The Wilds January 20, 2008
Most people like to go to The Wilds in the summer. Most people want to see exotic African animals roaming the grasslands. By now, you must know I'm not like most people.
Yesterday, some of Ohio Ornithological Society's finest led trips on a "balmy" 27 degree day, with wind gusts providing an ambient temperature of about...oh, -12. I would have posted some photos of the folks, but we were all bundled up so much, you can't tell who anyone is anyway! It looks more like a snow-mobiling or arctic explorer group than a bunch of Raptor-happy birders.
The birding was wonderful and the Golden Eagle made several appearances, as if right on cue. Our group, led by the imitable BT3, had a spectacular views from the parking lot where we had gathered for lunch. Al Parker gave a presentation on raptors while we warmed up and re-fueled our bodies for the afternoon outings.
We sighted all manner of Red-tailed Hawks, Rough-legged Hawks, in both color morphs, and Northern Harriers strafing hillsides and putting on quite the show . However, our group seemed focused on owls. We were able to find several locations where owls had been roosting in pine trees and left behind their calling card: owl pellets. This particular photo was taken on the far edge of an isolated hill-top cemetery (see inset photo), unscathed by the past mining practices which ultimately spawned this grassland.
Owl pellets are the undigested remains of small mammals, likely voles, mice and birds which are regurgitated by raptors. They are the general consistency of a hair-ball Fluffy the cat could have coughed up, with the interesting addition of skeletal remains. GMAS once had an owl program and kids were encouraged to dissect samples of these historical capsules from an owl's digestive tract in order to learn more about their diet.
The day's benediction was the moth-like flight of a Short-eared Owl as it fluttered by nearly 60 folks waiting in the twilight. The Wilds... someday I will have to go back to see the four legged beasties :) and the flora. But for today- the owl was enough.