Lake County Lakeshore 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.

Lake County Lakeshore Birding Drive
Click on the hotspot names below to view the page about that hotspot.

This Birding Drive explores eBird hotspots along the Lake Erie lakeshore in Lake County. When you submit checklists here you help to add to the data about birds in this region of Ohio.

Lake County

Mentor Lagoons Nature Preserve
8365 Harbor Drive
Mentor, Ohio 44060

From OH-2, take the OH-615 exit toward Mentor. Use the left 2 lanes to turn left onto OH-615 north and drive 1 mile. Continue straight on Center Street for .8 mile. Continue onto Hopkins Road for .7 mile. Turn right onto Lakeshore Boulevard. Turn left onto Harbor Drive. Turn right to stay on Harbor Drive and arrive at the trailhead parking for Mentor Lagoons Nature Preserve in .4 mile.

Clay-colored, Le Conte’s, and Nelson’s sparrows have turned up in migration. The waters of Lake Erie, offshore from the beach, have produced King Eider and Pomarine Jaeger.

The 450-acre Mentor Lagoons Nature Preserve and Marina was purchased by the city of Mentor in 1997 and 1998 in order to save the property from a proposed private development.

The nature preserve includes one and one-half miles of shoreline with rare dune plants, a riverine marsh, mature oak bluff and crescent-shaped open waterways. Containing the greatest diversity of wetland communities within the marsh basin, it serves as an important breeding and nursery area for fish and waterfowl and provides a resting place for neo-tropical birds and butterflies as they migrate each year.

The Mentor Lagoons wetlands are some of the few riverine marshes still surviving along Lake Erie’s shore; the uplands support the largest unbroken bluff forest in northeast Ohio. Below the forest is a one-half-mile stretch of one of the finest coastal dune communities in Ohio. Together, the dunes and beach support two species of plants listed on Ohio’s threatened list and five potentially threatened species of plants, as well as a highly diverse wildlife community. Over 150 species of birds have been recorded, making this site one of the top birding locations in the region.

Over three miles of hiking and biking trails encircle the Mentor Lagoons Nature Preserve providing four distinctly different vistas a view of the marina, Mentor Marsh, upland forest and Lake Erie shoreline. The following nature trails are open to the public from dawn to dusk: Lakefront Trail (1.1 miles), Marina Overlook Trail (.6 mile), Marsh Rim Trail (.6 mile), Woods Trail (.6 mile) and the Shoreline Loop (.3 mile). Trails vary in terrain. Signs are posted throughout the nature preserve to direct visitors through the trail system. Trail maps are available at the Marina office, trailhead, or at the Recreation Department located at the Mentor Municipal Center. Electric carts are available so that physically challenged persons can access the trails. Call (440) 205-3625 before visiting to ensure cart availability. A Courtesy Patrol operates during the summer months to assist and guide visitors.
From Mentor Lagoons Nature Preserve webpage

Mentor Marsh State Nature Preserve
Mentor, Ohio 44060

To reach the Wake Robin trail and boardwalk from Mentor Lagoons Nature Preserve, drive south on Harbor Drive for .4 mile and then turn left to stay on Harbor Drive. Turn left onto OH-283 and drive 2.1 miles. Turn left onto Corduroy Road and go .6 mile. Turn left onto Woodridge Road and go .4 mile. Arrive at the parking area for the Wake Robin Trail, on the left, at the intersection of Woodridge Road and Wake Robin Road.

There are four trails you can explore at Mentor Marsh. See the individual pages about these trails for more information.

Mentor Marsh, designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1966, occupies an ancient abandoned channel of the Grand River. A beech-sugar maple forest occupies the higher elevations bordering the marsh. At the eastern edge of the preserve, there is a mixed oak swamp forest, a forest type destroyed in most parts of the Lake Erie region. The most extensive plant community type is an emergent wetland dominated by reed-grass or Phragmites. This is the largest Phragmites marsh in Ohio. The area provides habitat for a diversity of wildlife species. Located in Lake County, 3.5 miles west on OH-283 from Painesville, proceed .5 mile north on Corduroy Road to the Mentor Marsh House.

The dominant feature of the nearly 700-acre preserve is a massive, nearly monocultural stand of giant reed, Phragmites australis. This massive grass species can tower to twelve feet or more in height. In spite of the dense Phragmites, a surprising diversity of birds use the marsh, including some noteworthy species. Mentor Marsh is owned by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and is a dedicated state nature preserve.

The best access point to the marsh is via the Wake Robin Trail, which includes a boardwalk. Recent restoration efforts have increased plant diversity along the trail, and this is the place to try for Le Conte’s and Nelson’s sparrows. A nature center, the Mentor Marsh House, is located at 5185 Corduroy Road, just east of the marsh. Consult the Cleveland Museum of Natural History for hours of operation and upcoming programs.

Interesting birding can be had year round, but fall may be the most productive season. Lots of sparrows of many species frequent the marsh vegetation, sometimes threatened by patrolling Merlins. Warblers of many species can be found in the trees that budder the marsh, along with a diversity of other songbirds. Rails and other marsh birds skulk amongst the Phragmites, including both species of bitterns.
From Mentor Marsh State Nature Preserve webpage

Headlands Beach State Park
Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve

9601 Headlands Road
Mentor, Ohio 44060

From the Wake Robin Trail parking area, drive east on Woodridge Road for .4 mile. Turn left onto Corduroy Road and go .7 mile. Turn right onto Jordan Drive and drive 1 mile. Turn right onto Headlands Road and go .5 mile. Turn left at Heisley Road into Headlands Beach State Park. Drive to the farthest east parking lot to access Headland Dunes State Nature Preserve.

Headlands Beach State Park and Headland Dunes State Nature Preserve are adjacent to each other.

This legendary site is one of the best-birded sites in Ohio and is famous for its rarities and big fallouts of migrants. The rock jetty that runs out to the lighthouse is a fantastic observation point for conducting “sea watches” as well. The total Headlands list is well over 300 species—approximately ¾ of the entire Ohio bird list. Not bad for a 25-acre preserve!

Spring and fall migrations bring a great diversity of songbirds, and sometimes in enormous numbers. Over 100 species is possible on a good May or September day. All of the regularly occurring songbirds found in northeast Ohio can occur at Headlands every year, including all of the warbler species and all, or nearly all, sparrow species.

Late fall and early winter is best for lake-watching from the jetty. Monstrous flocks of Red-breasted Mergansers swirl offshore, and staggering numbers of Bonaparte’s Gulls can gather. Nearly all of the regularly occurring diving ducks and gulls can be found.

The extensive sand beach is great for birding—swimming is not permitted and thus the beach is much more bird-friendly than the busy state park beach to the west. A variety of gulls, terns, and shorebirds can be found roosting or feeding.
From Lake Erie Birding Trail website

Lake Erie Bluffs Metropark
Lane Road entrance
3301 Lane Road
Clark Road entrance
2901 Clark Road
Perry Township, OH 44081

From Headlands Beach State Park, exit the park by driving south on Heisley Road (OH-44) for 2.7 miles. Turn left to merge onto OH-2 east and drive 6.2 miles. Continue onto US-20 east for 1.1 miles. Turn left onto Blackmore Road and drive 1.4 miles. Continue onto Clark Road and arrive at the parking area for Lake Erie Bluffs on the left.

The 600-acre Lake Erie Bluffs property will permanently protect a significant amount of wetland, meadow and mostly undeveloped lakefront habitat used by rare and common plant and animal species.

Amazingly, the property remains largely unspoiled by previous development. The mix of 40-foot high beach bluffs and open sandy and cobble beach across 9,000 feet of shoreline are the site’s dominant features. The beach area hosts trees, shrubs and small plants including the majority of the park’s rare plants.

Visitors can enjoy low-impact recreational activities such as hiking and fishing at this new park. Improvements made to enhance public use include parking lots, restrooms, and installation of gravel trails with scenic overlooks and two grand access point to a natural beach along Lake Erie.

Lake Erie Bluffs adds to the big picture. Lake County Port Authority Executive Director Mark Rantala explains, “It’s another piece of the shoreline and I think — especially a piece of the shoreline that has public access — that’s really important.”
From Lake Erie Bluffs Metropark webpage

Lakeshore Reservation
4799 Lockwood Road
North Perry Village, Ohio 44081

From Lake Erie Bluffs, drive east on Clark Road for .5 mile. Turn right onto Perry Park Road and go .9 mile. Turn left onto US-20 and drive 2.4 miles. Turn left onto Antioch Road and drive 1.6 miles. Turn left on Lockwood Road and arrive at Lakeshore Reservation.

This property was once owned by ten individuals who had summer or permanent residences along Lake Erie. Several property boundaries are still visible because of treelines that remain. The largest piece of property was owned by Charles Irish, a well-known arborist. He planted various non-native ornamental trees and shrubs amidst the native trees, including a large number of rhododendrons near the east boundary of the park.

The property was developed as a park because the site had the most naturally stable beach conditions with a mature stand of trees along Lake Erie in Lake County. The park district received assistance to purchase the lakeshore properties from the U.S. Bureau of Outdoor Recreation through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The parcels of land were acquired between 1967 and 1973.
From Lakeshore Reservation webpage

The 81.3-acre Lakeshore Reservation is a Lake Metropark facility fronting a half-mile of Lockwood Road. The park’s access is at the northern terminus of Antioch Road in the village of North Perry.

Access to the park’s 0.52-mile “wild” beach is provided via two sets of stairs leading down the heavily wooded bluff. The stairs, one located near the western one-third of shore and the other near the eastern park boundary, are accessible by way of a 1.6-mile network of handicap-accessible paved asphalt trails that meander throughout the park connecting various amenities.

The 10 parcels of land that comprise the park were purchased between 1967 and 1973. In some areas, previous owners planted non-native ornamental trees and shrubs amidst the native trees, including a large number of rhododendrons near the east boundary of the park.

Lakeshore Reservation is heavily wooded with just a few open mowed grass areas near the parking lots. The park is home to the Strock Sculpture Garden, a memorial to Luanna Strock, wife of the park system’s first naturalist, Don Strock. The memorial includes a sculpted sundial, a cable bridge and a bronze cast of the area.

Additional park amenities include two picnic shelters (one is first come, first served and the other may be reserved) and handicap-accessible restrooms. Fishing is permitted along the shore. A trail map is available at park kiosks and online.
From Lakeshore Reservation (Coastal Access) webpage