Thursday, April 29, 2010

Shawnee State Forest, Ohio's "Little Smokies"

We visit Ohio's "Little Smokies," Shawnee State Forest, Scioto County, Ohio April 23--25 in search of temperate and early neotropical migrating bird species.

Ohio's Little Smokies

The birds were few and far between at Shawnee this weekend due to this spring's prevailing high pressure over the Midwest limiting rainfall (no rain pools to attract shorebirds) and presenting unfavorable flight conditions for small birds eager to move northward (migrants 'stack-up' in the southern U.S.and points south waiting for low-pressure frontal systems to swing through bringing strong south winds--the wind beneath their little wings). Fortunately, a frontal system brought us some migrants Saturday morning, though still very low numbers.

A roadside apparition, moccasin flower Cypripedium acaule Aiton

Wildflowers did not let us down. Shawnee is a large tract of steep hilly woodlands criss-crossed by disturbance; roadsides & fire-breaks, intense ice-storm damage over large tracts (2003), tree pathogens--many following the ice-damage, and fire, both controlled burns and last year's 3000 acre wildfire. Plant diversity is very high in Shawnee State Forest for many reasons; disturbance is just one. Looking down for wildflowers is as tempting as looking up for wood warblers!

Yellow mandarin, AKA nodding mandarin
maculata (Buckley) A. Gray

My friends, Julie & Ken Davis, with my wife Jackie and I searched high and low for birds and we did find 107 species between Columbus and the Ohio River, mostly low numbers of them, but that's a low species count for the third weekend in April in south-central Ohio and at Shawnee (my goal was 125 species, and many of most)!

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