Focus on

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Focus on Funk Bottoms

Photo by Ken Ostermiller
Funk Bottoms in Wayne County has been designated by the National Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area (IBA). This IBA consists of 2,000 acres of floodplain bottoms: intermittent wetlands and mostly scrub/shrub fields, with some permanent restored wetlands. The Funk Bottoms Wildlife Area is the main source of habitat. The adjacent areas are largely agricultural and include a peat farm. The area has an observation tower. The region undergoes extensive bottomland flooding in March and April.

There are three eBird hotspots in the Wildlife Area. All these locations are in Wayne County.

Funk Bottoms Wildlife Area
Funk Bottoms Wildlife Area–Angling Rd.
Funk Bottoms Wildlife Area–Funk Rd.

There are additional eBird Hotspots in the vicinity of Funk Bottoms Wildlife Area in Wayne and Ashland counties.

Wayne County
Clay Plant Rd.
Fairview Cemetery, Shreve
Schwartzwalder Rd.
Wilderness Rd.

Ashland County
Co. Rd. 1950
Cool Springs Conservation Park
Hopkins Landing
Mohicanville Dam
Mohicanville Dam–Township Rd. 2250

All of these locations are worth visiting. One way to visit a few of them is to follow the Funk Bottoms Birding Drive. Thanks to the Ohio Ornithological Society and Su Snyder for describing this route.

Observation Tower and OH-95
The observation tower is located from an access road on OH-95. Birds can often be observed at the edge of the marsh along OH-95. This is a very busy state highway and it is not safe to stop on the roadway. There are three pull-off areas on the south side of OH-95 which can accommodate 1 or 2 vehicles. The is also one pull-off area on the north side of the highway.

From the State Highway Patrol regarding bird watching along OH-95: “Please park on pull-offs or completely off the paved road in level gravel areas on south side of the road, roadside parking on the north side is prohibited.”

Wilderness Road
While not within the wildlife area itself, Wilderness Road is adjacent to Funk Bottoms Wildlife Area. The fields and ponds on Wilderness Road west of the intersection with Elyria Road are worth checking in all seasons.

At the east end of Wilderness Road near a bridge, there are several peat pits on the north side of the road which often are drawn down in the fall to mine peat. The drawdown of water can create extensive mud flats which attract many shorebirds. Depending on water levels, the fields on the south side of the Wilderness Road near the bridge can also hold waterfowl and shorebirds.

The peat pits on Wilderness Road are privately owned by an Amish man who loves birds and birders and therefore has welcomed birders to bird from the two dirt lanes on the east and west sides of the pits. These lanes are maintained by the company mining the peat. This company has also welcomed and been extremely gracious to birders. The only requests of the landowner and mining company are that birders stay on the dirt paths, not block the roadways, and give preference and a wide berth to any workers in the area.

Further west on Wilderness Road, across from and just west of a farmhouse, the fields often flood and then dry up, producing habitat for migrating shorebirds. A scope is helpful in viewing birds all along Wilderness Road.

Focus on Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Photo by Susan Carpenter
Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) protects over 33,000 acres along the banks of the Cuyahoga River between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. CVNP combines cultural, historical, and natural resources and visitor activities in one setting. CVNP is managed by the National Park Service, a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The park is straddles two counties, Cuyahoga and Summit, and is surrounded by 15 cities, villages and townships; 7 school districts and 2 metropolitan park districts. The National Audubon Society has designated the river corridor through the National Park as the Cuyahoga Valley National Park-Lower Cuyahoga River Important Bird Area.

If you are visiting the area for the first time and want to watch birds, it can be a confusing place. There are 30 eBird hotspots in the park itself and that doesn’t count the metropolitan park district eBird hotspots which are scattered throughout the area. How can you decide where to go?

Bird Watching at its Best

Click on the link above to view a brochure from the National Park listing 5 excellent bird watching locations in the park. Any (or all) of these locations are good places to go on a first visit to the area.

Click on map to view .pdf in a new window or tab

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Birding Drive

If you have a bit more time and want more variety, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Birding Drive provides driving directions and links to visiting 9 locations in the National Park.

Tips for birding Cuyahoga Valley National Park

For even more tips on birding in this National Park, below are links to pages on websites:
From Ohio Ornithological Society website
From Lake Erie Birding Trail website
From Cuyahoga Valley National Park website
Cuyahoga Valley National Park birdwatching brochure
From BirdWatchingDaily website

All the eBird Hotspots

Check these pages in this website:
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Lists all the eBird hotspots within the National Park.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park-Lower Cuyahoga River Important Bird Area
Lists all the eBird hotspots along the Lower Cuyahoga River within the National Park and metropolitan park districts.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Website

Cuyahoga Valley National Park website
Cuyahoga Valley National Park map
Cuyahoga Valley National Park trail maps

Focus on Shawnee State Forest and Shawnee State Park

Shawnee State Forest, also called “The Little Smokies of Ohio,” has developed into the largest of the 20 state forests, with over 60,000 acres. While the Forest is a fantastic recreation feature in Southern Ohio, you should not be surprised to see other activities occurring. The Forest is a working forest. It is managed to provide a variety of multiple uses on a sustained yield basis. Birders should note that this state forest spans two counties. The eastern and largest portion of the state forest is in Scioto County. The western portion of the forest is in Adams County.

Located in the Appalachian foothills near the banks of the Ohio River, 1,095-acre Shawnee State Park is nestled in the 63,000-acre Shawnee State Forest. The Shawnee Lodge in the state park has been the host site for spring meetings of the Ohio Ornithological Society.

There are two birding drive routes through the state forest:
Shawnee State Forest OOS Birding Drive
Shawnee State Forest Panoram Birding Drive

The State Forest has been designated by the Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area.
Shawnee Important Bird Area

There are a number of eBird hotspots in both the State Forest and the State Park.

Scioto County

Shawnee State Park
Shawnee State Park–Campground
Shawnee State Park–Lookout Trail
Shawnee State Park–Marina
Shawnee State Park–Roosevelt Lake
Shawnee State Park–Turkey Creek Lake and Lodge

Shawnee State Forest
Shawnee State Forest (Scioto County)
Shawnee State Forest–Big Run Road
Shawnee State Forest–Forest Road 1, Panoram Loop
Shawnee State Forest–Forest Road 2
Shawnee State Forest–Forest Road 4, Panoram Loop
Shawnee State Forest–Forest Road 6, Panoram Loop
Shawnee State Forest–Forest Road 13
Shawnee State Forest–Nace Run Road
Shawnee State Forest–Odle Creek Road
Shawnee State Forest–Picnic Point
Shawnee State Forest–Pond Lick Road
Shawnee State Forest–Pond Run Road
Shawnee State Forest–Rocky Fork
Shawnee State Forest–Wolfden Lake

Adams County

Shawnee State Forest (Adams County)
Edge of Appalachia Preserve–Abner Hollow Road

Focus on Winter Birding at Killdeer Plains

January and February winter birding at Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area can be a true adventure. Winter specialties, such as Northern Harriers, Rough-legged Hawks, Long- and Short-eared Owls, Lapland Longspurs, and Snow Buntings are often found in the area. Birders drive the area, birding much of the time from their vehicles, but exiting frequently to scan promising fields and walk in the woods. Sunset is early, 5:45 to 6:00 pm, depending when in the winter you go; starting a little before that, look for Short-eared Owls hunting over the fields.

Check the pages on Killdeer Plains in this website:
Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area
There are 17 eBird hotspots at Killdeer Plains and you will find a page of information on each of them, complete with maps and tips for birding.
Killdeer Plains Birding Drive
This birding drive suggests one way to drive through the wildlife area visiting 8 hotspots.

For reports on past trips check Jim McCarty’s article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer or the report of a trip by the Columbus Audubon Society.

Join a group or venture to Killdeer Plains on your own. Dress warmly. Plan to stay to see the owls fly. Check Upper Sandusky for restaurants for dinner. Winter birding in Ohio is a great adventure.

Focus on Top Hotspots

In eBird we designate all shared bird reporting locations as “hotspots.” That name is somewhat misleading, as some spots are hotter than others.
This website can help you find the hotspots with the greatest number of species reported. 
On the home page there are links to the 25 locations in Ohio with the most species reported.

On each county page there are links to up 10 of the hottest locations in the county with over 100 species retorted. Examples from a couple counties are linked below.

While not exclusively visits to all the top hotspots, the Ohio Birding Drives visit some of the best locations in each county in Ohio. Many counties have two or more suggested driving tours that can be done in one day. When you are out and about in parts of Ohio new to you, these birding drives can lead you to good birding locations. 

Ohio Birding Drives

Focus on Important Bird Areas

Those who use eBird have frequently expressed interest in having hotspot locations defined by a polygon. While I was creating pages in the Ohio eBird Hotspot website to describe the Audubon Important Bird Areas (IBA), I have realized that in Ohio there are already 70 IBA areas defined by polygons!

Check the index page for a list of all the IBAs in Ohio:
Ohio Important Bird Areas

The only place in the eBird website where I can find reference to the IBA polygons is in Explore Data –> Bar Charts. One of the options is to create a bar chart for each IBA area. I believe these bar charts pick up data from both hotspots and personal locations within the polygon which defines the IBA, but I am not absolutely sure about the personal locations.

On each IBA page, I have created a bar chart table where you can select a bar chart of the IBA for all months, a season, or a single month. This is much less cumbersome than creating the bar chart from the eBird website.

I have also listed all the eBird hotspots within the IBA. If you are familiar with an IBA area you might help me by letting me know if I have missed hotspots which should be listed.

This project gives you an example of how polygons might work in eBird in the future. The IBA polygons are not set up to receive checklist data directly. But when you submit data to a hotspot or personal location in the polygon area the data is added to the bar chart.

Focus on Cuyahoga River Winter Birding

A couple of winters ago Chuck Slusarczyk, Jr. posted a map highlighting six good locations to look for gulls and other birds in the winter on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland. Chuck gave permission to post the map and more information about the locations on this website.

Click on this link for a page listing the locations with links for more information:
Cuyahoga River Winter Birding

When ice forms on Lake Erie, these locations can have lots of birds. Bundle up to stay warm and enjoy birds in the winter when you visit Cleveland.

Focus on Birding near a State Line

Ohio is bordered by Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana. There are a number of Ohio eBird hotspots located near a state line. It is helpful to know where the state line is located so that the birds will be assigned to the proper state.

This is a list of locations in Ohio where the state line passes near an eBird hotspot.

eBird has a help article on eBirding along County, State, and Country borders with suggestions of how to handle your checklists when you are watching birds near a border.

Michigan State Line
Toledo Memorial Park
All of the developed section of Toledo Memorial Park, located north of Toledo, is in Ohio. The northern, undeveloped section of this cemetery is in Michigan. A hotspot has not been established for this northern section of the cemetery.

149th Street, Point Place
This hotspot is the northernmost location in Ohio on the Point Place peninsula. The northern tip of the peninsula is in Michigan. While there is an eBird hotspot in Michigan at the tip of the peninsula, Lost Peninsula, the road is a private, gated drive with access limited to residents and their guests.

Pennsylvania State Line
Pymatuning State Park
The Pymatuning Reservoir is on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border and is served by a state park in each state. For the convenience of birders, the hotspots in both states are referenced on the page link above.

The Ohio River forms the Ohio border with two states, West Virginia and Kentucky.
Since the late 1700s, various states have claimed ownership of various stretches of the Ohio River. The principal reason was to garner wealth from the trade that occurred on the river. In 1792, the federal government determined that Kentucky owned the Ohio River along its border with Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. In essence, the boundary between Kentucky and these three future states would be the low point of the Ohio River’s northernmost bank.

Both Indiana and Ohio have sought to claim the Ohio River, despite the federal government’s declaration in 1792. In 1966, Ohio claimed that the Ohio River’s course had fluctuated since 1792, so that the low point of the Ohio River’s northernmost bank in 1792 actually would be near the south bank of the river today. Ohio asked the United States Supreme Court to give ownership of the river to Ohio or, at the bare minimum, to set the boundary between Kentucky and Ohio in the midpoint of the Ohio River. The Supreme Court ruled that Kentucky had legal ownership to the Ohio River.
From Ohio History Central

The area of the Ohio River that borders West Virginia, and the islands that located within it, are wholly owned by West Virginia, the deed of cession of the Northwest Territory fixing the low water mark on the Ohio side as the western boundary of (what was then) Virginia. More than 30 West Virginia communities extend along the river.
From The West Virginia Cyclopedia

Because of these ownership concerns, in most places the state line is very near the Ohio side of the river and birds seen out in the river are not physically in Ohio. eBird allows birders to decide which birds “count” for their state list and, as indicated in the help article above, it is permissible in eBird to record all the birds you can observe from a location. Bird record committees, on the other hand, usually want the bird to be physically located in the state. Birders who report rare bird sightings may want to keep this in mind as they prepare eBird checklists.

West Virginia State Line
While there are many hotspots on the Ohio side of the river along the West Virginia border, there are just a few where there are hotspots established on both sides of the river.

Pike Island Lock and Dam
The Ohio-West Virginia border is near the Ohio side of the Ohio River at this location. There are separate hotspots in West Virginia for reporting birds seen in the river pool or at the Pike Island Dam.

Hannibal Dam
The locks at the Hannibal Dam are on the Ohio side of the river and the state line runs along the middle of the locks area. There is a hotspot on the West Virginia side of the river.

Fly-Sistersville Ferry
The state line is 20-40 yards out in the river from the Ohio shoreline. If you take the ferry to Sisterville you cross the state line at the beginning of the crossing. There is currently no hotspot in West Virginia.

Belleville Locks and Dam
There are hotspots on each side of the river for the Belleville Locks and Dam.

Gallipolis Locks and Dam
There are hotspots on each side of the river for the Gallipolis Locks and Dam.

Kentucky State Line

Meldahl Dam
There are hotspots on each side of the river for the Meldahl Locks and Dam.

Indiana State Line
At this time, there are no hotspots established along the Ohio-Indiana border.

Focus on Birding near a County Line

In Ohio, there are a surprising number of parks, wildlife areas, trails, and a National Park which are located on a county line. If you carefully keep your bird records by county, it is helpful to know where the county line is located so that the birds will be assigned to the proper county.

This is a list of locations in Ohio where the county line passes through the area.

eBird has a help article on eBirding along County, State, and Country borders with suggestions of how to handle your checklists when you are watching birds near a border.

Atwood Lake
Atwood Lake Park

Franklin-Fairfield County
Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

Berlin Lake

Blacklick Creek Greenway Trail
Blacklick Woods Metro Park

Brush Creek State Forest

Buckeye Lake State Park

Burr Oak State Park

Caesar Creek Lake Wildlife Area

Caesar Creek State Park

Camp Chase Trail

Charles Mill Lake

Clear Creek Metro Park

Clear Fork Reservoir

Crown City Wildlife Area

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Deer Creek Wildlife Area

Delaware Wildlife Area

Dillon Wildlife Area

Fernald Nature Preserve

Grand Lake Saint Marys State Park

Great Miami River Trail

Holden Arboretum

Hoover Reservoir

Hueston Woods State Park

Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area

Lake Alma State Park

Magee Marsh Wildlife Area

Maumee State Forest

Mill Creek

Mohican River Wildlife Area

Muskingum River State Park

North Chagrin Reservation

North Coast Inland Trail

Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge

Paint Creek Lake Wildlife Area
Paint Creek State Park

Paint Creek Recreational Trail

Pickerington Ponds Metro Park

Piedmont Lake

Pleasant Hill Lake

Pottersburg Bridge Trail

Prairie Oaks Metro Park

Rush Creek Lake

Shawnee State Forest

Sippo Valley Trail

Spring Valley Wildlife Area

Symmes Creek

Tar Hollow State Forest

Tar Hollow State Park

Wabash Cannonball Trail

Walborn Reservoir

Western Reserve Greenway Trail

Focus on Magee Marsh

Photo by Ken Ostermiller
Magee Marsh Wildlife Area attracts birders from all over the world. There are a number of hotspots set up in eBird to receive your bird checklists when you visit, including the world famous Magee Marsh Boardwalk.

In addition to links for each of the hotspots at Magee, you will find links to websites, maps, tips for birding, eBird data, and much more.

Magee Marsh is one of those locations in Ohio where a county line runs right through the middle of the area! Thus, there is no “general” hotspot for all of Magee Marsh. There are eBird Hotspots for each county. The south portion of Magee Marsh Wildlife Area (near OH-2) is in Ottawa County. The north portion of the wildlife area (near Lake Erie) is in Lucas County. (See map below for the location of the Lucas/Ottawa county line.)

11 eBird Hotspots — 298 species reported

Magee Marsh Wildlife Area

See you on the boardwalk!