When my alarm went off at 6:00 in the morning, I was thinking one thought: birding requires dedication. It was the day of our winter trip to the Wilds. I put on coat, gloves, and hat, because today was going to be one of he coldest days of the year. Gerry, one of our OYBC advisors, kindly agreed to carpool me to the event. This was Gerry’s last “official” trip being an advisor, and we were all sad about her leaving.
We drove for an hour and a half, until we arrived at the Wilds. The Wilds is an interesting birding location, partly because birds aren’t the only things you can see. The Wilds houses many other large animals, like giraffes, zebras, camels, rhinos, bison, wild dogs, and even cheetahs. But it is also a prime habitat for many native bird species. Today, the bird we searched for was the Golden Eagle. This is a massive bird, and it preys on mammals. Full grown Golden Eagles have even been known to kill small deer!
It was so cold that morning, and the wind was blowing so hard, that we couldn’t bird for long until we had to retreat to the warmth of our cars. It really is amazing that birds can survive in zero degree temperatures 24/7. We saw Northern Harriers, and Ring-necked Ducks, and Trumpeter Swans, but no Golden Eagle. Finally, we returned back to headquarters.
The next part of the event was a special, behind-the-scenes tour of something at the Wilds. We couldn’t wait to find out what it was. In a big bus, we drove over to an unassuming building. And inside there were… baby rhinos! They were very small, only around three or four feet long, but their parents were huge. The babies were surprisingly bold, and most of them came right up to the bars and let us pet them. The skin of the rhinos was incredibly thick; I felt like I was petting a brick wall. There were two species, Indian Rhinos and Southern White Rhinos. The Wilds is one of the only places where there are fourth generation captive rhinos.
When we got back, we heard exciting news – a Golden Eagle had been spotted. It was far away, perched in a distant tree. We waited for it to take off, so we could see it better. Meanwhile, we ate lunch, while listening to a presentation about the Wilds. Suddenly, we looked over, and the eagle was soaring in the air! It was identified by its sheer size and wingspan compared to other raptors. To round out lunch, we celebrated our OYBC advisor Darlene’s birthday and ate cupcakes.
After lunch, we decided to caravan one last time with our guides, to visit different birding locations. The snow was so deep that one car even got stuck until two OYBC members, May and Elijah, gave it a push! As we drove back, we saw a Northern Shrike perched at the very top of a tree. The Northern Shrike is actually a songbird, even though it eats other birds.
Finally, it was the end of our trip. It was an interesting day, and I saw my first Golden Eagle, and my first baby rhino. Those are two remarkable animals to add to a life list!
Aaron Tayal is a student member of the Central Ohio Chapter of the Ohio Young Birders Club. Check out the photo gallery from the trip.
The following list of species seen on the trip was provided by May Martineau.
American Tree Sparrow
Yellow Bellied Sapsucker
Ring Necked Duck
Red Breasted Merganser
Rough Legged Hawk (light and dark morphs)
Red Tailed Hawk
Great Horned Owl