Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve

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Lucas County

Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve
Coordinates: 41.65777, -83.782
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Photo by Ken Ostermiller
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Ohio Birding Day Hike

Irwin Prairie Trails
The Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve has a handicapped accessible boardwalk which provides access through Irwin Prairie. The boardwalk is a 1.25-mile loop trail beginning at the parking lot. This boardwalk does not have kick rails for wheelchairs. We suggest that wheelchair users have assistance when using this trail system.

While not as long a hike as many, this unique site in the Oak Openings region is well worth the walk.

Tips for birding Irwin Prairie
Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve is 187 acres of wet meadow and woodland. A boardwalk leads from the parking area through wet woods, and eventually crosses Irwin Road. The boardwalk continues to the east through a meadow and ends at a viewing platform overlooking the surrounding wetland and woods.

Irwin prairie is perhaps best known for its rare plants. Over 20 rare plants are present. Birding is best in May and June. Veery, Wood Thrush, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak all breed at Irwin and are reliable this time of year. Both Yellow-billed and Black Cuckoos can be heard from the boardwalk, and the Blue-winged Warbler is as common here as any other northwest Ohio location. The Yellow-breasted Chat and White-eyed Vireo, both very local in northwest Ohio, can be found without difficulty in May and June. Irwin Prairie formerly hosted rare marsh birds on a regular basis during the spring migration. King Rails and Least and American Bitterns were regular, but are now quite noteworthy. There are more Yellow Rail records from Irwin Prairie than any other location in Ohio. April 20-May 10 is the prime date range for this ultra-secretive species. There are at least four reliable Yellow Rail records from Irwin prairie in the last decade. Listen for their “tick-tick-tick” call in the wet sedges just east of Irwin Road itself. Virtually every record for this bird in the last 10 years has come from along the boardwalk within a distance of 50 yards east of Irwin Road. A Black rail was discovered here in June of 1980. These wonderful records are the exception to the rule. More typically, a spring or early summer stroll along the boardwalk will yield Sora and Virginia Rail, American Woodcock, and possibly Wilson’s Snipe. Other songbirds of interest include a pair or two of breeding Alder Flycatchers as well as an occasional Sedge Wren.

From the intersection of OH-23 and I-475, follow US-20 west for approximately 3 miles to Centennial Road, then south about 1 mile to Bancroft Road and then west on Bancroft to the preserve entrance. The preserve parking lot is on the south side of Bancroft Road, just east of Secor Metropark.

There is a parking lot along Bancroft Road, .25 mile west of Irwin Road. This lot is on the south side of Bancroft, just east of Secor Metropark.
From Ohio Ornithological Society

Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve is a stop on the Lake Erie Birding Trail.

Birds of Interest by Season
Winter
The infrequent Northern shrike.
Spring
American Woodcock (abundant), Sora, Virginia and King (rare) Rail, Least and American Bittern, and Wilson’s Snipe.
Summer
American Woodcock, Wilson’s Snipe (scarce), Alder Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Black-billed Cuckoo, Sedge Wren (uncommon), Blue-winged Warbler, and “Brewster’s” Warbler.
Fall
This can be excellent time for the fall warblers.

About Irwin Prairie
+ Wet prairie dominated by sedges and rushes
+ Habitat for migrating songbirds and waterfowl

A wet prairie dominated by sedges and rushes, habitat for migrating songbirds and waterfowl. The core of this preserve is a treeless, wet sedge meadow dominated by several species of sedges, rushes, and wetland grasses. It is the finest remaining sedge meadow in the state. The preserve is actually comprised of a mosaic of distinctive plant communities based on variations in water table levels.

Tallgrass wet prairie communities dominated by big bluestem and spiked blazing-star; sedge meadow dominated by twig-rush; shrub swamp dominated by shrubby species of dogwoods and willows; grass meadow dominated by blue-joint grass and northern reed-grass; and swamp forest dominated by pin oak and cottonwood, are all represented.

More than 26 state-listed species of plants occur here including red baneberry, Sartwell’s sedge, fringed gentian, Kalm’s St. Johns wort, Riddell’s goldenrod and grass-leaf arrowhead. Rare animals sighted at Irwin Prairie include sedge wrens, Bell’s vireo, least bittern, golden-winged warbler, spotted and Blandings turtles, and the purplish copper butterfly.

The best time to visit Irwin Prairie is during July and August to view the summer wildflowers. The wet prairie plant community in the region has been severely impacted by the draining of wetlands. Even though the prairie grows in a state nature preserve, its future remains uncertain.

Located in Lucas County about 10 miles west of Toledo. From I-475/US-23, follow US-20 west approximately 3 miles to Centennial Road; south about 1 mile to Bancroft Street; and then west on Bancroft street to the preserve entrance. Parking lot and trail system present.
From Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve webpage

No restroom facilities.

The preserve has a handicapped accessible boardwalk which provides access through Irwin Prairie. The boardwalk is a 1.25-mile loop trail beginning at the parking lot. This boardwalk does not have kick rails for wheelchairs. We suggest that wheelchair users have assistance when using this trail system.