Skip to main content

Robert of Lincoln

The Wilds is a sprawling 10,000 acre parcel that houses an operation dedicated to research into large animals such as rhinos, giraffes, wild horses, painted dogs, cheetahs and many others. The ultimate goal is to help conserve imperiled wildlife, and keep them a part of the earthscape. This place is truly one of Ohio's unique treasures, and if you've not been here, put it on your agenda.

The view above is typical of the place. If you were beamed into the Wilds via a Star Trek-like teleporter, you'd be forgiven for thinking that you had landed in the plains of the Serengeti. This is not typical Ohio scenery, and the Big Sky country of Muskingum County is sure to impress.

The gargantuan grasslands are the result of strip mine reclamation. Although an unnatural habitat very different than what was here pre-mining, these plains do a great job of supporting the various beasts that the Wilds works with. Those distant specks beyond the lake in the above photo are American Bison, which lend an almost surreal backdrop as one birds the area.

And birds abound. Wild birds. The acreage encompassed by the Wilds also contains a great diversity of breeding avifauna, and I spent the weekend just past helping with the Birding by Ear workshop put on by the Wilds' Conservation Education staff. We tallied nearly 100 species, including some real showstoppers like the star of this blog.

Merrily swinging on brier and weed, Near to the nest of his little dame, Over the mountain-side or mead, Robert of Lincoln is telling his name: Bob-o'-link, bob-o'-link, Spink, spank, spink; Snug and safe is that nest of ours, Hidden among the summer flowers, Chee, chee, chee.

Thus goes part of the poem that flowed from the pen of the great poet William Cullen Bryant, who was so moved by the Bobolink and its gregarious cacophonous ways that he took it upon himself to immortalize the bird in the annals of poetry.

Our group was every bit as charmed as Bryant, and spent a good bit of time admiring these showy blackbirds bedecked in the colors of a skunk, and with a nape of gold. The boisterous males chuckle their R2-D2 mechanical gurgles from the tops of low plants, then often, as if they just can't contain their irrepressible enthusiasm, flutter skyward and cascade their bubbly melodies to a wider audience.

I remember telling someone in the group, that sacrilegious as it seemed to say, the crowds of Bobolinks could verge on the annoying. In places, so many of the exuberant males congregate that their collective singing nearly drowns out lesser vocalists, such as Grasshopper and Henslow's Sparrows. Ah, such are the hardships of birding at the Wilds.

I took numerous videos of the courting Bobolinks, especially trying to catch one as it did its aerial display. I did score one really cool video, which captures the incredible flight song. Fluttering on stiff wings in the manner of a meadowlark, the stud showers down song to the ochraceous females, who lay low in the grasses, presumably dazzled by these shows. But I have to figure out how to compress that one a bit before Blogger will upload it. The above video gives a taste of the melody of the Bobos, though. Turn up your volume and dig it.

Sweet and pure as these melodic blackbirds may seem, they are true players; feathered players seemingly devoted to charming as many of the girls as possible and notching up as many conquests as they can. Some of the older dominant males might have up to four females under their spell, all nesting in his turf. Competition for the hens is fierce; the above video captures two guys bookending a gal, vying feverishly for her attention.

If you get the opportunity, go visit the Wilds and as you roll down Zion Ridge Road, pause here and there to admire the Bobolinks. Do it soon, though. By mid-July or thereabouts, the "skunk blackbirds" will have largely fallen silent, and soon thereafter will begin preparing to head off to other grasslands very different from those of the Wilds. You see, the Bobolinks have traveled in an incredible distance to be with us - about 6,000 miles one way! - from Argentina and vicinity. This is about the longest migration undertaken by a North American breeding songbird, and hammers home the global impacts that result with the conservation of a place like the Wilds.


Heather said…
The Bobo features prominently in my latest post, too. I like that first video, glad you got some of their song in it. And way to go slipping the word "ochraceous" into the post!
I've never been to the Wilds--an oversight on my part.
But, falling in love with the Bobolink field in WV has made me think I should get there quickly!!
dAwN said…
Very cool..thanks.

Jim..I am surprised i couldn't find a link to subscribe in a reader or subscribe by email.
You can get both using google feedburner.
I know you have allot of followers..but you might get a few more using the feeds..
Jim McCormac said…
Thanks for the remarks! Dawn, I just went to google feedburner and added it, but have no idea what that does! I am just not up on all of the stuff that can be done technologically with these blogs, and never seem to have the time to learn. Maybe there's a book on blogging for dummies like me?!

For me, the blog is just an outlet to share photos, stories, and adventures, but I would like to learn more about how to maximize its potential.

Russell Reynolds said…
Found me a field of these beauties just a little SW of me here . The best thing is I talked to the farmer that owns it for permission to take pics and he is a photographer too and he has let this pasture grow for them. Knows the value of not cutting the field at nesting time. How do they find their nests in that thick grass,, by vocalizing. ??
Jim McCormac said…
That's great that your birds have found a friendly farmer, Russ! I think they just usual visual cues to find their nests, just as a New Yrok City urbanite manages to find his apartment in a sea of dwellings...

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Snowy owl photography tactics - and things NOT to do

A gorgeous juvenile female snowy owl briefly catches your narrator with its piercing gaze. It's doing its Linda Blair/Exorcist trick - twisting its head 180 degrees to look straight behind. Owls have 14 neck vertebrae - double our number - which allows them such flexibility.

These visitors from the high arctic have irrupted big time into Ohio and adjacent regions, with new birds coming to light nearly every day. Probably 80 or so have thus far been reported in the state, and some of them have stuck around favored spots and become local celebrities.

I went to visit one of these birds this morning - the animal above, which was found last Friday by Doug Overacker and Julie Karlson at C.J. Brown Reservoir near Springfield. In the four days since its discovery, many people have visited as is nearly always the case when one of these white wonders appears near a large population center or is otherwise very accessible.

And as is always the case, people want to photograph the owls. And th…