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Showing posts from June, 2008

OYBC Visits Cedar Bog

Members of the Ohio Young Birders Club traveled to one of Ohio's premier natural areas today, the famed "Cedar Swamp" near Urbana in Champaign County. Cedar Bog State Memorial is one of Ohio's most significant - and famous - wetlands, as it harbors an incredible concentration of rare species.
Fifteen of us descended on the site this morning, and headed off along the boardwalk to see what we could see. Although the boardwalk loop is maybe a mile in length, we took three and a half hours making our way around. One can't step two paces without seeing something worthy of study at Cedar Bog.
The birds were pretty good. We had great looks at a cooperative Yellow-breasted Chat, and a pair of Alder Flycatchers allowed us nice views. The latter is quite rare in central Ohio as a breeder. At one point, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak teed up beautifully where everyone could admire it, and sang his whistled slurry song. Plenty of other stuff too, but of all things, a chickadee made …

Burrowing Owl update

Apparently no one was able to relocate the Burrowing Owl that came to light Tuesday in Darke County, near Greenville. It had been present for a week, according to the landowner who first brought it to the attention of Robb Clifford at the nearby Shawnee Prairie nature center. The massive weather front that moved through western and central Ohio yesterday afternoon and last night probably didn't bode well for keeping the owl around. It was probably the worst storm yet this summer, with high winds and heavy rains. The handily placed tornado alarm near my house here in Columbus blasted for an hour last night, thank you very much, and the counties in the area of the owl was were apparently hard-hit as well.

I'm sure people will be looking for the owl today, and we'll hear if it resurfaces.

There has been some backdoor buzz amongst some of the hardcore listers about the speed with which this bird was reported. The owl didn't come to light until late in the day on Tuesday. Pri…

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 …

A Blizzard of Butterflies

Along with a number of other enthusiasts of all things Lepidopteran, I made a recent trip to Ohio's supreme Butterfly Mecca, Shawnee State Forest and nearby Adams County. This region is just crazy butterfly-wise, as you'll see from some of the pics below. In all, we found 34 species, and many of them in humongous numbers.

If you'd like to see the Mariposa Circus firsthand, join us for the Appalachian Butterfly Conference, which will be based out of the beautiful state park lodge in Shawnee, right in the thick of some of the best butterflying to be found north of the Ohio River. It'll be August 9 & 10, and believe it or not, the butterflies are even more over the top then. Sixty plus species will be possible and some of them in such numbers as to be nearly inestimable. Plus, by that date we'll be seeing plenty of the immigrants - the butterfly counterparts to vagrant birds. GO RIGHT HERE for more details and registration information. Feel you are a novice? No pro…

Rare Dragons in the Oak Openings

Rick Nirschl is at it again. Rick, who is one of the most accomplished naturalists plying the interesting habitats of northwest Ohio, has made many great finds. The birders amongst our ranks may remember the strange hybrid warbler dubbed "Nirschl's Warbler" that he found several years back in Toledo. This quasi-mystery bird is generally thought to be a hybrid between a Northern Parula and Cerulean Warbler, and it is still returning to the place where Rick first found it.

He's also a top dog in the world of dragonflies. A few years ago, Rick found Striped Saddlebags, Tramea calverti, at Magee Marsh. This was a first state record, and such things get the bug boys going just like the discovery of a Fork-tailed Flycatcher would have the birding crowd hopping madly about in a feverish twitch.

At this early stage in the 2008 game, Rick has produced two major finds from the Oak Openings. He also takes outstanding photos, and was willing to share his handiwork with us.


Here's a Rarity!

I went down to beautiful Fairfield County last Sunday, hard on the edge of Hocking County and its renowned sandstone gorges. Our destination was a normally off-limits place, a preserve dominated by a massive escarpment of sandstone. This giant rock is fractured into "fat man's" squeezes; narrow fissures with narrow walls but very high ceilings, and the slopes below are littered with slump blocks the size of cars, if not buses.

Quite beautiful, and a geologist's fantasy land. But we were there for a bird.

The cool, north-facing slopes of this massif are choked with impenetrable tangles of Great Rhododendron, Rhododendron maximum. This, in not very distant West Virginia, is the habitat of one of the most coveted if not least showy of the eastern Wood Warblers. Mr. Swainson's bird. The Swainson's Warbler. Showy of song if not plumage, this skulker whistles from the rhododendron tangles in the highlands of Appalachia, and has excited many a birder thrilled more by …


Deb Marsh sends along some absolutely stunning photos of a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron that she observed for a period late last July. It was working the more or less pristine waters of Big Darby Creek here in Central Ohio. It would be interesting to know where this bird came from. A home-grown boy, would be my guess. There are plenty of tough to access places along the Big and Little Darby's some 100+ miles that could harbor nesting night-herons, and no one would be the wiser.

Very artistic, this look. Young night-herons are a bit tougher to separate than are the adults. Note that this yellow-crowned has quite the Jimmy Durante-style schnozz, though - a big, thick, all-dark bill. Yellow-crowneds also have smaller and finer speckling on the back, and overall are a longer, thinner, lankier bird.

This shot's great. Deb caught the bird in the act of wolfing down a large crayfish, probably the rather invasive Rusty Crayfish, Orconectes rusticus. Wonder what one of those feels…

New Yellow-crowned Night-Heron discovery!

Yellow-crowned Night-Herons are odd, rather enigmatic birds up this way. Ohio is at the northern limits of their range, and they are a bona fide rarity here. In any given year, only a few tiny breeding colonies are evident, and generally these are ones that have been known for a while, such as the Bexley birds. Discovery of any Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, especially during the breeding season, is always noteworthy.

There are undoubtedly more of these mostly nocturnal herons than we know, but probably not very many more. They aren't particularly shy, but as they are most active in the evening, and quiet and retiring in general, they can be tough to spot.

Therefore, it was exciting news when Alicia Elmer found an adult forgaging along the shoreline of Norwalk Reservoir in Huron County, hard on the eastern edge of Norwalk, back on May 24. She has been keeping tabs on it, and is still seeing the bird in pretty much the same place up to the present. Seeing only one bird doesn't mean …

Caterpillar Hunter

I feel fortunate not to be a caterpillar. Oh, I have nothing against the little crawling tubes of gooey protein; in fact, many transform into stunning albeit short-lived moths and butterflies. The trick is staying alive long enough to grow wings.

Lots of things like to eat caterpillars, you see. Much the way a young baseball fan relishes hot dogs at the ball field, many songbirds and all manner of other predators covet tasty caterpillars. Consequently, most caterillars are active primarily at night, bcecause that strategy at least shakes off most of the birds, or at least greatly reduces one's chances of being a snack for a Yellow-throated Vireo.

But other nasties come out at night, too. Some of these monsters can really put a crimp on a peaceful evening of leaf-munching.
Caterpillar Hunter beetle, Calosoma scrutator, a caterpillar's worst nightmare. I encountered this fine specimen the other night, and managed some shots of what has to be one of the speediest beetles around. It&…


While out in the hinterlands of Columbiana County surveying birds last Saturday, we came across two whopping big Snapping Turtles, Chelydra serpentina. They were big, old, and ill-tempered. Snappers can live for fifty years, grow to 18 inches in length, and supposedly reach fifty pounds in weight.

Surly looking old boy, isn't he? He's got some battle scars, too - look at that tear in the front of his carapace. Nonetheless, he was being a faithful husband, and remaining near the female who was in the process of excavating a burrow for her eggs nearby. Snapping Turtles are rather clumsy and awkward on land, and the terrestrial life is definitely not their bag. Look at the mitts on this thing - those are paws made for swimming! In the water, snappers are as fluid and graceful as an eel, although they spend much of their time semi-buried in the mire at the bottom of ponds, waiting for some hapless victim to wander by.Closeup of the lovely Missus. You wouldn't want to put your f…

Columbiana County Blockbusting

Along with over 20 other birders, I spent Friday and Saturday in far-flung Columbiana County, which borders Pennsylvania in eastern Ohio. This is one of the most beautiful counties in the state, and probably ranks high among the least known. Rich in natural resources, Columbiana County is also filled with gorgeous scenery that is quite unlike much of the rest of Ohio.

A big thanks to Jim Dolan, Jim Kerr, and everyone else who had a hand in organizing this event and making everyone feel welcome. And they arranged a successful mission. At last tally, 113 species of birds had been detected, including some really good stuff like Alder Flycatcher, Least Bittern, and various rare boreal warblers. Bittersweet indeed was Aaron Boone and Jim Dolan's discovery of Black-throated Blue Warblers, apparently territorial breeders. This species is on the decline as a nester in the Appalachians, and would qualify as a mega-rarity as a breeding Ohio bird. There are but two 1930's-era nesting reco…

Stay on the Roads!

The Black Rail has at Charlie's Pond has certainly been attracting interest; not unexpected given that it is one of North America's most iconic symbols of secretive, hard to see birds. There are places to go in North America where one has good shots at hearing, if not seeing them, but Ohio is most definitely not on that list.

Therefore it isn't surprising that so many people would make the pilgrimage down to Pickaway County when word of the Circleville-area rails got out. And nearly everyone has done the right thing and stayed on the roads and off private property.

But apparently not everyone, and on the outside chance that anyone reading this blog might know of someone who might feel the need to try more aggressive tactics to pursue the rails, such as wading into the marshes, I am posting this. It's important to note that in this situation, all of the land on both sides of Radcliff Road, and the other area roads for that matter, are private property and no one should en…

Black Rail!

Like many other birders, I was thrilled by the news of the discovery of one, maybe more, Black Rails near Circleville. Kudos to the team of Big Day'ers who found it last Sunday, June 1. Since then, scores of birders have made the trek down to the Pickaway Plains to tick this one off, even though most have only heard it.

I went Monday, and spent over two hours in the area and heard at least one rail numerous times, but Ken Beers, who was also present, heard another at the same time as I was listening to a bird on the opposite side of the road and at close range. Others have reported hearing different individuals as well. Even more curiously, we heard soft cuckoo-like calls which would seem to fit the description of a female Black Rail's calls, although I have no personal experience with that call to draw upon. This will be an interesting situation to watch unfold.

I am not much of a lister, and never have been. But, the one list I am somewhat rabid about, and that's because I…