Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bald Eagle

An adult Bald Eagle was seen along Ohio Brush Creek on Wednesday, December 30 2009. The winter months often offer good opportunity for seeing eagles in Adams county.

Photo was taken by Mark Zloba.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Bird Count Tomorrow

Each year, right around Christmas-time, small groups of hearty souls set their alarm clocks for a pre-dawn awakening, don winter apparel, and set off in cars and on foot to participate in the Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC). The CBC is one of the most successful, and longest-running citizen science monitoring programs ever. Ohio has been involved with the CBC since its inception in 1900.

A little history (from Ohio Audubon Society's website):

The CBC was first instituted by Frank M. Chapman, an ornithologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and an officer in the relatively new Audubon Society. At the turn of the century the depletion of bird populations through unregulated recreational hunting, and over-harvesting for the fashion industry of the time were major concerns for many people throughout the U.S. In an attempt to create greater awareness for the plight of bird populations, and develop an alternative activity to hunting Chapman created the Christmas Bird Count. Christmas was chosen for Chapman’s Bird Count because that date had traditionally been used for a hunting-related activity where hunters split up into different competitive teams and went out into the field to shoot as many birds as they possibly could. The winning team was the one that had shot the most birds.

The first Christmas Bird Count had 27 volunteer participants who counted birds in 25 distinct count circles across 13 different states and two Canadian provinces. They collectively counted 18,500 individual birds and 90 total species. Today there are nearly 50,000 volunteer CBC observers throughout the world, including groups that participate right here in Adams County.

To get involved in a Christmas Bird Count near you, click here.

Photo by Jeff Ratliff

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sandhill Crane Flyway

For at least a week, flocks of Sandhill Cranes, Grus canadensis, have been flying over Adams County on their way south for the winter. Cranes are North America's tallest bird. Sandhill cranes stand 3-5 feet tall. There are currently six recognized sub-species of Sandhill Crane. Sandhill cranes are grey with red foreheads, but adult birds often preen mud into their feathers, giving them an orangish-brown look. They probably do this to camouflage themselves while sitting on nests, which are located on the ground. Cranes fly in a "V" pattern, similar to Canada Geese. To distinguish between the two, look for the tell-tale long legs of the cranes. Image by J. Schmidt - NPS Photo.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Gifts for Nature Lovers

When your little one (or spouse) would rather explore the back forty than sit on the couch playing video games, you might want to consider some of these great outdoor gifts for Christmas:
  • Field guides - Fantastic for anyone with an interest in nature, field guides are now available for birds, wildflowers, trees, reptiles, amphibians, fish, butterflies, mammals, and many, many other topics. When buying a field guide, the most important considerations are 1) the level of expertise of the user and 2) the geographical range of the guide (a guide to the birds of the southwestern United States will not be much help here in Adams County).
  • Water bottle - Consider a metal water bottle instead of plastic, (plastic bottles can leach a substance called bisphenol-A (BPA), which is suspected of messing with our hormones.
  • Pocket knife - Out on the trail, far from your house or car, a little knife can come in mighty handy sometimes.
  • Binoculars - Consider a pair that is water-resistant and durable, like Nikon's Monarch ATB model, which sell for around $270.00.
  • First aid kit - Don't bother with a "space blanket", waterproof matches, or band aides. Soak some cotton balls with Vaseline, store them in a film canister, buy a "metal match" and put it in the kit. Use the metal match to ignite the cotton balls, which will burn several minutes while you add tinder for a fire. For shelter, throw in some neon orange contractor-grade trash bags (just crawl inside to stay dry and trap body heat if you're stuck outdoors overnight - the orange color helps others find you more easily, too). Include a whistle and you're set.
  • Travel pack - Toting field guides, a water bottle, pocket knife, binoculars, and a first aid kit is made much easier with a comfortable pack that fits snugly around your waist or on your back.

Enjoy the outdoors in 2010!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Leucistic Red-tailed Hawk in Adams County

At approximately 3:00pm today, Richard McCarty spotted a white bird soaring overhead while driving west toward West Union on St. Rt. 125 near Vaugn Ridge Rd. He called in to his colleagues at the Edge of Appalachia Preserve office and there were soon four pairs eyes straining behind cameras, binoculars, and a spotting scope to get a better look at the unusual bird. After fifteen minutes in the freezing wind, we decided the bird was an abnormally-colored Red-tailed Hawk. It was white with yellow beak and legs, and had some darker feathers on its wings, as well as a few reddish feathers in its tail. According to Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology website, in rare cases, a bird does not produce melanin at a normal level or in a normal pattern. The resulting color patterns are referred to as being albino (white), partially albino or leucistic. The color patterns can be the result of injury, poor nutrition or a genetic imbalance.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Dredging the Ohio

The U.S. Corps of Engineers is considering granting permission to a private company, Nugent Sand of Louisville, KY, to dredge sand from the Ohio River near Portsmouth, Ohio. "So what?" you ask. The problem with this is three-fold: first, taking away sand from the river will almost certainly result in erosion on the bank, threatening the property of folks living close to the waters' edge. Second, filtering sand from the river bed will stir up thousands of tons of muck, which will be allowed to wash downstream, wrecking havoc on ecosystems below the dredge site. And third, pulling up sediment will disturb existing benthic (bottom-dwelling) creatures, especially freshwater mussels. Mussels have had a rough time of it since European settlement in the Ohio River Valley. They have been exploited for their shells (used to make buttons before plastics were supplemented around WWII), suffocated in silt, and displaced by rising water levels when the Ohio was dammed.

To have your say in the outcome of the decision whether or not to allow dredging for profit near Portsmouth, you can attend a public meeting at the West Portsmouth High School at 6pm on Thursday, December 10.