The spring bird migration offers hope in contrast to the depression of a pandemic

Finding joy from birds during the age of CORVID-19

In late March and early April, hundreds of Northeast Ohio birders, freed from the confines of their homes and offices, poured into the parks and birding trails in an attempt to kick start the spring migration.
We took joy in the simplest of new arrivals, celebrating first-of-the-spring yellow-bellied sapsuckers, Northern flickers, brown thrashers, and hermit thrush.
Watching our backyard feeders, we smiled as the last remaining dark-eyed juncoes, white-throated and tree sparrows of winter were joined by Eastern towhees, song, fox, white-crowned and chipping sparrows.
Gradually, the trees and shrubs of our favorite birding spots became alive with flitting songbirds: yellow-rumped, black-and-white and palm warblers, golden-crowned and ruby-crowned kinglets, blue-gray gnatcatchers, and blue-headed vireos. Huge kettles of returning hawks and vultures circled overhead, courting American woodcocks called from the fields, and Eastern phoebes san…

Unedited eBird reports pose pitfalls

Enjoy birding during the pandemic, but be careful of whacky IDs During this unprecedented worldwide pandemic, the opportunities are increasing to escape our self-imposed quarantines and explore the parks and trails available for spring birding in Northeast Ohio.The joys of birding are increasingly being discovered by new birders – a fabulous trend that occasionally can lead to problems with identification.
Consider this a cautionary column, not a finger-wagging critique. We’ve all been there; It can take years to hone our birding skills. But for some, there are embarrassing slips along the way.
I wrote about these issues more than a decade ago during my career at The Plain Dealer. One of those Aerial View columns appears below. I was reminded of this recently, as the problems have cropped up again in spectacular fashion.
For instance, a Medina County birder in February reported confidently on eBird of having spotted a broad-winged hawk – an unlikely sighting, considering these birds are i…

Discover the joys of urban birding with the best

Urban Birder David Lindo brings his message to Cleveland

The talented and influential British birder, David Lindo, is bringing his knowledge and appreciation for urban birding to Northeast Ohio on Saturday, Nov. 2, for a busy week of walks and talks.
Lindo is a celebrity in his hometown of London, where he is hailed as a Pied Piper for spreading the joys of urban birding – a pursuit that should strike a familiar chord for many birders in the Cleveland area.
Lindo is working in concert with the Western Cuyahoga Audubon Society, which is launching the Urban Birding Cleveland initiative, and as part of a publicity tour for his new book, “How to be an Urban Birder.”
“I love seeing what cities that are new to me have to offer,” Lindo said in a feature story in Waterlife Magazine. “There’s always a surprise in store, and I do mean surprise… There’s not a single urban center that hasn’t given me something astonishing as a reward for my visit.”
Lindo shares my love for urban birding, making it hi…

Fall birding brings excitement and frustration

Northeast Ohio's lakefront habitats provide best Fall birding opportunities

Two alliterative words best describe the theme for Fall birding in Northeast Ohio: Furtive and Frustrating.
Fall birders quickly recognize the furtiveness of migrants as they arrive along the lakefront in the cool morning hours following an arduous flight across Lake Erie from Canada. They are hungry and desperate to reach their neotropical destinations in Central and South America, fueled by a feast of bugs, fruit and seed.
As many as 40 percent won’t survive the roundtrip journey. Thousands are killed every year by collisions with windows at downtown buildings. Fortunately, several hundred stunned birds are rescued by the amazing volunteers of the Lights Out Cleveland group.
The best birding in the area can be found in the vicinity of Lake Erie such as the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve, Headlands Beach State Park, Mentor Marsh Preserve, Wendy Park, the Lorain Impoundment, and the Sandy Ridge Reservati…

Aerial View Redux: The birds and wildlife of Brazil

The tour of a lifetime: Brazil

Over the past 30 years, my friends and I have acquired a love and appreciation for the wildlife, natural beauty and residents of Central and South America, embarking on more than 15 tours there. But our most recent adventure was our first visit to Brazil, specifically the Pantanal region, a veritable Garden of Eden and the largest wetland in the world.
We were blown away. It truly was a trip of a lifetime.
Tropical birds were our primary targets during the two-week tour, and our group of mostly Northeast Ohioans spotted 300 species. They included such dazzling rarities as zigzag and agami herons, dozens of jabiru storks, and greater rheas, a flightless bird similar to an ostrich, and South America’s largest bird, standing more than five and a half feet tall.
But equal sources of excitement were the wild beasts of Brazil: jaguars, tapirs, giant anteaters, giant otters, caimans, monkeys, anacondas, and numerous other mammals and reptiles.
Fortunately, the Panta…

Explore the national park in our backyard for fabulous birding

Looking for summer birds? Check out Ohio's only national park
When I was a student at the University of Akron, I launched a writing project about a dream plan I had heard about that required me to interview my congressman, U.S. Rep. John Seiberling of Akron.
Seiberling had a vision for a federal land grant that would preserve a green buffer zone between Cleveland and Akron, protecting the 33,000-acre Cuyahoga River corridor from almost certain development.
Today, 45 years later, Seiberling’s dream is a reality: the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, an environmental treasure and one of the best birding destinations in Northeast Ohio.
So when my son, Bret, recently came home for a visit and suggested we spend some quality time birding, it was only logical we would head out for the CVNP.
Bret has been my birding partner since he was 12, and is one of the best birders I know. He graduated from Columbia University, and is preparing to begin his second year at the New Jersey Medical School, so…

Bald eagles aren't the only target birds at Sandy Ridge

Birders venture to Lorain County for avian beauties

There’s a wonderful wetland habitat in Lorain County that is familiar to birders and hikers, but a mystery to many people outside of the North Ridgeville area.
The Sandy Ridge Reservation is a 310-acre wildlife preserve that’s been open to the public for 20 years, sitting like a hidden oasis of woodlands, ponds and meadows, surrounded by a burgeoning sea of new housing developments.
During the waning weeks of the summer doldrums, when other parks in Northeast Ohio are quiet and uninviting as the birds seek shelter from the blistering sun, Sandy Ridge remains active and one of the most rewarding destinations for birders and nature walkers in the Cleveland area.
The wetlands are easily navigable via a network of flat, gravel paths atop raised earthen dikes. The trails pass through wide expanses of marsh grasses, shrubs and wildflowers, primarily swamp and common milkweed, wild monarda, Joe Pye weed, ironweed, sunflowers, and button bush, m…