Ashtabula County Metroparks

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Wetland Wanderings December

Metro Park Hike 045

By on December 26, 2018

Eyring Wetlands Metropark

Wetlands Wanderings

In the Eyring Wetlands Park

By Joyce Bond, December 2018

I arrived at the Eyring Wetlands Park to be met by the smiling face of the Ashtabula County Metroparks ranger Kristen Fortune.  The parks are currently advertising for a second park ranger.  But for now, Kristen patrols our parks maintaining the safety of the public and providing information as needed.  What a delight to see her out and seeing the evidence of the positive work of ACMP.

As I headed down the trail, all around me the birds flitted around in the rare winter sunshine.  As I discussed in last months blog, many of our feathered friends fly south for the winter. Food diminishes and the birds find better sources in the warmer climates.   But fortunately, many of them stay here in Ohio. While the snow, cold temperatures and gray days keep many outdoor enthusiasts inside, winter bird watching in northeast Ohio can be fascinating.  While the numbers and types of birds may be diminished, the ones that you can see are some of the most interesting species.

Feeding birds at backyard feeders is one of the most popular hobbies in the United States.  But our winter birds are resourceful and can find abundant food sources even when the snow is deep and the temperatures are below freezing.  The birds that I saw at the wetlands were in a group of dried goldenrod seed heads from the summer.  The birds could be seen perching on the plants and plucking the seeds from the plant.  Fallen seeds can also be eaten from the ground if the snow is not deep.

The Eyring Wetlands provide many different food sources for the winter birds because it is comprised of a diverse group of habitats.   In the lower interior areas, shrubs including serviceberry, dogwood, sumac, elderberry, and chokeberry and vines such as American bittersweet and scarlet trumpet vine provide fruit to the bird’s diet.  Though fresh fruit is not available in the winter, the dried and shriveled leftovers will remain on the bushes and vines as a welcome feast.  I saw evidence of the brilliant red sumac seed heads or drupes on the ground and partially eaten.  This may have been the work of the lone blue jay that I saw flying by or maybe a group of black-capped chickadees stopped for lunch. They may even have attracted a cardinal or a rafter of hungry turkeys.

Trees such as oak, pine, sweet gum, crabapple, and maple also produce nuts, fruits, and/or seeds that will be used by birds and other wildlife. The perimeter of the park is comprised of many of these tree species.   The blue jays and titmice have strong bills that allow them to crack acorns and beechnuts open to get to the meaty insides.  The finches are especially fond of the pine nuts that can be picked from the cones.  Tree sap is a sweet treat for the various woodpeckers in our winter landscapes.  These birds will drill deep into a tree’s bark to get any sap that is not frozen.

I can’t forget to mention the raptors.  These birds seem to be some of the most obvious birds of winter, in part because they are more conspicuous against the naked trees and barren winter landscapes. Red-tailed hawks are common and easily seen, as their bright white underparts shine like beacons from the bare trees and roadside fence posts. My backyard has recently been home to a northern harrier identifiable by his white tale.  They are of course after rodents, small mammals and smaller birds.  And like that harrier that I keep seeing may be eyeing the birds that frequent my backyard feeder.

Whether you are braving the elements on a hike or relaxing in your warm recliner beside the window near the birdfeeder, I hope you get the chance to observe some of northeast Ohio’s winter birds.  Below is a shortlist of the birds I tend to see from my recliner.

  • Mourning dove
  • Downy woodpecker
  • Red-bellied woodpecker
  • Blue jay
  • Black-capped chickadee
  • Tufted titmouse
  • White-breasted nuthatch
  • Northern cardinal
  • House finch
  • American goldfinch
  • House sparrow
  • Dark-eyed junco


Hope to see you on my next wandering or at one of the ACMP birding events.