Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Birding the Wilds

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

More than 150 brave and bundled souls showed up at The Wilds for the annual winter birding trip with The Ohio Ornithological Society. The weather began as bleakly as expected. The parking lot where we met was solid ice covered in a layer of slush. But there was no wind. My group, co-lead with Peter King and Julie Zickefoose, was group 5, assigned to begin at Long Lake. I knew Long Lake would be frozen (and likely duck-free) so we only drove about 150 yards down the road to our first stop. There we spotted a handful of raptors, including red-tailed hawk (3), rough-legged hawk (4), American kestrel, and what turned out to be the lone northern harrier of the day.

This single harrier, where normally we might see five or more, told us that the small mammal population was probably very low. No food, fewer birds.

Still a four-raptor stop was a great start, so we moved on down the road happily. Well, not everyone was happy. Phoebe and Liam sometimes get a notion to act like going on a birding trip in winter is akin to being condemned to 50 years of doing algebra homework. That "brattitude" would change on this day...we had a secret weapon in our arsenal.

Maybe asking Phoebe to be the trip photographer was not such a good idea.

We got to Long Lake and, as expected, it was frozen solid. Then the wind kicked up and so we headed for some back roads that offered a bit of wind protection. We did have several nice flyovers from trumpeter swans—actual wild trumpeter swans that now spend part of the winter here.

At the Jeffrey Point Birding Deck we spotted lots of white-tailed deer, many of The Wilds' captive large mammals, very few birds, and Papa Green Smurf.

While we scanned for birds (hoping for a golden eagle) along Zion Ridge Road, the sun came out. We hardly knew what to do. Then it began to warm up, thoroughly confusing us. This was The Wilds in January after all. Wha-ha-hoppen?

We thought it might be a trick, so we kept our sensible headgear on just in case.

We bird-dogged some horned larks along Zion Ridge Road after hearing their tinkling call notes.

And that was a life bird for several among us, thus the mandatory Life Bird Wiggle celebration to appease the Birding Gods.

We ended the birding portion of our day with somewhere north of 50 species—a most respectable total. I never did set eyes on a golden eagle, though many others did. For me the skies were empty, but our hearts were full.

Next stop: Scratching the Rhino.


On January 19, 2010 at 12:03 PM Anonymous said...

Even if the birding was only respectable I'm sure the fellowship was awesome.

On January 19, 2010 at 6:58 PM Susan Ellis said...

Love the birder's wiggle for a lifer!

On January 20, 2010 at 11:12 PM Anne said...

Wah! My sister and I were assigned to group 5, but we had to cancel. So sorry I missed it.

On January 21, 2010 at 4:58 AM Anonymous said...
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On January 21, 2010 at 6:14 AM nina at Nature Remains. said...

I don't recall seeing the previous commenter within the group--but we were bundled well,...
Horned lark--my lifer,
and the rough-legged hawks, too.
Thanks for great day of birding. Even without a sky full of birds, you guys make birding a ball!

On January 21, 2010 at 3:32 PM KaHolly said...

I just loved all the pictures of what my file's name reads - geeky birders! I have quite a portfolio of them, and nothing tickles me more (except seeing birds) than to watch geeky birders. Sounds like you had a fun day, despite the low bird count. Have been reading about it on other blogs! ~karen

On January 25, 2010 at 4:19 AM cindyzlogic said...

Interesting post! I saw my first American Kestral last Fall! Thanks for sharing, Bill.

On January 26, 2010 at 8:43 AM Heather said...

Hey dude, I heard you on the radio yesterday, being interviewed by Fred Kight from WOUB, who was yet another person lucky enough to be in your awesome group. Suh-weet. Was good to see you for a fleeting minute or two.