As I made my way to work this morning I saw a dozen Common Mergansers on Ohio Brush Creek along Waggoner Riffle Road. They are beautiful birds and we do not often see them. My last sighting of Common Mergansers was over five years ago near the mouth of Ohio Brush Creek at the Ohio River. The bold black and white color was easy to see against the green of the water.
There is another, often unseen occurence that could be easy to see if looked for now. As part of the Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas II effort to gather data about Ohio's breeding birds, I would encourage all to look for large nests that may be used by hawk or owl species. While we all see Red Tailed Hawks, and other hawk species, regularly in our area, how often have we seen one on the nest? How commonly, or uncommonly, do Red Tailed Hawks nest in our part of the state? Great Horned and Barred Owls will also be taking advantage of large stick nests in late winter / early spring. We can gather valuable information on raptor nesting even in the cold days of winter. It is a great time to scan the forests for large stick nests.
Once a nest has been located, try and determine if it being used. One obvious way to determine if a nest is active is to look at / into it to see if a bird is sitting in it. Often you can look onto/into a nest with a spotting scope or binoculars from some distance away. If the nest is visible from home or work, pay attention to how often birds are near it. Are birds carrying nest material to the nest? Are birds paired up near the nest? If you discover a nest and determine that it is being used by one of our hawk or owl species, please let us know. With directions from you about the location of the nest, we can report the activity in the Atlas effort and improve our knowledge base of Ohio's breeding birds.