Lorain Co. Big Year – redpolls, Short-ears, Merlin, & more!

Today was one of the best for Emil Bacik & I in a while, spent entirely within the confines of Lorain Co. The fun began shortly after 8:00 AM, when we impulsively swung by Longfellow Middle School in Lorain. The sprawling campus can be viewed in chunks from Lake Rd., and though we’d never stopped, knew could it provided good habitat for wintering Merlin. Sure enough, the school and a Merlin came into view simulatenously – the falcon sitting atop a high snag and leisurely enjoying a mammalian breakfast.

We continued to Lorain Harbor, where we were met by 11 newly-arrived Canvasbacks, both scaup sp., and an increased number of salmony Common Mergs. While gull numbers were down overall, there were 50 Bonaparte’s Gulls circling at the harbor’s mouth.

A hovering Rough-legged Hawk greeted us at the Lorain County Regional Airport’s first pulloff along Russia Rd. Likewise, a Lapland Longspur, Northern Harrier, and four noontime Short-eared Owls were at the traditional third pulloff. Apparently, the overcast conditions induced the Short-ears into premature activity, as they hunted and scrapped with each other during most of our stay. We circled the airport, and bumped into more unexpected bird activity – at 44635 Albrecht Rd. to be exact. Albrecht is the road that borders the north edge of airport property, and here we found five very hungry Common Redpolls and an inquisitive Savannah Sparrow right along the road. The redpolls would shy away from the road when a car passed, but otherwise gorged themsleves at a row of cedars bordering the lane. They did take off to the west before we left. The Savannah Sparrow was a straight surprise, appearing in the row of cedars, but apparently wintering in the ag field across the street.

On to Oberlin Arboretum – a new location to me personally. http://oberwiki.net/Arboretum – check out that link for more info, and thank you to Steve Borgis for bringing it our attention. We didn’t spend long, but the habitat is intriguing – and a single Cedar Waxwing was a notch on January’s bed post.

Oberlin Reservoir – A Bald Eagle arrived exactly when we did, and put all of the gulls in the air. We easily picked out two Great Black-backed adults, followed by a 3rd-winter Glaucous, and then a first-yr Iceland Gull. These gulls leisurely circled for minutes, allowing great study before they headed back towards the landfill. We NEED to find an access to point for birders to this landfill!

Wellington Reservoir added nothing new to the year’s tally, but 60 Gadwall were an astounding mid-January concentration here.

Annnnd, a single “white” squirrel was caught on the way back through Oberlin – only the second time I’ve seen a member of the notorious Oberlin “albino” squirrel population.

83 species for Lorain Co. in 2012 – 84 for Brumfield in Cuyahoga…bit of a contest brewing, eh?

– gabe

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