Focus on Birding Close to Home

Stay home, stay safe. Avoid unnecessary travel.
The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has forced birders in Ohio to do bird watching close to home. Actually birding close to home is a good idea almost any time and in all seasons. Here are some thoughts on how you can use eBird and this website to help you with bird watching close to where you live.

Enjoy the birds in your yard or neighborhood
Many birders do enjoy watching the birds that visit your yard. Bird feeders, where they are permitted, will attract birds almost anywhere in Ohio. It is a good way to see birds in the winter and a delight when Ruby-throated Hummingbirds will come to feeders in the summer. I have a unproven theory that almost any patch in Ohio should, over time, be a place where you can see at least 100 species of birds. So, here’s the challenge.

eBird has two features which allow you to track birds — Yard Totals, for birds you see in your yard, and Patch Totals, for bird you see in your favorite bird watching patch. You define each by including locations where you bird, either your personal locations or eBird hotspots. The totals are of birds you have reported in checklists you have submitted to eBird. There is an article where you can read more about these features in the eBird website: Patch and Yard Lists in eBird.

If you are looking for a walk, why not consider walking the sidewalks or street in the neighborhood of your house. You could set it up as an eBird patch to keep track of what you see. You might be amazed, keeping track of what you see for several years and in all seasons, how quickly you reach 100 species. Give it a try.

Visit Parks or Hotspots close to home
You can use the eBird Hotspot Explorer to find birding locations close to your home. Note the “Location” box at the top right of the map. Type your street address and city there. Give it a moment and select the address that appears closest to your home.

 

 

The markers for eBird hotspots are color coded. When you click on an icon, a dialogue box appears with info about the hotspot and links to explore more about it. You can get driving directions to the location by clicking on “Directions”. Locations with fewer than 100 species are most likely not as popular and will also have fewer people present. You might choose to visit the nearest eBird hotspots with less than 100 species. Doing this regularly, say once a week over the course of a year, may significantly increase the total number of birds recorded there.

Bird watching at a cemetery near your home
There are many cemeteries in Ohio which are also eBird hotspots. Often these locations are not crowded and it is possible to view birds from your vehicle.

Riddle Road, Sandusky County
Photo by Ken Ostermiller

Roadside Birding
Sometimes it can be a joy to view birds from your vehicle. We have collected list of Roadside Birding locations in Ohio organized by county. 

There are many locations, especially in rural counties, in Ohio where you can view birds from your vehicle. Rural roads through agricultural lands, state forests and wildlife areas, “skypools” that form after a rain, airport runways near public roads, the wildlife drive at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, all are examples of places you can do roadside birding.

Please use care when birding these locations. When you stop, pull off as far as you are able. Use flashers when there is traffic. If you park to get out of your vehicle, park at a pull off or on the berm completely off the pavement. Many of these locations are on roads that traverse privately owned land. Do not enter a private property without permission.

Also, see the list of hotspot locations which have handicap accessible facilities.

Check the list for your county and select the locations which are nearest to your home.

Ohio Birding Day Hikes

Irwin Prairie
Photo by Ken Ostermiller

Ohio Birding Day Hikes are designed to help birders discover places to walk and see bird life.

It is sometimes said that “birding is the slowest form of transportation.” Even walking a short distance while observing birds can take lots of time. There are some short hikes in this collection, but many are 2 miles or longer. Often there are options of trails to take or suggestions of ways to shorten or lengthen a hike.

The list of Ohio Birding Day Hikes is organized by county. Check the list for your county to discover which of these locations are nearest to your home. Not all parks are open. Be sure to check the park website for information about parks in your neighborhood.

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
Blachleyville
Clay Plant Rd.
Fairview Cemetery, Shreve
Schwartzwalder Rd.
Wilderness Rd.

Ashland County
Ashland County Road 1950
Cool Springs Conservation Park
Hopkins Landing
Mohicanville Dam
Mohicanville Dam–Mohican Township Road 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.

Day Hikes in the National Park

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park has several locations where you can hike and do bird watching. Check these locations within the national park.
Cuyahoga County day hikes:
Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail
Station Road Trails (Cuyahoga County)

Summit County day hikes:
Brandywine Gorge Trail
Boston Run Trail
Everett Road Covered Bridge Trails
Ira Road Beaver Marsh Towpath Trail
Oak Hill Trails
Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail
Ritchie Ledges Area Trails
Station Road Trails (Summit County)
Virginia Kendall Lake Trails
Wetmore Tails

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 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 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.