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Bird watching is a great winter activity

By DICK MARTIN • Dec 23, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Some people poke fun at bird watchers. Probably, because they're always female, always over 50, wear sensible clothing and old tennis shoes, and rush through the forest making bird calls and waving binoculars.

That's a stereotype of course, and not true, since birders come in every imaginable flavor, but it is true that bird watching is one sport that's growing faster than most others. In fact, Americans spent more on bird seed last year than the gross national product of some third world countries. We like birds.

It can be lots of fun to watch them year around on the feeder, and most of us easily recognize common types like robins, cardinals, bluejays, and English sparrows. But there's a trend now to take the sport much more seriously, and even make special trips to watch hawks migrate through West Virginia hills or see shore birds at Point Pelee on the Canadian side of Lake Erie.

Many these days maintain a check list, and faithfully record every new bird they see. For some, that check list has grown to over 100 birds. And finding new ones can be a major thrill for the serious. Like an extremely rare painted bunting seen last year at Magee Marsh, or a burrowing owl, or brown pelican, unusual visitors to Ohio that do turn up occasionally.

Area birders or wannabees have some excellent places to go. Magee Marsh was recently ranked in Wild Bird Magazine as the seventh best birding place in North America, and there are many more birds in various wildlife areas and marshes from the Ohio River to Lake Erie. But even your back yard can turn up the unusual, or a nearby fencerow or plowed field. You never know, and any thumbing through a Peterson's Field Guide of the Birds can reveal a real trophy.

Again, for the serious the Ottawa County Visitors Bureau (800-441-1271) participates in a WingWatch each spring and fall with other organizations, and while this years fall event is already past, they're still happy to offer advice on places to see birds with a free brochure, Birding the Lake Erie Shores and Islands, which they'll send to you immediately. There are also organizations like the Kirtland Bird Club (see Google), which has a long tradition of quality contributions to the northeast Ohio birding community and has for 90 years. And publications like The Ohio Cardinal printed by the Ohio Ornithological Society (Ohiobirds.org). The Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Google again) also has plenty of information about birds. Well worth reading.

Any serious bird watcher should eventually take a course in Ornithology, because birds do strange things and such a course explains them well. One crucial point is that their cerebrum (thinking part of the brain) is REALLY tiny, so most of what they do is by instinct. For example, they imprint on a nest site and once imprinted, that's where it will be. You can tear a partially built nest down 50 times and they'll build it again. No choice

And why do they feed their young? Because they love them? I read a study once where graduate students removed four baby robins from a nest and replaced them with wooden cubes painted the exact color of a baby robin's throat. After a few hours they had to be removed, because the cubes were total smeared with worm intestines, berry fragments, insect pieces, etc. The color triggered the feeding mechanism, not the babies. Again, a fascinating business, and fascinating creatures. If you're looking for a challenge this winter, buy a Peterson's and binoculars, and get a check list. The birds are waiting.

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Hooks & bullets

• Readers are reminded that Lake Wood Duck on the Lake La Su An Wildlife Area, a lake well known for lunker panfish, will remain open for fishing throughout the year, even though other lakes on the area will be closed this winter. Anglers are also reminded that they do not need a reservation to fish Lake Wood Duck, but all vehicles must park in a designated parking space around the area. Sunfish bags limits are 10 fish daily, and fishing is permitted from sunrise to sunset. No fish may be used as bait on the area.

• The National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action recently applauded President Trump and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke's decision to restore access to public lands in Utah. President Trump announced he intends to shrink the size of the Bear Ears and the Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments spanning millions of acres in Utah. The two national monuments were among 27 that President Trump ordered Zinke to review earlier this year. "The NRA applauds President Trump and Secretary Zinke's decision to restore access to public lands in Utah. Hunters and sportsmen serve as the backbone of modern natural resource management in the United States" said Chris Cox, NRA executive director. 

• Readers who like to plan ahead should note the following dates on their new calenders. The Cincinnati Travel, Sports, & Boat Show will be held on Jan. 12 through 14 and 17 through 21, and will offer boats, campers, ATV's and motorcycles along with demos on everything from kayaking and scuba diving to rock climbing. The Columbus Deer & Turkey Expo will occur on March 16 through 18 at the Ohio Expo Center with plenty of weaponry, seminars, and new products. And the Ford Indianapolis Boat, Sport, and Travel Show will happen on Feb. 16 through 25 at the Indianapolis State Fairgrounds. For details, check them out on Google.

 

Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at richmart@neo.rr.com. You can also visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.

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