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Annual Christmas Bird Count at Schrader Center This Saturday

Annual Christmas Bird Count

8 a.m. – 12 p.m. Saturday, December 22
Schrader Environmental Education Center, Oglebay

northerncardinal1.jpgLove birds? Want to see how many you can locate around Oglebay Park? Join the Schrader Center staff and participate in the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. Saturday, December 22 at the Schrader Center in Oglebay Park. The longest running Citizen Science survey in the world, the Christmas Bird Count provides critical data on bird health and population trends. We’ll be scouting the area for all types of birds and then submitting our collective data to the Audubon Society’s census.

Help make a difference for science and bird conservation. Participate in the Christmas Bird Count this year. We’ll even provide the snacks and coffee! For more information, contact Greg Park at the Schrader Center, 304-242-6855. You can also visit the National Audubon Society’s website.


Winter Birding — Less Foliage, Better Spotting

winteratoglebay4.jpgBy Jake Francis, Director of Environmental Education — Have you ever tried to start birding only to be overwhelmed by the shear number of field marks, shapes, and calls of the spring migration? I know that in my case keeping track of every possible spring bird is a huge task to say the least, and one that seems insurmountable to novice birders.  On the other hand, the winter is a spectacular time for beginning birders to hone their identification and spotting abilities on a smaller set of familiar birds.  The lack of foliage and the fact that birds congregate in mixed flocks around fruit-bearing plants makes finding birds and getting a good look at them particularly easy.


Black Cherry

Start by searching out black cherry trees (Prunus serotina), poison ivy vines (Toxicodendron radicans), and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quniquefolia), and visit them in the early morning.  You should be able to find Waxwings, Thrushes, Bluebirds, Catbirds, and Warblers.  Additionally beginning birders should look for coniferous trees which attract many northern birds that prefer their seeds.  Some of these northern birds are only in our area during the winter (e.g. Siskins, Crossbills, and Kinglets), and add some challenge throughout the winter.

Cedar Wax Wing

Cedar Wax Wing

Finally there are many winter bird counts that occur during the month of December that give novices a chance to interact with, and learn from more seasoned ornithologists.  This year the Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is free to all participants   There are many circles in our area to be surveyed including Oglebay Park (December 22)  and Buffalo Creek (December 16).  Interested parties can contact Greg Park or Jake Francis at the Schrader Center, 304-242-6855, for more information on the counts and birding in general.

A.B. Brooks Nature Follower and Friend Visits Schrader Center

We had a wonderful visitor today that tied present-day to our past.  Mr. Edwin R. “Ted” Spears of Wheeling came in to visit the Schrader Center and reminisce about the walks that he participated in with Mr. A.B. Brooks.  Alonzo Beecher Brooks was Oglebay Institute’s original naturalist from 1927 – 1944, and he started many traditions that we sustain today.  The current Astronomy program and Mountain Nature Camp were born from the foresight and efforts of Mr. Brooks, as well as the nature walks that Mr. Spears proudly participated in during the mid-1900’s.

Mr. Brooks had such a big following for his nature walks that the A.B. Brooks Nature Center was built in 1954 to provide shelter to nature program participants. That building stood for nearly 50 years before the Schrader Environmental Education Center was built in 2000. The Schrader Center pays tribute to Mr. Brooks by continuing his commitments through a Thursday evening volunteer-administered Astronomy program at 9:00pm and morning Guided Nature Walks every Tuesday at 10:00am. The Brooks Bird Club was named in recognition of Mr. Brooks, as well as Oglebay’s A.B. Brooks Discovery trails—the same trails that Mr. Brooks used during his notable time as naturalist.

Mr. Spears also knew Henry Stifel Schrader, a founding member of Oglebay Institute who presided over the dedication of the A.B. Brooks Nature Center.  As a tribute to Mr. Schrader’s commitment to both the company and the community, the Schrader Environmental Education Center is named in his honor.  The Schrader Center recognizes both remarkable men and the legacy they left.  Mr. Spears, 92, was accompanied by Mary-Bess Halford, librarian at Bethany College for 16 years. For more information about our Tuesday morning Nature Walks and Astronomy program, please call the Schrader Center at 304-242-6855.  – By Sara Fincham, Schrader Center Customer Service Representative.

Baby Bluebirds Have Arrived at Oglebay Park

The bluebirds are hatching all over Oglebay Park! Check out these little cuties living in one of the dozens of monitored bluebird boxes located throughout the Park.

During the summer, bluebirds feed mainly on insects. In the winter, they depend on many kinds of wild berries for their food supply. Even though the bluebird population has greatly decreased, the future can still be promising for them. According to the National American Bluebird Society, the most important step we can take to help bring back the bluebird is to provide nesting sites by setting out a bluebird box or starting a bluebird trail. A bluebird trail is a series of bluebird boxes placed along a prescribed route. In areas where nesting boxes have been put up in suitable habitat, bluebird populations are increasing. For more information on how to get your own bluebird box started, check out the “Getting Started” fact sheet from the National American Bluebird Society. 

Albert Dague, a retired steel fabricator of 45 years, took up birding after retirement and today he monitors 50 bluebird boxes in Oglebay Park, Wheeling, WV every week during the spring and summer. With his particular interest in bluebirds and along with his carpentry skills, he has had logged hundreds of hours in constructing blue bird boxes as well as monitoring and recording data on nesting success.

If you visit Oglebay Park, please don’t bother the bluebird boxes. With Mother Nature’s help, and a little luck, our staff and volunteers at the Schrader Center are helping to boost the bluebird population in WV!

Sparrows Threaten Eastern Blue Birds

Male Bluebird

Greg Park, senior naturalist at the Schrader Center, was recently featured in an interview concerning the threat of European Sparrows to Eastern Bluebirds on WV Public Broadcasting. Check out the audio link here or read the story below.

By Glynis Board, WV Public Broadcasting — May 18, 2012 · According to an eye-witness in Marshall County, a family of Eastern Bluebirds was recently murdered just outside of Moundsville. The mother and father bird are reported as missing but the three healthy chicks, just days before their first lessons in flight, were found with their heads pecked in. The suspect seen leaving the bird house was, of course, a European Sparrow.

The marauding European Sparrow, otherwise known as the English Sparrow, is an invasive species introduced to North America 200 years ago. The sparrow is known for its hostile and brutal nest take-over techniques. The birds were introduced in an effort to control insects despite the fact that 96% of the English Sparrow’s diet consists mostly of grains and only 4% insect. Naturalist Greg Park says in times of heavy horse traffic in cities, the birds were probably helpful.

“There were a lot of road apples,” Park says, “and the English Sparrows would pick them apart to get the grain out of them that was pre-digested, oats and corn and stuff the horse fed on—eating all the fly eggs that would hatch into maggots. So it probably helped. Their population sky-rocketed.”

Today the brown and black sparrows can be found at most any fast food drive-through collecting discarded french fries and bread crumbs. Because they are so aggressive in competing for cavity-style nests, they pose one of the biggest threats to Eastern Bluebird populations—also cavity-nesting birds.

Albert Dague is a retired steel fabricator of 45 years. He took up birding after retirement and today he monitors 50 bluebird boxes in Oglebay Park in Wheeling every week during the spring and summer.

Dague says while sparrows are one of the biggest threats to bluebirds today, the use of insecticide called DDT almost wiped them out completely.

“DDT was introduced in 1939,” Dague says. “They sprayed along road banks, and Bluebirds are ground insect-eating birds, and from the DDT, they basically pretty nearly destroyed, it’s estimated, up to 90 percent of the Bluebird population into the 1960s.”

DDT was eventually banned and since then, Bluebirds have been making a comeback. Today there are bluebird groups and birding clubs that work to protect and foster bird populations.

Dague says he enjoys showing off the birds he monitors.

“Various people in the park will wonder, ‘What are you doing bothering the nest-box for?’ And then when they find out what you’re doing—I’ll open the box and show them the birds—most people will say, ‘I never saw a bluebird before!’ But they’ve probably really never looked for one.”

Both Park and Dauge say that bluebirds are very accommodating and friendly birds and that they get people interested and excited about the natural world and stewardship.

“If anyone wants to start bluebirds you can buy a cheap box that you can open. If you have bluebirds in your area and you put up a box, it might take a while, but you’ll eventually get bluebirds.”

Dauge advises putting the boxes on posts with some kind of tubing beneath them to protect against raccoons and snakes; and Park says you can tell what kind of bird lives there by looking at the nest.

“If you open a nest box and find a really neat little nest made of all grass or else sometimes pine needles and it’s really neat and squared away with nothing else added—that’s a bluebird nest,” Park says. “If you open the box and find all sticks, about four inches long, you know it’s a wren. So you can tell when you open a box who is using it.”

Park says it’s equally easy to identify the nest of an English Sparrow.

“Their nest looks like a teenagers room. It’s just a big mess. There’s grass and pieces of twine and there’s pieces of plastic bags and there’s everything in there. And it’s all in a big mound clear up to the ceiling of the nest-box. There’s no mistaking what you have.”

“And I do whack every English Sparrow I can,” Park adds.

Park says it’s legal to kill non-native birds like Starlings and English Sparrows and because they don’t spread lead in the environment the beebee gun is his weapon of choice.

Ohio Queen Snake Topic of BBC Meeting

Queen Snake, courtesy of the Ohio Division of Natural Resources (http://www.dnr.state.oh.us)

The Brooks Bird Club will hold their monthly meeting this Tuesday evening,March 20 at 6:30pm at the Schrader Center in Oglebay Park. The topic of discussion will be A Study of Ohio Queen Snakes with Mark Waters, MS, PhD from Ohio University Eastern.

Join us for good food and good conversation!

Counting Crows

Counting the American Crows, Corvus brachyrhynchos, which converge between Wheeling Island and Bridgeport, OH has been a Post-Christmas Bird Count tradition for over two decades.  The tradition began when Carl Slater and Greg Eddy, Brooks Bird Club members, decided it would be an interesting challenge to try to quantify this impressive phenomenon. The two birders attempted almost every counting technique imaginable throughout the years; from counting individual birds per tree and estimating the population size multiplying by the number of trees, to estimating the number of crows arriving per minute. Getting a precise count of the crows proved nearly impossible. 

More recently Ryan Tomazin, a Junior Nature Camp alumnus and Brooks Bird Club member, has joined the effort. This year he recorded HD videos of the thousands of crows flying into the roost, and counted the individuals while playing the videos back in slow motion. While he was not able to get a precise count, this year’s estimate places about forty thousand crows in Bridgeport on December 17, slightly less than last year. ~Jacob Francis, Director of Environmental Education at the Schrader Center