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Warbler’s tune a new sound for Columbus

Thomas Bradley / Lantern Photographer

Paul Hurtado was walking out of the mechanic shop at the corner of Kenny Road and Kinnear Road. He had turned in his car to have the brakes checked at the Kinnear Road Garage at the corner of Kenny and Kinnear.

Normally he drives to campus.

After dropping off his car at the garage, Hurtado walked down Kinnear toward campus when he heard something. A chirp he had never heard before in Ohio.

Hurtado has been bird watching for more than 10 years and said he can identify almost any bird.

Hurtado, a student at Cornell who will begin his post-doctorate work at Ohio State in the fall, heard something that might not have even been processed by most people. Hurtado heard the bird call of Kirtland’s Warbler.

“I recognized the vaguely unfamiliar song as something I hadn’t seen before, and after a few seconds was able to locate the bird in the tree across the street,” Hurtado said in an email.

Kirtland’s Warbler is a bird so rare that a naturalist at Blendon Woods Metro Parks, Bruce Simpson, said it has never been identified in Columbus. Simpson has been bird watching in Ohio since 1974.

Hurtado has not been bird watching for as long as Simpson, but had enough of a trained ear to recognize and identify Kirtland’s Warbler from his location on Kinnear Road.

“I’ve been paying attention to (birds) since high school,” Hurtado said in an email. “Well over a decade.”

Simpson said there are about 1800 known pairs of Kirtland’s Warblers, and their natural home is in Northern Michigan. Hurtado said Kirtland’s Warblers are in the process of migration through Ohio right now, and he has been practicing identifying different species by listening to recordings of the birds.

“I’ve recently been listening to audio recordings to make sure I recognized different warbler songs,” Hurtado said in an email. “That little bit of homework likely played a role in drawing my attention to the bird when I first heard it singing.”

Simpson said it was the first time he had ever seen Kirtland’s Warbler in Ohio, and of the other photographers, bird watchers and spectators gathered on Kinnear to see the bird, none had seen it in Ohio before. Hurtado explained why there would be one in Ohio now.

“The bad weather often grounds migrating birds in unusual places, so they often end up concentrated in little patches of good habitat. It appears there were a few such migrants along Kinnear this morning, and in the neighborhood south of Kinnear,” Hurtado said in an email. “Including the Kirtland’s Warbler.”

Hurtado said this was not the most interesting bird he has ever identified.

“Easily in the top three.”


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