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.

Where We Are Birding – October

Where We Are Birding – October

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

Litzenberg Memorial Woods – Hancock County

This time of year I make many quick stops daily in my county, but I definitely have a few fall favorites in Hancock County where I can spend hiking most of the day. One of them for arriving Sparrows and migrating Warblers is Litzenberg Memorial Woods – South. The entire park is 227 acres including North and South side of the road with various habitats of deep ravines, old growth woods, creek and river bank, wetlands, expansive grasslands, and monitored bluebird area. The more familiar section is on the north side of US Route 224 with the historic McKinniss Homestead with gorgeous barns and period garden as well as a scenic, accessible walkway into the woods. Long-eared, Great Horned, Barred and Screech owls have been seen there. On the South property, the grassland is much larger, more wild and seemingly uncontrolled the nearer you get to the Blanchard River. Understandably the often-flooded river area makes it difficult to “develop and manage” into a modernized park, which is great for wildlife and birding. I love the wildness and ever-changing landscape that our river carves out! I was there on October 1, and as I walked the wooded horse trails with many lingering wild flowers along the trail and fall colors popping I stumbled into a busy pocket of birds including Black-throated Blue, Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers chasing around. There were also heated exchanges with Black-capped Chickadees (we’re in the overlap zone with Carolina Chickadees too) and White and Red-breasted Nuthatches. There have been several times in the deep woods that I’ve found Barred Owls and nesting Wild Turkeys, once watched a Great-horned Owl take a Northern Flicker in mid flight, and in one of the wetland ponds I watched Sandhill Cranes taking off. The large grassland on the South side of the road has been a hot spot for most of the Ohio sparrows including Nelson’s, Lincoln’s, and Grasshopper Sparrows. With 185 species found since the first Ebird report in 1973, it’s got much to offer birders in all seasons but is most spectacular in its fall glory.

Kandace Glanville – Central Regional Director

Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park – Franklin County

I could go to this hotspot any month of the year and be rewarded with plenty of birds, but Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park in Franklin county is especially good in October. The Wet Prairie Teal and Harrier Trails are one of the best places in central Ohio to find a rare “orange sparrow” – that is, a Nelson’s or LeConte’s Sparrow which are sneaky and rare through Ohio in migration in the spring and in the fall in late September and early October. You’re also likely to find large flocks of thousands of staging blackbirds, including Rusty Blackbirds. These can often be difficult to track down in Ohio, but are rather frequent at Battelle during certain parts of the year. Even in October, the Battelle wetlands could be a decent shot for some late-migrant shorebirds, or early-migrant waterfowl and Short-eared Owls!

Diana Steele – Northeast Regional Director

Lorain Impoundment – Lorain County

Into the fall and winter the shoreline of Lake Erie becomes a very attractive place to bird. Influxes of usual and unusual migrants occur in waves as the winds carry them over the water to shelter on the shore. One of the most popular places to bird the lakefront in Lorain County is known as the “Lorain Impoundment.” Built up from sludge dumped from river dredging, it’s an unlikely looking and unattractive place, but on a good day, dozens of bird species of many types can be found there. Birders have recorded 269 species altogether. It’s a rarity magnet. Most recently a Brewer’s sparrow turned up; a first state record.

Only the satellite view on Google maps shows any land where the impoundment sits. To find it, use “Lakeside Landing” or “Mile Long Pier” in Lorain as the location. Access the dike by walking up a footpath from the parking lot and from there you can walk about a mile around the sheltered water of the impoundment. Look for ducks and waterfowl both in the impoundment and out on Lake Erie. Sparrows and blackbirds hug the scrubby grasses. Warblers, hawks, falcons—and even owls—collect in the few trees.

The Port Authority is currently implementing a plan to remove invasive phragmites and plant native species.

Jon Cefus – East Central Regional Director

Mahoning River/Berlin Lake – Stark County

This month, I will be birding the mudflats of the Mahoning River/Berlin Lake area of Stark County. This area is located along State Route 225 in eastern Stark County, north of Alliance. During October, we generally access the area by way of a small parking lot on Price St. 1/4 mile west of SR 225 on the north side of the road, just across the bridge over the river. Depending on the water levels, which vary according to the amount of rainfall and the amount of water allowed to flow towards the Ohio River by way of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the areas we search could be either north or south of that parking area. You can scope areas north of the parking lot from the lot itself. As the conditions dry up, the activity works further north, then east, so conditions can change here every few days. Earlier in the season, or if large rainfall happens as was the case a few weeks ago, the better mudflats are located to the south. From the parking area, we walk across Price and enter the woods. You will see the mudflats/river area on your left. You can make your way along there south, and then to the west facing towards Deer Creek Reservoir’s spillway dam. Sometimes the best habitat is to the west in that direction, even wrapping around back to the north in a cove.

When conditions are better to the north, folks access the mudflats from a couple of rugged pulloffs north of Price on the west side of SR 225 just past Lowe Rd. Walking down to the mudflats to the west from there gives access to areas further north that are hard to scope from the parking lot on Price. You can walk all the way north to scan those areas and eventually you will see where the river turns east and you will see the causeway of SR 225 over the river. Some walk all the way to that causeway, then climb the concrete structure to access the road to walk back south to the pull offs, but that can be a long walk, and the walk up the causeway is rather steep, then you are walking back south along a busy road to your car, so be warned that this is not an easy way to go. Many walk to the north, scope for birds, then walk the mudflats back south to their car at the pull offs.

A scope is an absolute must here as are boots for muddy conditions. Be extremely careful walking on mudflats. Many an intrepid birder has lost their boot or become stuck in the mud needing help to get out. Staying closer to the woods offers less muddy conditions, and the added benefit of spotting migrant warblers and other birds along your way. Bird smarter, not harder.

Tyler Ficker – Southwest Regional Director

Fernald Nature Preserve – Hamilton / Butler County

Fernald Nature Preserve in Hamilton County is among my top hotspots for the entire state of Ohio! While there isn’t a bad time of year to visit here, October is the perfect mix of migrating songbirds and waterfowl! You can’t go wrong this time of year at Fernald!

Melissa Wales – Southeast Regional Director

Lake Snowden – Athens County

Lake Snowden is the number one birding hotspot in Athens County. Owned by Hocking College, this 675 acre recreation park offers excellent birding throughout the year. There are two ways to access the park. Coming from Athens City, take SR 50 southwest about 6 miles and turn right at Enlow Road, take an immediate left and then another left past a small farm to where the road dead ends at the dam side of the lake. There’s a small gravel parking lot on the right. The fish hatchery ponds on the left are routinely flooded and drained and offer opportunities for show birds and waterfowl. The horse trail off to the right meanders up the hill and down to the lake and is good for warblers, sparrows, and flycatchers. A walk up to the dam might reward you with mergansers and teals along the shoreline or perhaps Common Loons in the middle of the lake.

The main entrance is about a mile further down SR 50. Once inside the park, turn left into the campground and park at the horse trail entrance where you’ll enter a more mature forest patch where Red-headed Woodpeckers are found. Further in, that trail opens up to a farm field on the left and a scrubbier area on the right where Bobolinks have been seen in the fall.

Other good birding spots include the boathouse/beach area which is great for winter waterfowl. While birding Lake Snowden, be sure to keep you eyes to the skies for Bald Eagles, Norther Harriers and perhaps a Peregrine Falcon.

Where We Are Birding – September

Where We Are Birding – September

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 Reservoir – Hancock County

As the largest upground reservoir in Ohio completed in 1968 with Reservoir 1 and 2 combined for a total 850 acres of clear open water, this has become my spring/fall/winter “daily patch” just 10 minutes from home. I hit it most days of the week and sometimes twice on Sundays! The challenges now are blazing sun, mostly powerful winds, and constant walkers and dogs also enjoying the open water and stone walkways. The “normal” shorebirds I expect are Buff-breasted and Baird’s Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plover and Sandpipers, Black-belled and American Golden Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, and American Avocets. This last week I caught a brat pack of Black Terns and four Red-necked Phalarope interacting!

As the shorebirds move out with October I look forward to winter time birding with waterfowl including all the ducks, grebes, geese and thousand of gulls to pick through in biting cold and wind. The Findlay Reservoir can be brutal in all seasons, but also the best challenge and reward!

Kandace Glanville – Central Regional Director

Blendon Woods Metro Park – Franklin County

Good for either spring or fall migration, Blendon Woods Metro Park (Franklin county) is my go-to place for fall warblers. The back trail leading from the Nature Center to Thoreau Pond is often stocked with migrants including warblers, vireos, flycatchers, and thrushes. As well, the Goldenrod Trail to the SE of the Nature Center is a good place to find migrants on the edges of the open meadow. If you happen to go on a poor day for migration, at least you’re guaranteed to see the Wild Turkeys that wander the Park!

Diana Steele – Northeast Regional Director

Oberlin Preserve/Prairie – Lorain County

With a small parking lot at 46785 W Hamilton St, Oberlin, the Preserve has two eBird hotspots, one for the prairie, “Oberlin Prairie” and one for the woods, “Oberlin South Woods.” The woods can also be accessed from the cul de sac at 401 Reserve Avenue in Oberlin. A former railroad right-of-way runs north-south along the eastern edge of the property, providing access to several places with different types of bird habitat.

I’ve enjoyed winnowing snipes, serenading meadowlarks, hunting great horned owls, and my COVID spirit animal, solitary sandpipers. This property promises only to improve as the prairie matures, and WRLC has plans to create additional walking paths through the woods. I’ll be there watching to see which new birds discover it.

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