

To get there, go to Greenville in Darke County (extreme west-central Ohio), take State Rte. 502 west out of town and go a few miles to Springhill Road and turn right (north). This is the last road before the Indiana State line. Follow Springhill to the first road, Wildcat Rd, and turn left (west). Tom's white barn is the first one you'll come to, on the left, and the owl frequents the soybean field just east of his barn. He also often sees it standing right next to the road just east of the barn, by a culvert. The only request is: DO NOT WALK OUT INTO THE BEAN FIELD!

Apparently, the owl has been present for a week, and hopefully without undue disturbance it will stay for a while and all interested parties will get to see it.

Burrowing Owl amongst the soybeans. Sorry for the poor shots, but we couldn't/wouldn't get very near the bird. It is rather skittish, but once spotted can be admired from afar quite nicely through spotting scopes.

Another view. This, amazingly, is the third Ohio record, with the others from 1944 and 1981. Do your best to get over and see this charismatic little beast, and be sure and thank the landowners for their hospitality if you should see them. Also, keep in mind that the bird is very easy to miss in the soybean field. Some persistence and scope work may be required.

Thanks again to Robb Clifford for some excellent heads-up work on bringing this one to light, and be sure and stop by their nature center at Shawnee Prairie Preserve, as you'll probably head right past it anyway. The preserve is on the south side of State Rte. 502 just west of Greenville.

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