By JIM ABRAMS
The Hancock County Naturalists has completed its annual Christmas Bird Count.
Thirty-two members surveyed Hancock Park District properties, Van Buren State Park, roadways, reservoirs, along fields and at feeders.
Sixty-six separate species of birds were identified, fewer than last year’s record-setting 81.
The most abundant species counted were European starlings (492) and Canada geese (468).
Waterfowl seen included mallards (101), lesser scaup (2), gadwall (2), ruddy ducks (86) and American coot (39). Six great blue heron were seen, as was one laughing gull, ring-billed gulls (114), herring gulls (441), five lesser black-backed gulls and one glaucous gull.
Ninety-four rock doves were seen in Findlay and in rural fields while they were spending time in the same vicinities as their relatives, the mourning doves (113).
One kingfisher was spotted near a stream, plus two red-headed woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers (12), downy woodpeckers (43), hairy woodpeckers (5), northern flickers (11) and pileated woodpeckers (2).
Other woodland and field birds included blue-jays (42), American crows (18), horned larks (17), Carolina chickadee (1), black-capped chickadees (12), chickadee species (7), tufted titmouse (4), red-breasted nuthatch (7), white-breasted nuthatch (21), brown creeper (8), Carolina wren (11), golden-crowned kinglets (2), eastern bluebirds (6), American robins (81), northern mockingbirds (3), cedar waxwings (12), yellow-rumped warblers (8), American tree sparrows (158), chipping sparrow (1), field sparrow (1) and fox sparrow (1).
Other sparrows included song sparrows (5), white-throated sparrows (7), whiter-crowned sparrows (1), golden-crowned sparrow (1) and dark-eyed juncos (234).
Additional woodland birds observed included northern cardinals (89), rusty blackbirds (2), common grackle (1), brown-headed cowbirds (3), red-winged blackbird (1), house finch (56), American goldfinch (109) and house sparrows (292).
Birds of prey include American kestrel (10), bald eagles (9), northern harrier (1), Cooper’s hawk (6), sharp-shinned hawk (1), red-tailed hawk (1) and rough-legged hawk (1). Three great horned owls, barred owl (1) and a lone, visiting snowy owl were also cataloged.
The results of all the Christmas Bird Counts conducted in North America are submitted to the National Audubon Society. The information is used to study migration patterns and changes in distribution.
Along the Way
The snowy owl, also known as the Arctic, great white and ghost owl, that was observed during this year’s Christmas Bird Count is a rare visitor to our area.
A shortage of lemmings and voles in the owl’s Arctic home can drive these nomadic hunters as far south as Ohio in search of food.
Snowy owls can be seen in the dead of winter mostly along the Lake Erie shorelines such as Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Bayshore Power Plant near Toledo and Headlands State Park (Cuyahoga County).
According to Jim McCormac of the Ohio Division of Wildlife, this year has seen a large number of these Arctic ghosts visiting the state, nearly 100 sightings thus far. Here, they have been spotted near the Findlay Reservoirs, Hancock County 17, and even one perched on old hay bales on my property in Delaware Township.
The snowy can be 20 to 28 inches long, sport a 49- to 59-inch wingspan and weigh between 3.5 and 6.6 pounds, making it one of the largest and heaviest owls in North America.
It is a resident of the Arctic tundra regions of Alaska, northern Canada and Eurasia. Their tendency to wander is tied directly to food availability.
Considering the weather of the last week, they should feel quite at home.
• Jan. 16-19: Cleveland Outdoor Adventure Show, www.sportandtravelexpo.com.
• Jan. 25: Ohio Pheasants Forever state meeting and awards banquet, DoubleTree-Worthington, 175 Hutchenson Ave., Columbus. For registration, contact email@example.com or call Charlie at 614-632-8393.
• Feb. 1: Range officer safety training, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Camp Berry Boy Scout Camp, Findlay. Contact Steve Smith for information and registration at firstname.lastname@example.org by Jan. 21.
Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard, OH 45867-0413 or via email at email@example.com.
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