BUCKEYE BIRDING HOTSPOTS
Many wildlife areas managed by the Division of Wildlife are very popular among Ohio’s birders; in fact, some of them are considered among the top birding locales in the state. Birding has become big business on Ohio; the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service esti-mates that nearly 2 million people in the state pursue birding to some level. The Divi-sion of Wildlife is constantly working to improve birding opportunities at many of our sites; often this is done through management of multiple habitat types to increase over-all bird diversity. The following wildlife areas are heavily visited by birders, and some of the highlights of each site are included:
Deer Creek Wildlife Area, Fayette, Madison, and Pickaway counties: the sprawling 7,250-acre Deer Creek Wildlife Area supports a diversity of birds, and increasingly is becoming a destination spot for Ohio birders. The open waters of Deer Creek Reservoir support many species of waterbirds, including most species of waterfowl that regularly occur in the state. Rarities like American white pelican, and Franklin's and laughing gulls are routinely found. If low water levels coincide with fall migrations of sandhill cranes, impressive numbers gather on large mudflats at the lake's upper end to roost. Raptors such as short-eared owls and rough-legged hawks are found in fields in winter, and for several years a Northern shrike has returned to the area drawing birders.
Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area, Wayne County: the vast wetlands of Killbuck - the largest complex of swamp and marsh in Ohio away from Lake Erie - attract scores of birds and birders. Spring waterfowl migration is nothing short of spectacular, as wet-lands are filled with multitudes of nearly every species of expected Ohio waterfowl. A good March day might produce an incredible 28 species of geese, swans, and ducks - a total that would be hard to match anywhere in the state. Rarities such as greater white-fronted geese, Eurasian wigeon, and long-tailed ducks sometimes turn up. A local event held every March, the Shreve Migration Sensation, has attracted up to 700 bird enthusiasts that come to marvel at the waterfowl diversity.
Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area, Lucas County: Metzger comprises over 550 acres of coastal marsh along the shore of Lake Erie. If conditions are right, extensive mudflats attract large numbers of migrant shorebirds. Spring 2007 saw more shorebirds and wa-terfowl at Metzger than have been seen for some time. Large flocks of dunlin, pectoral sandpipers and many other species brought hundreds if not thousands of birders to Metzger. A treat is the occasional peregrine falcon that stops in to grab a shorebird, and as many as a dozen bald eagles can be seen simultaneously. As an added bonus, a tiny patch of woods at the northwest end of the wildlife area attracts large numbers of migrant songbirds. As many as 15 species of warblers have been seen at once in this scruffy ticket, including uncommon species like golden-winged and prairie warblers.
St. Marys Fish Hatchery, Auglaize County: located along the eastern shore of the nearly 13,000-acre Grand Lake St. Marys, the 160 acres covered by the hatchery lure many birds. There are 26 small ponds collectively totaling 43 acres, and they often at-tract rare birds. A huge thrill for many birders in 2007 was the appearance of a Sabine's gull, a small arctic-breeding species that is quite rare in Ohio and seldom sticks around for any time. This one lingered for several days providing an unusual opportunity to observe this highly migratory rarity. Other rarities that have been found at the hatchery include the lesser black-backed gull, scoters, and American avocets. Ponds are regularly drained and the resulting mudflats can produce outstanding shore-bird diversity and numbers. When ponds are full, many species of waterfowl stop during migration, and birders find that viewing opportunities are outstanding as the birds can be closely approached.