Bobolink Event at Byers Woods

Halloween Pennant - Byers Woods - Ashland OH - 2011-06-25 photo: Greg Miller

Hey!  That’s not a bobolink!  But–it *is* a great looking creature, don’t you think?  This Halloween Pennant was hidden down in the long grass out of the winds at Byers Woods on Saturday, June 25, 2011.

The event was well-attended by more than 100 folks from all over the state (and even a few out-of-staters were present!).  There was plenty to see and do at Byers Woods, especially overlooking the wide grassland areas of reclaimed land where the stars of the day–bobolinks–nest.  My high count for the day was 5 male bobolinks at one time from my tent stake out. Continue reading

Bobolinks at Byers Woods

Bobolink on a fence photo: Cheryl Harner

A very dapper bird, don’t you think?  He looks like he’s outfitted in a backwards tuxedo.  The male bobolink is the only bird in North America with a completely black belly and white on it’s back.  One of its nicknames is “skunkbird” because it is black with white stripes on its back.

Bobolink with a landfill stack at Byers Woods photo: Cheryl Harner

Bobolinks are also unusual in that they go through two full molts every year.  We see the males here in Ohio dressed in all their breeding plumage splendor.  But before they leave in the fall, they do a full molt.  The black and white plumage turns to a warm buffy tan color.  The bird is dressed in camo for its fall travels.  On the wintering grounds, the male bobolink goes through a complete molt again before traveling North.  Its buffy appearance is deceiving though.  It has actually grown in its black breeding feathers, but they are pale-tipped.  The feathers will wear down on its migration northward and by the time it reaches us here in Ohio, it will be sporting the black breeding plumage.

The bobolinks love a grassland environment–just the kind of habitat offered by reclaimed land of Byers Woods.  Bobolinks build their nests on the ground in dense grassy cover.  At Byers Woods, one can watch male Bobolinks sing in flight.  They put on quite a display as they fly upwards into the air while singing their bubbly song and fluttering with stiff wings and showing off in grand style.  Listen to a bobolink’s song here from the Macaulay Library .  Watch a video of a bobolink here also from the Macaulay Library.

Bobolinks have a stunningly long migratory pattern for a smaller land bird.  These birds will travel up to 12,000 miles round trip each year as the migrate from Northern Argentina to the Northern Great Plains and back again.  These tough survivors have been put under pressure due to loss of habitat and mowing practices.

Byers Woods not only has cool birds like bobolinks, but cool bugs and butterflies like this unusual [in Ohio] Milbert’s Toroiseshell.

Milbert's Tortoiseshell photo: Cheryl Harner

Come join us at Byers Woods this Saturday, June 25, 2011 from 9:00am to 1:00pm.  Byers Woods is a few miles South of Ashland, Ohio and East of State Route 60 on County Road 1754.  Click on the calendar below for a schedule of events.

Calendar of Events at Byers Woods, Saturday, June 25, 2011