As birders, we all have our "spark bird”. Each one of us does.   A spark bird is that first bird you really connected with, or t...

It Took a Spark to Make it Dark


As birders, we all have our "spark bird”. Each one of us does. 

A spark bird is that first bird you really connected with, or the first bird that you really noticed as super cool or interesting or beautiful... A spark bird is the bird that got you started. It’s personal; it’s yours. This isn’t about my spark bird, though. It is about a bird that sparked a movement - Lights Out Cleveland

A Spark to Make it Dark
by Tim Jasinski

In the late winter, when we all are hoping the snow will stop and melt away, a chunky little sandpiper is starting to arrive In Ohio. Sometimes you can even witness them doing their incredible mating display where they fly way up in the air and then zoom back down to the ground to the same spot where they took off from, making a really neat twittering sound, in the snow. This is to show off for the females. It's such and incredible thing to see! If you haven't done this, plan to do it this spring!
American Woodcock; Photo by Alex Eberts
American Woodcocks are such an amazing little bird. Everything about them, They are perfectly camouflaged to blend in to the leaf litter of the moist wooded wetlands they spend the majority of their time. They use their pliable soft bills to probe the mud in search of earthworms. And because of the way they have evolved to eat, their big dark eyes are set farther back on their head to keep an eye our for predators. This worked for thousands and thousands of years, but now, not so much.
We can prevent this!
Many birds migrate at night and in the past they have followed the star maps to navigate. How cool is that! But urban sprawl has caused these birds horrid problems on their treks north or south. The lights of the buildings in our cities illuminate the sky, covering that star map. When this happens the birds get disoriented and come down into the city. Once this happens they are attracted to the white lights from each window and collide into them, like moths on your front porch. Birds are much heavier and they can't take the impact. They hit and often fall from very high up to the concrete ground below. Most sustain blunt-forced trauma to the head and die. Or they die on the ground, unable to eat or avoid predators.

This is what Lights Out Cleveland is all about. 

As many of you know, I am a Wildlife Rehabilitation Specialist at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center (LENSC). Wildlife rehab has been a passion of mine since I was about 7 years old and I have been involved with it ever since.

Each year LENSC admits about 1,400 wild animals - from Ruby-throated Hummingbirds to American White Pelicans. We admit mostly birds, but do a fair share of mammals, also. Well, last year was an eye opener. In a BIG way.

Last spring we admitted EIGHTEEN American Woodcocks from Downtown Cleveland. They all had hit windows. Every one of them. After seeing all of these woodcocks come in, I had to do something. I went to Andy Jones with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and said, “Cleveland needs to do something. How can we stop this?” It's easy, turn out the lights. That's it. It's that simple. Turn em off and the birds can keep going. Harvey Webster from CMNH tried to get this going many, many years ago but it never took off. Well, I am too passionate about this to let this fizzle out. I said we're doing this!!
It's easy to prevent, just turn out the lights!
This spring we did a trial run. To me, it wasn't a trial, it was a quest. A quest to get my feet on the ground and SAVE BIRDS with the help of many dedicated friends, volunteers, and colleagues. We would arrive downtown at 5:00 AM and walk everywhere - circling buildings three, four, or even five times - picking up injured and dead birds each pass. We walked many miles each day; 10 miles on average. (One day I logged 35,654 steps. Yup, you read that right - about 19 miles.) We'd walk until 8:30 AM, and then head to the rehab center to try to save the birds. 

And we did! In a big way! I am unsure of the total numbers as of yet, but we captured 108 stunned and injured birds - we released NIGHTY FIVE. Wow!! 95 birds got a second chance because of our efforts.
Second Chances
Unfortunately, a greater number were found dead. An estimate three hundred birds ended their journey on the sidewalks of Cleveland. One, an adult female Golden-winged Warbler. Another, a female Mourning Warbler. All of the species that birders want to see - but not this way.

What can you do to help? Glad you asked!

Our goal is to get building owners to shut off their lights during peak migration - March 15th through June 1st, and again during from August 15th through November 1st - from midnight until 6:00 AM. It's an easy fix.

We will take all of our data that we collect and present it to the building owners and show them what’s happening. Hopefully they will see what a HUGE problem this is and shut off their lights to help these amazing birds that we all love make a safe journey.

We need your help. We need volunteers to help in any way they can, especially going downtown with us and rescuing birds. There are many ways that you can contribute to this cause. We will be having a training session at my work, Lake Erie Nature & Science Center, on Tuesday July 25th, at 6:00 PM. Please come down and find out what you can do to help!

If you are interested in volunteering or would like more information, please email me, Tim Jasinski, at, or visit the event page on Facebook

We thank you in advance, and so do the birds!!

Tim J.

You may also like

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.