birds

A snowy owl

On Thanksgiving Day 2017, an uninvited guest arrived at an Amish farm just a few miles north of Berlin, Ohio — and decided to stay. It was a young snowy owl, and the bird hung around for several weeks, perching atop the peaks of Orris Wengerd’s several barns. It quickly became a celebrity, attracting hundreds of birders and photographers.

A monarch butterfly sits on a flower.

Kelleys Island residents welcome the return each spring of their “feathered tourists” — songbirds, waterfowl, and raptors that pass through on their way to Canada.

So it was a rather obvious decision for the island’s innkeepers to band together to create an event around it. “Nest with the Birds” began in the 1980s as a way to drum up some early-season bookings by offering guided hikes and migration-related programs for birdwatchers.

Joe Bodis opens the top of a birdhouse to examine the insides.

It’s easy to find Joe Bodis’s property in Huron County, a few miles southeast of New London, Ohio. Just look for the house surrounded by “weeds.”

In actuality, those “weeds” are a carefully planned and developed island of wildlife habitat in a sea of corn and soybean fields. “When I first moved in, neighbors used to stop and ask when I was going to mow the weeds,” Bodis says. “Now they ask what things they can do on their property to attract wildlife.”

A retired pharmaceuticals salesman and member of Firelands Electric Cooperative, Bodis moved to his 5 acres in 2002.

Each winter, Ohio is invaded by mysterious aliens that sail south from Canada on silent wings. But these migratory birds — short-eared and long-eared owls — are no longer feared as the portenders of death that most owls were during centuries past. Rather, a glimpse of the owls is eagerly sought by today’s birders as a special seasonal treat, another check mark to add to their life list.

The pointed protuberances on the heads of these two owl species that give them their names are not really ears, but rather, just feather tufts.

A close up of a bluebird sitting on a piece of wood.

According to an old Pima Indian legend, a flock of very ordinary gray birds became concerned about how unattractive they looked. They began bathing in a sparkling blue mountain lake every morning hoping to make themselves more beautiful. After bathing in the lake for four days, their feathers fell off, and all that remained was gray skin that was even uglier than their plain-looking gray feathers. On the fifth day the feathers grew back in, but this time they were the brilliant blue color of the mountain lake.