Monday, September 1, 2008

Wood Storks Persist

Like a moth to a flame, I was drawn back to the scene of Ohio's current rarest birds. Such behavior is common amongst birders. Like some criminals, we seem to want to revisit the crime scene over and over, to add to the thrills. But, in my defense, once I first saw the stretch of Tyson Rd. (Coshocton Co. Rd. 145), I couldn't wait to get back. And not just because of those storks. The area is lousy with fascinating wetlands, and on my original visit I had no time to inspect any of them. Today, I had time to nip over there and do some bog-stomping, even they aren't really bogs. Felt like it at times, especially when I went in to the mire deeply enough to nearly crest the summit of my waders, and got to hear that lovely sucking sound that one creates upon boot extraction.

More on the wetland stuff later. I took in total over 1 gig or 360 photos today, and a few are actually presentable. Some are actually respectable and I'll slap some weird things up here later.

First, those storks. If I were them, I wood have probably left by now. In fact, I don't know why they continue to stork around. But since they linger, it would have been blasphemous to have visited Tyson Road and not stopped in to check on them. So I did. And there they were. All three youngsters, and they barely moved a muscle the whole hour or so I voyeured them. In customary stork-like manner, they spent the late morning doldrums sitting around the far end of their favorite swamp, waiting for things to cool down. I wasn't alone in my fawning, either. Quite a few birders dropped in to gawk. Too bad someone didn't chain a guest log to one of the nearby hickories, as I'd bet the stork-gapers now number in the hundreds, and I know that at least five states have sent ambassadors. The storks? They seem utterly unimpressed. In fact, they won't even acknowledge us weirdos up on the road with all of the expensive optics. I wonder what the rare local who once in a while ventures by must think.

In any event, it was good to run into a number of friends out there in the boondocks of Coshocton County today. I also managed a few more shots, which I want to share below.Here's the little charmers. Well, not so little, in fact. A hefty Wood Stork's wings span over 5 feet, and a whopper can weigh over 5 lbs. In nutshell, these are big in your face birds. But, perhaps not so charming, as we shall see...A face only a mother stork could love. All three birds are first-years, as evidenced by the pale bills and undeveloped facial skin. Thanks to Heather Nagy, who allowed me the use of her fine scope to get this and the next shot - digiscoping, as they say.

So, what are these southerners doing in eastern Ohio? Well, it's possible that Hurricane Fay assisted them in their northward progress, as strong winds associated with hurricanes have a way of doing that. But there are plenty of Wood Stork records from the upper midwest. There have been at least five Ohio records prior to these birds, and scads more from other Great Lakes states. Like many waders that breed in the southeastern states, Wood Storks are prone to wandering northward in a migration known as post-breeding dispersal.Evidence that Wood Storks aren't sent to Charm School. Their legs often look washed with white, and indeed they are. This isn't their normal color, though. In an ingenious if not somewhat grotesque fit of evolution - or lack thereof - storks have a peculiar cooling system. They defecate on their legs. This expelled material, properly termed guano, is watery and presumably ejecting it all over one's exposed legs helps in cooling internal body temperatures during piping hot days. One incidental side-effect of this strange behavior, I happened to notice, is that the guano pools around the roosting birds. You can see a bit of that in this photo. And what is attracted to guano? Butterflies! I noticed several species coursing about the stork's feet, dipping into the stork feces. There is probably a Master's Thesis in there... "Use of Foraging Butterflies at Guano-soaked Wood Stork Soil".

Hope you've been over to see these magnificent beasts. They were there up until dusk yesterday, and probably remian today, so get 'em while you can.


Anonymous said...

I think the storks are hanging around because they are able to feed without the worry of alligators or other preditors snapping away at their little feet.
They don't need to look over their shoulder--or maybe that's what they are doing with their wings up-peeking back to see it anyone is sneaking up on them!
Great area botanicly and critterly speaking. Collected some seeds from pale and orange Jewelweed. I was told there were orchids near the lake towards Rt 83, but didn't get a chance to see them. Many leopard frogs. Green stink bugs (adult & juv) on the jewelweed. Just a great place. Met Vernon Miller there, who was the first to find the storks--I thanked him MANY times.

Sandy Brown
Akron OH

Unknown said...

A flock of over 30 wood storks arrived on Rocky Fork Lake in Hillsboro last evening. We are seeing smaller groups of them this morning. For several years we have had white egrets, last year as many as 40 in the flock, this year down to about 12. But the stork addition was exciting, I hope they stick around!
Lori Coppel
Gahanna, OH and Hillsboro, OH
AUGUST 22, 2016

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