Saturday, Oct 20, 2018
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Matt Markey

OUTDOORS

Birders find flying celebrities throughout region

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The Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, which is located about 18 miles east of Toledo, is clearly the epicenter of the birding phenomenon that sweeps across the region each May.

Magee’s 3,700-foot boardwalk, which winds its way through a patch of swamp forest that sits right on the edge of Lake Erie, gives birders a ringside seat for the spectacle as hundreds of thousands of migratory birds funnel through the corridor while traveling from their wintering grounds in Central America and South America to their breeding grounds in the forests of Canada.

An experienced birder with a great sense of timing could see close to 100 different species of migrants pass through Magee, where they will stop to rest and feed on the spring hatch of insects before making the long flight across the lake.

But the birds have no ancestral obligation to use the marsh. They fan out throughout the area, giving the hard-core birders and the beginners the opportunity to catch a glimpse of a brightly-colored warbler in many different locations.

Cullen Park, located off North Summit Street in Point Place, is one of the birding season’s less-heralded treasures. The park and its mile-long causeway offer these long-distance flyers just what they find at Magee — a place to rest before crossing the lake, and plenty of trees to hold the insects that are the main entrée on the in-flight menu.

“The neat thing about Cullen Park is that you have the opportunity to see a lot of birds, but you are not going to have that big crowd of people you might see elsewhere at this time of year,” said Kellie Schlachter, the co-owner of a business in Point Place who has been part of a campaign to promote Cullen Park and its many recreational opportunities.

The park has long been popular with boaters, since its ramps provide direct access to Maumee Bay and the western end of Lake Erie, and it is being used more frequently by the growing flotilla of kayakers in the area. Birders are catching on to Cullen’s natural resources.

“Since we’re right on the water, seeing birds and other wildlife from the water really gives people a different perspective to view these wonderful parts of nature,” Schlachter said. “You can see nesting bald eagles, deer, orioles and lots of other species of birds here at Cullen Park. We’re still in the city, and the birders tell me that it’s quite unusual to have all of this nature and wildlife right here.”

The trail along the rugged causeway offers views of shorebirds on both sides, and the trees that line the route are often filled with warblers and other perching birds. Cullen Park is named for Edward D. Cullen, a Toledo city councilman from 1917-22. The park is also home to the westernmost point in Lake Erie.

A free, guided, hour-long walking tour of the park takes place today at 1:30 p.m. A walking tour this past weekend attracted 30 birders from 20 different states. On Saturday, the NorthWest Ohio River Runners will hold free kayak tours from Cullen Park out to Grassy Island, from 4-6 p.m. Call 419-726-9628 to reserve a place for the kayak tour.

“As a business owner, I can say the birding definitely adds a spark to things after the slow winter,” Schlachter said. “It has made this area a destination. We want people to come out and enjoy everything there is to see, and then spread the word about it. There are still people in Toledo who don’t know about the birding opportunities, and we want them to know this is a big deal.”

There will also be a free workshop on birding photography presented by Gary Bendig of Kohne Camera and Photo, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Lighthouse Landing Art, Antique and Craft Mall at 4441 N. Summit St., with additional activities for children.

Besides Cullen Park, excellent birding can be found next door at Bay View Park, in the Shantee Creek area, along the Ottawa River, and at the Toledo Metroparks, especially Oak Openings. In the wider region, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge, Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area, Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area, Sandusky Bay, Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve, Kitty Todd Preserve, Irwin Prairie Preserve, and the Lake Erie Islands offer premium opportunities to view migrating birds, including warblers, along with shore birds and waterfowl.

MORE HONORS FOR HOWARD: Sylvania archer Sophia Howard, who last year won the national championship at the Easton Junior Olympic Archery Development Nationals, recently won the silver medal in the female compound bowman division at the Demmer Center in East Lansing. Howard was competing against 64 other archers in that division. She also took three gold medals at the Ohio State JOAD Indoor Championships, winning the individual, girls team compound and mixed team compound events. Howard also took gold at the Ohio State Indoor Fita Championships, and received an award as the 2014 Ohio Fita Shooter of the Year.

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.

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