The first of the Western Cuyahoga Audubon evening birdwalks took place on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 on a portion of the Cleveland Metroparks’ Lake to Lake Trail. Three “target species” of birds were on the list for the evening - Common Nighthawk, Eastern Wood-Pewee, and Barn Swallow. ~ Nancy Howell
Early Evening Bird Walk Report
Date: Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Location: The Lake-to-Lake Trail adjacent to Southwest General Health Center (Southwest Hospital), Middleburg Hts., OH 44130 Map
Leaders: Nancy Howell and Michelle Brosius
Results: 32 Species, 15 Birders
Description: The first of the Western Cuyahoga Audubon evening birdwalks took place on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 on a portion of the Cleveland Metroparks’ Lake to Lake Trail. Nancy Howell, Michelle Brosius, and Dave Graskemper were the leaders of the walk. It was a delightful, cool, clear evening with an even more delightful group of 15 WCAS members and guests. The walk took the all-purpose trail adjacent to Southwest General Health Center and headed through a diversity of habitats, and with it, a diversity of bird species. Three “target species” of birds were on the list for the evening - Common Nighthawk, Eastern Wood-Pewee, and Barn Swallow.
The first habitat was the shrubby area just off of the parking lot, we then proceeded to the Fowles Wetland complex that could be viewed from a covered viewing platform. We continued south, skirting the wetland and the shrubs and trees along the trail. Eventually the trail took us through a wooded area. The group walked a recently constructed spur of the trail connecting the woodland with a field habitat as our final area to visit.
While we call these birdwalks, all manner of plants and animals are fair game to view and admire … which we did. As the group gathered, birds were moving around us. Barn Swallows, one of our “target species”, hawked insects overhead, male House Finch landed on parking lot lights and dead tree branches and we admired their red heads and breasts. A pair of Cedar Waxwings also landed on the dead tree branches and American Goldfinch glowed in the evening light. Some of the birds, particularly the swallows, seemed agitated. Was it because of our gathering group? Nope, a Cooper’s Hawk was hiding in one of the trees, then flew out and down into the shrubs and grasses. When it came up, it had something in its talons. What a way to start a walk.
Along the trail the shrubs, trees, and wetlands produced Mourning Dove, Ring-billed Gulls high overhead, a Turkey Vulture, Chimney Swift, Common Grackle, and Gray Catbird. As we neared the wetland overlook a couple of species associated with wetlands were heard - Common Yellowthroat, Swamp Sparrow, and Red-winged Blackbird. At the overlook a lot of birds were perched across the wetland, in dead trees. We had a tough time deciding what they were since they were so far away, but when they took off it was determined that they were European Starlings … and lots of them … perhaps 350 or more. A Red-tailed Hawk was also perched across the marsh, luckily it was perched so its lighter colored undersides were showing in the evening sun. The shelter at the overlook also had an active Barn Swallow nest as one of the birds came into the nest. We also identified the metal cutouts of waterfowl decorating the shelter.
Parts of the trail seemed very quiet of any kind of sound - insect, bird, frog, but we were able to identify Song Sparrows singing, viewed American Robins and Northern Flicker, and heard distant Blue Jays among many of the other species already mentioned. A small flycatcher at the wetland caught the eye of one participant. It was either a Willow or Alder Flycatcher, but since it did not call, it was listed in eBird as Alder/Willow (Traill’s) Flycatcher. That was a good bird to see, but difficult to identify. A Tree Swallow was also noted by one of the leaders. Once in the wooded area we had many more American Robins primarily feeding on the wild cherries. We also saw another “guest” eating the cherries, a young raccoon high in the tree. So interesting to watch it grab a cherry branch and eat the ripe cherries. The wooded area also produced Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, and Eastern Wood-Pewee, another of the “target species”. We would get the chance to hear them again as we returned.
The spur trail leading to the field, as mentioned earlier, was finished recently, but something caught my eye. Along the trail was a fairly straight row of wild cherry trees, all about the same size.Then an old fence post was seen. Ah-ha! This was a former fence line before the trees grew in.The fence made a perfect perch for birds which are great dispersers of seeds. As they landed and left droppings, cherry and other fruit seeds were deposited. The cherries have since grown to be the dominant tree along the row.
As the group came into the field additional Song Sparrows and an Indigo Bunting sang. More Barn Swallows and Chimney Swifts were overhead too. A Great Egret was seen slowly making its way across the open sky. With the wetland and a couple of small lakes nearby, it is not too much of a surprise, and a nice addition to the list. After looking around the field it was time to turn around and retrace our steps. As mentioned the Eastern Wood-Pewee called a little louder so that people could hear its plaintive call, Northern Cardinals were sighted, a Carolina Wren trilled in the distance, and a Yellow Warbler sang and was seen by a few folks. Back at the parking lot, a Common Nighthawk, the third “target species”, made an appearance overhead.
Other things that caught participant’s eyes, and camera lenses, were several mammals. The Raccoon was mentioned already, but on the return walk, three Raccoons were in the cherry tree. White-tailed Deer, Eastern Cottontail Rabbit, a Red Squirrel enjoyed the seeds of spruce and was stripping a spruce cone like we eat corn on the cob. At least one Coyote howled for us, and it appeared as though the sound was coming from the field that we had left a short time ago. Nearing the wetland a bat (unknown species) was sighted. Many participants enjoyed the Shrubby St. John’s Wort in flower. An unusual species of oak was sighted, probably planted by the park. What caught our eyes was the silvery undersides of the leaves and the unusual leaf shape. From field guides it may be a Post Oak (Quercus stellata).
Again, a great evening walk with a great group of people many of which liked the evening venue. ~ Nancy Howell
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