Where We Are Birding – February

Where We Are Birding – February

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

Findlay Water Pollution Treatment Center – Hancock County

Mid-winter means much more car birding for me, especially when temps drop below 10 degrees and most lakes and streams are frozen! One of my favorite roadside stops is along the Blanchard River at a “hot water” area outside of Findlay Water Pollution Treatment Center where a variety of waterfowl gather.

Regulars are Mallards and Canada Geese, but as other water sources are lost to ice we’re very likely to get all the strays from around county including Pied-billed Grebe, Redheads, Northern Pintail, Gadwall and sometimes hundreds of Mergansers. On the larger side Greater White-fronted and Snow Geese as well as an occasional swan may join the ranks. Be sure to drive the 2 mile stretch of road for winter songbirds, Horned Larks, Lapland Longspurs, and Snow Buntings to warm up a frigid day!

Melissa Wales – Southeast Regional Director

The Ridges ​- Athens County

Owned by Ohio University, The Ridges is the name given to the 700-acre complex that is the site of the former Athens Lunatic Asylum and its grounds, and the number 3 eBird hotspot for Athens County. Currently, the beautiful Kirkbride building is home to the Kennedy Art Museum and administrative offices. The grounds hold historic cemeteries, an observatory, an active land lab, woodlots, ravines, and regularly mowed fields.

The trail to Radar Hill is a gently sloping gravel road up through these fields that can be accessed from a parking lot off of Dairy Lane. I am always eager to head here starting mid-February at dusk to listen for the iconic peent calls and watch for the spectacular display flight of the American Woodcock. It’s one of my very favorite first signs of spring! During last year’s Great Backyard Bird Count, I was thrilled to have four Sandhill Cranes flyover ahead while enjoying the Woodcocks.

Diana Steele – Northeast Regional Director

Lorain Harbor-Fishing Pier – Lorain County

The lakefront in the city of Lorain is rife with great birding spots. In midwinter, one fantastic location is the fishing pier. Completely accessible by car, it’s one place you can park during a midwinter storm and wait for the rarities to come to you on the wind. You don’t need a storm for an excuse to visit; but you might need a guide or a good set of directions.

For Google Maps, use “Hot waters fishing pier.” From the light at Rt. 6 and Oberlin Avenue, head north toward the lake. Where Oberlin Ave. takes a right turn, keep going straight, down the hill passing the Lorain Water Department on your right. This one-way lane leads to a boat ramp known as “Hot Waters” after the warm-water discharge of a former power plant. Keep the building on your right as you loop around it. You’ll now be heading away from the lake and toward the exit. Near a sign that says “Do Not Stop,” turn left through a gap in the chain-link fence. Keep going, slowly, and you’ll see two wide concrete piers extending out into the lake—birders usually favor the northern pier. You’ll know you are in the right place if it feels like your car could be swallowed by potholes. You can drive on the pier and observe birds in the water, on the breakwall, on the pier, and atop nearby buildings. A recent visit turned up a large flock of Lapland longspurs with snow buntings and horned larks feeding on cracked corn on the pier. A peregrine falcon swooped through, hunting the smaller birds. Out on the lake, waterfowl congregate in open water.

Accessible for birding from the car. No facilities in winter.

Jon Cefus – East Central Regional Director

Crazy Rd – Reclaimed Grasslands Near Cadiz – Harrison County

This month, you will find me birding in one of Ohio’s most reliable areas to find Ravens and, from what I have been told, the home of the oldest continuously run Christmas Bird Count in the United States (the Cadiz CBC). The county is Harrison and it is one of our best places to see winter raptors, which are my February targets. The reclaimed mining lands along SR 519 and SR 9 outside of Cadiz offer grassland habitat that birds like Rough-legged Hawk, Northern Harrier, and Short-eared Owl can be found hunting for small mammals. While you are looking for these birds, keep your eyes and ears open for Ravens, which frequent these areas year round, but are more vocal and prone to pre-nesting courtship behaviors you will not experience once they have eggs in a nest. For more information on birding the reclaimed grasslands near Cadiz in Harrison County, check out the Birding in Ohio website.

Tyler Ficker – Southwest Regional Director

Fernald Nature Preserve ​ – Hamilton County

February in Southwest Ohio may be a bit of a slow time for most places. Fernald Nature Preserve in Hamilton County doesn’t slow down though! The diversity and abundance of waterfowl species on the various ponds of this park never cease to amaze me!

Where We Are Birding – December

Where We Are Birding – December

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

Quarry Farm Nature Preserve and Conservation Farm – Putnam County

This Putnam County area near Cranberry Creek flowing into larger Riley Creek was dredged and straightened in the 1950s to alleviate flooding in the area, but since then family and friends have worked hard on restoring the stream’s riparian corridor, the floodplain, and woodland maintained it as a retreat and nature preserve. With this habitat restoration it follows that good birds are found in the woods along Cranberry Creek, deep in the prairies, nearby abandoned quarries, and even in the barnyard of rescued farm animals.

I’ve also experienced creek walking mid summer for dragonflies, damselflies, and butterflies while listening to feeding songbirds. This is a wonderful hours long hike in a small preserve boasting 128 species of birds, but be sure to call ahead to let the owners/friends schedule your private time to visit. Be prepared for rough terrain, slippery rock and wet, wooden walkways, tall grasses requiring bug spray, and friendly hosts showing off the historic cabin and farm animals in the more accessible areas.

Kandace Glanville – Central Regional Director

Buckeye Lake State Park – Licking County

Buckeye Lake State Park in Licking county is a great body of water in central Ohio to check in the winter for ducks, geese, gulls, and any rarities that may have snuck in. There are various vantage points around the lake which you can drive up to, making full access pretty easy.

Diana Steele – Northeast Regional Director

Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve – Cuyahoga County

The 88-acre Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve is one of the top hotspots for Lake Erie birding in December. Once a sunken barge, then a site for dumping river-bottom dredge sludge, the urban wildlife haven grew up as a land where none existed before.

Expect to find abundant waterfowl species and gulls out on the lake, always with a chance of a rarity. In the diverse mix of habitats inland, winter visitors like finches, siskins, juncos, red-breasted nuthatches, and white-throated sparrows flit among the young trees. In the dense pines, Northern Saw-whet Owls are fairly regular winter visitors.

Parking & restrooms are available. Walking is flat but not wheelchair accessible. Great views of downtown Cleveland from the west side overlook.

Jon Cefus – East Central Regional Director

Seneca Lake – Guernsey/Noble County

This month I will be birding the area around Seneca Lake. Seneca Lake touches Guernsey and Noble Counties, so it spans counties in both the East-Central and Southeast OOS areas. Seneca Lake has been one of the most productive inland lakes in this part of Ohio for producing diving ducks, including massive rafts of Loons. When birding the Seneca area, be sure to check out Hatchery Road, which runs along the outflow from the Seneca dam. These hatchery ponds often hold dabbling and diving ducks, and the drained ponds sometimes might hold a lingering shorebird in the winter months. Be sure to check the Birding In Ohio eBird hotspot page to get details on how to bird Seneca Lake. Happy birding!

Tyler Ficker – Southwest Regional Director

Cowen Lake State Park ​ – Clinton County

Cowan Lake SP in Clinton County has diverse habitat around the reservoir that is home to many of our wintering species. What I notice the most is the number of woodpeckers present! All of Ohio’s woodpeckers can be found easily there along with the waterfowl on the lake!

Melissa Wales – Southeast Regional Director

Infirmary Road (CR 14) – Vinton County

Vinton County’s Infirmary Road (CR 14) is about 3 miles northeast of MacArthur, between Highways 93 and 677. It is a hauntingly beautiful stretch of lonely gravel road through grazing fields on a high sloping ridge of what appears to be former strip mine land. There is little traffic and pull offs at field gates where you can safely park and bird. Which I did recently when I learned from former OOS Board Member Alex Eberts that Short-eared Owls were present in late November.

I went a couple of times in the past week and observed upwards of five Short-eared Owls hunting the pasture land and occasionally barking at one another. I always marvel at their beauty – shades of warm brown, tan, yellow, and white and their graceful, low flight pattern over the fields. Northern Harriers were also present with their similar butterfly-like flight style.

I was informed by a local birder that you might also find grassland species there in other seasons, including Horned Lark, Grasshopper Sparrow, Bobolink, and Dickcissel. Keep birding!

A Very Special Moment in Summit County

A Very Special Moment in Summit County

On Tuesday, August 25th, a report came in on Ohio Chase Birds about a Brown Booby at Nimisila Reservoir in Summit County, Ohio. The bird was found by Henry Trimpe and hundreds of birders have since gone to see this bird over the past few days. Chris Collins, of the Rogue Birders and OOS Board Member, was curious about Henry’s story of finding the bird so he reached out to Henry to see if he would be willing to share his story here. Reprinted here from the Rogue Birders blog. Enjoy!

A Very Special Moment in Summit County

by Henry Trimpe

Arguably my favorite part of being a birder is that every time you walk outside your door, you never know what you will find. Often times, you can put yourself in a good position to find certain birds by knowing where to look, when to look, and most importantly, what to look for. However, there is also at least some element of chance to every birding adventure. For many of us, just that chance of seeing something new, something uncommon, or even something that doesn’t belong within a thousand miles is what excites us every time we pick up our binoculars.

On Tuesday August 25th, I was thrilled to be heading down to Nimisila Reservoir to watch the evening congregation of 30,000+ Purple Martins. Despite the fact that the Martins have used Nimisila as a staging ground for years on their way south, I had never witnessed the spectacle. I fully expected to be blown away by the mass gathering of Martins, but had no idea that what seemed like an innocent late summer evening would turn into one of the most memorable birding days of my life.

As soon as we arrived near the water in parking lot C6 at Nimisila, the first birds we saw were a pair of Ospreys on a nearby snag. At 7 PM, there was not yet a single Purple Martin in sight. As many reading this would, the only logical action was to scan the lake to see what I could find.

The very first bird I got my binoculars on in flight immediately struck me as out of the ordinary. It appeared dark in color, but I was looking almost directly into the sun and the lighting was far from ideal. At first glance, going by only size and shape alone, my first thought was Caspian Tern. After watching the bird for about 20-30 seconds, it moved to better light and I realized that this was an overall brown bird – definitely not a Caspian or any other local Tern. Next, it barreled toward the water on an angled dive. The bird surfaced, and at that point I lost it in the sun and could not relocate. I vividly remember then saying to my fiancé Sarah “there is something out there that doesn’t belong here”.

Is it a tern? Or something completely unexpected?

It took about 15 minutes to relocate the bird. At that point we were joined by Dwight and Ann Chasar, as well as my dad, Jim. After relocating, we got much better views of the bird in flight, on the water, and perched on its favorite snag. As someone who follows national rare bird alerts, I was very aware of Brown Boobies being found in Arkansas, Missouri, and other far-from-home locations as a result of recent storms. We had a hunch, and after photographing and studying the bird for some time we came to a conclusion. All the while, massive numbers of Purple Martins were flocking together in every direction. After looping around in flight many times, the Booby flew out of sight with dusk approaching. We shifted our focus to the Martins – an amazing spectacle that I would recommend to anyone. When we got back to the car, I posted the sighting in the Ohio Chase Birds group, and the madness then ensued. I knew we had found an amazing bird, but had no clue at the time that this was a first state record.

Finding a tropical seabird in a Midwestern lake is not an everyday occurrence, so there was certainly a major element of “right place, right time” that allowed me to find Ohio’s first Brown Booby. However for me, there is much more to the story than that. As early as I can remember, I was intently watching and identifying every bird in my backyard. Before age 10, I was a regular on the local spring bird walks under the Station Road Bridge in Brecksville. By the time I graduated high school, I had an extensive knowledge of all North American birdlife, mostly due to my passion for reading and learning everything I possibly could. It was the countless hours of studying field guides that allowed me to be prepared to ID a bird whose regular range barely comes in contact with any part of the United States. If this article inspires anyone in any way, I hope the message is that the more we study and learn about birds, the more we will be able to identify them, enjoy them, and protect them. This holds true whether we are talking about a Brown Booby that showed up where it had no business being, or the Chimney Swifts circling above your front yard.

For me personally, possibly the best part of all of this has been the fact that the bird has been so cooperative, and has stayed around for the better part of a week. I have been glued to eBird and Facebook over the past four days and have been in awe at the number of birders who have come to Nimisila to see the Booby. Ohio has so many amazing birders (many of whom I don’t know at all personally), and I am glad that so many people have been able to get a new state bird, and in probably the majority of cases, a new life bird. As I am writing this on Saturday, eBird reports are still pouring in, with birders traveling all the way to Summit County from multiple other Midwestern states. Those who have seen the Booby thus far are birders of many different experience levels, with many different motivations. Some are most interested in adding a new tally to their list. Some are most interested in getting the best possible photo. Some are interested in studying a species that they very reasonably may never see again. All have been brought to the same place by one single bird, and to me that is an incredible thing.

Thousands of Purple Martins staging at Nimisila Reservoir

I have seen a great deal of discussion surrounding the Booby’s chances of survival with colder weather eventually approaching. If the bird does not find its way back south, there is certainly a good chance it will not make it, as we often see with these types of vagrants. This is not the first seabird to be blown off course by a hurricane and definitely will not be the last. While we all hope the ending will be positive for the bird, it has given us all a chance to admire the sheer unpredictability of nature in a unique way, close to home.

I was honored to have spent this memorable evening with a few very important people to my birding journey. Dwight and Ann Chasar have been teaching me about birds and birding in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park for nearly 20 years – since I first started going on bird walks as a kid. It was a complete coincidence that they showed up at Nimisila to watch the Martins on the same evening as I did. They undoubtedly played a huge role in helping to identify this bird. Knowing how much time they have dedicated to birding in Summit County over the years, I am so glad they were able to be a part of this moment. Summit County as a whole has an awesome birding community, and I’m very happy that this bird decided to pick Nimisila over any of the countless other bodies of water across the state. Had it picked somewhere else, I would have been right there among the masses parading to see it. My dad, Jim, was also present as he has been for the vast majority of birding experiences in my life. He can be credited for fueling my passion for birds from a young age. Finally and most importantly, my fiancé Sarah got to witness this as one of her very first birding moments (and in the meantime snapped some pretty darn good pictures of the bird in the water, before we even had the ID confirmed).

When it comes to vagrants, I always wonder how many others are out there that have not been found. In this case, with the number of birders coming to Nimisila each evening, I am confident someone else would have found it later in the week had we not on Tuesday. But at some other lake, or in some other backyard, there are certainly many more oddities that are never detected. Fall migration is upon us here in Ohio, and there are many birds out there to be found. Best of luck to all in this wonderful season, and thanks to everyone who has reached out in the past couple of days!

Birding in Ohio is now part of the OOS

Birding in Ohio is now part of the OOS

We are excited to announce that the Ohio birding website, birding-in-ohio.com, is now under the technology management of and supported by the Ohio Ornithological Society!

We have partnered with Ken Ostermiller, who created and developed this amazing resource as a way to share information about all of the eBird “hotspot” locations in the state. Ken is the eBird Hotspot Reviewer for Ohio and incorporates every newly created hotspot into the site. This includes location information, birding tips, maps, and other items of interest.

Ken is not yet ready to “retire” and will continue managing the site for the foreseeable future. This partnership ensures that the site has a secure future and will continue on once Ken decides he is no longer able to contribute. We will be working to recruit volunteers to assist him with the upkeep of the site and to learn about eBird hotspot management. These volunteers will make additions to the site and update existing hotspots with new information. Let us know if you are interested!

As of this week, the website has a new look and a new logo reflecting the commitment of the OOS to its success. The address is still the same, and the same great content is available. The site will continually grow and evolve, and we welcome any suggestions that you might have for how we can best improve the site.

Tim Colborn, President of OOS, has said, “This new partnership will result in a long-lasting new home for this terrific website with both content and technology support. In addition, it will help increase awareness of the OOS, including the conservation efforts we make to protect birds and bird habitat.”

The website has recently seen a fourfold growth in visits by birders. Nearly 20,000 unique visitors are using the site each month. Ken has received so many positive comments from birders in Ohio about the information they find on the site. It is very gratifying to part of a project that is appreciated by so many.

You can learn more about how the site is organized here: https://birding-in-ohio.com/how-birding-in-ohio-website-is-organized/

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