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.
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.