Taxidermy expert to speak at Allen County Sportsmen and Farmers Association meeting

By Al Smith - Guest Columnist

Steve Burgei, owner of Steve’s Taxidermy and Tannery in Fort Jennings, will be the featured speaker at the December meeting of the Allen County Sportsmen and Farmers Association.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. Dec. 28 at the club’s 1001 S Kemp Road location. The meeting is open to the public.

The club will host a turkey shoot Sunday (Dec. 17). Breakfast will be served at 10:30 a.m. with the first shoot at 12 p.m. Turkeys, chickens and hams will be given as prizes. Contact Bill Stratton at 419-236-9082 for further information.

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Plenty of people do not equate bird watching with winter, but one can find a wide range of birds who visit Ohio and make it their temporary home over the winter months. Other common raptors in the state are more visible as the barren landscape affords a better look at these species.

One of the visitors in recent years that has created quite a stir is the snowy owl. They became a hit a few years ago as they crossed Buckeye borders as they migrated from the tundra. There have been several sightings of these massive, Arctic-nesting owls.

Although it is not spotted often in some years, this already is turning out to be a great year to see snowy owls around the Great Lakes. There already have been numerous reports of snowy owl sightings, especially around Lake Erie.

While the opportunity to view or photograph these magnificent birds is exciting, the Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW) says too many visitors trying to catch a glimpse can put stress on the owls - or put them in danger. The wildlife agency noted, to help keep the snowy owls safe, remember to keep your distance, respect private property, and never feed the owls. Get more tips on how to be a good snowy owl observer:

Some fun facts about snowy owls include:

• This is the heaviest North American owl; females can weigh as much as 6½ pounds, which is heavy for an owl.

• In recent times, snowy owls are in the public eye as Hedwig, Harry Potter’s pet owl, is of this species.

According to the DOW, short-eared owls and northern harriers are two raptor species that you’re likely to see this time of year as both migrate to Ohio in the winter months. Both raptors prefer large fields, grasslands, and marshes, and they even prefer a similar diet of small mammals. However, short-eared owls hunt primarily at dawn and dusk and harriers hunt during the day, so there is not much competition between them.

You can learn more about owls in the DOW’s Owls of Ohio Field Guide: and stay tuned for the brand new Raptors of Ohio Field Guide, which is scheduled to be out in the spring of 2018.

When seeking some bird species in winter, look for open water. That’s why Lake Erie is a good place to find them. A river with a dam on it may yield a plethora of waterfowl, raptors, etc. even during a frigid winter.

One bird not common to these parts one might see is the golden eagle navigating. Each winter a steady number of golden eagles are drawn to the large tracts of reclaimed mined lands found throughout much of eastern and southeastern Ohio, according to the DOW. As North America’s largest predatory bird, it averages 30 inches in length, features a 6.5-foot wingspan and weighs in at a whopping 10 pounds. Its dark brown plumage and intense dark eyes are offset by a black bill and claws, giving it a fierce appearance. Golden brown feathers on the head and nape of the neck give this awesome bird of prey its signature name.

Familiar predators such as bald eagles and a variety of hawks (especially the redtail) are easy to spot in the wide open winter spaces.

I like to look for redtails while traveling since they love to sit on fence posts, wires and trees along highways looking for prey.

Mature eagles are easy to spot with their white heads, but knowing buzzards are gone, it makes it easier to see an immature eagle which show no white. Various areas along Lake Erie, especially in Ottawa County, are great places to see these majestic birds. Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and Magee Marsh Wildlife Area are probably the best places to see them.

In the Ottawa refuge you may spot some sandhill cranes and trumpeter swans and sometimes even a tundra swan.

On a smaller scale, woodpeckers can be spotted fairly easily. Some like the Red-headed woodpecker and Red-bellied woodpecker are fairly decent-sized birds and with their colorful markings, are pretty easy to spot. Even the smallish Downy woodpecker is not difficult to spot. It does have some red it in. The shape of the bill and head along with the posture (always gripping the side of a tree) should narrow it down to a woodpecker.

You can learn more and compare woodpeckers in the DOW’s Common Birds of Ohio field guide:

Common and colorful birds like the Cardinal and the Blue Jay are easy to spot. And don’t forget robins. Not all of them migrate. You can see them quite often if you are in more remote areas.

At backyard feeders an assortment of out-of-state visitors are always sure to cause a stir – especially in years when food sources are sparse in the northern forests of Canada. During those times, a greater influx of northern finches – such as evening grosbeaks, pine siskins, red and white-winged crossbills and common redpolls – make a showing at feeding stations around our homes.

This year marks the 118th Christmas Bird Count, a nationwide survey that helps to track movements and ranges of birds in the winter. Birders can start entering their data today, visit the Audubon website:

By Al Smith

Guest Columnist

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL.

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL.

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