Celebrate the coming of spring with birding tips from the experts
Birds in your local Five Rivers MetroParks are just like the proverbial canary in the coalmine.
“We monitor bird populations year round, and it’s important we get good counts,” says Yvonne Dunphe, conservation volunteer coordinator for MetroParks. “Birds are a good indicator species. Their presence tells how well you’re doing with land management and creating habitats, as each habitat is attractive to certain species. When you see lots of birds, it means a good food source is available, there’s adequate shelter and nesting spots are available.”
Five Rivers MetroParks manages nearly 16,000 acres of land, 90 percent of it in its natural state, and conducts bird surveys with the help of a volunteer squad known as the Bird Brigade. Now is a great time to join them while they look for migrating birds in the spring.
“As part of the Bird Brigade, you often see things up close you wouldn’t have otherwise because someone on the team is like, ‘Hey, look at the savannah sparrow,’ and then they show you the distinguishing features,” Dunphe says.
You don’t have to be a birding expert to participate, and the group’s next bird survey is coming up in less than a month.
Yet bird watching is an activity easily enjoyed on your own time.
“Watch birds for a while, paying close attention to interactions, especially during the approaching mating season as the males defend territory and perform courtship rituals,” says Joshua York, education supervisor for Five Rivers MetroParks. “Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the experience. Dress for the weather so you’re not limited by comfort.”
“Birding can be a very cheap or expensive hobby: It can be as cheap as a simple field guide and binoculars, or as expensive as binoculars and scopes costing $3,000 or more and worldwide travel,” York adds. “Let your passion help guide your cost.”
However you approach bird watching, Five Rivers MetroParks manages land that’s home to an amazing diversity of birds and often represents the best local habitat for rare bird species. Visit metroparks.org for maps and more info, and check out these insider tips from Dunphe and York.
1. Carriage Hill MetroPark’s Cedar Lake and North Woods Pond are home to a variety of waterfowl, such as green herons, wood ducks and ring-neck ducks.
“During breeding season, you can see the scarlet tanager and summer tanager,” says Dunphe. “The first one I saw without binoculars was right in the trees. Check out the nature trails to see hummingbirds in the prairie and pine warblers along areas where there are cedar trees.”
2. Cox Arboretum MetroPark offers a bird blind near a pond, providing an opportunity for bird and wildlife viewing in this area that includes two wetlands and 13 acres of prairie. Redwing blackbirds and common yellowthroat warblers are often seen at the bird blind.
3. Eastwood MetroPark is home to birdwatchers’ fave couple, American bald eagles Jim and Cindy.
“March is the time for waterfowl,” York says, “and Dayton’s rivers and lakes create great resting stops for birds making their way north for breeding. If you have a spotting scope, Eastwood is a great place to spot ducks like buffleheads, common goldeneye, scaup and sometimes even common loons.”
4. Englewood MetroPark is a birdwatcher’s paradise with its variety of habitats, including woodlands, meadows, wetlands, lakes and ponds.
“Englewood MetroPark is hopping this time of year with avian diversity, sometimes showcasing buffleheads, ruddy ducks, redheads, American coots, grebes and sometimes blue-winged teal in the swamp just north of the lower lake parking lot,” York says. “The rivers are great places to bird watch, as they are also full of migrating waterfowl, like northern shovelers and hooded mergansers.”
“If you have never seen a purple martin, head to the North Park, 500 Old Springfield Rd.,” Dunphe advises. “At the wildlife area, you can usually see a dozen herons hanging out. If you take the small trail by Thompson Shelter and head toward the river, you should see many different kinds of birds. The belted kingfisher and prothonotary warbler are two of my favorites and both are very distinctive birds that can be seen there.”
5. Germantown MetroPark is designated as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society and a Watchable Wildlife viewing site by Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Visit the new bird blind on the silver trail near a wetland, accessible via the trailhead at 7501 Conservancy Rd.
6. Possum Creek MetroPark is home to tall grass prairies and ponds that provide habitat for a variety of birds.
“Argonne Lake is a great place to watch a variety of ducks, typically ring-necked ducks and the occasional mute swan,” York says.
“One of the first belted kingfishers I saw was at the Wildlife Pond, where you also can see green and blue herons,” Dunphe says. “The key is to be quiet and patient; you may not see everything at once. The yellow breasted chat is also a frequent visitor. Look in the thicket and brush areas that border the prairies on the west side trails.”
The Bird Brigade’s next bird survey will be held Sunday, April 3, at 7:30 a.m. To sign up, please contacting Yvonne Dunphe at 937.275.PARK or email@example.com. To see more from MetroParks, including maps and information on upcoming birding events, please visit metroparks.org.
Reach DCP freelance writer Kristen Wicker at KristenWicker@DaytonCityPaper.com