Monday, March 16, 2009

Life is Golden

As Lance Armstrong says, “There are no bad days. Some days are just better than others.” That holds true when birding outstanding places like Killdeer Plains near Harpster, Ohio (40.42’09 N 83.17’35 W).
On our annual winter birding trip to the wildlife area, Susan Jones and I, along with our friends Karin Tanquist and Pat Coy, fully anticipate finding three, maybe four species of owls. It’s almost a tradition that we find wintering owls there. This year, on March 15, it was not to be. One species, Short-eared Owl, was all we could locate.
The unbelievable news is that we saw not one, but two Golden Eagles, along with a plethora of Bald Eagles. In fact, we had more eagles than sparrows.
Golden Eagles are somewhere between rare and unheard of in this part of Ohio. Occasionally, like this past winter, one will show up at the Wilds in east-central Ohio. We went there in January to see it. The temperature was a balmy minus 14 that day and through frozen eyeballs we saw the bird about three miles distant.
Yesterday was a different story. It was Pat who first spotted the juvenile golden. We’re all better-than-average birders, so, as he calmly talked through the identifying marks of a bird miles away, visible only through his spotting scope, we were all coming to the same conclusion. As we all got our scopes on the bird, two Bald Eagles rose to meet their larger cousin. The three put on an aerial display that had us oooing and aaaaing like it was the Fourth of July. (In the photo, the top bird is a Bald Eagle, as is the one on the left. The larger, Golden Eagle is on the right.) After what seemed like an hour, however, it was probably only 10 minutes, of soaring, the three birds parted company. As we kept looking, afraid to take our eyes off the spot, in amazement, another huge dark shape came into view. An adult Golden Eagle! The lighting was so good that it was the first time any of us clearly saw the spectacular shade of gold on the bird’s head for which it is named.
Some days are just better than others. March 15 was one of those for us birders. For documentation I’m posting these two photos. For a larger view, click on the photo.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Global Warming

Right, global warming. It’s been a tough sell for the concept of global warming this winter in northeast Ohio. We’ve had so many Pine Siskins at our feeders this season—a bird we rarely see—that I’m ready to write these critters a check instead of hauling that seed out every day. Then, the White-wing Crossbills showed up in such overwhelming numbers that birders throughout the state were hyperventilating. Now, signs of love are in the air of the avian world. For example, two Downy Woodpeckers that have been regular singles at our feeders all winter, showed up the other day as a pair. The male was all cleaned and polished and showing off his best and most-attentive manners to the female. She seemed responsive to all the flattery as well.

There’s almost as much science for global warming as against it. I recently read that the North Atlantic is forecast to be in a cold pattern for the next 10 years or so, meaning things might cool down. Will that bring the glaciers back to Glacier National Park? Will it close the holes in the Arctic Ocean and bring back polar bear habitat? Probably not. Will it slow down the warbler migration we were more accustom to seeing in mid-May rather than late April as has been the case for the past several years? Who knows.
If you enter the subject of global warming into your favorite search engine, you get about two million pages on the subject; multiply that times 10 for the number of listings per page and it’s mind boggling—and those are just references to the real books and articles.
I’ve come to the conclusion that global warming—or the threat thereof—has been a good thing, regardless of its validity. It has caused the world to focus more on how we use—or misuse—fossil fuels. It has made more people aware of the environment and human impact on the animals and plants that share this limited rock we call Earth. It has focused engineering on reusable energy sources, which in the long run will make this a better place for my grandkids whom I can regale with stories of how tough it was when I was kid.
So, the time being, let’s emulate the birds and think love and peace for a while.