Monday, June 24, 2013

Not just another pretty Bobolink

This is not just another pretty Bobolink.  Much more than a grassland bird, this is also a symbol of conservation in Ashland County. Once we reveled in the sighting of a few Bobolinks at Byers Woods; now we enjoy a cacophony of the males' burbling song. As many as fifty bobolinks were recently seen fluttering above their grassland gals on the methane mountain* at Byers Woods.

* This grassland is a result of capped landfill mound.
A Bobolinks at Byers by Lisa Rainsong.
Bobolinks at Byers Woods is a little festival the Greater Mohican Audubon Society has been putting on since 2006.  It is a successful blending of teamwork, conservation, education, tourism and a whole lotta fun.  Most of all it is a success story.  Byers Woods is a landfill which has been re-purposed into an Ashland County Park which holds an abundance of wildlife.

Bluebirds tending young in the nest.
Byers Woods is not just for Bobolinks! There are plenty of close-up looks at other birds tending their young.  Many locals go to Byers to look at wildflowers, walk their dogs, or to visit the ponds, and they undoubtedly encounter something new on every visit!

Jim McCormac's group celebrates great looks at a rarity. (photo provided by Jim)
The Bobolink festival increases the odds for nature interaction by providing -at no charge- some of the the best bird guides in Ohio. Jim McCormac is legend for his hearing ability, and no doubt his keen ears led this group to the rare Black-billed Cuckoo hiding out at Byers Woods.

Later that morning, Jim regrouped for a second trip, specializing in butterflies and dragonflies.

Jim shared an up close and personal look at a dragonfly. (Photo by Irv Oslin)
Jim is one of Ohio best known and experienced trip leaders. We appreciate all he has done to promote this park from its earliest days, and his willingness to participate at our festival. Jim was the keynote speaker at the very first one.
Tim Leslie of the Ashland County Park District (Photo Irv Oslin) 

Plently of Ashland County Park District (ACPD) folks helped too, like trip leader Tim Leslie and Kolleen Crall who made crafts with kids.  The ACPD provides food service, parking help, and tables for the vendors.

I wish I had a photo of all the vendors and displays, as it was wonderful. (You'll notice most of these photo were sent to me; I only had time to snap a few on my phone.)  Bianca Davis handed all the educational displays and vendors this  year, and she and her son Derrick did a magnificent job.  They were the first ones there in the morning and the last Audubon members left folding tents and cleaning up long after the party was over.  A VERY SPECIAL thanks goes out to them!  

Weedpicker Cheryl points out butterflies with Lisa Rainsong. (Photo Irv Oslin)

Music professor, Lisa Rainsong, led our first "Bird Song" trip for this festival.  There have been rave reviews on her abilities as a leader and guide.  Greg Miller and Su Snyder also helped people find Bobolinks  in their spotting scopes.  We appreciate their volunteering as well.

Sure, it is all fun and guides now, but the fact remains, this little festival is a conservation effort in progress.   In the early days, Bobolinks were dying on this field during the annual early summer mowings.  Our efforts to educate the public and raise awareness have resulted in pseudo-sanctuary for grassland birds.  This is why it is important that the Bobolink festival remains free and open to the public.  But to run a festival like this -with tents, banners and top quality leaders- it does take money.   

Fortunately, some folks cared enough about grassland birds to help us raise some funds for the effort.

Michelle Goodman and Cheryl Harner with  Michael Godfrey, videographer from Virginia.
Photo by Randy Harner

Michael Godfrey was gracious enough to show a video and lead a discussion on conservation and climate change and its impact on grassland birds. The audience was charmed by his narrative which included photos from his farm in Virginia.  This special benefit program helped Greater Mohican Audubon Society raise funds to continue our educational efforts at Byers Woods.

Participants enjoyed the benefit held at Gorman Nature Center.
 Thanks to those to joined us for a casual evening and contributed generously to the cause.  We would like to especially acknowledge the support of Ohio Ornithological Society, Black Swamp Bird Conservancy and the North Central Ohio Land Trust.  Your generous support has helped us take this festival to the next level.


  1. Byers Woods is a magical place and a magical story, Cheryl, and you tell it well. Would that all our tracks upon the land could lead to such a happy ending. I'm still convinced that we saw a female Dickcissel on the fence around the Methane Mound, and wasn't it interesting (sad in a way) to see the Song Sparrow feeding the fledged Cowbird.

    Thank you for the chance to be at Byers Woods,


  2. Cheryl, what a great event. We attended for the first time this year. You had been our driver at BBW for a beginner birder session & passed out a flier about the event! We are so glad we came & were in Jim's group to see the Black-billed Cuckoo! What a treat!!