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Birding in Darke county



Greenville Daily Advocate July 2000 release Outdoors Writer Jeff D. Miller

As I was getting this article ready for release, I received an email from a good friend and a colleague Chad Tussing. For you readers that did not get to meet him, Chad has been with the Darke County Soil and Water Conservation District for the last couple of years, as our education and wildlife specialist. In his position Chad has been an educator to Darke Countians of all ages and a source of inspiration to all of us in the field of wildlife programming. Chad has left Darke County to become the Program Specialist for the South Dakota Division of Wildlife. In this position, he will be the state coordinator for the Aquatic Education, Project WILD and the Outdoorswoman programs. Chad and I got together one more time before he left. He expressed his sadness on leaving, but he has always wanted to work for the Division of Wildlife. He hopes someday to come back to his home state of Ohio, for he is a true Buckeye! What do you think would make 63 million people a year leave the comfort of their homes and participate in a hobby, which could take them to the far ends of the world? Does it sound crazy or does the sounds of an adventure maybe entice you. Well pickup a pair of binoculars, put on a comfortable pair of hiking books, bring your favorite birding identification book, and let’s hit the trails. Growing up in the sixties, I remember watching TV shows depleting bird watchers (birders) as people that wore pocket protectors and eyeglasses being bound together with tape. Well of course, nothing could be farther from the truth. Birders come in all shapes, sizes and backgrounds as the subjects they so seek out to find. In my book, you are considered a birder not only if you enjoy searching for that next bird on your life list, but also if you provide birding habitat components on your property. When it comes to wildlife watching, the popularity is ever increasing. A 1996 statistics showed that Americans spent $29.2 billion dollars to observe, feed and photograph wildlife in the United States. I myself have been fascinated about wildlife but especially birds all my life. My memories go back to the first cardinal I saw, the pheasant cock that ran across the highway on a Sunday morning drive to my Grandparents and listening to the song of the bob white quail. It was not until five years ago, did I become a true birder. I decided to take my family up to the waterfowl area at Grand lake St. Mary’s, hoping to get a glimpse of the nesting bald eagles. After a half hour of straining our eyes with an old pair of binoculars and not seeing what we were there for, we were ready to call it day. As we were walking toward our vehicle, a young man with a spotting scope had one of the pair locked in. He asked if we would like to take a look. We hopped to the opportunity. Each one of us then took our turn peering through the scope. My wife and children’s exclamations were ones of sheer excitement of seeing the raptor. Then it was my turn. Seeing that magnificent bird, one of our Nations greatest treasures, setting on a branch of a tree was an image I will never forget. To this day, it is burned into my mind as one of my favorite memories. From that day on, I became a birder. I also equipped myself with a better pair of field glasses and a spotting scope. In Darke County, we have many opportunities to see the different species of birds. Some of our fine feather friends call this place home all year. Others come to raise their young and fly back when the on set of autumn approaches. The final group migrates through different times of the year and uses our area as a stop off point, before again taking to flight to their final destination. As the seasons change, so do the species. Each year I always look forward to the end of February. With the short cold days of winter loosing its grip, the first migration of birds starts to fly in. The sounds and sights of the red winged black birds and killdeer are my sign that spring is ever so near.

This time of year also as well as in the fall, is when the birder hot lines are extremely active with the different sightings. There is Ohio web links, which you can go into and see where the latest sighting are. If you are one of the lucky ones, you might get there in time to get a glimpse. Now is when I find myself traveling to the different habitats, in our areas, to see what types of activities are going on. Woods, wetlands, grasslands and the Darke County Creek as well as the Still Water River are my favorite observation areas. These places give you an abundance of birding opportunities. With springtime, comes the multitudes of activities for us that provide birding habitat. Besides keeping the feeding stations filled and an ample supply of water on hand, I always make sure that my nesting structures are in place and start to monitor them at least once a week. This year I have been fortunate to have a pair of Kestrels to nest in a structure, high up on my television antenna. Five chicks fledged this year. As I am writing this article, there is a pair of blue birds nesting with four chicks, the house finches should be expecting young any day and there are mourning dove chicks getting ready to fledge. I also had tree swallows and a Downey woodpecker visit this spring. They came, they saw and even went through the task of building nest, but in the end, they moved on. With the end of summer and the arrival of autumn, we start to see the part time resident birds leaving our area. They are in route to their winter grounds. Some as far as South American. This time of year can be just as rewarding as the springtime. Several years ago, I had a flock of Sand Hill Cranes fly overhead at my house. Their distinctive cackling gave them away. As disorganizes as their flight formation was, I wondered if they would make it to their final destination. Winter comes and our resident birds take front stage. For most of us, we might still venture out when the weather is inviting, but in all we keep a vigil over are feeders and sources of water we supply for them. Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Chickadees, Cardinals and Blue Jays, just to name a few, will keep us entertained until the photo-periodism and the biological clocks of the other species tell them it is time to fly north once again. If you are interested to sharing your birding enthusiasm with others, you might want to join the Darke County Birders. This group meets once a month at the Darke County Nature Center and they try to schedule bird watching outings at least once a month, to the different key birding hot spots in Ohio. The group is also active in the yearly Darke County Park district bird count as well as the annual Audubon bird count, which is conducted each December. You can contact The Darke County Nature Center for more information about the club. Until the next time, get out and explore the grandeur of Ohio’s wild places. For your Wildlife Habitat or Natural Resource needs you can call Jeff Miller at Oakleaf Consulting. The telephone number is 937-548-4753 or you can email him at

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