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Summer Grassland Songsters part 3- A Midsummer Search Through Some Local History.

September 15, 2012

Sedge Wren

On the Ohio Birds Listserv last July, there was a report of a unique bird heard singing in a nearby Metro Park.  I made two trips to look for this bird in 100-degree humid weather- it was worth it!  Here’s what happened, in images.

The bird in question was heard out along the northern part of the Darby Creek Greenway Trail, along land acquired by Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park years ago.  This land was acquired from a notable local family.

John Galbreath was a very wealthy man.  He grew up in rural central Ohio, bought real estate that became very valuable over the decades,  and built skyscrapers all over the world.  He was famous as the owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team for 40 years, and had a passion for racing horses.  He owned Darby Dan Farms, well-known locally for its miles of white fencing and green and white buildings, as well as an airstrip and a horse racetrack.  When I was growing up, some of the local kids would spend the summer whitewashing his fences and buildings for decent pay.

Some time after Mr. Galbreath passed away in the late 80s, his family donated and then sold some land to the Metro Parks system, and some of his property was incorporated into Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park along the greenway trail.  Included on this property was a racehorse barn with an indoors track and an outdoor 1-mile racehorse track.  A few years ago, repairs and improvements were made to this property so that hikers can see a bit of history as well as nature along the greenway trail.

I saw Mr. Galbreath’s former land close up as I walked along the Darby Creek Greenway Trail, listening and looking for the special bird in the area.

Galbreath family property along Darby Creek Road

The 4.2 mile long Darby Creek Greenway Trail is made of crushed limestone and is designed for both hikers and cyclists.  Plans are being developed to join it to other greenway trail sections to make a 25-mile-long path in west central Ohio.  The trail runs by fields, woodland edges, a few wetland-style ponds, and restored prairies.

Midsummer is a season of colorful plants and the occasional colorful bird, plus interesting creatures here and there.  This particular summer has been hot and dry.

The prairie areas were blooming nicely, a pleasant mix of vivid flowers.  Kudos to Metro Parks for reintroducing these plants back in the 1970s from seeds of rare remnants found in pioneer cemeteries and isolated railroad waste areas here in Ohio.

Mr. Galbreath’s former property was marked with interesting signs discussing the history of the barns and the racetrack found along the trail.  Some of Galbreath’s favorite racehorses are buried on the grounds of the race barn.

I saw Barn Swallows flying in and out of the barn- it’s a great place for them to nest

This outlying barn had dozens of Mourning Doves around it

The two previous ‘summer grassland songsters’ I’ve highlighted were present in the area.

Bobolink

Dickcissel

Suddenly, while walking past a field, I heard a curious song.  Sure enough, it was the bird I was looking for.  I moved along a crumbling paved side path that led to an abandoned barn, scanning the field for the birds- there seemed to be 2 of them singing.

This side path led past a field where I heard the birds I was searching for singing

Here is a tick I brushed off my jeans- don’t stray off the path in tick territory!

I could hear one of the birds singing no more than 20 or 30 feet away from me- eventually, after patiently waiting in the broiling hot sun, the bird- a tiny Sedge Wren– showed itself.

These secretive wrens are known for moving around a lot- they don’t stay in one place like many other birds do.  So they tend to be more difficult to find since they don’t return to the same nesting grounds again and again.

This bird sang from the grass and weeds, often hidden, sometimes clinging to a taller plant and searching ceaselessly for any possible threats or rivals.

The way the wren would grasp different plant stalks was sometimes comical.

The Sedge Wren’s song is a rather distinctive rattle.

What a memorable couple of hikes!  I’m glad I was able to get photos of this little bird, and see some interesting landmarks.

26 Comments leave one →
  1. September 16, 2012 1:02 am

    That’s the cutest little bird and your photos of him are excellent! I admire those who can get good bird shots. I enjoyed the photo tour of the park too. What an excellent place to spend some time hiking or biking!

    • September 16, 2012 8:23 pm

      It’s truly a wonderful place- thanks, montucky! And that little wren took some work to see, though he ended up posing quite nicely!

  2. September 16, 2012 6:33 am

    Beautiful and informative as always! Thanks for sharing these fantastic shots. Could almost hear the bird songs.

  3. September 16, 2012 7:07 am

    What a beautiful and interesting trail. Congratulations for sighting and photographing this lovely little wren.

  4. September 16, 2012 7:23 am

    You have a very observant eye. I enjoyed your tour.

  5. September 17, 2012 5:33 pm

    Beautiful. You have such wonderful journeys. Thank you for sharing them with us. 🙂

    • September 17, 2012 8:13 pm

      Thank you, E.C.! The journey’s the thing, and it’s great to look back upon images you took when you were tired and hot and looking for ticks on your pants and realize on balance you had a great time.

  6. September 17, 2012 11:26 pm

    Always look forward to your post. Loved the photo tour—the wide-eyed turtle really made me lol. Thanks!

    • September 18, 2012 12:08 pm

      Thanks John! The Snapping Turtle must have come out of a hidden pond or puddle in the prairie grass, it was still a bit wet with some invertebrate ‘passengers’ on its shell. It was right along the path, and didn’t seem overly concerned about the photography 🙂

  7. September 18, 2012 1:29 pm

    That’s one tough bird to locate. Good job

    • September 18, 2012 2:46 pm

      It was indeed well-hidden, Les- if I hadn’t heard it, I never would have seen it. These little birds like to stay down in the grass a lot.

  8. September 18, 2012 7:51 pm

    I’m glad you found your bird and got some great shots of him too. I’m also happy to hear that the prarie is being restored. There are parts of nature that I saw as a kid that my own kids will never see here, so I’m all for restoration.

  9. The Birding Bunch permalink
    September 18, 2012 8:53 pm

    I saw your comment at another blog, so came by. Even though they haven’t been gone long, I have been missing the Bobolinks and Dickcissels. It is a treat to see yours. I enjoy all these other photos too. Oh, but you can keep the tick. Have you ever tried Green Bug? We were able to traipse in tall grasses this summer and came away tick-free.

    This year we were thrilled to have at least two Sedge wrens in our pasture. We do not know if they nested here, but they’ve been here since late July. It was the first time we let the grasses grow instead of having the neighbor mow it for hay. We had all kinds of birds in it and I wonder how many we didn’t identify.

    • September 19, 2012 1:16 pm

      Welcome, Birding Bunch! Check out the archives this summer for posts on Bobolinks and Dickcissels 🙂

      I almost always stay on the trails during tick season, but I foolishly strayed off into some medium-tall grass for just a minute and picked up 4 of them on this hike (luckily I inspected my clothes closely and they never touched my skin). I’ll check out Green Bug for sure!

      What a treat to have Sedge Wrens on your property!

  10. September 20, 2012 9:02 am

    What an amazing collection of (plant and animal) wildlife! Lovely place!

  11. September 21, 2012 4:02 pm

    Hi Seasons, Nice virtual walk for us through those open spaces with the lovely birds, turtle and yes, even the snake. Excellent pictures. Have a great weekend!

  12. September 25, 2012 10:28 pm

    This is one of my all-time favorite posts! What a lovely place. ICK for the tick, but finding the wren sounds like a lot of work. What a reward!

  13. September 29, 2012 12:19 pm

    What a fabulous piece of protected space – and a great post that takes us along on your walk! Thanks!

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