Where We Are Birding – November

Where We Are Birding – November

Each month, our OOS Regional Directors are sharing their favorite birding hotspots in their respective regions – and beyond. These include some well-know destinations, specialty spots for specific species, and their own secret, treasured local patches. Have a favorite birding location? Reach out to your OOS Regional Director and let them know!

Amy Downing – Northwest Regional Director

Maple Grove Cemetery – Hancock County

My birding focus until the weather turns nasty is hiking, but there are a few spots I hit on for specialties in Hancock County, and one is cemeteries like historic Maple Grove in Findlay. Because it is totally drivable and quiet with large old trees, it’s perfect in both good and bad weather.  I’ve had Oregon-type Juncos and wintering Merlin most years, and since it is full of Sweet Gum, Larch, and large Pines I have been hoping for special northern visitors like Evening Grosbeak, Common Redpoll, and Pine Siskin.  This is totally accessible birding, and most like most cemeteries welcome all respectful visitors including birds!

Kandace Glanville – Central Regional Director

Hoover Reservoir – Delaware County

Hoover Reservoir and Hoover Dam Park in Franklin and Delaware counties are a great place to check in the fall and winter for ducks, gulls, and other water bird rarities. Having a scope is highly beneficial, as the reservoir is pretty large and there’s often rafts of ducks pretty far out. In November 2018, a rare Black-legged Kittiwake was found here by David O’Ryan Donahue. All 3 Scoter species, in addition to some other uncommon ducks as well as uncommon gulls are regularly found here.

The top walkway of the reservoir dam is flat, paved, and easy to navigate, though as far as I know, the top dam walkway is closed for construction until 2022. It’s also possible to see some of the reservoir from your car in the parking lot! There’s multiple parking lots along the reservoir, allowing for many viewpoints. From my experience as a young woman birding here, I’ve always felt very safe at this hotspot.

Diana Steele – Northeast Regional Director

Margaret Peak Nature Preserve – Lorain County

For November 2020, short-eared owls and Northern harriers have been the highlights. The owls appeared there for the first time ever on November 3, and birders have gathered at dusk every evening to watch the acrobatic show. A mown path leads from the parking lot to a packed gravel walkway through the field heading back to the ponds and a small woods. Several observation mounds and benches dot the property. During migration, many species of warblers and waterfowl visit the preserve, but the real highlights may be the breeding grassland species: grasshopper and vesper sparrows, dickcissels, and bobolinks. Vagrant rarities are always a possibility: Smith’s longspur, black-bellied whistling duck, and clay-colored sparrow have all dropped in, for a total of 202 species.

Jon Cefus – East Central Regional Director

Lake Cable (and others) – Stark County

This month, I will be searching for waterfowl. In the east central area of Ohio, there are many lakes and reservoirs, and therefore many options to choose from. Stark County has several natural lakes including Lake Cable and Sippo Lake. Over the years, Lake Cable has produced a nice variety of diving ducks including all 3 species of Scoters, and Red-throated Loons. In Wayne County, finding diving ducks is more difficult, however areas like Killbuck Marsh and Funk Bottoms Wildlife Area offer fantastic habitat for dabblers, including rare species such as Cinnamon Teal in 2018. I’ll also be keeping my eyes and ears on the sky, as we are into peak migration of Tundra Swans. Learning their flight call can payoff as a flock approaches an area to land or passes over your head on their journey southward. Seneca Lake, which touches Guernsey and Noble Counties (a Southeast Regional County), has held some remarkable numbers of waterfowl historically, including massive flocks of Loons, at times numbering into the hundreds of individuals. 

Tyler Ficker – Southwest Regional Director

Highland Stone Quarry ​ – Highland County

Highland Stone Quarry in Highland County boasts some great waterfowl numbers this time of year. With as many ducks and geese that stay there, you never know what might be mixed in!

Melissa Wales – Southeast Regional Director

Lake Snowden – Athens County

Lake Snowden in Athens County remains a late fall SE Ohio hotspot, especially for migrating waterfowl including American Coot, Northern Shoveler, Common Loon, Ruddy Duck, and Grebes (Pied-billed and Horned). The bushes around the fish ponds have been very good for sparrows including White-crowned and Vesper, and also Wilson’s Snipe.

Strouds Run State Park has an accessible gravel trail named Blackhaw just off the last parking lot on the right before you turn into the main entrance off Strouds Run Road. It winds along the lake with some large pines that have been good for Red-breasted Nuthatch. There’s a nice little deck area from which you can look for herons and Belted Kingfisher.  Following the length of the trail about a half mile to where it ends at the next parking lot will give you a chance at  Brown Creepers, Kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Hermit Thrush.

A One-Day Fall Birding Getaway to Fairport Harbor

A One-Day Fall Birding Getaway to Fairport Harbor

Begin the day at Painesville Township Park as close to first light as possible. If the weather is uncooperative, park just to the left of the stairs for a good view of Lake Erie from inside your vehicle. Depending on the day and the wind, you could see all sorts of waterfowl streaming by including some rare treats. Check flocks of mergansers for an eider among them, have your camera ready for a flight shot of a jaeger, and be on the lookout for Brant. Morning flights of passerines can also be observed at this lakeside location with flocks of Snow Buntings, Horned Larks, Evening Grosbeaks and other winter finches flying along the lakeshore. The lucky lake watcher might even see a Cave Swallow! As you drive through the park to leave, pay close attention to the geese in the baseball fields in case there are other species with them.

Tundra Swans, Canada Geese, and Cackling Goose (Sarah Preston) at Painesville Township Park

Drive into downtown Fairport Harbor via Fairport Nursery Road. There are several pull-offs along the roadway. Small flocks of Horned Lark, Snow Buntings, and Lapland Longspur congregate in the gravel on the side of the road. Flushed by cars, they’ll fly into the grass or perch on the green chain-link fence. Snowy Owls are known to perch on the telephone poles here but also appear on the grassy hillsides. A pair of Common Ravens recently made Lake County their home and the unkindness, now totaling five, often flies around above this grassland area.

Snowy Owl (Caitlin Ambrose) and Common Raven (Sarah Preston) along Fairport Nursery Road

Warm up with a coffee and a bite of breakfast. Saturday brunch at Fairport Harbor Creamery starts at 9am offering made-from-scratch pastries like cinnamon rolls and maple sausage and cheddar brioches at the walk-up window or you can order ahead online. If it’s Sunday, go to Glazed Fairport as early as 8am for whimsically named donuts or a breakfast sammy served on a donut or biscuit.

Head toward Lake Erie on East Street to Sunset Harbor, scanning the small marina for grebes as you drive by. Park between the large blue HTP building and the harbor, another location where you can bird from within a vehicle. Inspect the Bonaparte’s Gulls for the sought-after Sabine’s, Little, and Black-headed Gulls. The small cove to the east is known to locals as Mew Gull Cove because one was found there in 1998. Survey the open area to the east for Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, and Rough-legged Hawks.

Merlin and Red-throated Loon (Sarah Preston) fly by Sunset Harbor

Go back up the hill for lunch at the Fairport Family Restaurant serving homemade soups and sandwiches such as clam chowder and beer battered fish sandwich plus a variety of specials. If it’s warm, there’s dining available on the front porch.

Take High Street down the hill to Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park. In the off-season, there is no fee to park in the main parking lot for the beach. Drive to the far eastern end to scope for ducks and grebes in the harbor.

Surf Scoters and Glaucous Gull (Sarah Preston) in Fairport Harbor

Drive back to west end of the parking lot where you will find a picnic shelter that is the perfect place from which to scope if it’s raining or snowing. The main restrooms are closed except during summer, but a porta-potty is available in the parking lot. Check the beach for shorebirds and Snow Buntings.

Beach and Boardwalk  /  Fishing Pier and Lighthouse

Drive back uphill toward town and take the first two rights to return to the harbor, arriving at the Fairport Harbor Pier and Boat Ramp. If the stop sign is out, park along the left side of road before it so you don’t have to pay to park in the boat ramp parking lot. The rocky shore along the walkway to the pier is where Purple Sandpiper have been found. Iceland and Glaucous Gulls hide among the myriad Ring-Billed and Herring Gulls. Scope the break walls for Snowy Owls, looking for an open spot with no gulls. Don’t leave without looking up-river for Long-tailed or Harlequin Ducks. Snow Buntings, Lapland Longspurs, and Horned Larks can be camouflaged in the flat, gravel area behind the large block wall.

Purple Sandpiper (Gustino Lanese) and Harlequin Duck (Sarah Preston) near the Fairport Harbor Pier

Iceland Gull (Jim Smallwood) and Snow Buntings (Sarah Preston) at Fairport Harbor Pier

Before dusk drive back over to Fairport Nursery Road. Birders have permission to bird from the deck of the trailer on the south side of the road during non-business hours as long as they don’t enter the actual property. Search both the north and south sides of 535 for hunting Short-eared Owls that begin to appear just before sunset. It is not unusual to see multiple owls at once.

Short-eared Owls and Lapland Longspur (Sarah Preston) Fairport Nursery Road

Celebrate the day by splurging on dinner at The Pompadour, a local gem known for its bar and tapas. The space is cozy, so reservations are highly recommended for dine-in. They also accept a limited number of nightly call-in carry-out orders. Commemorate the lifers of the day with a specialty cocktail such as The Big Bad Apple or sip on a pour from their sizable selection of bourbon and other whiskeys. If you enjoy more than just seeing waterfowl, order the Duck Pastrami Sliders or if vegetarian is more your style, try the Chanterelle Mushroom Pappardelle.

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