My Witt's End

Perfection is in the Eye of the Beholder

A Good Omen, Perfect Punctuation

We were doing our best to burn off the day. The sun was doing its part. The sky had turned more shades of yellow-red than battered left over Olympic banners. The burning question, not to be confused with burning issues, was whether to make we’d make it to the pond before dark? And if we did, would the birds still be there?

In this case the birds were three Wood Storks, a species more at home in the swamps of Florida than the wetlands of mid-Ohio. How did they get here? They have wings so I guess that answers the question. And they were juveniles. Put teenagers together with transportation and you’re liable to get anything.

The first good sign we had was a bird that stumped Susan and I for a few seconds. When you’ve been fortunate to bird around the globe as we have, we expect the unexpected in unsuspecting places. But near Zanesville, Ohio, an all-black crow-sized bird with bright white tail feathers gives you pause.

After a bit of lip flapping and firm knowledge that we weren’t slowing down our mission—to see the Wood Storks—we quickly realized we had just seen an American Crow with white tail feathers. It was one of those birding things that make you say, “humph.”

Driving through the wonderful habitat of decidedly rural Coshocton County, we had to stop to check out some great shorebird habitat. Sure enough, a Whimbrel was feeding on the far side of a pond. Belted Kingfishers were diving from several trees; a House Wren popped up to see what we were doing; Cedar Waxwings were hawking bugs; and after a bit of effort we coaxed a Nashville Warbler out of the bushes.

On to the storks. As we topped a rise in the road we first spotted some humans, binoculars and scopes in hand, gazing down a slope into a small oxbow of a pond. The three storks appeared bleached white against the darkening foliage. The only thing that seemed to upset them was a possessive Great Blue Heron. Some minor squabbling ensued. The storks bought off the heron with a fish or two and the critters settled down.

As we were packing to leave, Vernon Miller, the Amish man who found the birds a week earlier happened by. He proudly told the story for the umpteenth time of how he spotted the birds, called a friend to confirm the identification, and how the friend posted the information to the Ohio Birds Listserv (www.ohiobirds.org).

It was nearly dark when we stopped to find an errant water bottle that had rolled under the seats. Susan found the bottle and shouted look! As a birder you don’t ask where or why or what. You just point your nose in the direction of the person making the call. An adult Bald Eagle swooshed over our heads. Perfect ending to a perfect day.

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