The Columbus Zoo, puzzles, and more

Bird-watching, Nesting Edition

The bald eagle is a hallmark of conservation, rebounding from the endangered list to become a common sight in nearly every state, including at spring nesting sites around Central Ohio. Eagles have nested since 2010 off of the Overlook Trail at Highbanks Metro Park, while another mating pair established a nest close to Madison Christian Church near Three Creeks Metro Park. But the best eagle-watching spot may be of a new nest, constructed and occupied this winter, near 1006 Dublin Road. The best views occur before trees leaf.

Downtown in Suburbia

Whether it's the threat of vulturous tow trucks or the thought of standstill traffic, Downtown Columbus isn't for everyone. However, “urban-style” living is in vogue, and the Bridge Street District in Dublin is attempting to bring center-city amenities to suburbanites in the form of high-density residential living within walking distance of swanky restaurants, hotels and shops. Or, as a commenter on the development's Facebook page put it, “With the rate they're going, no one in greater Northern Columbus will ever have to go Downtown again!”

Zoo Without Animals

Imagine the sounds of the Columbus Zoo. Now imagine those sounds all screeching from a filing cabinet. Welcome to the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics, one of the oldest and most extensive catalogs of animal sounds in the world. The Ohio State University lab began in 1948 when Donald J. Borror, a professor of entomology and zoology, started collecting animal sounds for research. It now stores more than 40,000 recordings of over 1,000 different species, ranging from elephants to spiders.

Fowl Photo Op

On May 25, the Ohio Democratic Party inflated a 15-foot-tall yellow duckling on the Statehouse lawn, which became the centerpiece of a press conference demanding that Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine stop “ducking” questions about the Ohio House speakership battle. Afterward, families and children could be seen wandering by and using the prop for their own photo ops. It's unclear whether these passersby understood the ducky's deep political import.

Footwork

In April, an older man came out of the Hilltop library as cops chased a young gunman toward the entrance. The grandpa—identified by the police only as “Bill”—quickly assessed the situation, shuffled backward and stuck out his right leg behind him, using his cane for balance. The gunman tripped and fell, the gun skittered away, and the police made the arrest. The cops, who nearly shot the gunman, later credited Bill with likely saving the young man's life.

Use of Public Funding

We're constantly entertained by Ohio State University's frequent media releases touting the results of the latest research projects. Here are some recent headlines: “Why both bigots and egalitarians say ‘they don't see race'”; “Reliance on ‘gut feelings' linked to belief in fake news”; “Perpetrators of genocide say they're ‘good people'”; “Dads are often having fun while moms work around the house”; “Why are some mushrooms ‘magic'?” and “Narcissists don't hunt for partners who are already taken—but it doesn't stop them.”

Puzzle Guru

When Ben Hunt was growing up in Africa, he didn't have access to electronic games. What he did have: puzzles. He'd put them together and take them apart over and over. Now living in Columbus, Hunt has a collection of more than 1,500, all Springbok brand, some of which he can assemble in less than an hour. His most difficult puzzle? Flat Banana, a 500-piecer that's all yellow, with a red Dole label in the upper left corner.

Four-legged Instagrammer

Proud dog owners often give their pets Instagram accounts, and Columbus has its share of canine influencers—@MapletheBernerBear, a Bernese mountain dog with 7,999 followers, posts throwback puppy photos every #MiniMapleMonday. People follow Maple because she's so “floofy,” says owner Julie Rojno. Hot on Maple's heels is @OpieTheDood, a mini goldendoodle with 7,634 followers and an affinity for monogrammed bibs. Opie's posts appear on #TongueOutTuesday. But for serious reach, check out @hunters_adventures. With 76K followers, this chocolate lab is a bone-a-fide celebrity.

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Faceoff: Statuesque Selfie Partner

It's become a pop culture ritual—see a celeb, snap a selfie. In Columbus, we have two huge icons always ready to accommodate: Brutus and Arnold Schwarzenegger, in statue form. Who's the bigger get?

Brutus

Origins: In 2007, Ohio State began the Brutus on Parade program, which raised money for the renovation of the William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library by seeking donors to sponsor Brutus statues decorated by local artists.

Number of statues: Forty fiberglass statues were created initially, then another 10 subsequently, says Cathy Montalto, a faculty member of Ohio Staters Inc., a service group for students, faculty and staff.

Locations: Most statues remain in the campus area, and the Staters created a map of the 34 in public spaces, which is available on their website—u.osu.edu/ohiostaters.

Size: Each Brutus stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 150 pounds, plus a 2,000-pound concrete base.

Nicknames: The Brutuses (Bruti?) have nicknames based on artistic themes and placements. The most popular for selfies is probably Dot the “I” Brutus outside College Traditions on Lane Avenue, says Anne Montalto, Cathy's daughter and a student member of Staters.

Arnold

Origins: Arnold Schwarzenegger commissioned Oregon sculptor Timothy Parks to create statues of himself at his bodybuilding peak. The statues are based on a 22-inch model created in 1980 that also serves as the basis for the trophies given to the winners of the annual Arnold Classic bodybuilding competition. In 2012, one of Parks' larger-than-life statues was donated to the old Veterans Memorial on behalf of the International Sports Hall of Fame, which inducted Schwarzenegger into its inaugural class at the 24th annual Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus.

Number of statues: Two bronze likenesses

Locations: The other statue was sent to Schwarzenegger's childhood home in Austria, which has been converted into a museum. The one at the old Vets Memorial was moved in 2014 to the Greater Columbus Convention Center, where it flexes today.

Size: 8 feet tall and 600 pounds

Nicknames: The Austrian Oak, Arnie, The Governator, Ahhhnold

Walls of Fame

Tommy's Diner has been serving customers in Franklinton since 1989, but it has the feel of a joint that's been around much longer. The motley décor adorning the walls and squeezed into every nook lends it an air of timelessness. Over the years, owner Tommy Pappas has accumulated street signs, license plates, posters, diner-style memorabilia, art, news clippings, plaques and row after row of photos of all the notable people who have visited.

This painting was created by Jared Coffin, a graduate of Columbus College of Art & Design. It depicts Pappas and his wife, Kathy, in their diner surrounded by stars—Marlon Brando, Natalie Wood, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.

Among the other keepsakes: a sweater from the 1965 Central High School Pirates cheerleading squad, a 1921 class photo from West High School and a flag dedicated to Tommy's from a service member in Iraq.

This photo of Elvis was signed by one of the musicians in his band. Pappas says he periodically switches out many of the pictures with others from his stash; many feature local politicians, from Rep. Steve Stivers to former City Auditor Hugh Dorrian, who ate there four to five times a week before retiring.