Is the Bobolink in Trouble in Ohio?


Bobolink photo: USFWS

What is black and yellow and white, flies over 12,000 miles per year, and weighs a little more than 3 Oreo Cookies?  A Bobolink!.  The bobolink is a strikingly beautiful bird with a really cool song that nests in grassy fields in Ohio.  But for how long?  It is still easy to see here.  But, is it in trouble?

Bobolink Abundance by Decade in Ohio

Bobolink Abundance in Ohio by Decade. Data from eBird 1900-2012 as of 8/16/2013.

The above chart paints a sad picture for the status of the bobolink in Ohio.  But is this really true?  Has the bobolink declined in numbers by over 80% since the 1980s?  You be the judge.  I discuss this data (caution–lots of data and discussion ahead–like 18 pages worth of discussion).

You can find out more about the bobolink in this handy dandy .pdf file:

Bobolink in Trouble in Ohio


The Dry Tortugas part II


This gallery contains 28 photos.

Bird movement was pretty significant on April 26, 2012 and many of the migrants showed up at “the drip”, a fresh-water fountain found inside Fort Jefferson.  The days in the Tortugas this year were quite memorable.  I spent hours watching … Continue reading

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

Winning. Duh.

The house where I grew up--looking North

Pretty cool view looking North from my boyhood home, eh?  When that field was less manicured it used to be home to several pairs of Bobolinks and Eastern Meadowlarks and Savannah Sparrows.  Meadowlarks are still there, but Bobolinks are less common now.  And that little pond has been a temporary hangout for some fascinating birds including Snow Goose, White-fronted Goose, and even Ross’s Goose.  One time a Bonaparte’s Gull dropped in and circled the pond a few times on it’s way North.  But I digress.  See?  I am already distracted.  I’ll start over again then.

Nooo.  This is not a blog about Charlie Sheen.  Haha!  But it *IS* about winning.  But what is winning?  Really.  Winning is pretty easy when we talk about sports.  Or is it?  In sports many folks measure winning by a score.  For football or baseball, for instance, the higher score “wins” and the lower score “loses”.  In golf, the lowest score wins and all the other other higher scores lose.  But really, that only represents a single game.  So if you win a tennis match, does that make you a “winner”?  What if you already lost 58 matches?  Are you still a winner?  Well yes, you did win–a match.  A single match.  But a winner? Continue reading