A long time ago, when I was heading up the Project FeederWatch program at Cornell Lab of Ornithology, I was surrounded on a daily basis by men and women that demonstrated both top-notch birding skills and incredible insight into birds, their identification, behavior, locations, migration patterns, and more.
As I was chatting with one of my colleagues, who was one of the braintrusts behind the eBird program, he asked where I was from. “Ohio,” I said.
“Ohio? Ever been to Magee Marsh and Crane Creek? That’s easily one of the top ten birding sites in all of the United States.” At the time, I was surprised. Being from northern Ohio and even vacationing in western Ohio quite often, I took my home state for granted.
When I started exploring the western Lake Erie waterfront as a birder, I looked with fresh eyes at what it had to offer: Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Magee Marsh, Crane Creek State Park, Maumee Bay State Park, East Harbor State Park, Black Swamp Bird Observatory, and a host of smaller nature preserves and hotpots. This in addition to the already well-known family vacation hotspots such as Cedar Point, Kelley’s Island, Lakeside, and even the sad but quirky African Safari Wildlife Park. This area is conveniently located only 2 hours from Cleveland where you can dine on the waterfront, tour the Natural History Museum and Greater Cleveland Aquarium, take a trip down memory lane at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, or picnic with friends at one of the finest examples of urban parks in the nation: the Cleveland MetroParks, aka the “Emerald Necklace.” Got an extra day? Head 45 minutes south to view Brandywine Falls in the wild yet pastoral Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
So while “western Ohio” doesn’t register on everyone’s list as a top destination — unless you’re a birder or from the Midwest — it is a great place to visit for many reasons, thanks to the recreational and ecological benefits of Lake Erie. And if you ARE a birder, combining a birding trip with one of these other attractions will satisfy your nature cravings AND keep your family satisfied, too.
Remember: there are two great reasons to visit the western Ohio lakefront every year: spring and fall migration.
Every other fall, including 2013, sign up to attend The Midwest Birding Symposium where you can catch passerines as they pass through the area on their way south.
And stay a few extra days to experience the best that western Lake Erie has to offer. You won’t regret it!