Red-winged blackbird/Chuck Slusarczyk Jr.
New birders enjoy the beauty of Spring Migration at Cleveland lakefront preserve

One of the greatest rewards for being a birder is sharing my love for these beautiful plumed creatures with non-birders, especially while exploring some of the best birding habitats found anywhere in Northeast Ohio.

My most recent opportunity to serve as a tour guide and birding ambassador came May 5 on behalf of the Fairview Park Women’s Club, a philanthropic organization that does amazing work helping needy families, sponsoring sports teams and providing scholarships and grants to promising high school students.
Blue-headed vireo

This year, the Women’s Club raised more than $13,000 in charitable contributions, with a large chunk of it coming from the annual Wine Tasting & Silent Auction, to which I had donated a bird walk. The winning bid was cast by Diane Faile, who invited along about a dozen of her friends for a morning walk at one of the birdiest parks in the area, the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve. Another talented birder, Karen Lakus, joined us to help everyone see the birds.

Few of the participants had ever been on a bird walk before, and none had previously visited the nature preserve, which made the three-hour morning walk all the more exciting. Thankfully, the birds and the weather cooperated.
Hermit thrush/Chuck Slusarczyk Jr.

The month of May in Ohio marks the peak of the Spring Migration, a thrilling annual phenomenon that occurs when millions of songbirds that spent the winter in Central and South America, and the southern U.S., fly en masse northward to their traditional nesting grounds. Many of the colorful birds pass through Ohio, often congregating along the Lake Erie shoreline, where they rest and feed before resuming their journey across the lake to Canada.

One of the best natural rest stops is the lakefront nature preserve, an 88-acre peninsula formed from decades of sediment dredged from the Cuyahoga River and Cleveland Harbor and dumped into a dike surrounded by metal walls and boulders. Over the years, trees, shrubs and plants grew naturally in the earthen storage dike, and the migrating birds took advantage of the man-made oasis.
Embarking on the birding tour

Our tour group appeared to genuinely enjoy our many encounters with whistling Baltimore orioles, sweet singing rose-breasted grosbeaks, meowing gray catbirds, and recently arrived warblers such as Nashville, ovenbird, palm, yellow, and common yellowthroat. These species were complemented by blue-headed vireos, red-breasted nuthatches, blue-gray gnatcatchers, ruby-crowned kinglets, and house wrens.

Thrush were plentiful on our walk, including wood, hermit and veery, as well as sparrows, notably white-crowned, white-throated, swamp, Lincoln’s, Savannah, field, chipping, song, and Eastern towhee.

Even the ubiquitous red-winged blackbirds enthralled the group, entertaining them with their repertoire of songs and squawks, their courtship displays, and flaring of red shoulder epaulettes. Brown thrashers, Northern mockingbirds and Northern flickers joined the ornithological chorus.
Scanning the harbor for loons

It was safe to say that none of the tour group had ever experienced such close encounters with common loons, three of which paddled leisurely in the harbor that adjoins the Gordon Park Marina. A horned grebe dove repeatedly in the lake in pursuit of fish, and a bald eagle passed overhead with its prey grasped in its talons. More than a dozen wild turkeys strutted inside and outside the fence, featuring several excited Toms with their tails fanned.

I don’t know if anyone on the tour planned to buy a new pair of binoculars or join any of the morning bird walks planned for the remainder of the spring migration in the Cleveland area. But if even one participant becomes hooked on this fascinating hobby, my bird walk donation would have been worth it.

Aerial View Redux story update:

I recently reported a good news bird story in which the developers of an $11 million restoration project of the historic Forest City Bank building in Ohio City put their completion of the work on hold after discovering a pair of American kestrels with five eggs secreted in the attic behind a hole in a roof soffit.

I’m pleased to announce that the eggs have HATCHED, and five fluffy chicks are now occupying the nest in the old brick building at the intersection of Detroit Avenue and West 25th Street.

Primary credit for the falcons’ success goes to project manager Walt Gachuk of the Snavely Building Group, who is supervising the building restoration and construction of
the 38-unit, Forest City Square Apartments, which will offer low-income housing in a green building with solar panels on the roof.

The nature-loving Gachuk has taken his appreciation for the falcons a step further, setting up a nest-cam inside the attic for birders to follow the falcon chicks as they mature, and a web site with a link to the nest cam, a WKYC-TV feature story on the kestrels, and the original Aerial View Redux report. Here is a link to the web site:


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