Where We Are Birding – June

Where We Are Birding – June

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!

Melissa Wales – Southeast Regional Director

Moonville Ridge Trail – Vinton County

The Moonville Rail Trail can be accessed from the Hope School House on Wheelabout Road in Zaleski State Forest near Lake Hope State Park. Walking south along the Raccoon Creek, you will pass a heronry off to the east as well as 42 Prothonotary Warbler nesting boxes all along this portion of the trail (16 monitored active nests confirmed as of this writing). This trail is excellent for many SE Ohio breeding warblers (Hooded, Cerulean, Ovenbird, Northern Parula, American Redstart), Red-headed Woodpecker, and Great Crested Flycatcher. There is also an active Bald Eagle nest with one eaglet currently that is easily observable from the trail.

Amy Downing – Northwest Regional Director

Maumee Bay State Park

Who in our Ohio Birding family hasn’t at least heard of Maumee Bay State Park and its very birdy beach and boardwalk? Not too many! Of course I had to go see our famous Nellie and Nish, the nesting Piping Plover pair this past week and will definitely return closer to hatch time end of June. But some other great sightings in June history have been Semi-palmated Plovers,Ruddy Turnstones, American Avocets, and my 2017 photo, the Red Knot. This is definitely a scenic beach visit with rocky stretches and room to search for brief sightings of rare birds. Take a cooler stroll through the marshy boardwalk and the visitors center. Much of the property has access by smooth blacktop and sidewalks for those with special mobility needs.

Jon Cefus – East Central Regional Director

Fry Family Park – Stark County
This month, I will be birding at Fry Family Park in southern Stark County.  Fry Park was a private residence and farm that has been converted into grassland habitat and has in recent years played host to nesting species that include Grasshopper and Henslow’s Sparrows, Bobolinks, Yellow-breasted Chats, and Prairie Warbler.  For more information, see the Birding in Ohio Website.

 

Tyler Ficker – Southwest Regional Director

Edge of Appalachia Preserve – Adams County

The early summers at Edge of Appalachia Preserve in Adams County are some of the most birdy and peaceful mornings I’ve experienced. The hike up the Buzzard’s Roost Rock trail allows for prairie and deep woods that provide homes for Blue Grosbeak, Prairie, Kentucky, Cerulean, Worm-eating, and Hooded Warblers! At night, you may even be fortunate enough to hear a Chuck-wills-widow singing with the chorus of Whip-poor-wills!

Kandace Glanville – Central Regional Director

Deer Creek Wildlife Area – Fayette County

Deer Creek Wildlife Area in Fayette county is an incredible grassland summer oasis where you can find some of the trickier Ohio breeding birds like Dickcissel, Blue Grosbeak, Bobolink, Grasshopper Sparrow, Yellow-breasted Chat and Bell’s Vireo. Deer Creek WA is a huge place with plenty of opportunities for exploring and birding!

Where We Are Birding – May

Where We Are Birding – May

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!

Kandace Glanville – Central Regional Director

Glen Echo Park – Franklin County
Glen Echo Park in Franklin county is the place to be to look for migrants in May! It’s a small city park in Clintonville, with a ravine that provides good food and habitat for migrants. It’s a small park that only takes an hour to walk, but can yield 20+ species of warblers in May!
 
There are no bathrooms in the park, but a lot of the park is a paved pathway. 

Amy Downing – Northeast Regional Director

Cricket Frog Cove – Slippery Elm Trail in Wood County

In mid-spring migration my only secret to finding large pockets of warblers (besides luck) is daily birding no matter how much time you have. Go to your hot spots and waterways close to home one or two times a day at dawn and late afternoon to catch their prime feeding times. All day birding is even better! One of my favorites is Wood County’s Slippery Elm Trail which is a reclaimed railway; along this trail I specifically enjoy Cricket Frog Cove. Blue-winged, Common Yellowthroat, Ovenbird, and Chestnut-sided Warblers among many others have been seen recently, but in the meadows and along the trails into later spring and summer I hope to see Dicksissel, Savannah Sparrow, and I’m hopeful for Henslow’s and LeConte’s Sparrows in this prime sparrow habitat. The Slippery Elm Trail is 13+ miles and beautiful throughout with smooth-paved parking and wide/even blacktop trail, and the optional side paths like Cricket Frog Cove are compacted dirt or stone with some paths being uneven grass for a more challenging hike. 

Two word take away in May: Daily Birding!

Jon Cefus – East Central Regional Director

Various Jefferson County Locations

This month, I will be birding in Jefferson County, which is in eastern Ohio and is bordered by the Ohio River.  I will be birding two areas that are adjacent to each other.  For grassland species like Henslow’s and Grasshopper Sparrows, I will be exploring Mingo Grasslands.  Just north of Mingo, is Fernwood State Forest with trails through woodland habitat in a reclaimed mining area.  In 2008, the first confirmed breeding record of Common Ravens in Ohio was discovered at Fernwood State Forest! At one time, Common Ravens had been extirpated from our state.  For more information, check out the Birding in Ohio website.

Tyler Ficker – Southwest Regional Director

Indian Creek Wildlife Area – Brown County

While May can be very good in most parts of Ohio, I was thoroughly impressed by the diversity of Indian Creek Wildlife Area in Brown County! One morning in peak migration yielded 95 species in just a few hours. This park has a nice mudflat area that draws in shorebirds as well as great wooded and grassland area, making the bird diversity excellent all spring!

Melissa Wales – Southeast Regional Director

Cucumbertree Trail – Athens County

This is probably my very favorite place to bird in Athens County in spring, because – Cerulean Warblers! Inconspicuously located just off the main commercial district, it’s a hidden gem – especially for neotropical migrants and residents in spring! Take E. State Street to the Walmart stoplight and turn left (unnamed street by the Ohio University Credit Union and Friendly Paws).  Follow this road until it dead ends at a small public parking lot. You’ll see the trail head with a No Hunting sign. Entering the trail, listen for White-eyed, Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo, and Yellow-throated Warbler and keep your eyes and ears open for possible migrants like Nashville, Tennessee, and Canada Warbler as you move along. Soon you will hear Worm-eating Warbler, Ovenbird, and Louisiana Waterthrush along with American Redstart, Cerulean Warbler, Hooded Warbler, and Northern Parula, which can be found in greater numbers further along the trail, especially if you end up at the big bridge and continue left up the hill to the Rockhouse/Trace Trail. This trail system is connected to Strouds Run and you can continue in many directions for Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Scarlet Tanager, and so much more! This trail is not accessible for those with mobility concerns, but even sitting in the parking lot can yield some excellent birds. Happy Spring Migration!

Where We Are Birding – April

Where We Are Birding – April

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

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge – Ottawa County

It’s early migration, and I am dreaming about birds nightly, both real and dream-created birds! Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Oak Harbor holds my attention with American White Pelicans, Sandhill Cranes, Trumpeter Swans, and Great Egrets by the dozens but also new Great-horned Owlets and remaining Long-eared Owls. There are accessible sidewalks and boardwalks, soft walking trails, lake inlet paths, and grassy swamp/marsh areas to be explored in the overall 10 miles of hiking. The visitor’s center has facilities, benches, and shelter to view their many bird feeders, Purple Martin gourds, Bluebird and Tree Swallow houses, and sweet-smelling trees flowering for great birding.

Melissa Wales – Southeast Regional Director

Poston Plant Lands ​- Athens County

Poston Plant Lands is American Electric Power reclamation land a little over 2 miles west of The Plains in Athens County. Take SR 682 to Poston Road near the SR 33 interchange and head west. At Industrial Drive, turn right and keep right to follow the gravel road to a gate where you can pull off and park. The gravel road is flat and pretty even, but the gate is usually closed to car traffic and access for birders does involve traversing some uneven and not very accessible ground around the right side of the gate.

In April you will find Brown Thrasher, Field and Song Sparrows, White-eyed Vireo, Eastern Meadowlark, Prairie Warblers, and Yellow-breasted Chat. In the evening, you will hear and see the displays of the American Woodcock and might even hear a passing through Whip-poor-will. Around a mile in, you will enter a mix-forested area that becomes the Athens Conservancy Bluebell Preserve (yes, take time to enjoy the wildflowers), and will find Yellow-throated Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Northern Parula, Cerulean Warbler, and American Redstart. In about another mile, this road ends up at the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway.

Do be mindful of hunting season.

Kandace Glanville – Central Regional Director

Slate Run Metro Park – Pickaway County

Slate Run Metro Park in Pickaway county is a huge park with a wide variety of habitat that offers a good diversity of birds in early migration. The mature forest and scrub-shrub habitats yield early warblers and other migrants, there’s water birds at the wetlands, and also late winter birds like Brown creeper, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and Dark-eyed Juncos. There’s restrooms, lots of trails of varied difficulty including some easy boardwalk hikes, as well as a living historical farm you can visit!

Diana Steele – Northeast Regional Director

Vermilion River—Bacon Woods – Lorain County

Where you’ll find me in April—Looking for warblers in the Vermilion River Reservation, Bacon Woods—part of the Lorain County Metroparks system.

Down in the valley of the Vermilion River a leafy glen invites unusual nesting species for Lorain County and northern Ohio. One of the earliest species to return in April is yellow-throated warblers, which sing loudly from the tops of sycamores lining the river. Later, cerulean warblers, blue-winged warblers, and redstarts set up their nesting territories; while rarer warbler species, like golden-winged, occasionally drop in during migration.

For the best birding, turn north of North Ridge Road into the Bacon Woods section of the Vermilion River Reservation. Drive to the north end of the parking lot, and you may hear yellow-throated or cerulean warblers calling before you even get out of the car.

A wide, flat, packed-gravel path, popular with dog-walkers, heads north through the deep woods, with bluebells lining the path. This .85-mile-loop Bacon Woods Trail is easily traversed, while further paths that wind around a field (.7-mile-loop Bluebird Trail) and deeper into the woods (1.4-mile-loop Coopers Hollow Trail) are sometimes muddy. The trails are consecutive, so to walk the entire Cooper’s Hollow Trail, one also walks the Bacon Woods and Bluebird Trails, for a total round-trip of nearly 3 miles.

An unofficial “fisherman’s trail” hugs the riverbank and can be good for birders in April and May. It’s sometimes tricky to walk because it’s not maintained, and downed trees, mud, and steep portions can be an obstacle to some.

Restroom facilities are available at the parking lot.

Jon Cefus – East Central Regional Director

Conesville Coal Lands – Coshocton County

This month, you will find me birding at the Conesville Coal Lands in Coshocton County.  Many Ohio birders have made the trip to this area in hopes of hearing Ruffed Grouse drumming.  Ohio’s Ruffed Grouse population has been declining steadily for decades now.  The Conesville Coal lands is a reclaimed mining area.  Unlike some of the reclaimed areas further south in Ohio that feature large grasslands, this area is heavily wooded with many streams and ponds.  For more information about birding this area, go to the Birding in Ohio website.

Tyler Ficker – Southwest Regional Director

East Fork State Park – Floodplains – Clermont County

The Floodplains on the western side of East Fork State Park (Clermont Co) bursts with life in April when large numbers of Grasshopper Sparrows and Prairie Warblers return to breeding grounds! The forested edge to the area can provide great numbers of other migrating songbirds!

Tykee James and Bird Nerds Panel Event

Tykee James and Bird Nerds Panel Event

Watch the full video here:

 

Tykee James is the government affairs coordinator at the National Audubon Society, Co-Chair for the National Black and Latinx Scholarship Fund, and sits on the board of directors of the DC Audubon Society, Wyncote Audubon Society, Audubon Maryland-DC, the Birding Co-op, and the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University.

After moving to DC almost two years ago, he became grounded in his special role: organizing bird walks with members of Congress and congressional staff! Tykee has built residency in this work from his experience in Philadelphia, his hometown. His first job was an environmental educator and community organizer in his own neighborhood. Tykee would also serve a State Representative as her environmental policy advisor. He continues to develop himself as a leader through his membership in the Environmental Leadership Program and the Green Leadership Trust.

Tykee has been part of the birding community for almost a decade. Most recently, he earned international recognition as one of the organizers of the first #BlackBirdersWeek in 2020. 

In his personal time he is the audio producer for Wildlife Observer Network, a wildlife media project he started with some wildlife-friendly friends in Philly. Tykee hosts two podcasts: Brothers in Birding and On Word for Wildlife.

Website: WildlifeObserverNetwork.com 

Twitter: @Tykee_James

Instagram: @TykeeJames 

 

The East Clark Bird Nerds is birding club at East Clark School in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. It is comprised of students in grades 6-8 with one alumni member still active. The purpose of the club is to learn about, and appreciate, birds and the great outdoors.

The club was started in the fall of 2018 by Richard “Buster” Banish who is a teacher at East Clark School. He has been a birder for 30+ years and in 1986 he started taking 4-5 students birding for a day each May during Cleveland’s Audubon Spring Bird Walk Series. He still keeps in touch with a few of the students who went on the first birding adventure, and many others from the years after that. Many have told him that it was the best day they had up to that point in their lives, and it created a lifelong love of birds.

In the fall of 2018, Mr. Banish decided to create a birding club for students at his school and named the club the Bird Nerds. He asked students who showed an interest in birds write an essay on why they would like to join the Bird Nerds. He selected 15 students to be in the club and they held their first meeting in October 2018. The club met every Tuesday after school for an hour. During club meetings, Mr. Banish taught the students about birds and had local birding experts come and speak to the club. He also took them birding around the Cleveland area so they could practice identifying birds in the field.

Mr. Banish sought, and received, a grant from a company that his brother-in-law works for to take students to The Biggest Week in American Birding festival in May 2019. Using the grant funds, Bird Nerd shirts were purchased for each student and the trip to the Biggest Week was planned. Mr. Banish is a field tech for Swarovski Optiks and asked if the club could borrow binoculars since none of the students had them. Swarovski generously provided binoculars for each student to use.

Mr. Banish asked the Ohio Young Birders to assist as guides on the trip and one enthusiastically agreed. This allowed the Bird Nerds club to divide into two groups for the day. All 15 students participated in the trip to the Biggest Week and after a long day full of adventures, the Bird Nerds returned back to East Clark School exhausted and thrilled to have been part of the group that netted 88 species, including a Kirtland’s warbler and 17 species of warblers.

Over the past two years, the club has been on many more birding trips all across northern and central Ohio including a pelagic on Lake Erie. Club members have spoken to many adult birding groups, were interviewed on a local television program, and have been featured in several social media posts and birding publications. The have enjoyed birding with many “expert” birders such as David Lindo and several of Cleveland’s finest. The local birding community has been very generous in supporting the Bird Nerds and raised significant funding for future birding trips, last count has them visiting 50+ parks and natural areas in search of birds and adventures.

The COVID pandemic and closure of the Cleveland schools, has required that weekly meetings be held via video conference for the past year, but Mr. Banish still takes small groups of students birding whenever possible. He and the Bird Nerds can’t wait until they can start attending birding festivals and meeting with other birders again.

 

 

 

 

Get To Know Your Ohio Bird Records Committee

Get To Know Your Ohio Bird Records Committee

The nine-member Ohio Bird Records Committee (OBRC) exists to increase knowledge of Ohio’s bird life by validating records, maintaining public archives of rare occurrences of birds in the state, and establishing the official list of Ohio bird species. 

Recently, our own Jon Cefus, OOS Eastern Regional Director, was appointed Secretary of OBRC. To learn more about who they are, what it takes in keeping the records up-to-date and accurate and what you can do to help, please take the time to read Jon’s journey to the OBRC and it’s history:

Did you know that Ohio has an official list of birds that have been seen in the state? Who decides which birds do or do not count as having been seen here? 

Like many of you who are reading this, I am relatively new to birding. The advent of social media and relatively inexpensive photographic technology, along with other factors, have resulted in a huge surge over the past decade of people watching and documenting birds. From backyard feeders to “Big Years”, this hobby, or avocation for some, has become something much larger than the relatively obscure passion of a few people held together by an interest in birds and relatively small communication circles.

A significant part of the enjoyment of birding for many people is listing. Listing is the activity of keeping track of what birds have been seen within a certain defined area. The defined areas can vary greatly. From one’s own backyard feeder list to a global list that includes all birds seen on earth, the ways that people list are wide ranging. Most of the listing takes place in defined geographical areas that have human-created boundaries.  Common examples include county lists, state lists, and areas defined by birding organizations like the American Birding Association (ABA), which defines an area in North America used by those who are conducting an ABA Area Big Year.  The ABA relies on states and provinces to define which birds can and cannot be counted in their geographical areas.  I do not have time to go further into this in this article, but suffice it to say that there are many variables that go into this decision process.

The job of determining which birds go on to the official state of Ohio list of birds falls on to a group called the Ohio Birds Records Committee (OBRC). The first records committee was formed in 1981 by Ed Pierce and was called the Ohio Records Committee (ORC). This organization had no formal bylaws and existed to evaluate exceptional bird records for publication in The Ohio Cardinal. While a few other versions of that committee emerged throughout the 1980’s, in the interest of keeping this article from becoming too lengthy, I will skip ahead a bit. Around 1990, the ORC was dissolved, and in 1991 a new committee was formed in an effort to formalize the process of reviewing Ohio’s bird records by Ed Pierce and Robert Harlan. This organization developed bylaws that were modeled on the long-standing California Bird Records Committee and included defined lengths of terms for committee members and transparency in its decisions. The first OBRC members included Matt Anderson, Victor Fazio III, Jim Fry, Bruce Glick, Jean Hoffman, Tom Kemp, Tom LePage, Charlotte Mathena, Larry Rosche, David Styer, and Tom Bartlett as secretary. 

In 2004, the OBRC partnered with the newly founded Ohio Ornithological Society and became a standing committee of the state organization, all while maintaining its own Bylaws.

The process of reviewing birds by the OBRC is well described on the Ohio Ornithological Society (OOS) website:

“OBRC reviews documentations of bird sightings, not the sightings themselves. Thus, the Committee’s task is not to decide if a given species was seen, but something much more specific: that the documentation provided by observers verifies, for the historical record, the species’ occurrence at the time. As in all scientific determinations, the observer of a phenomenon must offer acceptable documentation of the observation to peer reviewers. Significant records include not only those of species rare in the state, but also rare nesting records of birds that usually are only migrants, or occurrences of birds well out of season.” 

Observers are asked to submit written documentation when they see a bird that would be a new species in the state, or when that bird species is one that is listed on the OBRC’s list of review species. The list of review species includes birds that are rarely seen in the state, and therefore require documentation of their presence. An example of this is Rock Wren, a bird that has been documented only 4 times in Ohio (3 accepted by the OBRC as of the writing of this article, and one to be reviewed). Under the Birding Resources tab of the OOS’s webpage, you will find in the dropdown menu a link for “rare birds”, which will take you to several resources as well as the current list of review species for the state of Ohio. That list will soon be reviewed and modified to reflect changes in Ohio’s birding dynamics since its last revision. 

The OBRC serves a very important function in our state. While it is true that cameras and other technological tools have made documenting rare birds much easier, there are still sightings of some birds that the person(s) were not able to get diagnostic photos, video, or audio of to add to the validity of their sighting.  In these cases, a finder of a rare bird is encouraged to write up an account of their sighting as thoroughly as possible so that the OBRC can review the report and cast votes to determine if the record will be accepted. Remember, it is not who saw the bird or whether the OBRC believes that the bird was seen, it is how well the observer documented that sighting that is being reviewed. The form for this can be found under the rare birds tab of the OOS website.  

Perhaps, like me, you are an avid user of eBird to keep track of your sightings and add audio, photographic, and video media to those reports. Does that mean that you do not need to send a form to the OBRC? This is a tricky question to be sure. It is certainly true that eBird has changed the landscape of birding, and the process of reviewing new or rare state birds has been impacted by it.  It is true that when there was no eBird, not every birder, or non-birder, was inclined to submit a report to the OBRC. Not everyone cares one way or the other whether a bird is accepted into the Ohio state records. If, however, you do care about Ohio’s official list, then it is important to try hard to properly document a sighting that represents a state review bird or a totally new state record. If you care about our state record and you are the finder of a new state record, then I am strongly encouraging you to submit that record to the OBRC for review, even if you use eBird and have done a good job of documenting the bird. 

For some time, there has been some tension between the submitting of a physical document to the OBRC and submitting a checklist via eBird in terms of whether an eBird report is sufficient to be considered good evidence of a sighting. This is certainly a fair concern. Not every user of eBird is concerned with the quality of their reports. Reviewers volunteer their time to evaluate these reports and make decisions as to whether to validate a report so that it can be included in the scientific database of eBird.  Reviewers cannot remove a bird from someone’s list, no matter how unlikely or rare the bird might be. The power of the review process only separates what is reasonably good science from poor data. Do these differences create an unbridgeable gap between the goals of eBird and the OBRC? I do not believe so. 

The process of reviewing birds is evolving and there is certainly a both/and relationship that is possible for the OBRC and Ohio’s eBird users. As you read this, a process is being developed that will allow Ohio’s state and regional reviewers to submit reports of new Ohio birds and state review birds to the OBRC for review, even if the observer does not want to send in a written report. This effort will streamline the process and, if things work as we hope, will make the job of the OBRC secretary less overwhelming, as it has been in the past. It is hoped that this will allow more time for committee members to conduct the research they need to cast a vote on a nominate species, as well as take on the task of making informed decisions about whether or not to include a species like Trumpeter Swan on to our official state list after many years of introduction efforts in Ohio and surrounding states.  

Some might think that the OBRC is no longer needed in our tech-heavy world. I disagree. This is not a zero-sum discussion. What the OBRC needs to do, as so many of our institutions do, is to evolve and grow with the world around us.  In correspondence with Rob Harlan about this article and upcoming plans for the OBRC, he wrote: “Despite its ups and downs, the OBRC has now functioned for over 30 years, has rotated in approximately 60 voting members, and has resolved well over 1000 records, providing an approving endorsement for the great majority of these. I have always felt that current and future birders are best served by a peer review panel of experienced birders from around the state, with each member relying on their own unique backgrounds and viewpoints, and all in a transparent atmosphere. In a birding world now accustomed to virtually instantaneous eBird confirmations, I worry that others might think that the more deliberate OBRC is superfluous or irrelevant. Differing methodologies certainly exist, but both organizations serve vital functions, and actually, quoting eBird: ‘Does eBird follow records committee decisions? Because the eBird review process is much faster than review by records committees, we encourage eBird reviewers to make preliminary judgments for rare species in real time. We recommend, but do not require, our reviewers to follow the decision of the record[s] committee when it is ultimately reached.’” 

Over the years, folks like Robert Harlan and the other dedicated members of the OBRC and its predecessors, have done the heavy lifting of trying to make Ohio’s official list of birds as high quality as possible, and we all owe them our gratitude. In the spirit of recognizing that heavy lifting, as Rob has provided me with much help with this article, I will give him the last words on this subject. 

“I like the idea of the OBRC working in conjunction with eBird, and of course, many OBRC members are simultaneously eBird reviewers. Room for both? I think birding will be better for it.”

 

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