Ohio’s top ten birding spots
~ By Guest Blogger Chris Lotz of Birding Ecotours ~
Ohio is rightly famous as one of the best places on the planet to see a plethora of dazzling-coloured American wood-warblers. It is also an underrated destination for some other iconic species such as Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus which winters annually along the Lake Erie shoreline. If you are only going to visit Ohio once, then May is the best month as it’s a crazy-amazing place for spring migration, but there are a lot of birds to entertain a birder year-round.
Magee Marsh is one of America’s best migration sites. Here, most of the eastern wood-warblers can be seen and photographed with ease during spring migration, often at or below eye level as they fuel up on insects before embarking on the long flight across Lake Erie. This is also a fantastic place to see other brightly-plumaged species such as Baltimore Oriole Icterus galbula, Scarlet Tanager Piranga olivacea and stacks more. The beautifully-marked American Woodcock Scolopax minor can usually also be seen close-up here in spring.
Howard Marsh Metropark
The nearby Howard Marsh Metropark is arguably the best wetland birding site in north-western Ohio and generally hosts some scarce species along with all the common water-associated species.
Oak Openings Preserve Metropark
Oak Openings Preserve Metropark, also in north-western Ohio, is a fabulous place to see Red-headed Woodpecker Melanerpes erythrocephalus and a host of other great birds.
Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve
Moving east but staying on Lake Erie’s shores, the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve is an excellent site in winter for Northern Saw-whet Owl Aegolius acadicus and Long-eared Owl Asio otus, but make no mistake it also attracts all kinds of other desirables year-round.
Burke Lakefront Airport
Burke Lakefront Airport on the shores of Lake Erie next to Cleveland is one of the most famous spots for seeing Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus, although this species is regularly encountered anywhere in the northern half of the state.
I have a love-hate relationship with Conneaut Harbor. It’s as far as you can travel from my previous home in Columbus, central Ohio, and still be in Ohio. So, after three hours of driving, one just needs to hope that one or more of the rarities (often a shorebird) the place is famed for, is actually still there.
Batelle Darby Creek Metropark
Moving to central Ohio, Columbus is a city full of amazing, and free, metroparks. My favourite one is Batelle Darby Creek Metropark. I have never missed American Bittern Botaurus lentiginosus on all my many visits there, and Least Bittern Ixobrychus exilis is sometimes present. Rails are very much in evidence and are often seen and heard close-up. This is also one of the best places for Sedge Wren Cistothorus stellaris along with the far more abundant Marsh Wren Cistocthorus palustris. Localized and scarce sparrows, with luck including either of the two “orange” sparrows during the autumn, can also be seen here.
Big Island Wildlife Area & Killdeer Plains
Big Island Wildlife Area and the nearby Killdeer Plains, within fairly easy reach of Columbus, is another area that often hosts scarce birds.
Shawnee State Park
Shawnee State Park in hilly southern Ohio is a wonderful place to observe more southern warblers at their breeding grounds. The beautiful Cerulean Warbler Setophaga cerulea is one of the major targets here. A couple of the scarcer yellow-type warblers and Yellow-breasted Chat Icterus virens also lurk here.
Huffman Prairie Flying Field
Huffman Prairie Flying Field, where the Wright brothers taught themselves to fly, is a great place for Bobolink Dolichonyx oryzivorus, some other charismatic species, scarce sparrows and more.