Post thanks to Ann Bugeda, Chief of Interpretive Services, Lake Metroparks
No longer the hobby of little old ladies in tennis shoes, outdoor enthusiasts of all ages enjoy watching birds year-round in beautiful Lake County. Lake Erie and its beachfront shores, river valleys, hemlock ravines, hardwood forests, edge habitats and open fields provide an amazing diversity of habitats. Within these green spaces, available food, water and shelter provide for birds and other wildlife.
Do you like owls, eagles, hummingbirds and warblers? You can see them here, and much more! Because, while Lake Erie impacts our weather, our agriculture, and our play time, it also impacts birds, what they do and where they can be found. An amazing 90% of all bird species possible to see in Ohio (408 species total) have been seen along the lakeshore.
Springtime south winds bring colorful feathered migrants that have wintered in warmer climates. Many stop to rest and feed along the lake, and some stay for a few days before favorable weather spurs them to continue their journey to nesting sites near and far. In the fall, north winds push species that have nested in Canada’s boreal forests or high arctic to the lakeshore on their way south, often stopping again to feed and rest on or near this huge body of water.
Lake County has some outstanding bird (and birder) friendly locations. The new Lake Erie Birding Trail was recently formed through partnerships with the ODNR/Division of Wildlife, OSU Sea Grant, and more than 30 federal, state, county and local management agencies. The trail connects 84 birding hotspots along the 312-mile Ohio/Lake Erie shoreline (from Conneaut to Toledo); visit www.lakeerieohiobirding.info for details.
There are 11 “official” Lake Erie Birding Trail sites in Lake County, including Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve, Mentor Marsh State Nature Preserve, Mentor Lagoons State Nature Preserve, Holden Arboretum, Cleveland Metroparks North Chagrin Reservation and the Eastlake-CEI Seawall.
Lake Metroparks offers six sites, including two along the lakefront; Arcola Creek Park and Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park (fall and winter); plus Chapin Forest Reservation, Penitentiary Glen Reservation, Girdled Road Reservation and Hell Hollow Wilderness Area. Additional sites that are not to be missed include recently opened lakefront access at Lake Erie Bluffs in Perry Township, and Chagrin River Park in Eastlake and Willoughby.
According to Ohio Department of Natural Resources, in 2006 there were an estimated 4.3 million wildlife watchers in Ohio. Approximately 120,000 out-of-state birders visited Ohio in 2006, with Lake Erie being the most popular destination, spending more than $1.2 billion on supplies, lodging, gasoline, travel expenses and food. Every dollar is a boost to Ohio and its local economies. So roll out the welcome mat for birds and the birders! And the next time you are enjoying a beautiful day in Lake County, don’t forget to look up!