.......and Reflections

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Morning Walk In the Park

An important facet of searching for birds is getting a sense of place. I visited this relatively young park, established in 2004, to look for Dickcissel and sparrows. I have been to this park twice before and I know that in summer it is alive with a rich variety of creatures. So what better way to end the month of June than to take a leisurely stroll and get to know a quality place a little better.

When I first visited this Preserve I was a little skeptical. It starts with a walk through a soy bean field. It doesn't get more exciting than that! There is some limited grassy areas and three ponds offering open water and cattail marsh. It is flanked by some woodlots and a lengthy fence row of trees. It is, for the most part, not all that inviting.

But this is why nature is so cool. "Looks" are deceiving and some ordinary places don't look like they deserve attention. The Margaret Peak Preserve is teeming with life and an early summer walk proved this point beyond a shadow of doubt.

I don't think most birders would choose soy bean fields to look for birds but a soy bean field is baren landscape aside from the bean plants. Soy beans don't compete with weeds and other plants very well so farmers herbicide the field and leave it all to the beans. This ensures a maximum potential for production and it also attracts Vesper Sparrows, Horned Larks, Savannah Sparrows on grassy edges and even Grasshopper Sparrows, all of which were present this morning. There also Song Sparrows and Eastern Towhees at the forest edges and Field Sparrows in the grassy fields.

Dickcissel populations vary widely in central, northern Ohio, common in some years and absent in many. This year there are many Dickcissels in a number of locations around north central a northwestern Ohio. Dickcissels are finches that sing their name....endlessly on territory. While their breeding range varies, many winter in Tobago off the Venezuela coast. I have seen flocks there that darken the sky. As many as 66,000 have been documented wintering in this southern Caribbean island.

In all, a two hour walk produced 40 species of birds. Green Frogs sang constantly and as the day warmed up the Dragonflies increased patrols and were relentlessly pursued by optimistic Cedar Waxwings. It wasn't a particularly great butterfly day but Sulphers, Maonarchs, and Pearl Crescents were about as well.

In an attempt to coax out some songbirds along the forest edge I pished and emulated an Eastern Screech-Owl. It got Field Sparrows going but not much else. After a few minutes after I suspended the owl imitation, a familiar call cascaded from within the lush summer woods. It was an Eastern Screech-owl trying to figure out who this intruder in his realm might be.

I like the Margaret Peak Nature Preserve because it is a friendly reminder to not take too much for granted. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to walk through ordinary places and let its wild things define another beautiful, serendipitous place.

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