A huge irony strikes me when I go birding with people at the Wilds during the breeding season. And it hit me again during last weekend's Birding by Ear workshop.
OK, the Wilds is the country's premier research facility for the study and conservation of some REALLY BIG critters. We're talking Reticulated Giraffe, Sichuan Takin, Bactrian Camel, Fringe-eared Oryx, Bison, and many more. There are even Painted Dogs with their curious dish-sized dumbo ears, and Cheetahs. All very well, and of great interest to visitors, birder or not.
But what is it that the birders really want to see? Sparrows! The polar opposite of the aforementioned beasts. Cryptic in plumage and shy and retiring by nature, nevertheless it is the classic little brown jobs that the binocular set wants to see.
“All birds look like sparrows to me. There are big sparrows, little sparrows, and gaily colored sparrows” Andy Rooney
Our Birding by Ear group out on sparrow safari. That's the "magic bus" that faithfully delivered us to all sorts of places in the course of racking up nearly a hundred species of birds. Some of them were sparrows.
Sometimes their name causes confusion. One might think that they are named for the plant community called a savanna (no H on end), with scattered large trees underlain by grasses. But the bird is actually named for its type locality; the place where the first specimen was collected. Which was Savannah, Georgia.
I've probably said it before, but I'll say it again. If you are looking for an interesting field trip this summer, visit the Wilds. And if you are from some distant land beyond Ohio's borders and are planning on coming to the Buckeye State, pay a visit. Not only will you clean up on grassland birds and many others, you can also admire the likes of Fringe-eared Oryx and Cheetah, and there aren't many places where all of these creatures converge.