Birding at Vinton Furnace Experimental ForestMcArthur, Ohio
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Vinton Furnace Experimental Forest
Township Hwy 6, McArthur, OH 45651
DeLorme Page Number and Coordinates
(7th Edition and earlier) 79: C6-7
Nearest Town or City
Directions from Nearest Town or City
Vinton Furnace Experimental Forest (VFEF) is several thousand acres of contiguous forest in one of the most remote and least populated parts of Ohio. A number of unmarked – and unmapped – gravel roads bisect the area. It is owned by MeadWestvaco Corporation, and imbedded within the forest is a 1,200-acre research area known as Raccoon Ecological Management Area, which is run by the USDA Forest Service. To access the forest from McArthur (county seat of Vinton County), take State Route 93 south to Dundas and State Route 324. A short distance to the south on State Route 324 – still in Dundas – take Township Road 6 east. This route leads into the forest and its web of forest roads. The forest is roughly bounded by County Road 24 on the west, State Routes 324 and 160 on the south, Township Road 8 on the east, and Township Road 7 on the north.
About Vinton Furnace Experimental Forest
VFEF is several thousand acres of contiguous forest in various stages of succession. It is owned by a timber company, and consequently is managed for timber production, so a visitor can expect to see all classes of forest, from new clearcuts to mature stands. Much of the woodland is characterized by upland oak-hickory associations, but more mesic forest types occur on lower slopes and along stream bottoms. The site is quite undeveloped and remote, and there really are no formal hiking trails. However, access is easy due to the gravel forest roads, and due to the lack of traffic, birding is quite easy and enjoyable along the roads. Good maps that depict these roads are hard to find, though; the best bet might be to obtain the most recent map of the county from the Vinton County Engineer’s Office.
Vinton County is one of Ohio’s least populous and least developed counties. The largest village is McArthur. There are only about 13,000 people living in the county. So, it’s best to take food and water into the forest, as there are no nearby convenient fast food places or restaurants. Dundas has a small general store, and there a few stores and small restaurants in McArthur.
Open all year during daylight hours.
Because of the very sparse traffic, parking along roadsides within the forest should be no problem.
No amenities, probably the closest facilities are in McArthur.
Harmful Insects, Poisonous Plants, or Animals
There are Copperheads (one of Ohio’s three poisonous snakes), and they are not rare. However, Copperheads are secretive, and not easy to find. Use common sense by not blindly reaching under fallen timber or into rock piles, that sort of thing. As in virtually any Ohio woodland, Poison-ivy is locally plentiful.
Restaurants in the Area
McArthur has one or two small restaurants and some general/convenience stores. There is a small store in Dundas on State Route 324, where it joins Township Road 6.
Other Birding Spots in the Area
Hocking State Forest and Hocking Hills region, Lake Hope State Park, Zaleski State Forest.
Birds of Interest by Season
The area gets few birders in the winter, so bird life at this season is not well known. However, most of the normal winter residents of forested habitats would be expected, and winter would be a good time to observe Pileated Woodpeckers, which are common. Also, some of the half-hardy species should be south, like Eastern Phoebe and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. With a bit of searching, Hermit Thrushes should be located. A good tip for finding those is to “pish” in the vicinity of sumac trees in brushy areas; this thrush is fond of the sumac’s fruit, which persists well into winter. Also, this is one of Ohio’s best areas for Ruffed Grouse and Wild Turkey, and they are often easier to find in the winter after a snowfall.
As Vinton County is southerly, this would be a good place to get a start on the early spring arrivals, such as Pine Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, and other early returnees. As in any large Ohio forest, the spring migration of returning neotropical migrants can be fantastic, but because the forest is so large and relatively unbroken, it may take a bit of luck to find concentrations of birds.
Just about all of the forest birds that breed in southern Ohio can be expected here, and many of them will be found in good numbers. Because of the broad range of forest types and successional conditions, many interesting species can be located. The scruffy clearcuts harbor Prairie Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Blue-winged Warbler, and other early successional species. Blue Grosbeaks, while not common, might occur anywhere that suitable open habitats are found. This is also an easy place to find Summer Tanager; they occur along dry oak-hickory ridges, but knowing the song will greatly increase the chance of detection. Broad-winged and Sharp-shinned hawks – our true forest hawks – should also be watched for, as they are relatively common breeders in the area.
Like spring, fall migration of passerines can be quite good. Also, be alert for migrating raptors taking advantage of the thermals created by the rough ridge and valley topography.