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Photo By Shane Wynn
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Photo By Shane Wynn
It all began on March 15, 1957, and now it’s become an annual tradition..
Every year, the residents of Hinckley, Ohio gather to catch a glimpse of the first buzzard of the season.
A buzzard—or simply, a turkey vulture — makes its return to Hinckley every year on March 15. Around 7 a.m., area residents and bird lovers crowd around while the Official Buzzard Spotter strains to spy the first one.
Last year, Bob Hinkle retired as Hinckley’s Official Buzzard Spotter, and Sharon Hosko has taken his place for this year’s event.
Hosko has been interested in buzzards since 1996, when she became the manager of the Brecksville Nature Center, part of the Cleveland Metroparks’ Brecksville Reservation. Hosko’s center was responsible for Hinckley Reservation’s Buzzard Day and Buzzard Sunday, a family-friendly event that includes hikes, tours, educational presentations, live music and other activities. This year, Buzzard Sunday falls on March 17.
How long have you been bird watching?
SH: I became interested in birding when I was a biology student at Baldwin-Wallace College back in the early 1980s. I took an ecology field studies course with Dr. John Miller to Everglades National Park in south Florida and fell in love with birding and that area of the United States.
What makes buzzard spotting so fun for you?
SH: I love the people that this event attracts. They’re great! Folks come dressed in their buzzard attire year after year. There’s something special about witnessing the first official sighting of the buzzards back to Hinckley Reservation in Cleveland Metroparks. It’s an official sign of spring!
What duties do you have as a buzzard spotter?
SH: My main task at Buzzard Day is to spot the first turkey vulture that flies overhead and yell, “BUZZARD!”
Bob Hinkle spent 30 years as the Cleveland Metroparks’ Chief Naturalist and served for 16 years as Official Buzzard Spotter. Do you feel that you’re qualified for this well-respected role?
SH: It was an honor to be asked to take over such a position. I’ve been at Buzzard Day with Bob for the past 15 years or so, and he was a fabulous Official Buzzard Spotter role model. I hope I can carry on the tradition as well as he did.
Is there any special equipment you use while buzzard spotting? SH: The key piece of equipment is a pair of binoculars. They give you the ability to get a closer look at the birds flying in the distance so you can identify them correctly.
How are you going to prepare yourself for the big day?
SH: Get a good night’s sleep, make sure my binocular lenses are clean and hope for nice weather. Last year there was a strong thunderstorm right at 7 a.m. on March 15. Thank goodness it didn’t scare the buzzards away!
What has been your favorite moment while buzzard spotting?
SH: Helping someone spot their first buzzard. Some folks who come by have no idea what a buzzard is or have never seen one before. Helping them to see that first one is always a thrill.
Do you know any fun birdcalls?
SH: My best bird call imitation would be the barred owl. This call sounds like the bird is saying, “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all.” I used to practice the call driving back and forth to work when I first started working at Brecksville Nature Center. Stop by Brecksville Nature Center, and I’d be happy to do the call for you.
What do your family and friends think of your unique career?
SH: I think many of them are envious because I have a job that I love. I’m sure they’ll all be watching and listening to the local TV and radio stations for the first official spotting of the buzzards back to Hinckley Reservation on March 15th.
In my spare time, you’ll find me …
SH: Hiking in Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada, birding in Florida or cruising somewhere with my niece, Susan, and nephew, Ben, on a Royal Caribbean ship.
/ Writer Katelyn Murphy is a senior at KSU working on her bachelor’s in magazine journalism.
E-mail them to editor Abby Cymerman at firstname.lastname@example.org.