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April BIG YEAR update: Rare birds and more added to the list

Register • May 3, 2014 at 4:40 PM

April was a very exciting month for birding as new migrants arrived each week.

Two very unlikely birds showed up — one very striking in appearance, and one not so pretty but just as special.

Click HERE for more on Mary's Big Year

I also got to bird with some friends in a normally closed-tothe-public area, celebrate new birds on my birthday and Easter, and see a mink. I was still in Florida the first week of April, but managed to find 63 new species of birds for the month, bringing my total to 158 for the year so far. You can go to ebird.org to view my entire list.

With today’s technology it is possible to view a bird and then within seconds the whole birding community is alerted. When I get a phone call or text message, my husband says, “Is that the birder hotline calling?”

On April 10, I received such a call about a rare sighting at Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve. While driving there to see the bird, I received two more calls about the bird, and one more in the parking lot.

It was the Scissortailed Flycatcher that was causing all of the excitement.

This is a bird normally found in Texas or Oklahoma and has a tail about a foot long. I can’t put a picture here, but just Google it and you will see how striking the bird is. The Sandusky Register did a nice story on the bird as well.

The second bird — the not-so-pretty one — was sighted on April 29 behind Castaway Bay in Sandusky. The sighting of this bird was a state record. The Neotropical Cormorant is almost half the size of our common Doublecrested Cormorant, which is very plentiful on Lake Erie. People from Cleveland, Columbus and across the state immediately came to view this bird.

Early in April, I was able to bird NASA Plum Brook with a friend who works there.

After getting special permission and showing proper ID, we were in. It’s a huge area with many different types of habitats including woods, ponds, meadows and wetlands. And we only had about 2½ hours to explore it all. A few early migrants were there, but April is an “in-between” time.

Some winter birds are still here, such as the Juncos and American Tree Sparrows, and other new birds are just arriving, such as Eastern Meadowlarks and Chipping Sparrows.

As the days went by, the dawn chorus grew louder each morning. Go outside early one day in May and just listen to all the sounds. At first it may sound like a lot of noise, but if you listen closely you can begin to separate the songs of different birds.

A Cardinal here, a House Wren there, and maybe a beautiful Wood Thrush, perhaps my favorite bird song. The Dawn Chorus is a cacophony of sounds that has been compared to an orchestra. There are many instruments that make up the music, but you can hear each one independently if you really listen. And so it is with bird songs.

As always, there is more to see and hear when you are out birding than just birds. This month it was the beautiful wildflowers and the frogs. Everywhere I went this month, I could hear the sound of frogs. Sometimes the sound was so loud it was almost deafening.

One day while at Willow Point Wildlife Area, I got to see a mink as he limbered across the dikes. Nature puts on a show for us each day, we only need to look.

Yes, spring has finally come to northern Ohio after a very brutal winter. I can’t remember the last time we had snow on April 15.

But the birds are once again singing, the flowers are blooming and everything is green. I hope you get out there soon to enjoy it. Look for many Warblers to arrive in May.

Thanks this month go to Dan, Sheryl, Mary, Ron and Bobbie Sue. Please contact me if you see some unusual birds or just have a bird question.

Happy Birding!

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