I had every intention on sleeping in today. I haven’t been doing much birding or chasing this year, and though I had enjoyed seeing the Great Horned Owl at Greenlawn Cemetery on Friday, I had no plans of being back out any time soon.
The birds had other plans for me.
It actually all started that same Friday, two days ago. I had just gotten off of work, was chatting with David Donahue, and told him I was heading to go find an owl. He asked about Long-eared Owls, and the chances of seeing one – a Lifer for him. I told him that by this time of the year, it was pretty unlikely, but there were places he could drive to – Northern Indiana, maybe. Or Canada. I laughed, he did not. I made it to Greenlawn and got a shot of the ADORABLE baby Great Horned Owl and went home.
Saturday, David sends me a link… A Long-eared Owl had been seen and photographed that same Friday – at Greenlawn! This time, neither of us laughed. I told him I would be at Greenlawn Sunday morning and we could search for it. I didn’t “need” to see it, but it’s hard to not go after one when it’s so close by. Greenlawn opens at 7:00, so I figured I could sacrifice a couple hours of sleep to wake up around 7:00 AM and get there close to 7:30 or 8:00 AM. David then told me that he couldn’t be there that early because he was volunteering with Lights Out Columbus in the morning. At that moment I knew I was going to get even less sleep than I had hoped.
The Lights Out programs are designed to encourage businesses – especially those in the tall buildings in metropolitan areas – to not leave their lights on at night. For one, it’s a HUGE waste of electricity, as there is no one working in the majority of these spaces. Second, and to me more importantly, having those lights on at night leads to 10s of thousands of birds running into the windows of the buildings and suffering traumatic injury, or more-often, dying.
There are two parts to participating in a Lights Out Program. There are those that talk to the businesses about the benefits of joining the cause and agreeing to turn off their lights. Surprisingly, not an easy task. And then there are the groups like David’s – and our own Tim Jasinski’s with Lights Out Cleveland – that go downtown very early in the morning during migration and collect the birds that have hit the buildings. The lucky few that are found still alive are taken to local rehabilitation centers in the hopes of a fast recovery and a successful release. Unfortunately, most of the birds aren’t lucky – those end up in museum collections, if possible.
Having wanted to join Tim’s group many times but failing to – 3 hours is a LONG way to go to be there at 5:00 AM – I told David that I would join his group in the morning. We met up with the rest of the group across from the Midland Building at 6:15 AM and started making our way through downtown.
David and I teamed up with Carrie Hauck and another guy, and we covered quite a bit of territory – checking all sides of every building along our route. Periodically, we would meet up with the other half of the group and compare notes: “Find anything?” “Nope.” “Neither did we.” And so it went until David and I walked along in front of one of the taller buildings. About 20 feet in front of us, David spotted something on the ground by the huge glass windows. Not sure if it was a bird or (another) leaf, we made our way toward it. Well, it flew up about 5 feet off the ground, seemed to lose all of its energy, and landed a couple of feet further away – it was a bird! It was time for a rescue! After seeing how flighty the bird was, David was ready for a fight… Here’s how it went down:
It wasn’t quite the battle we had been anticipating. The bird was captured unharmed, and was placed into a brown paper bag for transport to the Ohio Wildlife Center in Columbus, as was another (deceased) bird we found a bit later.
Those were the only two birds we located this morning – ironically, right in front of the Midland building, across the street from where we had all parked an hour before – ha ha! We got back to our cars, said our goodbyes, and then headed out to do some birding. It was great to join these dedicated folks on their morning rounds of downtown Columbus, and I’m looking forward to teaming up with them again soon.
For those wondering, here’s the little fella that we rescued – Golden-crowned Kinglet!