Sunday, February 10, 2013

Killdeer Plains... unraveled

What good is a love of nature, if we do not share it?   People want to see "good birds", and that is fine as long as we also teach them to become advocates for protection of habitats and species.

It is all about education,  and no one does bird research and education better than Black Swamp Bird Observatory in Ohio.  

This weekend they rounded up tons of  Young Birders and a good number of adults (about 60 people in all) for this well organized trip at Killdeer Plains. Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area has long been noted for its "owl grove." 

It is posted on the ODNR web pages, and Jim McCormac refered to Killdeer Plains in his  Columbus Dispatch article. 
Since its location is no secret, isn't it best to offer these supervised trips?

 The main owl grove had a Saw-whet Owl peacefully sleeping in the pine boughs.

 Our group was enthralled- in a quiet and respectful way.  THIS is good education.  No stomping around or hollering here.  Just good birds and quiet birders.
Another grove offered distant, but acceptable views of  Long-eared Owls. I have a lot of zoom on my little camera, but you can see, I don't push the shot.  Here is a sleeping, plumped up owl.

If you see the bird stretched-out with ears standing (called "sleeking") you are too close.  Back off!
Enjoy the bird, but respect the bird.  I am the "Queen of Bad Bird Photography."  I don't have the patience to wait forever for a shot, nor will I hang around all day stressing a bird.

You can quietly take a shot and move on.  This is birding at its best.  We collected an owl pellet and explained to the beginners the process of  coughing up the bones and fur from those "mice" meals the owls enjoy.

Yes, kids are kids. They do get restless and goofy.  But these kids were well away from the birds and were waiting their turn to sneak quietly into the grove for their peak.  

All the book learning in the world, all the talk cannot add up to experience.  We each want to experience a Long-eared Owl in the wild.  Blessings to BSBO for endeavoring to create a "controlled" opportunity for learning.  If we left these kids on their own, I guarantee mayhem would ensue!  After all, they are still kids.  

But now they are kids with a new life experience under their belt, and a little more understanding and love for nature.  That will go farther to protect these species than a million games of "Angry Birds."

 Sunset at Killdeer Plains.  

Owls are wonderful, but nothing says "wet plains" like tall grass and the call of wild geese. 

It was my honor and privilege to share this location with young minds- and the potential future leaders.  To tease apart the layers of nature and to welcome another into the fold of responsible birders is a gift we must share to receive.

Killdeer Plains... unraveled to reveal the mystery of nature and shared with youth-  both blessings.


  1. Hi Cheryl, I appreciate your article and help with the efforts to try and manage several dozen birders in the now famous "owl grove".

    And I'm flattered that you cite my newspaper column of January 20. However, I must point out that I was writing specifically about Short-eared Owls, which are readily observable from roadsides as they hunt over fields, and are utterly unfazed by human observers. Not all owls are created equal and some are far spookier than others. I most definitely would never mention a specific Long-eared Owl roost in the newspaper, nor the listserv for that matter.

    1. Thank you, Jim. I appreciate your comment- and note the difference. It is good that you highlighted that difference, and worth noting.

      The citation was meant to point to the fact that Killdeer Plains- in general - is well known and well-publicized. Your excellent articles goes a long way to educate the public, including me. You are certainly one of Ohio's most knowledgeable birders.

      I, too, would not post a little known Long-eared Owl roost. But, I believe if folks are going to look we should help them be responsible about it. Killdeer is the perfect place for an educational opportunity. While it was a large group, we sectioned them in to small groups, and it was respectful. There was good adult supervision on hand.

      Thanks for helping us walk that fine line between seeing the birds, educating new birders, and protecting the birds at the same time.