Winter doesn’t halt wildlife watching PDF Print E-mail
Written by PETER KUEBECK Sentinel Staff Writer   
Friday, 27 December 2013 11:09
A Downy Woodpecker is seen hanging from a bird feeder, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013, near the "Window on Wildlife" at Wintergarden/St. Johns Nature Preserve in Bowling Green. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Wintertime can still be a prime time for animal watching in Wood County - including some species one may not normally associate with the area.
Many animals can be seen right in our own backyard in Bowling Green.
Chris Gajewicz, natural resources coordinator for the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department, said "at (Wintergarden Woods and St. John's Nature Preserve) you're going to be able to see, the obvious one is deer. But occasionally you'll see a fox. One would be able to see great horned owls" which, he said are active right now, as well as screech owls.
Screech owls, though smaller and more difficult to see, are active in the morning and evening and can be heard calling.
"And the variety of winter birds right now at feeders and in the woods" can also be seen, he said.
Common winter birds in the area are goldfinches and pine siskins - a member of the finch family that "tend to hang out with the goldfinches. They're a northern finch. They're more arboreal."
"But it wouldn't be out of question to see robins and bluebirds right now. They're around."
However, one white raptor in particular can also be picked out.
"The really cool one that people should keep their eye out for is the snowy owl," said Gajewicz. "They're not going to be at the park, but as you drive down the road anywhere there's an open field or out by the airport" they can be seen.
"If you're driving along a field and you look out into a field and you see what appears to be a plastic shopping bag in the middle of the field, look again," he said, "because it could be a snowy owl."
Unlike horned owls, which prefer to roost in trees festooned with vines, their snowy cousins tend to take up residence on the ground or on rooftops.
"They're an arctic species, but they come down here in the wintertime," Gajewicz explained.
"Oftentimes they're juveniles that are being pushed out of their territories." Their appearance in the area - they've been sighted as far south as Columbus - may have to do with available food sources in their home territories. Snowy owls prefer a diet of lemmings and voles.
"When the more aggressive adults in the northern part of the country here are able to push the juveniles south, they make the move for winter food."
Among the best ways to view the wildlife, Gajewicz said, is to see it in person.
"Certainly first-hand," he said. "Get out and go for a walk."
"The park is wide open and people should certainly come out here."
The Rotary Nature Center, located at the nature preserve, is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, and visitors can check out the Window to Wildlife, a large viewing area in the building.
"They can watch the birds and the squirrels" there, said Gajewicz. "And the occasional deer. They come in."
Those looking to do some wildlife watching at their own homes can provide something in short supply to animals during the winter months: water.
"The best way is to provide, for birds, especially, is open water, if you can keep water going in some way. If it freezes, put it into the garage and unfreeze it." Birds, he said, are looking for water this time of year.
Also, setting out birdseed can attract animals. Everything - and not just birds - seems to love it, he said, including deer, raccoons, and even mice.
"People need to understand that when you put food out, you're putting out the basic element in the food chain."
Last Updated on Friday, 27 December 2013 11:15

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