Monday, October 14, 2013

Fall Birding and Discovery

Fall has unwrapped her colors across Ohio, yet this is but one gorgeous moment in time, and times. Sunday found me standing on the edge of Meadowbrook Marsh in Marblehead, Ohio where it was a privilege to witness a scene which has unfolded here for countless ages: fall migration.

This location which previously was inaccessible to “birders” has changed very little over the last several hundred years.  The purchase of the wetlands was kicked off by the CarbonOffset Birding Project at Midwest Birding Symposium 2011; our goal was to see it protected and conserved to aid birds far into the future.

To many people fall migration is the sight of ducks and geese in formation flying across the sky.  It can also be the trickle of south-bound warblers in toned-down dress.  Fall hawk watchers set up in the narrow crossings of Lake Erie at Detroit and New York.  They know the sky above open water is generally avoided by soaring birds such as eagles, falcons and like.

This weekend the Ohio Young Birders converged upon the viewing platform at Meadowbrook to hold a Big Sit!  Their bird sightings were certainly impressive. But most remarkable was the number of raptors seen, nine species in total: Bald eagle, golden eagle, red-tail hawk, American kestrel, merlin, sharp-shinned hawk, cooper’s hawk, northern harrier and peregrine falcon.

Golden Eagle photographed in Ohio (2011) by Cheryl Harner
 These birds of prey generally  prefer to go around the lake.  Safe crossing lies above terra firma, as these soaring “flap and glide” experts utilize thermals, those warm air columns that rise off of land.  There are no buoyant air columns created upon the water, and therefore, no raptors. The sheer number of raptors seen at Meadowbrook this weekend seemed to belie that logic. 

We butterfly enthusiasts know the Monarchs use the Erie islands as stepping stones; one must wonder if birds do the same when weather conditions allow.

Our map of the Western basin of Lake Erie shows a straight trajectory from Point Pelee in Canada, to Pelee Island, on to Kelleys Island which leads to a perfect ending above Meadowbrook Marsh.  If warming land masses create columns of rising air, the soaring birds could skip across these thermals as easily as butterflies island-hop mere feet above the water.

Thanks to the Ohio's Young Birders weekend's findings,  we have more support for a theory that birds can hop-scotch the air-columns above the islands. Meadowbrook Marsh may now become a popular hawk watch location along the North Coast.

Ohio Young Birders, Photo provided by BSBO / Kelly McKinne
The Ohio Young Birders Club presents Danbury Township Trustee Dianne Rozak with a check for more than $1700 for the continued efforts to preserve Meadowbrook Marsh! The students raised the money during last year's Big Sit!

A special thank you goes out to Kenn and Kim Kaufman, Mark Shieldcastle and all the other leaders (Katie, Kelly and Rob!) and supporters of the Ohio Young Birders.  It was a great privilege to bird a bit with my friends and some of the greatest kids around.  Not only does BSBO help kids learn more about nature, they are grooming conservationists for the future. 


  1. Thank you for this post - it's inspiring and hopeful to read about what the Ohio Young Birders are doing!

  2. Great report Cheryl. Thanks. I hope to stop by Meadowbrook tomorrow when I'm up there monitoring for BSC. Rob K tells me it was your vision and inspiration that allowed that conservation project to happen. Thank you. - hal