Witness northwest Ohio’s spring migration phenomenon that draws 90,000 visitors to our region each year!
Northwest Ohio is recognized as one of the best birding areas in North America, especially during spring migration. Check out our guide to make the most of your birding adventures!
You may be surprised to find that birding is one of the top attractions in northwest Ohio. Remarkably, tens of thousands of visitors converge on our region each spring from all 50 states, 54 countries and 6 continents. Amazing, right? The folks over at Black Swamp Bird Observatory aren’t surprised. They knew the natural phenomenon of the spring bird migration could turn the Lake Erie shoreline and beyond into a tourism mecca, so they launched The Biggest Week in American Birding a decade ago and are proud to be celebrating their 10th year May 3-12, 2019, headquartered at Maumee Bay Lodge & Conference Center.
Kimberly Kaufman, Executive Director for the Black Swamp Bird Observatory located in Oak Harbor, says the number of tourists to our area to experience the spring migration is astounding. “We estimate that we can pull in 90,000 visitors from around mid-April through the end of May”, Kaufman says. “We’ve seen as many as 10,000 in one single day”.
What is The Biggest Week in American Birding?
The Biggest Week in American Birding is a 10-day festival in northwest Ohio, where visitors immerse themselves in spring songbird migration and experience some of the best birding North America has to offer. The festival has something for the beginner and seasoned birders alike, with bird identification workshops, guided birding trips, birding by canoe, daily walks at the world famous Magee Marsh, American Woodcock field trips, keynote presentations, a Birder’s Marketplace, and evening socials. Please note that the festival events sell out early each year. Visit biggestweekinamericanbirding.com for a list of events that are open to the public.
Warblers...The Star of the Show
Birders and nature lovers will enjoy viewing the flocks of songbirds and waterfowl during the annual spring migration, but Kimberly Kaufman wants to make it clear what the majority of visitors are here to witness. “They come here to see the warblers,” says Kaufman. “They are the star of the show. That’s why they’ve traveled all this way.” Birders gather on the boardwalk at Magee Marsh (one of the birding hot spots) with their binoculars, cameras and checklists to keep a tally of their treasured warbler sightings, hoping to get a glimpse of that elusive warbler yet to make their list.
What Makes Northwest Ohio a Birding Mecca?
According to the Black Swamp Observatory, “It is simply the best place to witness the spring migration of songbirds anywhere in North America. Lake Erie acts as a barrier that the birds are reluctant to cross during migration. The birds gather in marshlands on the lake’s southern edge to refuel and rest before crossing Lake Erie.”
In addition, the trees are just beginning to bud and the visibility of the birds is exceptional. Birders will see more than 20 species of warblers along with thrushes, vireos, flycatchers, orioles, eagles and shorebirds.
Great Birding at Metroparks Toledo
Metroparks Toledo has an abundance of birding hot spots of their own. According to Scott Carpenter, Public Relations Director for the Metroparks, Oak Openings and Pearson Metroparks offer the best examples of the spring migration in the Toledo area. “Oak Openings is one of the best spots for viewing the spring migration”, says Carpenter. “The habitat is truly unique and there is really nothing else like it in our area.” Pearson is also a favorite stopover for the wide variety of migrating birds with its thick woods and location close to Lake Erie. Carpenter adds, “Howard Marsh, our newest park, near Lake Erie, is a magnet for shorebirds and waterfowl.”
Birding Tips and Guidelines
- Anytime from mid-April through May is great for birding, but typically the peak migration occurs during the first two weeks of May. This is when you are most likely to see the greatest numbers and species. As the leaves bloom it is more of a challenge to spot the warblers.
- The key to spectacular bird watching is weather! When we have good southwest winds with a sharp increase in temperature as a front moves in, one is most likely to witness the heaviest migration.
- You don’t have to sign up for The Biggest Week in American Birding to join in on the fun! Destination Toledo has created a website page especially devoted to birders who are planning a journey to our area this spring: Birding Hot Spots.
- For a great resource with the latest birding information, including current hot spots and predictions for the migration, visit bsbobird.org.
Not sure birding is your thing? Don’t count yourself out! “All it really takes is a love of nature to enjoy a day of birding,” says Cathy Miller, Experience Toledo Manager at Destination Toledo. “It gives you an opportunity to surround yourself with wildlife and get a little exercise too.” Who knows? You might find yourself a new favorite pastime!
The Biggest Week in American Birding will be taking place May 3 - May 12, 2019 and is headquartered at Maumee Bay Lodge & Conference Center with a great schedule of events and festivities. Please visit biggestweekinamericanbirding.com for details on events available to the public and don’t forget to share your sightings and photos with us @ToledoCVB and use #ThisIsToledo on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Photos courtesy of The Biggest Week in American Birding: facebook.com/TheBiggestWeekInAmericanBirding