Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Wilds

Looking rather Montanaesque, the sprawling 10,000-acre reclaimed strip mines known as the Wilds in Muskingum County, Ohio offers some very interesting birding. I was there all weekend, leading a wonderful group of people around the area. Last October, I was auctioned off - or at least my services were - at the annual Columbus Zoo & Aquarium fundraiser, "Wine for Wildlife". The high bidders got a trip to the Wilds to look for birds, but we packed in much more than just birding. I'll try and share some of the nonbird highlights later.

But birds galore did we see. In all, about 100 species were tallied, including about a bazillion Bobolinks. It's a boom year for these gurgling squeaking R2-D2 sounding blackbirds. The folks that I was with were newer birders, and they - and me! - were regularly dazzled with outstanding views of Neotropical charmers such as  Kentucky Warbler, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Yellow-throated Vireo, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Hooded Warbler and many others.

Dr. Danny Ingold of Muskingum University came out this morning, and showed the group a few Henslow's Sparrows that he netted. Danny has been conducting grassland bird research at the Wilds for 15 years, and has unmasked many of the secrets of secretive species such as this Henslow's Sparrow. What a beauty this sparrow is, when seen up close like this. I personally love to watch them sing. A male Henslow's will mount a short weed stem, barely above the grass, and throw his flattened head back with all the pomp and grandeur of a feathered Pavarotti. And out comes a 3/5th's of a second long chirp that sounds like an anemic cricket. But nearly all who see this display are awed, if not a bit amused, and it's really the Henslow's ladies who are the true judges and they seem to like the boys' performances just fine.

Interspersed with the birds were some truly impressive animals, and I'll slap some of those beasts up here later.

1 comment:

zippiknits said...

Henslow's Sparrow reminds me of one we have here, in disappearing grasslands, which is called a Grasshopper Sparrow. Grasshopper Sparrows also sing from the end of a swaying stem. I haven't seen another one since April of 85, on an Audubon outing. Lovely little birds, both species.

Your blog is wonderful.