Butler County Birding Drive
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.
Click on the hotspot names below to view the page about that hotspot.
This Birding Drive explores eBird hotspots in Butler County. When you submit checklists here you help to add to the data about birds in this region of Ohio.
Miami River County Park
Middletown, Ohio 45042
From Middletown, drive northeast on North Verity Parkway (OH-73) for 3.3 miles. Make a U-turn at Access Road. Miami River County Park is on the right.
There is several places to park which give access to the Miami River County Park.
There is a parking area on Carmody Boulevard near the intersection with OH-4 which provides access to the Great Miami River Trail. Walk over the hill to view the river. In the summer you can see good numbers of Cliff Swallows, that nest under the OH-4 bridge. Next walk towards the woods and to look for breeding birds such as Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Northern Parula, and Yellow-throated Warbler. Further back in the woods is a good place to look for Prothonotary Warblers. Exit the woods and walk to a field of old windmills and watch for Grasshopper Sparrows and Blue Grosbeaks. On the west side of the field, there is a small stand of willows where Willow Flycatchers sometimes breed.
During the fall migration this is a good location to look for migrant warblers. On the second rock island there are often good numbers of White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows. Sometimes there are also shorebirds like Yellowlegs, Least and Pectoral Sandpipers. This is also a reliable area to find Green-winged Teal, Great Egrets, Osprey, Bald Eagle, and occasionally Merlin. In the winter check this area for waterfowl like Tundra Swans, Goldeneye, and all 3 Mergansers as well as American Pipits and Field Sparrows, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. More rarely Eastern Phoebe may be in this area in the middle of winter and in the field you might see Snow Buntings. In the spring you can see all 6 Swallows, Horned Grebes, and rarely Common Loons.
There are parking lots on Verity Parkway (OH-73). There is a gravel pull off and two parking lots that give access the Great Miami River Trail bike path. This area can be reliable for Pileated Woodpeckers and Red-shouldered Hawks.
You can bird this whole area from any of the parking lots. You just have to do a lot of walking.
Ellis Lake Wetlands
Union City Boulevard
West Chester, Ohio 45071
From Miami River County Park, turn right onto North Verity Parkway and drive 4.6 miles. Continue onto South Verity Parkway (OH-4) for 5.6 miles. Turn left onto OH-747 and drive 6 miles. Turn right onto Union Centre Boulevard and go 1.2 miles. Turn right on Firebird Drive and arrive at Ellis Lake Wetlands.
Find Firebird Drive, running north off of Union Center Boulevard between OH-4 and OH-747. At the end of it (past the bike trail crossing) is a little circle where you can park. Depending on what’s been mowed, you can walk down the trail to see one pond. The others are beyond the circle.
7950 Gilmore Road
Hamilton, Ohio 45015
From Ellis Lake Wetlands, drive south on Firebird Drive for .2 mile. Turn right onto Union Centre Boulevard and go .6 mile. Use the middle lane to turn right onto OH-4 Bypass North. Use the right 2nd from the left lane to make a U-turn. Use the right 2 lanes to turn right onto Symmes Road and drive 1 mile. Turn right onto North Gilmore Road and arrive at Gilmore Ponds MetroPark on the right in .6 mile.
Gilmore MetroPark, formerly known as Gilmore Ponds Preserve, is a 200-acre wetland nestled in the midst of an industrial park within the city limits of Hamilton, Ohio. Recently added to Ohio’s “Watchable Wildlife” list, Gilmore Ponds is bordered by two tributaries, Walker’s Run to the east, and the historic Miami-Erie Canal to the north. There is one permanent body of water, Old Ice Pond, which is just that–an old ice pond used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to provide ice for use in Cincinnati-area breweries–and three larger ponds that flood seasonally and provide the best habitat for breeding and migrating waterfowl, shorebirds and long-legged waders such as Great Egrets, Black Crowned Night Herons, Green Herons and Great Blue Herons.
A motor vehicle permit is required to enter the park site. Butler County residents may receive a permit fee-free. Other guests may purchase an annual permit for only $10.
Numbers are greatest in the spring and fall during migration, but if the spring is wet enough Gilmore Ponds is sure to be host to a number of wetland birds, some of which even breed there from time to time. Among the usual visitors and sometime-breeders are Pied-billed Grebe, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Green Heron, Black Crowned Night Heron, Least Bittern, Prothonotary Warbler, and Willow Flycatcher. Rusty Blackbirds are often seen in season, while a walk along the Symmes Road dike in late February and early March evenings is almost guaranteed to offer an excellent opportunity for observing the aerial courtship flights of Woodcock.
To reach Gilmore Ponds, take the Route Four Bypass to Symmes Road. If you are traveling north on the bypass, turn left onto Symmes; if traveling South, turn right. There is limited parking off of Symmes Road across from the entrance to Beck Boulevard, but this could disappear any time now when the city of Hamilton widens Symmes Road. Therefore, you are better off continuing west on Symmes Road until you reach Gilmore Road, the first intersection. There is a National Guard building on the right side of the road. Turn right onto Gilmore Road and travel about a quarter mile. Look for a park sign and a paved parking lot on the right side of the road. You can’t miss it.
There are three loop trails for hiking at Gilmore Ponds, as well as an observation tower and two raised decks that provide good vantage points in any season, but particularly when water conditions are good. Beware, though, that if the water is up, portions of the trails are inaccessible, to say the least!
Riverside Natural Area
Hamilton, Ohio 45015
From Gilmore Ponds, drive north on North Gilmore Road for .3 mile. Continue onto Bobmeyer Road and drive 1.6 miles. Turn right onto OH-4 and go .2 mile. Turn left onto Laurel Avenue and go .6 mile. Turn right onto Laurel Avenue and go .3 mile. turn right onto River Road and go .2 miles. Turn left onto Fairview Avenue and arrive at the parking are for the Riverside Natural Area on the left in .3 mile.
Riverside Natural Area is located along the Great Miami River in Hamilton, Ohio. Among the features certain to be attractive to birders are a lagoon formed from an old river channel, a small constructed wetland that backs up against the south side of the lagoon, and approximately 130 acres of prairie. There is a modest 10-acre prairie just off the parking lot but on the south side of Riverside Natural Area you’ll find the large, 120-acre prairie.
To reach Riverside Natural Area, take I-275 to the Route 4 exit. Follow Route 4 North, towards Hamilton, until you reach the traffic light at Symmes Road. (The old Fisher Body plant sits on the northeast corner of the intersection). Turn left onto Symmes Road and follow Symmes until you reach River Road. At River Road, you’ll want to turn right. While on River Road you’ll pass Joyce Park before coming to an “interesting” 3-Way intersection where St. Clair runs into River Road. Stay on River Road. The next traffic light marks the intersection of River Road and Fairview, the road that leads to Riverside Natural Area. Turn left onto Fairview and drive about 300 yards until you reach the parking lot–you can’t miss it. You can’t miss it because one, it’s the only parking lot; two, the Wastewater Treatment facility, which is right next to the parking lot, is very hard to overlook!
Fernald Preserve–North Woods (Butler County)
Harrison, Ohio 45303
From the Riverside Natural Area, drive northeast on Fairview Avenue for .3 mile. Turn left onto River Road and to .1 mile. Continue onto Neilan Boulevard and drive 1.5 miles. Use the left lane to turn left onto Pershing Avenue and go .2 mile. Use the left 2 lanes to turn left onto OH-128 and follow OH-128 south for 10.1 miles. Turn right onto Wiley Road and go .4 mile. Turn right into the entrance to Fernald Preserve.
The 3.1 mile Hickory Trail spans prairies, upland forests, open water and a riparian corridor. Blue grosbeaks, dickcissels, grasshopper sparrows, savannah sparrows, bobolinks, and even the occasional Henslow’s sparrow can be found along the first section of this trail. Migrant songbirds, as well as breeders such as catbirds, white-eyed vireos, and yellow-breasted chats, can be found along the back loop of this trail.