Photo: John Pogacnik
A jaunty Green-tailed Towhee peers at its discoverer in a Lake County, Ohio backyard.
One of the blessings (sometimes curse) of modern technology is that one can keep apprised of nearly everything that's going on, anywhere. My Droid X smart phone is a mini techno-marvel that, among many other things, pipes my emails to me nearly anywhere I may be. Thus, on May 2 it was via the Droid that I learned of yet another uber-rarity discovered by John Pogacnik along the Lake Erie shoreline. Problem for me was I was deep in southern West Virginia's mountains, and John was reporting the rare bird from his feeding station in his yard in Lake County, Ohio.
The bird that John had found was a Green-tailed Towhee, Pipilo chlorurus, and it was only the fifth Ohio record. We've got to travel back to 1993 to get to the previous record, which also was a feeder bird. That bird appeared on January 10th at a homestead in Lorain County, and lingered until tax day, April 15th. Like a fool - and due to overall busyness - I never bothered to go see it. Foolishly, I figured another would show up before long, little knowing it would be 19 years later before another Green-tailed Towhee graced Ohio.
As can be seen from this excellent range map, the Green-tailed Towhee is very much a sparrow of the western U.S. However, they wander far to the east with some regularity, and have appeared in many states east of the Mississippi River. Still, the discovery of one in our neck of the woods is big news.
Photo: John Pogacnik
In addition to being a topflight birder, John is a heckuva lensman, as his fabulous shots of this towhee illustrate. John has the good fortune of living right on the shore of Lake Erie; his house is perched on a bluff offering a commanding view of the lake. Plus, the yard and surrounding lands are heavily vegetated, and the area acts as a trap for migrant songbirds. As a result, Pogacnik may be able to boast the largest "yard list" of anyone in Ohio, especially as he regularly sees waterbirds such as scoters, jaegers, loons, and others from the property.
This Green-tailed Towhee is not the first rarity he's had at his feeders. Hoary Redpoll, Rufous Hummingbird, and both crossbills come to mind, and I know there's been others. John instantly put word out to the birding community about this towhee, and a few people were able to get there in time to see it. But alas, the bird was a one-day wonder, and was gone the next day. I hope it isn't nineteen more years before we see another in Ohio.