Ohio’s cold winter is a perfect time to get outside and look for birds. Many spots along the Lake Erie coastline play host to unique bird species and on January 14, young birders can participate in a bird count at northern Ohio’s most popular birding site—Magee Marsh in Ottawa County. To help birders plan their outings, Ohio Sea Grant has partnered with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife to produce a website, lakeerieohiobirding.info, offering comprehensive information for birding at 84 sites along Lake Erie.
“For a long time, we have focused on birding as a niche market for tourism along Lake Erie,” says Melinda Huntley, Ohio Sea Grant Extension’s Sustainable Tourism Program Director. “What was missing was a comprehensive way to get information to birders. The Lake Erie birding website connects several sites into a cohesive itinerary and increases people’s awareness that we have some of the best birding sites in North America.”
The website, which went live in mid-September, boasts more than 1,600 color photos of birds and is a perfect one-stop visitor’s guide for planning a winter birding trip to Lake Erie. In addition to driving directions to birding sites and a listing of the bird species that can be expected there based on season, the website also lists local attractions and links to visitors bureaus to help provide access to hotels and restaurants. By showing the wealth of Lake Erie birding sites and offering information about local amenities, the website encourages visitors to plan longer stays along the coast. Visitors can even get updates about rare species sightings via a Twitter feed (@LakeErieBirding) on the website.
Through winter, birders in northern Ohio can watch several duck species and among the common gulls, birders can spot rarer Arctic species, such as Glaucous Gulls and Iceland Gulls, says Jim McCormac, ODNR Division of Wildlife Public Information Officer. Bird watchers at Ashtabula Harbor in the northeast corner of Ohio have already seen two Snowy Owls this winter.
“Several more of these massive owls have been reported along the lakefront, and they could appear nearly anywhere,” McCormac says. “Ashtabula is also hosting a very rare Black-tailed Gull, an Asian species that rarely appears in North America. This is the first Ohio record, and hundreds of birders from throughout Ohio and many other states have visited Ashtabula to see it.”
Ohio State University’s Ohio Sea Grant program is part of NOAA Sea Grant, a network of 32 Sea Grant programs dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of marine and Great Lakes resources. For information on Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Lab, visit ohioseagrant.osu.edu.
Learn more about the Ohio Lake Erie Birding Trail by visiting ohioseagrant.osu.edu/_documents/twineline/v33i4.pdf#page=10.