Yesterday was the annual Ohio Ornithological Society's "Raptor Extravaganza" at the Wilds in Muskingum County, Ohio. This mid-winter event has been going on for about a dozen years, and always attracts a full house - 130 or so birders from all across the Buckeye State. The main thing is to seek birds on and around the Wilds' 10,000 acres, and the many thousands of acres of adjacent reclaimed stripmine lands. We divide into eight teams, and fan out through the area. It's a big logistics task organizing all of this, and kudos to Jason Larson for pulling it all together this year.
It was unseasonably balmy yesterday, with temperatures hitting about 60 F. A far cry from several years ago, when it was pushing minus 20 F in some local areas at the morning rendezvous time. I was co-leading one of the groups, and we found many of the usual suspects: Rough-legged Hawk, Northern Harrier, Golden Eagle (yes!!) and other raptors, singing Eastern Meadowlarks, and a host of other birds. At dusk. a cooperative Short-eared Owl put on a show for those who stuck around.
The Wilds is a conservation and research facility specializing in the study of large mammals, and most of the species that they work with are imperiled in their native ranges. It has become custom - and we are very grateful to the staff of the Wilds for accommodating us - to take a midday tour of the rhinoceros facility. Nearly everyone goes, even though a lot of us have taken the rhino tour many times. I know I wouldn't miss it.
Dave, the head rhino keeper, always has good info for the groups, and patiently answers the same questions year after year. This year, he had a real gem to show us - a two month old Greater One-horned Asian Rhinocerus, Rhinoceros unicornis, which is sometimes more simply known as the Indian Rhino.
As I would think that just about anyone would like to see photos of a baby rhinoceros, if they can't see the real thing, some photos from yesterday follow...
If you haven't been to the Wilds, put it on your calendar for this year. Their tours are fascinating, and it is a wonderful day trip. In addition to rhinos, you'll get to see many other interesting large beasts. CLICK HERE for more information.