Where We Are Birding – March

Where We Are Birding – March

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

Blue Rock Nature Preserve, Riverside Park, and Oakwoods Nature Preserve

With amazing weather but a busy schedule I find myself on daily short
hikes through small to medium-sized parks looking for the early migrants.
My focus is on the closest parks with dense undercover, water sources, and
high tree canopy. Hancock County is fortunate to have such places like
Blue Rock Nature Preserve, Riverside Park, Liberty Landings, and Oakwoods
Nature Preserve that are within minutes.  Today found me listening to
Spring Peepers and hoping for American Woodcock, American Phoebe, Wood
Duck on the river searching for nesting sites, Rusty Blackbirds with the
freshly arrived Red-winged, and early shorebirds in flooded areas. As
always I’m watching the skies for migrating raptors and hoping for Black
Vultures passing through with Turkey Vultures. Soon the warblers will be
coming through, so find your local parks with the right conditions for
great birding no matter length of time you have to get out there!

Melissa Wales – Southeast Regional Director

Ora Anderson Trail ​- Athens County

The Ora Anderson trail behind the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens is a delightful one mile loop. The Dairy Barn had been an active dairy for the Athens Lunatic Asylum (now known as The Ridges) and Ora Anderson, among his vast conservation accomplishments, was instrumental in the preservation of the barn, its transformation into an arts center, and the trail system behind it.

It is not accessible with a rather steep, sometimes muddy and rough loop trail that winds up the hillside and opens up to a clear cut, whose scrubby edges sometimes gift you with Fox (which I found this March) and Vesper Sparrows. The open treeless hilly area on the southern end is good for raptors, Eastern Bluebirds and more sparrows. The loop trail continuing to the north is good for migrating vireos and warblers, which are hopefully on their way now!

Kandace Glanville – Central Regional Director

Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park – Franklin County

Late February and early March sort of marks the beginning of spring migration in central Ohio, and a great place to look for this is at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park in Franklin county – specifically, the eBird hotspot “Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park–Darby Plains Wet Prairie Restoration.” Wear your muck boots, and walk the trails to look for Northern Harriers, Rusty Blackbirds, swallows, as well as Short-eared Owls and American Woodcocks at dusk. These trails are not always easily walkable, as it’s uneven terrain and often very wet and muddy. Though, if nothing else, one could stand in the parking lot of the trails and get the Short-eared Owls and American Woodcocks from there.

Diana Steele – Northeast Regional Director

Sandy Ridge Reservation – Lorain County

In March, birds are on the move! Particularly blackbirds, waterfowl, and early shorebirds. A site I like to visit in March is Sandy Ridge Reservation, part of the Lorain County Metroparks system. It’s a vast reclaimed wetland and nature preserve frequented by many different types of ducks, shorebirds, blackbirds, sparrows, and later in spring, warblers. Since it opened in 1999, nearly 250 species have been seen there. From the parking lot, the half-mile-long flat crushed-stone Wet Woods Trail leads through a woods where thrushes pop up from leaf litter and a pair of great horned owls breed. When the trail opens up at a large wetland, an eagle nest can be seen to the left. A wide variety of ducks congregate on the open water, and shorebirds forage in small mudflats. For the past two years, trumpeter swans have raised broods here, and a solitary sandhill crane, nicknamed “Kevin,” often wanders the paths along with walkers. The 1.2-mile Marsh Loop Trail encircles the 526-acre wetland, and a raised mound and viewing platform offer a wide overview of the landscape. The trail can feel very exposed in windy or wet weather. In prior years, during migration, park personnel have offered guided tram tours, which will return post-Covid. Restrooms are available at the parking lot. A second trail, the .7-mile Meadow Loop Trail, encircles a meadow; a great place to see displaying woodcocks at dusk as well as breeding meadowlarks and sparrows. Check the park website for open hours, which change seasonally.

Jon Cefus – East Central Regional Director

Various Richland County Locations

This month you’ll find me trying to locate waterfowl on their spring migration with hopes of finding something rare here in Ohio like a Eurasian Wigeon or a Cinnamon Teal.  In east central Ohio, one of the counties that is on my radar is Richland.  With multiple lakes, reservoirs, and wetlands, Richland is a perfect place to search for ducks and geese.  For more information, check the Birding in Ohio website for hotspots and birding drives.

Tyler Ficker – Southwest Regional Director

Spring Valley Wildlife Area – Warren and Greene Counties

Spring Valley extends into both Greene and Warren counties and is my favorite place to visit in March. This location has diverse habitat for early migrant species such as kinglets, creepers, and sparrows. The waterfowl diversity this time of year can be great along with some early marsh birds beginning to sing such as Virginia Rails!

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 – January

Where We Are Birding – January

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

Hancock County Sanitary Landfill Wetland – Hancock County

During the Hancock County CBC, OOS member Ed Ingold reported a Northern Shrike, so I headed over for my county first and found the bird within minutes guarding his territory. The landfill wetlands is Prairie, ponds, and woods with small inclines, gravel parking and without restrooms. Besides this Shrike the area is known for having most of the Ohio Sparrows, Short-eared Owls have been heard, waterfowl nest here, and a variety of songbirds can be found.

Kandace Glanville – Central Regional Director

Alum Creek State Park – Delaware County

Alum Creek State Park in Delaware county is a good spot in the winter to look for ducks, gulls, and geese. This winter it has also hosted a Snowy Owl on the dam! There are many vantage points to Alum Creek Lake, as well as a dam and a beach. Take your scope and scour the water for birds if you’re in central Ohio.

Christopher Collins – At-Large Regional Director

Wendy Park, Whiskey Island – Cuyahoga County

Wendy Park, Whiskey Island is one of the best places in the state to look for gulls! The beach provides an excellent view of the channel between the shore and the break wall. The nearby Coast Guard Station allows you to get even further out into the fray. When the ships come through, it can cause quite the frenzy with the gulls. 

Take note – it’s COLD, but worth it. You may even have a chance for Purple Sandpiper along the break wall. Scope highly recommended.

Jon Cefus – East Central Regional Director

Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area and Funk Bottoms Wildlife Area – Wayne County

In January, I’m birding in the marshlands of Wayne County to search for waterfowl, particularly dabblers. My target areas are certainly known to experienced Ohio birders, but if you are new, these areas are likely to become staples of your Ohio birding hotspots. The two primary areas to check are Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area and Funk Bottoms Wildlife Area. When there is open water due to a lack of deep freeze, these areas often hold pockets of ducks, geese, and swans foraging. As conditions get colder and water freezes over, there are often a few pockets of open water, and in these spots ducks can really accumulate. In addition to ducks, geese, and swans, you can often find other species like Red-headed Woodpecker (always an eyeful!), Sandhill Cranes, Northern Harriers, Short-eared Owls, and in many winters, Northern Shrike. See the Birding In Ohio webpage for details on how to check these areas.

Tyler Ficker – Southwest Regional Director

Armleder Park ​ – Hamilton County

Armleder Park in Hamilton County is one of my favorite spots in Ohio. There is always something to see any time of year here. Some of my most fond memories from this park are watching Short-eared Owls and Northern Harriers hunt over the fields while searching for wintering sparrows. I always start my year off here!

Melissa Wales – Southeast Regional Director

Hockhocking Adena Bikeway-Armitage Rd. ​- Athens County

The Hockhocking Adena Bikepath is a true gem for cyclists, walkers, runners, and…birders! One of my favorite stretches is the relatively new spur from Armitage Road to Columbus Road. With a beautiful bridge spanning the Hocking River and paved throughout with moderate inclines, it should be accessible for most birders.

I drive to the end of Armitage Road and cross the bike path to park in a gravel area next to the railroad tracks to access the spur. There is also bike path parking on Columbus Road. About a half mile in length, the diverse habitats here include mowed and un-mowed fields, riparian, woodlots, wetlands, and the Hocking River. In winter, it is a good patch for sparrows, woodpeckers, waterfowl, and raptors. On this January day, White-throated Sparrows stole the show against a rare and much appreciated blue sky.

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 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.

OOS Board Member Monthly Spotlight – Melissa Wales

OOS Board Member Monthly Spotlight – Melissa Wales

Melissa with the Long-eared Owl “situation” on the Magee Marsh Boardwalk in 2013.

Unlike many of you, I came into birding later in life. About seven years ago, my best friend from college invited me to meet her at The Biggest Week in American Birding in Northwest Ohio. I was a little amused and a bit confused about her curious new hobby, but Maumee Bay was a convenient halfway meeting point for us between her home in Grand Rapids, MI and mine in Athens, so I said, “Sure! Why not?” What I experienced there – especially on the iconic Magee Marsh boardwalk – was nothing short of life-changing. My eyes and ears were opened to a wondrous natural world I had always intuited was around me but had never paused to pay any significant attention to. Learning that such a thing as a Long-eared Owl shared the planet with me, and getting to see it through the fancy optics of generous birders who wiped tears from their eyes at getting such great looks at their life bird, was life changing. I was hooked and my friend and I continue to joyously meet at the Biggest Week every year since (except, of course, in 2020).

I grew up in Troy on the flat, western side of the state, and moved to Athens in 1998, a Colorado native super excited to finally live in Ohio’s hill country! I have a Bachelor’s degree from Heidelberg College (now University) in Music and Political Science and a Master’s in International Studies and Women’s Studies from Ohio University. I moved to Athens in 1998 where I worked for many years for a progressive, interfaith campus ministry and routinely engaged Ohio University students in service learning and action projects dealing with environmental justice and conservation issues in Appalachia including acid mine drainage in area watersheds, fracking waste injection wells, and the effects of strip mining and illegal dumping in rural areas.

When the university was exploring the possibility of building a housing development on an important green space known as The Ridges (on the campus of the historic Athens Insane Asylum) a few of us created a petition and organized successfully to save this important habitat from development, which is currently the number 3 eBird Hotspot for Athens County.

The Ridges from Radar Hill. Summer Tanagers nest here. And Henslow’s Sparrows have been found recently in the fields further down the road.

I volunteered to help Rural Action, a local nonprofit sustainable development organization, organize the very first Birds in the Hills festival in 2016 at Camp Oty’okwa in the Hocking Hills, which was a family-friendly weekend with a variety of activities for all ages. A highlight for me was a field trip to Baptist Church Road in Zaleski State Forest, Vinton Co – a notable warbler hotspot there. I have also volunteered with Rural Action’s Young Naturalist Program and a Nest Box Watch project where I monitored a grid of Prothonotary Warbler boxes in Athens County.

Melissa’s son Benjamin helping check the PROW boxes.

I’ve been a member of the Steering Committee for Athens Area Birders for several years. In non-Covid times, we hold a weekly Birds and Brews meet-up at the Little Fish Brewing Company beer garden just outside of Athens that overlooks the relatively new wetland, where we’ve had breeding Hooded Mergansers for the last few years! We have held a couple of Northern Saw-whet Owl nights with local banders and actually caught one the first year to the delight of everyone who came out.

Hooded Merganser with babies at Little Fish Wetland.

Selfie with former OOS Board member Bob Scott Placier and a Northern Saw-whet owl at Little Fish.

I have helped Athens Area Birders organize numerous public talks and field trips around Athens County over the years. Of course the pandemic has canceled every in-person event for the foreseeable future. Tuning into zoom talks and presentations has been an interesting experience and I’m hoping to have my first foray into livestreaming a bird-related event in October. I was particularly impressed with the virtual Black Birders Week earlier this summer, as it lifted up and offered important insight into the experiences of Black birders in the aftermath of the Christian Cooper incident in Central Park and the current movement for racial justice. I’m hopeful that we in the birding community do the hard work of making sure everyone who loves birds feels welcome and safe in their pursuit.

The pandemic kept me mostly birding in Athens County this year, but I did learn of an active first year Bald Eagle nest in Zaleski State Forest near Lake Hope State Park in next-door Vinton County. I made weekly pilgrimages to this nest and was thrilled to observe the two eaglets in the nest, branching, and eventually flying with the parents flying in to feed from time to time. Thrilling!

Zaleski State Forest eaglets Melissa named Liberty and Justice. Photo by Melissa.

I joined OOS as the SE Ohio Regional Director and Event Co-chair in November 2019 and hit the ground running to help plan Warblers and Wildflowers, which sadly skid to a halt in March as we realized the pandemic was going to be with us for quite a while. Hopefully it can happen in 2021! And once it’s safe to meet up again, I hope to get to know the birders and birding hotspots all around the SE Ohio region outside of Athens County. Feel free to reach out to me at melissa.wales@ohiobirds.org!

When I’m not birding or organizing bird-related events and activities, I am the mom of two teenage boys and work as the Executive Director of Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville, a nonprofit performing arts venue and provider of arts education programming.

One of Melissa’s favorite birds, the Cerulean Warbler. Taken May 2020 on the Adena Hock-hocking bike path off of Glen Ebon Road near Nelsonville..

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