Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ohio Winter Birding

Winter is a slow time for botany, but it offers a few speciality birds for folks interested in wildlife.

I have to thank many of my local Audubon friends for giving me the birding "bug" about 6 years ago. What started as an opportunity to do springtime walks to look at wildflowers has blossomed into a life-style habit that has enriched my life immensely. And the Christmas Bird Counts is an event I look forward to each year.

Winter birding is a great way to connect with nature, and much of it can be done without ever leaving the car! Consider counting birds for your Local Audubon's Christmas Bird Count. Whether you count the birds at your feeder, or spend the day going further a field, all records go into the data base and adds to over 100 years of bird censuses in America.

A complete listing of Ohio's CBCs can be found at the OOS website.

One of our most exciting "winter birds" is the Short-eared Owl. I took this photo at Killdeer Plains a few years back, and it is always a thrill to watch Short-eared owl as they work a field in search of mice or voles.
I hope to spot a few north of Mansfield on my annual CBC count. Finding the right habitat- old field growth, not too high, not too thick- is the key to locating these crepuscular fliers. They are most often found dawn or dusk, in those twilight hours, slightly flapping ghostly white-wings just above the browned vegetation.
If you have not yet seen Short-eared Owls, or if you you would like to have a better opportunity to study these birds, I suggest you make hast for Big Island, Ohio. This year astonishing numbers of Short-ears have gathered at a wildlife area just outside of Marion Ohio. At the junction of Route 95 and Epysville Rd, go south. Last evening, along that abandoned stretch of Ohio farmland, we saw the most amazing owl display I have ever witnessed. There were often 10-15 owls in view at any given time. And the best part, they seem to be working an early shift - starting as early as 4:00pm when good light (for photography) is still available.
IF you get any photos- I would be thrilled to see them. So, good winter birding! Hope you have an opportunity to see these magnificent birds!

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