Birds, Birds, Everywhere in your Metro Parks

STEPHANIE WEST, Naturalist Blendon Woods

A ring-necked duck on Thoreau Lake at Blenndn Woods
Ring-necked ducks rest on Blendon Wood’s Thoreau Lake on their journey northward. (Karen Chism)

Migration has started already! Even though March temperatures have been consistently well below freezing  you can really begin to feel the coming of spring. I think it is the extra daylight.

A tufted titmouse on a branch at Blacklick Woods Metro Park.
Tufted titmice  begin to sing their courtship song in early spring whistling repetitions of “peter peter peter!” (John Bonnett)

Certainly the birds know spring is on its way. Stick your head out the door on a sunny morning, even a frigid one, and you will hear  resident birds announcing spring. The cardinals, chickadees, titmice, Carolina wrens and bluebirds are all perfecting their spring songs, defining territories and showing off for the ladies.

A male and female hooded mergansers take a dwim on Blendon Woods' Thoreau Lake
A pair of hooded mergansers take a swim on the open waters at Blendon Woods. (Gil Sears)

Already the waterfowl – the ducks and geese – have been passing through Ohio on their way north. Ducks like the black ducks, mallards, pintails, hooded mergansers, ringneck ducks and shovelers are a common sight on Thoreau Lake at Blendon Woods.

Great blue herons nest in a rookery at Pickerington Ponds Metro Park
Great blue herons nest communally in rookeries or heronries at Pickerington Ponds. (John Cagnina)

Most waterways never froze completely this winter and the great blue herons really never left. Same for the turkey vultures – as soon as the roadkill thaws, the clean-up crew is back in town, quietly going about their business.

No bird is more of an exhibitionist then the American woodcock with its spring courtship aerial sky dance. (Tim Hutson)

Woodcocks are back from their winter in the southern US and have started singing again (if you can call it singing.) You can stop by any open field in your local Metro Park at dusk to listen for their unmusical, nasal peeent. If you are lucky, and have good eyes, you might catch the whirling, tumbling skydance that is the real feature of their performance. Check the Parkscope or Metro Parks website for a naturalist-led woodcock watch and you are almost guaranteed success.

Red-winged blackbird n a tree
Look for red-winged blackbirds atop cattails, along soggy roadsides and on tree branches in your Metro Parks. (Adam Brandemihl)

And what says spring better than the conk-la-ree! of the red-winged blackbird? Having spent the winter only a few states to the south, by the end of March they are already back in every damp, reedy corner of Ohio, announcing the lengthening of days.

A meadowlark singing
Meadowlarks usher in spring as they sing sweetly in the fields. (Tim Daniel)

Usually by the first week of April the tree swallows, phoebes, and meadowlarks, all Ohio summer residents, will add their voices to the growing cacophony. March, however, is the warm-up – getting us ready for the epic travelers of late April and May, the warblers. Get out there and enjoy the colors and the symphony!

What migrating birds are you seeing in the parks? Let us know or send photos to mediagroup@metroparks.net

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