Monday, May 30, 2016

The Point of Conservation.

They call it Winous.  Winous Point.

It may well be the best kept secret in Ottawa County.  It had its origins as a shooting club in 1856. That makes it the oldest continuously operating hunt club in America. Impressive, to be sure, but it may seem an odd place for a Weedpicker and her fellow conservation enthusiasts to visit.

The main Clubhouse at Winous Point,
complete with Canada Goose weather-vane.
Winous Point Shooting Club is a repository of history of hunting. Through limited use, it protected the shores from development along the Sandusky Bay near the Sandusky River and Muddy creek. Winous Point conserves about 5,000 acres of wetlands and shorelines, providing some of the last remaining places for the massive water fowl and shorebirds migrations, as well as year round habitat for all forms of wildlife.

Historically, Winous Point is a Shooting Club, but in 1999 the Winous Point Marsh Conservancy was formed to study the marsh and the inhabitants therein. We will particularly focus on their on-going rail study. 

Rail habitat- is the edge habitat. 
Winous Point is key to the educational experience Flora-Quest and the Ohio Ornithological Society have planned for birders and plant lovers this fall. Several members of our OOS Conservation Committee visited the Winous Point conservancy experts to see their rail study in action. We ventured out to the sedge meadows and edge habitats where lures were set to attract these secretive birds.

Oliver Cornet discusses the plant life at Winous Point.

One of our guides for the morning, Oliver Cornet, specializes in the management of invasive plants. It was fascinating to learn more about the efforts to improve vegetation and create viable habitats for various shorebirds birds, rails and waterfowl. 

Brendan Shirkey demonstrates the rail trap.
 Brendan Shirkey will be one of our guest speakers at the OOS Rally for Rails in October 1 and 2nd.  You will not want to miss the details of their humane live trapping and data tracking of Ohio's most secretive birds.  We are just starting to peek into the lives of these marsh inhabitants, and the Winous Point study (partially funded by Ohio Division of Wildlife) is providing much of the critical data.

Brendan retrieves a Virginia rail unharmed.
 The third trap of the day held a surprise: a Virginia rail which was already outfitted with a radio transmitter!  This bird was a recapture.  Brendan returns to the awaiting trucks with the unharmed bird.
Virginia rail seeking companionship.
As Brendan said, "This guy must be looking for love in all the wrong places."

After the rail was gently bagged we returned to the station to take its general health updates for the study.  We learned this bird has been found in the trap three times! After gathering their data, the birds are returned back to the area in which they were originally found.  Apparently, the experience must not be too traumatic or this Virginia rail would have likely avoided the trap the second time.

- To be continued.

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