Steve Madewell

Pedestrian Ramblings

Location location location! It would be a rare individual that does not have an idea what bird migration is about, but an even rarer one who completely understands it I suppose to most folks the term bird migration conjures up images of giant flocks of waterfowl or shore birds that they have seen on Nature or Nova or they might recall the image of a flock of geese. To me I have this process similar to the dictionary where I go down a mental checklist of definitions or images. I don’t go too far down the list associated with bird migration until I see or think of warblers. They are these lovely little jewels that fly around in the treetops and sub canopy in the spring. They appear in this part of the world around the 10th of May. There are all sorts of warblers with their own special beak and behavioral adaptations to make the best of where they happened to hang out. And some are exceptionally beautiful. I never really learned warblers. Maybe I didn’t have the time, the mentor or maybe the predisposition. Well let me say I never thoroughly learned them. I knew and still know some of the more common ones, yellow rumped or butter butts as they are called, or the hooded warbler, another very showy bird. I used to see them all the time when I was leading the occasional bird hike back in Greene County. Whatever the reason I always appreciated the ability of bird enthusiast to not only identify what seems to be an endless array of bird by sight but often also by sound or call. Generally you can tell dedicated birders or at least people who hang out with dedicated birders. At the sake of profiling let’s just say when they are in the field they have a certain look. And that is OK cause most enthusiasts do. The majority of outdoor activity surveys I am familiar with have confirmed that wildlife observation is one of the nation’s top, if not the top recreational activity. These are surveys conducted by a whole host of conservation organizations. They lump casual wildlife observation right in there with the die-hard nature geeks. (Don’t worry I haven’t offended anyone, although I don’t fit the bill of a birder, I am enough of a nature geek to get by with using this self descriptive term) Good birders are a dedicated bunch. They will drive miles to see the unusual occurrence of a bird that is out of range. They spend tons of money on gear and clothing, eco tourism and the whole stick, not to mention birdseed, feeder’s houses and so on. A few years ago a fascinating lady left the park system nearly a million bucks to build a bird sanctuary. So I have wanted to go check out a couple Ohio birding hot spots to see what we should try to accomplish. It had been years since I had been over to the Crane Creek Area of Ohio, which is a known birding Mecca, and I jumped at the suggestion that my friend Ann had regarding a birding road-trip. She was in charge of scheduling the next outing for our social/enrichment club. It is called the Society for Intellectual Stimulation. We coordinated our schedules with another of our SIS members Dan and off we went abirding. Not only do Dan and Ann know about birds, they know their bird business and they also know the business of birds. What organization does what for whom and who is better at providing what services. It was very cool to get the inside from a couple pros. I haven’t been on a bird trip in years and it was a gas. First of all the companionship was great, secondly Ann brought all this dark chocolate and double stuffed Oreos! Now granted my sources of indulgences are often from a bottle and not appropriately consumed while driving or early in the morning. Hmmm although there has been a time or two when I have lived out the theme of that great old song that says lord forgive us and protect us we’ve been drinking whiskey for breakfast! Anyway back to birding….wired by chocolate, motivate by good conversation and ramped up on several cups of java we were on the boardwalk armed with binocs and talking our fool heads off. In a matter of minutes we had seen more species than I could keep track of, and seen a half a dozen stalwart of the birding community. Now I have my theories on successional evolution and how resource managers have to think in big historical terms when we are managing resources in Ohio. I wanted to check some things out with regards to the facility design but I was also going to reaffirm the significance of the geology and the geographic location of these birding hotspots. In other words I think we can make a pretty cool area with this donated money but I wanted to see just what we might expect with regards to bird utilization… There is a reason that those places are there. They are located on major flyways that birds have utilized for years, and people took advantage of them for hunting purposes for years, and some decades ago, some people got something’s right and protected some relatively small chunks of property that is incredibly valuable bird real-estate! As the old mantra goes, Location Location Location. And I was seeing it again for the first time in years. We left Crane Creek, stopped in the little visitor center, got lunch, ran up to Ottawa, hit that visitor center, checked out an eagle on the nest with it’s baby and ate more chocolate. Gee what fun! The mission was a success on all fronts, but I couldn’t help but think how bird watching can be like an art form. Wait, before I say this I must also say it can be and is often approached as a science. More people might better appreciate it if it was more like an art form… Let me explain my analogy. An artist is always looking for sources of inspiration, some come as a big flashy spotting, but others have to be looked for and then recognized for what they are. And suddenly there it is a little jewel of color and light flitting, flitting, flitting and then it is gone. And while it can mean so much to the individual, it can mean so much to so many when shared. And even the most common and routine occurrence may have beauty and value for those not quite so accomplished. Keep looking you might spot a warbler.