Eastern Screech Owl in Cavity - Photo Tom Sheley

The Wild Birds Unlimited – Columbus team simply blew away all previous records, racking up an astounding total of 194 species!

But there’s more to the story. This was easily the least organized Birdathon outing in years for the WBU Columbus team. Regular members of the team were out of state early in the Birdathon month of May. One of the team members then managed to be unavailable during the following week as well; meanwhile, another team member had to work after that early May vacation. On top of all this, migrating birds had not shown up through early May due to a very cold early spring. Then late in the second week of May, temperatures warmed and an historic wave of migrants hit Ohio.

In the middle of all this confusion, long-time team leader Tom Sheley what was initially supposed to be a scouting run for the “real” Birdathon on the next weekend. But Tom’s day unexpectedly turned into a full-on assault on the record! On May 16, he started at 3:00 am and, sensing the incredible possibilities for the day, resolved to take it as far as he could. He finally quit at 11:30 pm after one of the most amazing Birdathon days in decades. The cold weather early had not only delayed neotropical migrants like warblers, but also had delayed northward movement of waterfowl. (In recent years, waterfowl had left Ohio for northern climes way earlier than our Birdathon date, often disappearing from the state in March and leaving only a few stragglers for us to record in May.)

As we neared the weekend, when we were supposed to assemble the full team, it became apparent that the birds had become impatient. They were tired of waiting for us and had headed north late in the week, leaving hardly any birds in the area by the weekend. Given the circumstances and the fact that one of our team members was again unavailable due to work commitments, we decided that Tom’s huge day would be the WBU Columbus Birdathon for the year. Needless to say, Bill and Steve, our other team members, regretted missing that big scouting day, but that’s birding!

Tom’s route took him through the following Ohio counties: Hocking, Fairfield, Franklin, Delaware, Marion, Hancock, Lucas and Ottawa.

As for the rest of our team – well, some of us are fans of Cleveland sports teams, so we well know the refrain: there’s always next year!