|Photo By Irv Oslin |
Bird illustrator Jen Brumfield photographs a freshly emerged black swallowtail butterfly Saturday at Byers Woods.
By IRV OSLIN
ASHLAND TIMES-GAZETTE Staff Writer
Saturday was a good day for people-watching for the birds and insects at Byers Woods. There was a great deal of diversity, with people coming from at least 20 different counties and a few from out-of-state for the sixth annual Bobolinks at Byers Woods Festival.
Judging from guests names on sign-up sheets and a survey of the overflow parking, it appeared that attendance exceeded last year's estimated head count of 140.
The human guests weren't disappointed. At one point, during a bird and insect walk led by Jen Brumfield, six bobolinks were seen perched in a row on a fence.
Brumfield, a renowned bird illustrator and outdoors educator for Cleveland Metroparks, led two walks. Both were well-attended, as was one led by Ashland bird-watching expert Tim Leslie, which drew 45 people.
"I think everyone enjoyed themselves," Leslie said. "I know I enjoyed it. And we all got in a good hike. And there were lots of bobolinks this year."
Among those walking with Leslie were Liz McQuaid and Jeanne Utter of Cleveland.
"The bluebirds are great and the butterflies are fabulous," McQuaid said.
For the first time this year, bird-watchers found dickcissels staying at Byers Woods. For many people at Saturday's event, including Utter, it was their first sighting ever of the small seed-eating bird.
During Brumfield's second bird and insect walk, a woman spotted something special; a black swallowtail butterfly freshly emerged from its chrysalis. People on the walk paused to photograph it from all angles.
Ann Ely of Wooster came specifically to go on Brumfield's walk. It was her second Bobolinks Festival.
"I like going with Jen because she knows everything," Ely said.
Mark Bixler of Kidron brought his sons Amos, 8, and Josiah, 5. Amos enjoyed looking through Brumfield's spotting scope at birds on the grass-covered closed landfill. Josiah hasn't developed as keen an interest in birds as his brother, but he eagerly examined insects on the ground that Brumfield had pointed out.
This was the Bixlers first Bobolinks Festival.
"It's pretty neat," Mark said. "The habitat here is very diverse."
Brumfield agreed that Byers Woods is a special place.
"It amazes me how little grassland habitat we have left," she said.
The number of vendors and wildlife-oriented groups setting up booths also has increased.
"Here are the biggest birding groups in Ohio coming here to support us," said Cheryl Harner. "That says a lot."
Harner is president of Greater Mohican Audubon Society, which co-sponsored the event with the Ashland County Park District.
Park District volunteers provided snacks, beverages, nature crafts and helped things run smoothly.
Birding legend Greg Miller of Wooster made a return visit to the event this year. Miller was one of three die-hard birders depicted in the best-selling book "The Big Year." Miller was portrayed by comedian Jack Black in a movie based on the book.
Miller helped man spotting scopes at the park entrance.
"This is always fun," he said. "You get to find stuff here you're not accustomed to seeing."
Harner asked people attending the festival to thank county commissioners. The commissioners have agreed to postpone mowing the grasslands over the old landfill until after July 10 so the bobolinks have a chance to fledge.
"Bobolinks might not be getting a break in other counties, but they are in Ashland County," Harner said.
Irv Oslin can be reached at 419-281-0581 ext. 240 or at email@example.com.