Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Lapland Longspurs, galore!

A flurry of Lapland Longspurs noshes on specially ground cracked corn. All birds should have it so good.

Last winter - the "polar vortex" freezeout - I wrote about a fantastical place in Delaware County, Ohio that hosted thousands, and thousands, of Snow Buntings. That post is RIGHT HERE. The birds' hosts are Mike and Becky Jordan, and they have the art of attracting birds of wide open spaces down to a science. Scatter some 50 lbs. of cracked corn (a day!!) along the driveway and other select spots, and sit back and watch the show. Their farmhouse is surrounded by big fields, and when the longspurs, buntings, and Horned Larks aren't out there somewhere, they're visiting the Jordans.

A handsome male Lapland Longspur alertly watches his surroundings. He is preparing to make his way to the yellow windrows of corn that trace the Jordans' long driveway.

I made my way to Mike and Becky's place last Sunday, after receiving reports of hundreds of longspurs. The winter has not yet been brutal enough to drive in the hardier Snow Buntings, but just wait. The buntings tend to arrive after extended deep snow cover, and even more larks and longspurs will come in then as well.

As soon as I approached the driveway I saw perhaps a couple hundred longspurs and larks. In I went, and spent a pleasurable few hours watching the birds, making some photos, and catching up with the Jordans. The only lamentable point of the day was the weather. It was cold, which bothers me not a whit, but the sky was the all too typical leaden gray of an Ohio winter. Pair that with white snow on the ground, and capturing vibrant images of birds becomes quite tough. A blue sky can really make them pop. But one takes what one gets.

A pair of longspurs rockets by. The flocks are always on edge, their twitchiness in large part due to the ever-present threat of raptors. Birds will explode into the air for no apparent reason, swirl about, and settle back in. Sometimes the reason is very apparent, such as when a female Sharp-shinned Hawk winged into the yard and sat for a bit in one of the silver maples. Northern Harriers, Cooper's Hawks, American Kestrels, and even buteos such as Red-tailed and Rough-legged hawks have learned that potential meals are here, and make regular visits.

While a few Snow Buntings have been present off and on, none were in evidence during my visit. However, lots of Horned Larks were. Larks, buntings, and longspurs form the Big Three of mixed flocks in open country in this part of the world.

Typical views of Horned Larks are of small mousy brown birds flushed from the verges of country roads as one whips by in the auto. Watch the fleeing birds closely, and you'll see the contrasting black tail of the lark - a surefire field mark. One of the great things about visiting the Jordan's uber feeding station is the close proximity of the birds. Actually seeing the namesake horns of a Horned Lark is usually not very easy.

Mike and Becky are exceptionally gracious to birders that wish to visit. Last year they hosted about 1,000 people from Ohio and many other states. Mike cast out about 2.5 tons (Tons, with a T!) of cracked corn last winter!

Best conditions occur when there is enough snow on the ground to fully cover the soil. Forecasters aren't calling for any of the white stuff for a few days, but this being Ohio one never knows what Mother Nature will throw our way. I'm sure great bunting/lark/longspur conditions will arise before too long, though.

If you would like Mike and Becky's contact information, send me an email: jimmccormac35 AT gmail.com. I'll pass it along with some other helpful tips.

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1 comment:

Sue said...

All your photos are gorgeous, but that "mid-flight" one is really amazing. You are quite the gifted photographer. Sounds like you had a wonderful time.