This bird-rich field is along Soltis Road in Geauga County, and the farm's operators have made it readily accessible to birders. I had been hearing about this place for a while, and finally visited on the morning of February 14. The experience was amazing. I wish I knew more about Soltis Farms, and why this bird-friendly ag field came to be. They've obviously been part of the local community for a long time, to have a road named for them. Anyway, I and scores of others are very grateful to them for their generosity.
Immediately upon arrival, I was greeted by platoons of buntings, larks and longspurs along the road, and swirling over the open field. After ogling those for a bit, I headed into the field and nippy 14 F cold. My main target was in the sunflower field, time was limited, so the seedy crop and its denizens was my focus.
Unsurprisingly, America Goldfinches were frequenting the field and I saw and heard them instantly. Here, a male plucks seeds from a sunflower head.
At one point, I heard the light, wispy call note of a Savannah Sparrow. A slight bit of pishing stimulated it to pop up on a nearby sunflower, allowing me some documentary shots. I normally think of this as a rather half-hardy sparrow, and rare in winter. Bruce Peterjohn, in his The Birds of Ohio (2001), notes that they were "...once considered accidental winter visitors..." but goes on to note that wintering birds are probably overlooked. While I agree with that - winter Savannah Sparrows mostly stay on the ground, in cover, and their calls are tough to hear or recognize - I do wonder if they aren't truly increasing in winter. There have been more reports this winter from around the state than perhaps any other winter, and other recent winters also seem to be producing above average records. Ohio is essentially at the northern limits of this species' wintering range, and perhaps they are shifting northward.