By JIM ABRAMS
Since the age of 8, Jim McCormac has had a keen interest in birds, which grew to encompass Ohio’s entire natural world. This passion led him to a career with the Department of Natural Resources, until his retirement just a few short years ago. Today, he continues his naturalist ways through his writings, public speaking and his fascinating blog, “Ohio Birds and Biodiversity,” at jimmccormac.blogspot.com
More than that, Jim continues to be a bog-stomping, forest-dwelling, prairie-wandering, swamp-stalking explorer with camera in hand, ready for that chance to get that shot of a lifetime … and he has a habit of being extraordinarily successful at doing so, repeatedly.
Nov. 3 found him investigating reliable information that a vermilion flycatcher was hunting insects around a Wayne County marsh while on its way to its wintering grounds. First spotted on Oct. 25, Jim finally made time for the hunt. “Birding the Wooster, Ohio region in late October, this flycatcher would not be high on your list of expected species,” explains McCormac.
The vermilion flycatcher is typically found in the arid southwestern parts of the U.S. and along the extreme southern coast to the western tip of Florida. A visit to the chillier Midwest is unusual, and this sighting would document about the seventh visit.
Jim was able to locate the bird and snap a few great photos during his hourlong observation. Little did he expect that he was going to hit for a double that day. Only being a short drive from Holmes County, he decided to explore another unusual observation.
According to the story, a stunningly orange colored male rufous hummingbird was visiting a feeder at a local home. The rufous is the hardiest of the North American hummingbirds, breeding farther north than any other hummingbird species, all the way into Alaska and even the high elevations of the Rockies.
The rufous is typically seen during California’s springtime; summers in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska; and fall in the Rocky Mountains during their annual migrations. Though it’s a smaller hummingbird even in their hummingbird world, the rufous is the bully. They’ll relentlessly hassle any other hummingbird that comes within their realm, especially around feeders.
According to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, the rufous makes one of the longest migratory journeys of any bird in the world, as measured by body size. “At just over 3 inches long, its roughly 3,900-mile movement (one-way) from Alaska to Mexico is equivalent to 78,470,000 body lengths,” Cornell reports.
Once again, Jim McCormac was in the right place at the right time, and he was able to capture a perfect view of another visitor from the western portion of our continent. Should he dare go for the trifecta in one day?
After leaving, he had one more stop to make to attempt to locate a pomarine jaeger (also called the pomarine skua), a gull-like bird most commonly spotted along ocean coastlines while breeding primarily in the Arctic regions.
Jaeger translates from German to “hunter,” and is deadly accurate. The pomarine jaeger will eat smaller birds up to the size of common gulls and rodents, especially lemmings. They’ll also feed on fish, carrion and scraps, and rob other birds of their catches. The only birds known to regularly kill adult pomarine jaegers are the great black-backed gull, white-tailed eagle and golden eagle.
But even the legendary Babe Ruth was known as much for his strikeouts as he was his homeruns. McCormac’s luck wasn’t going to hold for this last sighting. Jaegers visiting Ohio rarely venture far from Lake Erie. This one, which had wandered inland to a midstate reservoir, didn’t stick around long enough for a cameo appearance.
“Don’t let the fear of striking out hold you back.” — Babe Ruth
“Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.” — Ray Kroc
Along the way:
The first time I met Bob Latta was before he entered the field of politics, rather deeply involved in the field of deer hunting. I ran across him and his small hunting party, checked their licenses and chatted a bit. I left knowing that I’d have few problems with a group like that one. Since that time, I’ve checked his license, examined a doe he’d harvested and listened to him speak at conservation events.
Now a U.S. congressman, Latta can still be found hunting when he gets the opportunity to escape the bonds of working in Washington, D.C. Even while there, he still champions the outdoor sports and promotes legislation for sound wildlife management.
Recently, Safari Club International hosted a hunter education course at its Washington, D.C., office for congressional staffers and other members of the conservation community. Who else but congressman Latta would volunteer to help teach the class?
In addition to being an avid hunter, congressman Latta is also a certified hunter education instructor and routinely teaches courses in his home state of Ohio.
“As a lifelong sportsman and hunter education instructor, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to guide new hunters through their certification course, where we focused on the importance of safety, conservation, and ethics,” explains congressman Latta.
Staff from both the House and Senate were in attendance, along with individuals from around the Washington, D.C., area. They were taught basic hunting skills, responsibility, hunting ethics, and wildlife conservation and safety with course materials provided by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife.
This course allowed participants — many of whom work on natural resources and hunting issues in Congress — to learn firsthand the role that hunting and hunters play in wildlife management and conservation funding in the United States.
• Every now and then I manage to misuse a word or two that creeps into print. There’s one that I’ve found especially vexing because it just seems right but still manages to be wrong. It’s time for me to fess up for the good of all those budding biologists and English teachers that stumble across these writings. When referring to plants and animals, the word “species” (note the “s” on the end) is both the singular and the plural. The word “specie” is not related to those species at all but most often refers to a hard commodity, usually coinage. Mea culpa.
• For most fly fishers, winter is a time of tinkering and tying flies for the coming spring seasons. The J. Stockard Company, a well-known purveyor of tying materials, has announced their first ever fly tying contest. They’re hoping to encourage you to tie up one of your best patterns and submit it for judging by their panel of pros. Find out more at https://www.jsflyfishing.com/blog/announcing-the-j-stockard-fly-tying-contest/
• Tomorrow: Turkey Shoot, Annie Oakley’s, 10 birds and protection shotgun competitions. Traps open at noon at the Mount Blanchard Gun Club, 21655 Delaware Township 186. The event is open to the public.
• Nov. 23: Roger Knoll memorial shotgun shoot, 10:30 a.m., Bowman Farm, 18613 Township Road 42, Wharton. Trap shoot, still target and slug shoot. Food and drink available. Prizes will be awarded.
• Nov. 24: Turkey shoot, 10 a.m., Fostoria United Sportsmen, 1324 Springville St., Fostoria. The club opens at 8 a.m., with breakfast and lunch available. The event is open to the public.
• Dec. 3: Learn about deer management and the reasons for seasons at the Tri-Moraine Audubon Society meeting, 7:30-9:30 p.m., 4240 Campus Drive, Lima. Michael J. Tonkovich, Deer Program Administrator for the Division of Wildlife, will be the featured speaker.
• Hunter and trapper education class listings — Nov. 18, 19, 20: Fostoria United Sportsmen, 1324 Springville St., Fostoria. Nov. 21-22: Izaak Walton League, 3570 N. County Road 33, Tiffin. Nov. 23: Lima Sabers, 5090 Hanthorn Road, Lima. Information and registration information available at http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov
Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard, OH 45867-0413 or via email at email@example.com