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The excitement of State birding

my second year in Ohio - Part 1

The excitement of State birding – my second year in Ohio – Part 1

By Chris Lotz

I’m in the privileged position of being responsible for setting up Birding Ecotours’ American office here in Columbus, Ohio. We’ve just started our third year here in America, while others on the team run the South African office and we also have staff in England and Peru.

The birding community in Ohio is truly amazing and birders here range from enthusiastic backyard birders, to serious “chasers”. I’ve deliberately tried hard to get into the birding scene here by participating in as many of the different “types” of birding as possible. The Birding Ecotours offices are in Columbus which is right in the middle of Ohio. This means that even the furthest corners of the state are within about three hours’ of our office here. By American standards, this means “just down the road”. So, I’ve tried my best at State listing, which basically comes in at least three forms:

1) Overall state listing. The highest “ebirder” (Ben Morrison) has seen 377 species within the state of Ohio! Two other birders follow closely behind him, Kent Miller and Bruce Glick

2) The Ohio year list. The magical number people go for is to try and see 300 species within a calendar year in Ohio. Leslie Sours managed to see 317 species in Ohio last year!

3) The “January 100”, a crazy attempt to see 100 or more birds within the month of January in mid-winter. This means chasing things across the state that might be rare in winter, but which are often abundant in spring or summer (so all of us sometimes wonder whether its pointless, but what amazing fun it is nevertheless!). For example, there are only a couple of known Common Yellowthroats around at the moment, and this will be one of Ohio’s easiest to find birds come spring, but people still chase the skulky odd ones lurking around, that don’t even sing in winter. While seemingly meaningless in many ways (haha), the January 100 is in fact a good way of getting a head start on 2) though, the Ohio year list. I’m actually already on 90 species for January and its only the 9th of the month, but the problem is I “have” to go to Sri Lanka for three weeks starting tomorrow morning, to go and see birds there. Life is tough.

Bay-breasted Warbler ©Birding Ecotours Website

Quite honestly, with so much time travelling outside of Ohio, including a lot of Asian, African and South American trips each year, I struggle to be competitive. Not to mention that when I am here I have to work. But the state listing is a brilliant way of:

1) Getting to know every corner of the state and the myriad amazing birding sites here

2) Getting to know other birders here

3) Learning the birds – I find it amazing how the species change with the seasons, much more dramatically than in my home South Africa

4) See other things like the Cleveland cityscape (and places like the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame where Snowy Owls sometimes hang out), not to mention mammals such as Coyotes, American Mink (where they are actually meant to be), Beavers and more

In Part 2 of this blog, I plan to write about some of the excitement about my 2018 birds, from Little Gull to Northern Wheatear.

You can find out about the tours offered by Chris's company, and see some great photos HERE

10th January 2019