Lake Erie Birding Trail
Of course, birds don’t follow the calendar and the spring migration isn’t limited to the Biggest Week in Merican Birding, May 4-13. The annual migration is under way and is to continue through most of May.
“Lake Erie and its associated habitats are among the most bird-rich ecosystems in the United States. Large numbers of migrants pass through, and bird species that use Lake Erie radiate out to every country in Central and South America and the Caribbean,” according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website.
To help people find birds to watch, ODNR has put together the Lake Erie Birding Trail
(lakeeriebirding.ohiodnr.gov) with seven loops organized by geographic location from the Ashtabula area in eastern Ohio to the Oak Openings region in northwest Ohio.
The northwest Ohio portion includes loops around the Lake Erie Islands and the western Lake Erie marshes.
ODNR says nearly 400 species of birds in numbers too large to estimate have been seen on Lake Erie’s southern shore. Spring — March through May — and fall — August through October — are the busiest times, but birds can be found all year round.
For maps and detailed information, see the website. But here are a few highlights from the areas closest to Seneca County.
The Sandusky Bay Loop, where the Sandusky River empties on its way to Lake Erie, is well known in the area for the 2.5-mile SR 2 bridge.
The two nature areas in this region on the state list closest to Seneca County are Blue Heron Reserve (www.lovemyparks.com/parks/
blue_heron_reserve), a Sandusky County park on CR 260 off of US 6 near Clyde and Pickerel Creek State Wildlife Area, 3451 CR 256, Vickery (wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/pickerelcreek). Pickerel Creek has an observation tower giving an overview of part of the area, and trails along the dikes. Others are in the Marblehead and Port Clinton areas.
Nearby is the Lake Erie Islands Loop, featuring wildlife areas on Kelleys, Middle Bass and South Bass islands.
Moving west, the Western Lake Erie Marshes Loop (lakeeriebirding.ohiodnr.gov/loops-sites/western-lake-erie-marshes-loop) includes Toussaint, Magee Marsh, Metzger Marsh and Mallard Club state wildlife areas as well as Black Swamp Bird Observatory, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Maumee Bay State Park, Pearson Metropark (Metroparks Toledo) and Bayshore Fishing Access.
And just to the west is the Oak Openings Loop (lakeeriebirding.ohiodnr.gov/loops-sites/oak-
openings-loop), which includes Cullen Park, Woodlawn Cemetery, Wildwood Preserve Metropark, Secor Metropark, Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve, Kitty Todd Nature Preserve, Maumee River Rapids, Oak Openings Preserve Metropark and Maumee State Forest.
Depending on each person’s preference, the large crowds at Biggest Week events may suit him or her while other people might want to avoid the crowds and find a quiet place to watch birds. Or maybe a little of each.
If a birding trip is planned in early May, visit the Biggest Week’s website to find scheduled activities — either to join in or to avoid.
Birds can be found anywhere along Lake Erie’s southern shore, but here are a few of the best-known locations.
Topping the list are Magee Marsh and Ottawa NWR, Oak Harbor.
Together, the two areas are one of the largest uninterrupted areas of coastal wetlands habitat in Ohio. The Ottawa-Magee Partnership Trail is a one-mile trail that connects the two areas.
Ottawa NWR (www.fws.gov/refuge/ottawa), SR 2, has more than 5,000 acres of managed wetlands, forests and prairies. The refuge protects major populations of birds and offers good birding year round. The visitors center has interpretive displays, knowledgeable staff and volunteers, a bookshop and an elevated observation deck. An extensive trail system winds through the area, and there are auto tours at times.
The entrance to Magee Marsh is about a half-mile from Ottawa on SR 2.
The Sportsmen’s Migratory Bird Center is the heart of the Division of Wildlife’s wetland research programs. It is open to the public and has interpretive displays. The Magee causeway runs north across the marsh.
The best-known portion of Magee Marsh is the boardwalk — known as “Magee Boardwalk” or as Crane Creek Bird Trail — meanders through seven acres of woodland on a beach ridge between Lake Erie and the marshes. Migrating birds moving north in spring often pause in the wooded area before crossing the lake, “and the woodland often swarms with such migrants.”
Also on the grounds of Magee Marsh is Black Swamp Bird Observatory, which is open on weekends year round and more often during migration season.
About 15 miles east of Magee Marsh is Pearson Metropark (metroparkstoledo.com/explore-your-parks/pearson), which provides varied habitat and varied bird species.
Continuing east, Oak Openings Preserve Metropark, Swanton, (metroparkstoledo.com/
explore-your-parks/oak-openings) is another top spot with one of the most rare habitats in the Midwest.