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Showing posts from February, 2010

Waterfowl Symposium

This weekend past, Columbus Audubon and the Ohio Ornithological Society jointly hosted a "Waterfowl Symposium" at the fabulous new Grange Insurance Audubon Center in downtown Columbus, Ohio. In spite of inadvertently choosing one of the winter's worst weekends for snow, everything came off fine and nearly everyone made it. We were greatly looking forward to hosting Jesse Barry and Chris Wood of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and hearing their presentation, but the weather and aircraft gods conspired to prevent that. Jesse and Chris made it to the Detroit airport, where multiple snafus prevented them from making the next leg - either by car or plane - to Columbus. We missed you guys, and hope you made it back to New York just fine. Paul Baicich drove in from Maryland, and reported that the drive was harrowing in places. Planning late winter events in Ohio is always a dicey proposition, and we are grateful that everything worked out as well as it did.

Following are a few p…

Ohio Wildlife Diversity Conference

If you like nature, you'll almost be certain to enjoy the upcoming Ohio Wildlife Diversity Conference, to be held Wednesday, March 10 in Columbus. All of the details are HERE.

From humble beginnings some 20 years ago, the conference has blossomed into one of the largest of its kind, anywhere. Last year, over 900 people attended. It's a wonderful venue to meet other wildlife enthusiasts and hear great talks about a wide array of topics.

Angry-looking Northern Saw-whet Owl. This one was caught at a banding operation near Chillicothe spearheaded by Kelly Williams-Sieg. She'll be presenting a talk on these fascinating micro-hooters. Kelly and her team have captured hundreds, and learned some amazing things about these owls of the boreal forest.

Among many bits of more scientific information, they've also learned how to tame a savage owl. Just stroke the back of the head, just like a cat, and the owl immediately mellows. Kelly's will be a great program.

Wil Hershberger, …

Some mice are kind of nice to look at

NATURESome mice are kind of nice to look atColumbus DispatchFebruary 21, 2010Jim McCormacWhite-footed Mouse, photo by Jim McCormac"If you build a better mousetrap, you will catch better mice" (George Gobel). "Get a cat" (Jim McCormac)
There are lots of mice for the catching. Many readers know the uneasy sensation that comes from hearing the soft scrabble of little feet running behind the walls. We react with loathing; our cats prick their ears up with interest.
Most of these unwanted squatters are house mice, Mus musculus. Small and gray, a house mouse measures only five inches from tail tip to nose, and weighs but 20 grams. Opportunistic colonizers, these mighty mice are native to Asia, but long ago hitched a ride with man. Everywhere we go, they go, and the aptly named rodents are now ubiquitous wherever our abodes are found.
So successful are house mice at riding our coattails that they may be the world's most abundant mammal. Small wonder, given their prodigio…

Golden Eagle attacks deer!

The same day that I posted Lisa Sells' fantastic pics of the unfortunate Ruddy Duck meeting its demise at the talons of a Bald Eagle, Aaron Boone sent me a link to the Illinois Birders' Forum. There, Eric Walters had posted a spectacular sequence of photos of a Golden Eagle attacking a White-tailed Deer!

Talk about tough! Goldens are well-known for their ferocity; many of you have probably seen the photos of one not so gently shooing a fox away from a desirable carcass. Somewhere I once saw a video of one that was sicced on some other species of small deer, which it knocked to the ground. There is another widely circulated video of a Golden Eagle knocking a goat off a high cliff face to its death; the eagle presumably then made a meal of it.

I have said it before about various animals, and will say it again: if these things were much bigger, we'd all be dead.

A few of Eric's photos are below; GO HERE for his entire pictorial story.

An incredible encounter at the Nachusa G…

Job opportunities at the Wilds

As many an Ohio birder knows, the Wilds in Muskingum County is a very interesting place. Ten thousand acres of Bobolink-filled grasslands in the summer; raptors galore in the winter. There's plenty of non-native beasts, too - everything from giraffes to rhinos to African painted dogs to cheetahs. If you or anyone you know might be interested in working at the Wilds, read on, and pass this along...

The Wilds is actively recruiting for approximately 100 seasonal positions and we really would like to see more applications coming in since our training starts in a mere 5 weeks. We are especially anxious to get more Conservation Educator and Lead Conservation Educator applicants. The information is on our website – and it is also pasted below.

Thanks for any help you can provide in getting the word out.

Denise Natoli Brooks, CIG, CIT
Interim Director of Conservation Education
the Wilds
(740) 638 5030 x2116

Seasonal Employment

Conservation Educa…

Eagle gets ruddy - incredible photo sequence!

The following images are courtesy of the photographer, Lisa Sells, who e-mailed me this incredible pictorial story today. Lisa was visiting Lake Logan in Hocking County, Ohio, in early January checking out the birds. There were only scattered leads in the largely iced over lake, but there's been plenty of waterfowl - mostly Mallards, Gadwall, Canada Goose, and a few other species, including a couple of Ruddy Ducks.

Always lurking about are a few Bald Eagles. Now I don't normally think of eagles as overly agile; they seem more adept at picking at beached carp than deftly snagging rapidly flying waterfowl from the air. Well, check the action below. This eagle is a real ace!

Adult Bald Eagle hot on the heels of a Ruddy Duck. This ruddy would have fared better had it dove under the water rather than take wing. Ruddy Ducks are fairly speedy when in the air, but display little in the way of jigging and jagging evasion maneuvers.

Eagle closes in for the kill.

It's almost curtains …

Merlin revisited

Yesterday, a few of my fellow Ohio Ornithological Society board members - Cheryl Harner, Gabe Leidy, and Bob Placier - darted into Columbus's Green Lawn Cemetery for a quick look. We had a board meeting later in the morning, but couldn't stand the thought of not getting at least a little birding in.

Upon arrival, we spotted the resident Merlin quicker than you can say Falco columbarius. No shrinking violets, these little death-dealers. This bird, which looked to be a young male, was teed up on one of the most prominent perches available.

Here's the general lay of the land. The Merlin is visible; it's the speck in the crown of the huge tree just to the right of the big Norway Spruce that dominates the center of the photo. The Merlin is just to the right of the giant TV antenna in the backdrop.
Green Lawn is the 2nd largest cemetery in Ohio at 360 acres, and it essentially replicates a savanna. There are scores of large scattered trees, and no shortage of songbird prey. M…

Return to Joisy

There is a thing known as "I and the Bird". This I & B is a creation of the blogosphere; the spawn of the boom of social sharing via the Internet. I had heard of it, and the attendant phenomenon known as a "Blog Carnival", but through no fault of my own. As nature-based blogs have increased exponentially - there are now 970 of them indexed on the Nature Blog Network - this sort of thing becomes inevitable.

I am not too hip to this stuff. Even though I've had a "blog" long before the term was coined - remember "Angelfire"? - I pretty much remain stuffed in my little corner of the World Wide Web.

But, not now! My friend, Laura of Somewhere in NJ, has tagged me, among others, to provide fodder for her blog carnival. And that's what this post is - fuel for Laura's carnival. She has coerced me into poking out from my sheltered Internet existence, with promises of riches and great fame. And, since she is from New Jersey, one of the Union…

Common Goldeneye: Aquatic Break-dancer

Photo: John Pogacnik

The Columbus Dispatch
February 7th, 2010
Jim McCormac

Goldeneye striking in looks, action

Probably no other group of birds has had the impact on conservation that waterfowl has. Most people are familiar with the mallards and Canada geese that frequent ponds, but there is much more to the ducky crowd. Forty-three species of ducks, geese, and swans have occurred in Ohio, and most of them are common, at least in migration.

In the 1930’s, Dust Bowl droughts had depleted North America’s waterfowl to perilously low levels. From the dusty ashes of near catastrophe arose a group that is now one of the world’s most effective conservation organizations. The year 1937 marked the formation of Ducks Unlimited, and in their 73 year history they’ve raised $3 billion which has gone to protect well over 12 million acres of habitat.

A good thing, as waterfowl rank high among our most interesting, beautiful birds. And protecting their habitat also safeguards scores of other animals,…

Hummers, gnatcatchers, and lichens

For some time, I've been curious about the specific makeup of the lichen communities of Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher nests. The literature contains abundant reference to the fact that these species use lichens in nest construction, but I've yet to see a study that analyzed the lichen species and composition.

So, a few weeks back, I put out a request to the Ohio birding community, and was rewarded with a few dozen nests that were made available for study.

Enter Ray Showman, without doubt one of the leading lichenologists in the U.S. Ray lives in Vinton County, Ohio, and recently retired as a biologist with American Electric Power. AEP originally hired him to study lichen populations in the vicinity of coal-burning power plants. Lichens are quite vulnerable to air pollution; thus they serve as readily studied barometers of environmental conditions.

Ray brings real street cred to any project involving lichens. This is his book, co-authored by fellow Ohioan D…