Surprising numbers of long-eared and short-eared owls are turning up in the Toledo area this winter, but their well-known cousin, the snowy owl of the arctic, is conspicuous by its absence.
Only one snowy owl apparently has been reported in Ohio so far this winter, and that was in Coshocton County in east-central Ohio on Saturday. The great white owls of the frozen tundra usually attract a good deal of attention. They stand about 20 inches tall and have a wingspan of about 41/2 feet. Males are white and females white with some dark markings.
Snowy owls are daytime hunters and often like roadside fenceposts. They search the Ohio and Michigan “tundra” for muskrat, rabbits, squirrels, or even fish in small stream or rivers when open water can be found.
Their appearances here, however, are cyclical, usually keyed to the relative abundance of their favorite food, the lemming, an arctic rodent. Snowy owls some winters also may start to move southward but find decent hunting further north than Ohio latitudes.
Long-eared owls typically may be found here in winter as well, but in low numbers. Usually they migrate further south in winter, said Mark Shieldcastle, head of the state's Crane Creek Wildlife Research Station in Ottawa County. What is unusual this year is their relatively high numbers.
The Erie Shores Birding Association counted 16 longears Saturday at Maumee Bay State Park. Six more have been noted at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Lucas County and Ottawa County, and six to eight at Killdeer Plains State Wildlife Area in Wyandot County, Shieldcastle said.
The Toledo Naturalists' Association counted a record 10 longears on its Christmas Bird Count. The previous high was six in 1940. Longears have been noted on the count only twice since 1981.
Lee Grover, of Erie Shores, said the group also spied seven short-eared owls in its trek to the park, and it found a screech owl in a wood-duck nest-box near the sledding hill, where the shortears were seen. Shortears may be seen at dawn and dusk, gliding over grassy areas in search of rodents and other prey.
TNA birders listed three shortears in the Christmas count, the first count record since 1995.
tIce fishing report - Inland upground reservoirs across northwest Ohio are starting to produce this ice-fishing season, though a parade of weather systems has made for inconsistent action at best.
Anglers willing to brave the weather can find a mixed creel of fish - everything from panfish and yellow perch to saugeye and fall-stocked rainbow trout, depending on where you go. Following is a summary of reports from Ohio Wildlife District 2 field officers:
Van Wert No. 2 Reservoir, 101/2 inches of ice, taking crappie on waxworms and spikes fished about 10 feet down in 20 feet of water, 30 feet from shore. Lima Lake, ice 10 inches, taking rainbow trout on waxworms and small yellow perch, afternoons, north-central section of lake. Findlay Reservoir No. 2, 10 inches ice, white bass and walleye; Findlay No. 1, 8 to 9 inches ice, some perch being taken. Beaver Creek Reservoir, Seneca County, panfish and perch.
Also, Fostoria Reservoir No. 6, Veterans' Memorial, panfish; Fostoria No. 3, Lamberjack, some trout. Delta Reservoir No. 2, 6 to 8 inches ice, some trout. Wauseon Reservoir, some bluegills, perch, crappies. Maumee River, Henry County, 7 inches ice in backwaters, taking crappies to 13 inches at Mary Jane Thurston State Park around boat docks using minnows in three to four feet of water. Area farm ponds, seven to eight inches ice, taking bluegills on waxworms in eight feet of water.
Sandusky Bay, half-limits of yellow perch on the Bay View side of the old Sandusky Bay Bridge dike.
Larry Goedde, fish management supervisor for District 2, also said that crappie and bluegill are being taken at Charles Mill and Pleasant Hill reservoirs near Mansfield, using small ice spoons or jigs and waxworms. Area marinas also are producing crappie, perch and bluegill.
The state's popular Lake La Su An chain in Williams County is open for fishing by reservation on Thursdays and Sundays. Call between 9 a.m. and noon Mondays, 419-636-6189. The lakes are producing good catches of bluegills, though many anglers recently have canceled reservations because of inclement weather.
At South Bass Island on western Lake Erie, guide Bill Massie reported good fishing for walleye before the recent round of storms. “We're hoping it lasts through the whole month of February,” Massie said of ice-fishing opportunities on the island. Guide Bud Gehring had parties on the ice yesterday as well. Call the state's Lake Erie Station at Sandusky for a full list of ice guides, 419-625-8062.
South Bass guide Pat Chrysler said he had 14 inches of ice under his shanties, but drifting snows had him out plowing trails yesterday. In other areas on the west side of South Bass, however, the strong winds yesterday had polished the ice clean, said guide John Hageman.
Perch generally have been easier to come by early on than walleye, though scattered successes have occurred on the 'eye front. Chrysler said he has talked to guides and ice fishermen as far away as Minnesota and Wisconsin, and all are saying that the march of Alberta Clippers through the northern states has depressed fish activity. More settled weather, however, should warm up the hard-water action.
Tonight - Boat Smart classes, four weeks, 7 to 9:30 p.m., lunchroom, Bedford Senior High School, Jackman Road, Temperance, Mich.; sponsored by Toledo Power Squadron, call the school to register, 734-850-6036.
Tomorrow through Sunday - 39th annual Camp and Travel RV Show, Seagate Convention Centre, downtown; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday; call 419-255-3300.
Saturday - Toledo Naturalists' Association field trip, 10 a.m., Oak Openings Preserve Metropark; meet leader Tom Kemp at the Mallard Lake parking lot.
Saturday - Fly tying, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Cabela's, west of U.S. 23, Dundee, Mich., featuring Toledo's Chris Helm on deerhair flies.
Sunday - Bowshoot, Canvasback Gun Club, 3801 West Dunbar Rd. at Raisinsville Road, Monroe, Mich., register 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 30 3-D targets, call the club, 734-241-2875.
Monday - Public trapshoot, 5:30 p.m., Wolf Creek Sportsmen's Association, 349 Teachout Rd., north of State Rt. 2, Curtice; voice-activated traps now available; call Jim Lamb, 419-836-2431.