Plenty of winter birdwatching here

By G. Sam Piatt - Contributing Columnist



Being a bird lover, it was a sad sight that I witnessed a few days after Christmas. A robin, which I’m assuming was a male, was perched in the bare limbs of the wild plum out front. He was calling and calling for his mate. He fluffed his wings and twitched his tail feathers.

This went on for long hours over three straight days. She never answered. I assume he finally headed south without her, in search of unfrozen ground where he could find a few fat earth worms, and no doubt a new mate.

There was a time when I thought all robins flew south for the winter. We would get excited when was saw our “first robin” out in the backyard in late February.

My belief appeared to be confirmed when one January a couple of friends and I were driving to central Florida for some bass and crappie fishing in freshwater lakes such as Lake Marion. As soon as we crossed the Florida state line, we saw hundreds of robins along the shoulders of the highway and in nearby fields.

Apparently, however, some robins never migrate farther south than the Kentucky –Tennessee border and perhaps some hang around here for most of the winter, although I’ve not seen evidence of that which I was sure of.


I keep a feeder hanging from a low-lying limb of the big tulip poplar out back. I also spread feed on the ground out front near the mailboxes, clearing away snow when necessary.

The feeding stations are frequented all winter long by cardinals, blue jays, nuthatch, wrens, peewees, titmouse, the big redheaded woodpecker, and plenty of mourning doves.

I’ve seen sandhill cranes on Grayson Lake, 60 miles south of the Ohio River, as long as the lake is free of ice.

These big birds, mostly confined to the marshes along Lake Erie, are an imposing sight as they fly overhead, making their noisy nasally bugles, their long necks stretched out in front and long legs trailing straight out behind them.

A red crown on an adult bird easily differentiates it from the similarly sized and colored great blue heron, which is on the federally protected list.


Winter may seem like a quiet time for wildlife, but in Ohio birds and bird-watching opportunities are plentiful during the winter months.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife reports the possibilities to view some unusual birds are available at locations with suitable habitat, particularly state wildlife areas that feature large tracts of habitat managed for wildlife, which are open year-round.

Kentucky also offers wildlife viewing areas designed to attract birds and wildlife, especially in the bottom lands along the Ohio River.

Tundra swans are highly migratory, spending much of the year in the extreme northern reaches of North America. But they migrate to Ohio in the fall and are found in open marshes, lakes, and flooded fields, where they are often in mixed flocks with trumpeter swans.

The tundra is smaller than a trumpeter swan and has a yellow spot on the base of a black bill. One wildlife area to see them at is Deer Creek in Madison County and Kildeer Plains in Wyandot and Marion counties.

Snowy owls are one of the most well-known and sought-after birds on Ohio’s winter landscape. They are identified by their mostly snow-white feathers and yellow cat-like eyes. Snowy owls spend most of the year in the Arctic tundra and their numbers in Ohio varies from year to year, depending on the number of their main prey, small rodents called lemmings.

Good chances to see them are offered at wildlife areas such as Mosquito Creek in Trumbull County and Alum Creek State Park in Delaware County.

Short-eared owls, active during part of daylight areas, are another visitor to Ohio from the far north. A good spot to see them is Killdeer Plains in Wyandot and Marion counties, and Crown City in Gallia and Lawrence counties.

The bald eagle can be spotted all winter long along the Ohio Rive and the Scioto River. Their numbers have been greatly increasing since they were nearly lost from the state in the 1970s.

They build their nests in the winter and incubate eggs in late February.


Ohio’s largest state forest, Shawnee, located chiefly northwest of Portsmouth, is being expanded by more than 1,200 acres.

The 1,250-acre tract, in Scioto County, was purchased through funding by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Buckeye Trail Association.

The Ohio Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Ruffed Grouse Society both contributed funds to support the acquisition.


By G. Sam Piatt

Contributing Columnist

Reach G. SAM PIATT at [email protected] or (606) 932-3619

Reach G. SAM PIATT at [email protected] or (606) 932-3619