Joining the Flock – Birding Adventure in NW Ohio!
I have lived in Ohio my entire life, but never fully realized the significance of northwest Ohio for birds of the western hemisphere. This week, I participated in my first birding event at Black Swamp Bird Observatory in Oak Harbor. For the next couple weeks, Ohio is in the midst of the peak migration time, which is aptly named “The Biggest Week in American Birding.” – And believe me, it is!
Whether you don’t have the slightest clue about birding or bird watching, you’re a novice, or you’re writing a bird identification field manual – the activity can quickly evolve into a passion. The setup at Magee Marsh is excellent for first timers. Stop by the visitor center to borrow a high-quality pair of binoculars and field manual – both free, just sign them out with your I.D!
Next, you can choose to sign up for one of the guided tours or venture on your own over to the boardwalk, which is the main viewing area. Have no fear about going off alone, because you still won’t be alone – not only are other birders more than willing to lend a hand, guides also roam the boardwalk ready to assist, and in many cases point things out before you ask! All of the guides I met were able to identify the bird simply by hearing their whistle or song.
The variety of birds is simply astonishing. Seemingly anywhere you look you can find a bird whistling away. To put the variety of birds into perspective, the wooden boardwalk is nearly a mile long, but between the density of people in the five-foot-wide walkway and the variety of birds to see without taking a step, I made it about 20 feet in just over an hour!
One of Ohio’s signature traits is also what makes the state the best place to see the birds, according to Sam Woods, one of the guides who follows the birds along their migration from their starting point in South America! Woods said the low-hanging trees give spectators some of the closest views – as low as eye level – in the world.
The popularity of the event is remarkable. As I drove into the visitor center, I took a quick stroll on the (nearly full) parking lot. There were license plates from Maryland, Michigan, Illinois, Florida, North Carolina, New York, Texas and even Alaska!
A few miles from the Black Swamp Bird Observatory is Eagle’s Nest Sweet Retreat pizza shop and restaurant. They have some of the most unique pizzas I have ever tasted. My two favorites were the breakfast pizza (which featured a smattering of eggs, sausage and bacon) and the desert pizza (which included sweet apples on top of a crust that tasted like a cinnamon roll!) If you’re in the area, make sure you stop by for a bite to eat!