Focus on

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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!