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Biggest Week in American Birding

Blue gray gnatcatcher by Aimee Weidner

May 6-15 marks the Biggest Week in American Birding. Birders from around the state, country and world travel to our area for a glimpse of the best spring birding on the continent. Not only is the Biggest Week in American Birding great for nature lovers and birders, but it is also good for our local economy.

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Osprey returning to northwest Ohio

Osprey working on a nest in 2013 at ONWR. Photo from ONWR.

There are high hopes at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (ONWR) near Oak Harbor. This week a pair of osprey have been working on a nest at a platform in the Blausey Unit of the Refuge. If successful, it would be the first osprey nest in northwest Ohio since 1913. 

Ospreys are bright white underneath, with dark brown patches at the carpal joints and a mottled dark brown necklace. The bottoms of an osprey's feet are specially adapted for gripping and carrying fish, as they are covered with short, sharp spines. Average length of an osprey is 25 inches, with a wingspan of 4-5 feet. 

Like bald eagles, ospreys have faced many of the same crises which decimated their numbers in North America. Though they were quite common at one time, habitat destruction, poor water quality, agricultural chemicals and pesticides such as DDT resulted in no osprey being seen in Ohio from 1913 to 1996. In 1996, Ohio began efforts to reintroduce and restore osprey populations, with the goal of 20 nesting pairs by 2010. This goal was achieved well ahead of schedule in 2003, though no osprey nests are in northwest Ohio. 

Inviting osprey to ONWR

The Refuge was contacted by Dick Tuttle and Dick Philips in 2009. Both men are retired science school teachers who have assisted in constructing several osprey platforms in the Delaware area. 

The ONWR platform was put up in the recently restored wetlands habitat of the Blausey Unit in February, 2013. Ospreys feed almost entirely on fish living in shallow water, making the ONWR wetlands an ideal location for a nest. An osprey pair began constructing a nest in July of 2013, but the nest was unsuccessful. Now there again is a pair building a nest on the platform, although it is unknown if it is the same pair from 2013. 

For more information on ONWR, go to www.fws.gov/midwest/ottawa.‎

For more information or to volunteer with the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Association, go to www.onwra.com.

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New Lake Erie Birding Trail Guidebook collects best birding locations in Ohio

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife and Ohio Sea Grant at Ohio State University have released the “Lake Erie Birding Trail Guidebook”, a 232-page compilation of 88 popular and less well-known birding locations all along Ohio’s Lake Erie coast, from Ashtabula to Toledo. In addition to locations of parks and other birding spots, the book lists commonly sighted species and noteworthy rarities, park amenities and online resources for visitors.

“Lake Erie and its environs are the premier birding destination in Ohio, and in the entire Great Lakes region,” says Jim McCormac of ODNR. “Nearly 400 species have been found along the Ohio shoreline, and migration periods see enormous numbers of songbirds and waterbirds. Many Lake Erie birders are from out-of-state or elsewhere in Ohio, and the Lake Erie Birding Trail helps visitors navigate the best hotspots.”

Birding along the Lake Erie coast contributes $30 million to the local economy every year, and Ohio’s 1.6 million self-identified birders alone spend over three quarters of a billion dollars annually on their pursuits. The Lake Erie Birding Trail Guidebook not only makes it easier for them to spot both common and rare birds when visiting parks and preserves in northern Ohio, but it also gives birders the opportunity to point out their economic contribution to local businesses with a set of “birder calling cards” that link owners to more information.

“Every visitor to Lake Erie will consider this book an incredible resource and a must-have for their libraries,” says Jeff Reutter, director of Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Lab. “We were very pleased to partner with ODNR Division of Wildlife, with funding from Wildlife, the Ohio Department of Transportation, and Ohio Sea Grant, to develop this guide.”

The book itself is a companion piece to the ODNR Division of Wildlife and Ohio Sea Grant website, www.lakeerieohiobirding.info, which showcases birding sites across the Ohio Lake Erie coastline to residents and visitors alike.

“Connecting birders to birding and other tourism amenities in local Ohio communities will not only help attract more visitors to Ohio, but will also help us provide exceptional experiences to our guests,” says Melinda Huntley, executive director of the Ohio Travel Association.

The guide is available online through Ohio Sea Grant for $13 per book and wholesale at $175 per case of 14, plus shipping and handling costs. To order, visit www.ohioseagrant.osu.edu/publications or contact the Ohio Sea Grant office at 614-292-8971 for further information.

More information about birding in northern Ohio and a list of recent sightings is available at lakeerieohiobirding.info.

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