The Skinny on the Thick of It

“You’ve got to try Facebook,” they said. “It’s fun. Everyone shares pictures.” I did and lots of people did, too. Then we shared ideas. Then we shared opinions as well as other people’s opinions like they were our own. We made “friends” and we lost actual friends because it is so very easy to click without weighing the pros and cons of clicks. I did all of the above, forgetting that social media is a really handy tool and should not be a pastime, even on cold, windy, rainy days like we weathered this week. Yesterday, I found myself getting depressed over the negative back-and-forth in one private group that, over time, has devolved (in my opinion) into an airing of us vs. them and why anywhere is better than here.

I left the group yesterday and went outside to talk with the geese under the clearing sky.

The geese are indeed talking. Nine wild Canada geese landed outside the fence yesterday. The eight geese on this side of the fence noticed. There was about 15 minutes of boisterous conversation. One goose from this side of the fence flew over to join the wild flock, which is exactly what we hope for. The Canada geese here are flighted and banded with identification so their movements can be studied once they become the wild birds that they are meant to be—IF they can shake loose the strong bonds of imprinting on people.

Buddies Tim and Scott

One Canada goose that will not be flying is Tim. He’s been spotlighted in The Quarry Farm newsletter. Last Saturday, he had visitors from his hometown of Parma, Ohio. Scott cared for Tim when the goose’s mate died. He made sure that his “Buddy” had feed and open water when the flock thinned in winter. According to another visitor to the Parma pond, Tim had been hit not once but twice by the same car. And survived. And thrived, thanks to Scott.

Scott and Margaret drove from Parma to say hello to Tim. Another banded Canada goose rode along, a very large bird that is fully flighted but very imprinted on people. Spring being what it is—a season of great twitterpation among all species—the new goose came out of his crate loaded for bear. He rushed Lucy the Donkey. The goose that keeps close to Lucy took umbrage. The new goose took off and visited the neighbors about 1/2-mile south for 24 hours before returning with his feathered tail between his legs. This goose, who is identified as “K”, is minding his Ps and Qs and treating “T”, “U”, “X” and the other geese (and Lucy) with more respect.

In addition to new tall goose tales, there are stories of new bird sightings this Spring. Deb Weston and David Smith have been monitoring migration. Deb added Eastern Whippoorwill to the Hotspot list of 140 avian species documented on these 50 acres. Last week she saw a Blue-headed Vireo and is trying to catch a photo of the cheeky bird. She did get a photo of a White-eyed Vireo (above).

David Seitz continues to trek from Columbus 2-3 times per week to battle invasive shrubs, adding more bush honeysuckle limbs and trunks to the shelter piles. Last month’s flooding floated one of the pillars—two substantial tree trunks that mark the start of the floodplain trail—into the 19th-century quarrying overflow channel. David’s mind-boggling engineering engineered it back into place. By the way, that same mind engineered the whole, ancient and water-logged tree trunk from the bottom of the quarry a few years ago.

Paul and Joyce Bonifas constructed the Cadillac of composting systems in the Red Fox Cabin garden area. Paul designed it and all of the Putnam County Master Gardeners and other volunteers will add to the bins. So will whichever one of us cleans the henhouse next.

Glandorf Cub Scouts were the first group to walk the trails this season. They heard owls, spotted shrews that had been displaced during the flood and watched a bald eagle follow Riley Creek. May, June and July days are packed with school field trips, summer camps, the Summer Tea Tasting in the Gardens (June 17) and the Spring Migration Bird Hike (May 20).

Two weeks ago, a carload of loud music and shouting teens stopped along the Northwest perimeter. My hackles went up, expecting a can to go flying over the fence. Instead, someone shouted, “It’s just beautiful!” This place, the lives that depend on it, the volunteers who care for it and them and the people who want to know more about it and them are why here is a place to be.

Spring Bird Migration Hike 2021

Tracking American Redstarts in the upland forest on May 15, 2021

Mary Poppins had a bird woman who drew birds in with feed. Cartoonist Gary Larson sketched a before-and-after of Screen 1) pigeons swooping in and leaving Screen 2) a pile of empty rags topped with a hat and a few tuppence.

The Quarry Farm has a bird woman named Deb. She doesn’t need no stinkin’ feed and l’m pretty sure she doesn’t deal in tuppence. She told me last week that she has plenty of patience and enough Advil to watch and wait for the birds to show themselves. As we stood on the curve of Cranberry Run, I asked her what bird was calling above. It was a Baltimore Oriole. I asked for another audio I.D. a couple of minutes later.

“It’s a Baltimore Oriole,” she replied without so much as a sigh. Apparently Deb has enough Advil to deal with hopeless birders like me, too.

Deb introduced The Quarry Farm to someone who speaks bird even better than she does. When David Smith tunes his ears to birdsong in the floodplain, a thrush becomes not just one thrush but both a Swainson’s Thrush and a Wood Thrush. All the yellowish bird shapes silhouetted against the sky become a variety of migrating warbler species.

Thanks to Deb and David, this year’s Spring bird hike checklist is whole lot longer than those of past years. They looked at their previous records and chose the 2021 date. This morning was clear, floodwaters from earlier in the week had shrunk to a couple of vernal pools, and 14 birders walked the trails to record 44 species. Most of these birds are just passing through, but not before Deb could take their picture.

Deb and David and the Giant Avian Adventure

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Quarry Farm Nature Preserve and Conservation Farm
May 20, 2020
8:44 AM
2.77 miles
281 Minutes
All birds reported? Yes
Comments: Submitted from eBird for iOS, version 2.0.13 Build 2.0.122

2 Canada Goose
1 Mallard
2 Mourning Dove
1 Common Nighthawk
1 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
2 Great Blue Heron
4 Turkey Vulture
1 Cooper’s Hawk
1 Red-tailed Hawk
1 Red-headed Woodpecker
2 Red-bellied Woodpecker
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Northern Flicker
1 Willow Flycatcher
1 Least Flycatcher
1 Eastern Phoebe
1 Great Crested Flycatcher
1 Philadelphia Vireo
1 Warbling Vireo
2 Red-eyed Vireo
4 Blue Jay
1 Carolina Chickadee
1 Barn Swallow
2 White-breasted Nuthatch
4 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
4 House Wren
4 Gray Catbird
3 Swainson’s Thrush
2 Wood Thrush
4 American Robin
1 American Goldfinch
1 Chipping Sparrow
1 Field Sparrow
1 Song Sparrow
1 Orchard Oriole
1 Baltimore Oriole
2 Brown-headed Cowbird
2 Common Grackle
1 Golden-winged Warbler
2 Black-and-white Warbler
2 Tennessee Warbler
1 Nashville Warbler
2 Common Yellowthroat
6 American Redstart
1 Cape May Warbler
1 Northern Parula
2 Magnolia Warbler
1 Blackburnian Warbler
1 Yellow Warbler
1 Chestnut-sided Warbler
1 Blackpoll Warbler
3 Scarlet Tanager
2 Northern Cardinal
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
3 Indigo Bunting

Note: An additional sighting, a Gray-cheeked Thrush, was confirmed this evening, bringing today’s birding boo-yah! to 56 species.