The always amazing list of bird species that can be tallied around the holidays in the Toledo area in the Christmas Bird Count may, just may, have an interesting addition this year - the pileated woodpecker.
Last weekend, avid birder and Metroparks volunteer Jerry Klug spied a pileated at Pearson Met-
ropark in a wooded area behind Macomber Lodge on State Rt. 2. And on Nov. 15, Ted Witham, of the Metroparks land management crew, and Metroparks naturalist Bob Jacksy watched a pileated while working at Oak Openings Preserve Metropark.
"We've noticed they're expanding their range, they're moving north," said Jim McCormac, a birding authority with the Ohio Division of Wildlife. He said that while pileateds have been known in the Oak Openings Preserve Metropark area, the Pearson bird may be a sign of things to come. "It may be a new pioneer."
"Sightings have also been reported recently at Secor Met-
ropark, raising hopes that the birds may be returning to nest in Lucas County," said Scott Carpenter, a Metroparks spokesman.
Jacksy noted that the crow-sized bird, Ohio's largest woodpecker, has not nested in the Metroparks since the 1970s. The pileated is known by its size and red crest or top-knot. It has a slow call that some ears think sounds like a laughing Jekyll/Hyde madman.
The Toledo Naturalists' Association, in its recently revised Birds of the Toledo Area, cites the pileated as a rare visitor, seen in the 1990s at Secor and in 2002 and 2000 at Oak Openings. Matt Anderson, official compiler for the TNA's annual Christmas count, said records indicate that a pileated has not been listed in the area count since it began in 1932.
That may change this year, however, if one of the sharp-eyed TNA teams has a bit of good fortune when scouring the Pearson area next Sunday. Anderson noted that pileated has been confirmed for several years running in Oak Openings, but not on count day or even during count week. Details on several area counts follow at the end of this column.
The nation's first Christmas Bird Count was initiated in 1900 by New York ornithologist Frank Chapman as an alternative to side hunts, popular local events at the time in which gunners paired off in teams to shoot as many birds and other animals as possible. Such behavior was considered acceptable then but today is illegal and considered unethical by the hunting community, which accepts and encourages conservation and regulation.
In any case, Chapman and 27 volunteers counted birds in 25 locations in 13 states and two Canadian provinces, tallying 90 species and some 18,000 individual birds that auspicious day. A volunteer birder in Oberlin, southwest of Cleveland, represented Ohio's count that first day, listing 14 species, including a red-shouldered hawk, 14 purple finches, and just one northern cardinal.
Compare that with the 2003 western hemisphere CBC totals, in which some 55,000 people participated in 1,996 counts in the United States, Canada, Central America, South America, Bermuda, the West Indies, and some Pacific islands. They tallied some 63 million individual birds overall among 2,474 species, of which 654 species were listed in the United States alone.
Counts, conducted under the auspices of and coordinated by the National Audubon Society for 100 years, nowadays can "count" during a three-week period, this year Dec. 14 through Jan. 5, not just on Christmas Day.
In Ohio there are some 60 counts involving some 1,500 watchers. The oldest count in the state is at Buckeye Lake, 30 miles east of Columbus, which was started in 1922. Last year Ohio saw 54 counts, each covering a 177-square-mile circle of 15 miles in diameter. In all 151 species were tallied in the state in the 2003 count.
The Toledo area count was begun in 1927 and has been conducted annually by the TNA since 1932. The TNA count averages 74 species but listed 90 species a year ago.
All the counting is far more than just recreational. The data collected annually is compiled for the hemisphere and helps bird scientists assess the health, status, winter movements and distribution of bird species. The CBC data base, for example, has helped better understand the impact of West Nile virus on various species. It is one of the oldest scientific data bases.
The CBC also has helped show how diminishing grasslands have put the pinch on such grasslands nesting species as the eastern meadowlark.
The regional loss of meadowlarks has clearly been demonstrated, for instance, in the last 25 annual counts in the Columbus area, where urban/suburban sprawl has become an unsightly societal epidemic, grasslands have vanished in exchange for chemically laced lawnscapes and a glut of asphalt-paved strip and shopping malls, and no Christmas meadowlarks have been seen.
The 72nd annual Toledo area Christmas count is set for Dec. 19, beginning with a 6:30 a.m. breakfast at Denny's Restaurant at I-75 and Buck Road.
Seven areas of interest have been shown, with most groups meeting at their starting points between 7:45 and 8 a.m. Areas include the upper Maumee River to downtown; Woodlawn cemetery/Ottawa Park, Bayshore Power Plant; Pearson Metropark/Mallard Club State Wildlife Area; Point Place/North Toledo; Bayshore Road and Maumee Bay State Park; Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge, and the southeast agricultural wedge.
A countdown is scheduled at Tony Packo's around 5:15 p.m. Matt Anderson is the compiler, 419-877-9202. Area bird feeding-station watchers also can contribute their results from a day of backyard-watching by sending results to Anderson at 11100 Birch Pointe Dr., Whitehouse, OH 43571 before Dec. 29.
Other details on the Toledo area counts can be found at www.toledonaturalist.org, or by calling the TNA rare-bird hotline, 419-877-9640.
Details on the continent-wide count are available at www.audubon.org/cbc.
Other area counts and contacts include:
●Grand Rapids/Waterville, Jan. 2, 7 a.m., meet at Cafe Chickaroo in downtown Whitehouse. Contact Tom Kemp, compiler, at 419-877-9635.
●Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge count, Jan. 2, 8 a.m., meet at the refuge headquarters, 14000 West State Rt. 2, Oak Harbor. Contact compiler Tom Bartlett, 419-447-0005.
●Fremont Audubon count, 8 a.m., White Star wetlands, Sandusky County Road 66 east of State Rt. 300, Gibsonburg, 8 a.m. Call the Sandusky County Park District, 419-334-4495 or 1-888-200-5577.
Adele Shelton, longtime TNA member, has been named the organization's naturalist of the year for 2004.
She is known as a dedicated naturalist, ardent nature photographer, and has served as leader of the Natualists' Camera Club of Toledo for more than 25 years. A world traveler, Shelton was instrumental in having NCCT assemble widely viewed educational slide programs on edible plants, poisonous plants, and Oak Openings Metropark.
In related TNA news, John Herman, of the University of Toledo, was awarded the Harold F. Mayfield research award for 2004. His work involves salamanders and frogs in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.