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Outdoors

Cold-weather birding yields exciting species

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    This evening grosbeak can be seen in the winter in Ohio. Searching for food, it moves south of its usual habitat in Michigan and Ontario.

    OHIO DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES

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    Nesting season has begun for the great horned owls, so they can be heard -- if not seen -- throughout Northern Ohio in the winter.

    OHIO DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES

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Last December the Northeast Ohio lakefront served as home to many snowy owls. The influx of snowys in the area stemmed from the lemming population booming here as opposed to in their native northern habitats.

This change in population happens about every four years. While there have been a few sightings of snowy owls, don’t expect to see a ton this winter as all of the reported sightings have come at Cleveland Hopkins Airport.

While the snowy owl won’t be a common sight this winter, there are still some unique bird-watching opportunities across the area.

According to the Cleveland Metroparks, their naturalists are requesting reports from any birders spotting an evening grosbeak.

The bird rarely moves south of Michigan and Ontario but, with a low food supply in the northern regions, it is moving south. It’s a finch-looking, cardinal-sized bird. With its bright colors shining in the snow and leafless branches, it should stand out.

Nesting season for bald eagles arrives in the coming weeks. Sandy Ridge Reservation in North Ridgeville has a nest offering great views and the opportunity to see our national bird.

Last year none of the eaglets survived as a female eagle invaded the nest, killing both the mother and her young.

There are still eagles in the area, providing some great viewing action for birders in the coming months.

Another unique and cool bird you can see — and definitely hear this time of year, too — is the great horned owl.

This is the beginning of their nesting season. Hunters and anglers getting in and out at dawn or dusk are sometimes treated to the hooting of this bird across the woods. Spotting them can be tricky as low-light conditions are when the birds are most active.

Some great local places to view birds this winter are any of the Lorain County Metro Parks and the harbors in Lorain, Avon Lake and other lakefront access.

If traveling west of Lorain County, flocks of swans frequent the Lake Erie marshes and areas like Magee Marsh Wildlife Area.

Come dressed for the weather if you’re heading out to bird-watch this winter. Be sure to have binoculars, a spotting scope or a camera. Winter birding can be a challenge as some birds are difficult enough to spot without having to battle the elements, but there are opportunities to see a bird not common to our area this upcoming season.

Extended season

Last weekend was Ohio’s extended deer-gun season. With the rainy weather during the annual weeklong season (Nov. 26-Dec. 2), it was the lowest general gun season harvest since 2011.

Last weekend, hunters checked in 9,625 white-tailed deer during the extended season compared to14,115 in 2017.

There were 159 tagged in Lorain County.

I saw a discussion on social media regarding the low deer-kill count from this season. There was an argument as to whether people are overhunting, some saying tags were already filled and others bought into the excuse of us having poor weather.

Whatever the cause, there is no argument deer-kill numbers are steadily decreasing.

The root cause can be debated forever, but if there is a decline in deer population and something we as sportsmen can control, then we need to do something about it and protect our natural resources.

Contact Brad Zahar at bzaharoutdoors@gmail.com.
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