Rare birds recently seen in Ohio

Rare birds recently seen in Ohio
Bruce Glick

On the west edge of Sugarcreek, a beautiful male painted bunting has set up winter quarters along Cherry Ridge. Painted buntings are rare in the east, but there have been a number of sightings in Ohio over the years.

                        

Birders often talk about and make lists of birds they think might show up in Ohio. I have been doing that for many years, and one bird that has always been near the top of such lists has been the black-headed grosbeak. This western relative of the rose-breasted grosbeak has been reported in most eastern states and the eastern provinces of Canada.

However, Ohio birders have not been so fortunate. The only exception I know of is Denise and Bob Lane. Denise noticed a black-headed grosbeak at their place near Damascus in Mahoning County on May 19, 2018. Fortunately, the bird stayed just long enough for them to get a few photos but not long enough for other birders to see it.

I received a phone call from a long-time birding friend on Saturday, Feb. 20, saying he had just been invited to check out a possible black-headed grosbeak near Killbuck. After confirming the identification, they talked about the possibility of inviting other birders to see the rare bird. An arrangement was made, the word was put out and visitors soon arrived. Fortunately, the grosbeak continued to show up, although it sometimes took some patience between visits. It turns out the bird has been around for approximately four weeks. A huge thank you to the homeowners who have welcomed birders from far and near.

Meanwhile, not far away at the west edge of Sugarcreek, a beautiful male painted bunting has set up winter quarters along Cherry Ridge. This is in Tuscarawas County but within sight of my father’s home farm in Holmes County. Painted buntings are rare in the east, but there have been a number of sightings in Ohio over the years.

Helen and I decided we should make a visit to Holmes County. On Feb. 23 we drove to the black-headed grosbeak site, arriving around noon, just after the grosbeak had been seen at the feeders. We waited for about two hours, visiting with other birders from around the state. Eventually, I caught a glimpse of the bird, high in the maple tree behind the house. It stayed there for 20-30 minutes, giving everyone good looks through spotting scopes.

We finally decided to drive to Sugarcreek, passing our former property east of Millersburg. I wish we would have had time to take a walk through the 85 acres where our kids grew up and we spent endless hours enjoying the woods.

When we arrived at the residence in Sugarcreek, other birders were already there. Hundreds of people had signed the guest book on the porch. The painted bunting was perched in a pine tree behind the house, where the bright colors of the bird contrasted with the green pine needles. What a beautiful bird. Again, thanks to the homeowners and neighbors who have been so gracious and welcoming.

We decided to stay overnight at the Mohican State Park Lodge. The next morning we drove and walked around Mohican including the area along the river close to the covered bridge and the gorge overlook. At the traditional feeders at a private home in the park, we watched a flock of around 30 evening grosbeaks. It seemed quite amazing that in two February days we had seen two grosbeak species in Ohio. That didn’t even include rose-breasted grosbeak, a bird that will be visiting our feeders in a few months.

The two-day trip to Ohio was wonderful. It has been a long year of isolation, making this little vacation especially enjoyable.

Good birding.

Bruce Glick can be emailed at bglick2@gmail.com.


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