Happy New Year's, everyone! I want to thank everyone who visits this blog. I've been at this, in one form or another, for a long time - before the term "blog" had been coined. My blog is - for me, anyway - a good place to share some of what I know or am learning about natural history. There is NEVER a shortage of material - if time permitted I could put something up here every day.
I'm also fortunate that a fair number of people stop by to read this blog. Over the past month, people have surfed in from 73 countries and every U.S. state except Wyoming. C'mon, Mr. Cheney, point that browser this way!
Anyway, whether I ever hear from you or not, I'm glad you find this corner of the blogosphere interesting enough to check out.
Now, I know a number of regular visitors hail from places that rarely if ever see snow, and temperatures seldom drop low enough to raise even a goosebump. The next few photos are for you.
Saturday, January 1st, the Wilds, Muskingum County, Ohio. Temperature about 22 degrees, along with strong winds. Heavy leaden skies blocked out any sunlight, making it seem even colder. We were there for the Chandlersville Christmas Bird Count, and, believe it or not, had nearly 40 species in our patch.
Nearly anyone would find this animal of interest. Even someone who had never really looked at birds before would probably be starstruck by this sort of view of a Red-shouldered Hawk. And the viewing opportunities are far more plentiful than they were just a decade or so ago in Ohio, as this raptor has been on the upswing.
This bird sailed across North High Street in downtown Worthington yesterday, right in front of my car. He kindly sat down in a tree at the intersection of High and North Street, across from the venerable Dairy Queen, where I used to go sometimes for lunch back in high school. Many thousands of people pass by this location every day.
The nearby neighborhoods have aged to the point where the trees are now of suitable size to support breeding Red-shouldered Hawks, and the star of this blog post is one half of the local pair. Red-shouldereds have increased in many other urban areas in Ohio, too.
A short vid, showing the hawk and his busy neighborhood. The bird is seemingly well acclimated to people; he allowed me to act the paparazzi a scant 50 feet or so from his tree, scarcely bothering to reward me with a so much as a sideways glance.
The graph depicts the past 40 years of Christmas Bird Count data from Ohio. It doesn't take an ornithologist to see that the story is a positive one. There are likely two factors leading to this recovery. One, the gradual purge of DDT from the environment. This pesticide had terrible impacts on raptors, and caused great declines in many species.
Two, the overall recovery of forested habitats has allowed Red-shouldered Hawks to reclaim many former breeding areas. This is very much a raptor of woodands, and suffered when deforestation was at its worst. Now, as forests are aging they are becoming suitable habitat once again. This holds true even in older heavily treed neighborhoods in urban areas. A common companion species of Red-shouldered Hawk is the Barred Owl, which shares similar haunts. The owl is also beoming a more frequent urban dweller, and many of the wooded ravines in Columbus now sport both the owl and red-shouldereds.