Buckeye Lake Birding Drive

Ohio Birding Drives
Ohio Birding Drives are routes for birding trips which can be accomplished in one day, stopping to walk and bird at various eBird hotspots. For each birding drive, a Google map is provided with the route and suggested stops at eBird hotspots. You may save the link to the Google map on your smartphone or tablet, or print a copy on paper to take with you. Links are provided with information about each eBird hotspot. Follow those links for more information about birding each location.

Buckeye Lake Birding Drive
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This Birding Drive explores eBird hotspots around Buckeye Lake in Licking and Fairfield Counties. When you submit checklists here you help to add to the data about birds in this region of Ohio.

Buckeye Lake State Park
Millersport, Ohio 43046
At one time, the ground now known as Buckeye Lake was swampland resulting from glaciation. Thousands of years ago the glaciers moved south across Ohio altering drainage systems and landscape. Natural lakes, known as kettles, were created when huge chunks of ice broke off the glacier and melted in depressions. Other lakes were formed when the glacier blocked existing water outlets. As time progressed, clay and silt settled out of the still water into the bottom of the lakes.

Today as we study the landscape, we can learn of the old lake locations by the nature of the underlying clay and silt. The large area of fine clay sediment in the Buckeye Lake region indicates that the glacial lake was broader than the present constructed lake.

When whites began settling in Ohio, only a few of the ancient lakes remained. They were shallow and swampy, and more correctly classified as bogs or marshes. Explorer Christopher Gist, while traveling the Scioto-Beaver Trail just south of Buckeye Lake, camped by the watery bog’s edge. In 1751, he named the area Buffalo Lick or Great Swamp in his journal. The Great Swamp included two long narrow ponds that were joined during high water. A considerable part of the wetland was a cranberry-sphagnum bog. Cranberry Bog, a state nature preserve, and a National Natural Landmark, is situated in Buckeye Lake. When the lake was impounded in 1826, Cranberry Bog broke loose from the bottom and became a floating island which may conceivably be the only one of its kind in the world. Most of the island is an open sphagnum moss meadow with an abundance of cranberries and pitcher plants making the area a naturalist’s delight. Access to the island is by permit only from the ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.

Buckeye Lake’s shoreline offers excellent habitat for waterfowl. Good bird-watching opportunities exist especially during the spring and fall migrations. One of the state’s largest great blue heron rookeries is situated on adjacent private land, but the birds can often be seen in the park.
From Buckeye Lake State Park website

Licking County

Buckeye Lake (Licking County)
The eastern half of Buckeye Lake is in Licking County. Driving the north shore from Edgewater Beach to Avondale Park, to Harbor Hills, and to the Village of Buckeye Lake provides limited places to view birds on the lake. Much of the lakeside is private property in this area.

From I-71 take Exit 132 for OH-13 toward Newark and Thornville. Turn south on Jacksontown Road (OH-13) and drive .9 mile. Turn right onto Edgewater Beach Boulevard for .2 mile. Turn left onto Westview Place for .1 mile. Continue onto Lakeshore Boulevard.

To continue along the north shore of Buckeye Lake turn right onto Avon Place and follow Avon Place to Christland Hill Road. turn left onto Christland Hill Road and drive .9 mile. Turn left onto Avondale Road and drive .3 mile to the lakeshore. Drive west on Avondale Road along the lakeshore for .3 miles. There are businesses along this section of the lakeshore which provide views of the lake.

To continue west along the lake you must go north around Maple Bay. Drive northwest on Avondale Road for .3 mile. Continue straight onto Columbus Avenue and drive .5 mile. Turn left onto Christland Hill Road and drive 1.7 miles. Turn left onto Mill Dam Road and drive 1.2 miles. Turn left onto East Street. Turn left onto Hunts Landing Road. There are businesses with some view of the lake on Hunts Landing Road.

Buckeye Lake State Park–North Shore
From the lakeshore drive north on Hunts Landing Road for .2 mile. Turn left to stay on Hunts Landing Road for .5 mile. Turn left onto East Street and Drive .4 mile. Turn right onto Myers Avenue and go .2 mile. Turn left onto Park Street. Park Street turns right and Becomes Grand Staff Avenue. Turn left onto Mill Street and left into the Buckeye State Park parking area.

There is a boat ramp at this location, paths to the lakeshore, and a walking bridge to Crane Island.

Fairfield County

Buckeye Lake State Park–Mud Island
From the North Shore Boat Ramp drive southwest on Mill Street and continue straight onto Park Avenue for .1 mile. Continue straight onto OH-79 south and drive 2.1 miles. Turn left onto OH-360 for .4 mile. Turn right onto Lakeside Road for .3 mile. Turn left onto West Bank Drive and go .2 mile. Arrive at the parking area for Mud Island on the left.

There is a parking area just north of Mud Island on West Bank Drive which provides walking access to Mud Island.

Buckeye Lake State Park–Liebs Island
From the Mud Island parking area, reverse direction and drive northeast on West Bank Drive for .2 mile. Turn left onto Lakeside Road and go .6 mile. Turn left onto Millersport Road and drive .9 mile. Turn left onto Leibs Island Road and go .5 mile. Arrive at the parking area for the Leibs Island area.

The Liebs Island area includes the Buckeye Lake State Park headquarters and has restrooms and extensive parking space.

The picnic area, just to the left before crossing the (first) bridge, has a number of tall trees in which turkey vultures and, less frequently, bald eagles have been seen perched, as well as common species of smaller birds.

The area just over the bridge and to the left contains several boat ramps and a section of shore with a small pond surrounded by vegetation. Some waterfowl or herons are usually offshore and red-winged blackbirds are in the pond area in summer. Many swallow species frequent this and adjacent areas in season and cliff swallows have nested under the bridge.

Continue birding south of this section, south, and west of the parking lot on the south side of Liebs Island Road. Killdeer are usually present in or around this parking lot. A track can be followed from the lot southwest along the channel to the south shore and then east paralleling the shore. Waterfowl and herons, as well as gulls, are often present off this shoreline. There is a small wooded area here and nearby a bench overlooking the water.

Buckeye Lake State Park–Brooks Park Area
From Leibs Island drive southwest on Leibs Island Road for .5 mile. Make a sharp left onto Millersport Road and go .5 mile. Turn left onto Chautauqua Boulevard and drive .6 mile. Turn right onto Summerland Beach Road. Turn left onto South Bank Road and go .4 mile. Continue straight to stay on South Bank Road for .1 mile. Arrive at the parking area for the Brooks Park Area.

Buckeye Lake State Park–Fairfield Beach Area
From the Brooks Park Area drive southwest on South Bank Road for .6 mile. Turn left onto Summerland Beach Road and drive .5 mile. Turn left onto OH-204 and drive 2.1 miles. Turn left onto Shell Beach Road and drive 1.3 miles. Turn right onto Fairfield Beach Road and go .5 mile. Turn left onto Laurel Road and go .7 mile. Turn right onto Lake Shore Drive and arrive at Fairfield Beach.

The Fairfield Beach area is probably the single best area of the park for birding. It has several parking areas as well as restrooms.

The easternmost section, at the end of Rosewood Road, although connected to the mainland is referred to as Gibson Island. It has a number of older trees in which many woodpecker species have been observed. Bald Eagles have also been seen perched in trees on occasion. The area provides a view of beaches on nearby Beach Island and the mainland just east, on which shorebirds have been seen, in addition to herons, waterfowl, and vultures. Osprey have been seen in trees just east of this area.

The park beach is just west of Gibson Island and sometimes has waterfowl nearby, despite a recent pilot project using trained dogs to discourage geese.

Just west of the beach, at the end of Pine Road, is a peninsula bordered by trees, with scrubby areas in the middle and an inlet with docks at the south end. Walking the perimeter of this peninsula is often productive of sparrows, flycatchers, and other species. Osprey perch at times in some trees, and on several days a female Merlin was seen. The inlet often has some waterfowl, and one or more Green Herons are frequently seen in the inlet (especially along the west side) or around the docks. On some days, numerous swallows are present.

Please note that the Fairfield/Licking county line runs through the middle of Buckeye Lake. (See the map above for the location of the county line.) eBird hotspots are organized by county. If you carefully keep your bird records by county, please be sure to use the specific hotspots on this lake so that the birds will be assigned to the proper county. The general hotspot for Buckeye Lake State Park is in Fairfield County.