Ohio State Parks are for the Birds; Lodges Embrace Feathered Friends as Travelers Flock to Parks for Birding Events

For Immediate Release
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Ohio State Park Lodges,  April 22, 2014 — This spring, thousands of eyes will be looking at the skies of Ohio as the state celebrates the abundant array of migratory birds that flock to Ohio during the season. Far more than a passionate pastime for hobbyists, birding in Ohio has evolved into an activity that encourages multi-generational togetherness, outdoor exercise and an appreciation for the state’s wilderness areas.

Recently, the Ohio State Legislature declared the first Bird Ohio Day – on May 10 – in recognition of the importance of bird and bird habitat stewardship. And soon, northern Ohio will celebrate the “Biggest Week in American Birding.”

The recent proclamation by the Legislature affirmed what dedicated birding enthusiast and Maumee Bay Lodge and Conference Center  general manager Patrick Czarny has long known: birds love Ohio and Ohioans love them back. According to the Department of Natural Resources, birdwatchers spend more than $30 million in northern Ohio each spring.

Five acclaimed Ohio State Parks with lodges operated by concessioner Xanterra Parks & Resorts provide a year-round haven for the state’s plentiful bird population. Salt Fork, Mohican, Punderson, Deer Creek and Maumee Bay Lodges and Conference Centers all offer a variety of birdwatching activities either at the parks themselves or within easy driving distance. Each of the parks feature ongoing naturalist programs that highlight the importance of birds, provide tips on protecting their habitats and spotlight their place in the food chain.

“When you call yourself a birder what you are really saying is that you are a conservationist,” said Czarny. “We are privileged to enjoy watching birds in their natural habitat, and the process reminds us of the importance of preserving wild places where we can be in awe of the simple wonders of nature.”

Here is a sampling of birding experiences at Ohio State Parks:

Maumee Bay State Park

Maumee Bay State Park is situated on Lake Erie in northwestern Ohio, and in the spring and fall the wetland habitat of the region draws plentiful migrating songbirds like warblers as well as waterbirds, tundra swans and birds of prey. Bald eagles can be viewed throughout the year. The park also has a program to raise, tag and release monarch butterflies. The Trautman Nature Center at Maumee Bay State Park offers state-of-the-art interpretive exhibits, interactive computer displays, an auditorium and wildlife feeding stations visible from viewing windows. The lodge is located within a few minutes of other world renowned wildlife sanctuaries including Metzger Marsh, Ottawa Nation Wildlife Refuge and Magee Marsh Wildlife Area.

Maumee Bay Lodge is the headquarters hotel for the “Biggest Week in American Birding,” an annual event coordinated by the Black Swamp Bird Observatory. Scheduled for May 6 – 15, the week includes nightly keynote addresses by a variety of naturalists, bus tours, field trips and workshops. On May 14, Maumee Bay will host the second-annual Bird Tattoo Contest.

The lodge is offering special rates during Biggest Week in American Birding now through May 20 with rates starting at $94.99. The lodge is located 10 minutes from the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Magee marsh and Metzger’s Marsh. The restaurant will open for breakfast at 5:15 a.m., and box lunches will be available during the “Biggest Week in American Birding.” To book the package online, use the promotional code BLACKSWAMP or call 1-800-282-7275.

Mohican State Park

Mohican State Park, southeast of Mansfield in north central Ohio, offers wide-ranging birding options throughout the year.

Mohican Lodge features a free live birds-of-prey presentation by the Ohio Bird Sanctuary every Saturday night from April through November. Volunteers with the group visit Mohican to stage special group events such as a “social birding” program. They also bring birds of prey into the lobby area and chat with visitors about the birds’ behaviors and habitats.

Additionally, the lodge’s dining room offers sweeping views of the lake, and diners are frequently treated to views of bald eagles perched in the trees.

On the western edge of the state park is the Mohican Memorial State Forest, where the hemlock-lined Clear Fork Gorge, a National Natural Landmark, provides a breathtaking vantage point for viewing neotropical migrant songbirds and wild turkeys. A one-mile hike through the gorge along the Clear Fork of the Mohican River takes visitors to the top of Pleasant Hill Dam. Turkey vultures and red-tailed hawks often soar above the gorge.

Salt Fork State Park

The Salt Fork Wildlife Area is adjacent to eastern Ohio’s Salt Fork State Park and offers an abundance of wood ducks, wading birds and shore birds at the 80-acre marsh on the eastern end of the area and along Salt Fork Lake’s 74 miles of shoreline. Visitors to the park and Salt Fork Lodge and Conference Center frequently report bald eagle sightings near the park’s lakes and waterways.

The park is also a spectacular location for viewing great blue heron wading and fishing in the park’s abundant beaver ponds and osprey fishing in the 2,970-acre lake. Visitors throughout the year report hearing the calls of the park’s many owls.

Punderson State Park

Punderson Manor Lodge and Conference Center in northeastern Ohio’s Geauga County provides an excellent home base for day trips to explore birding opportunities throughout the region.  The North Chagrin Reservation located about 20 miles northwest of the park features Canada geese, mallards, black ducks, wood ducks, a variety of water birds and birds of prey such as red-shouldered hawks and barred and screech owls. A two-story viewing tower offers uninhibited views.

The nearby Penitentiary Glen Reservation and Nature Center is named for the 90-foot wall of this gorge, which provides easy access but a tough exit, much like a penitentiary. The area’s new nature center is surrounded by a butterfly-hummingbird garden. Birds of prey and other wildlife undergoing rehabilitation are on display at the center. Songbirds are commonly viewed throughout the area.

Deer Creek State Park

Visitors to this Columbus-area park and the Deer Creek Lodge and Conference Center can explore a variety of bird habitats any time of the year. The wooded areas of the park draw migrant warblers during migration periods. Other birds of the region include ring-necked pheasant, eastern meadowlark, song sparrow, cowbird, eastern bluebird, barn swallow and woodcock.

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For more information about specific birding opportunities at Ohio’s state parks, call the Ohio Division of Wildlife at 1-800-WILDLIFE or 1-614-265-6300.

The five lodges operated by Xanterra Parks & Resorts are all located within an easy drive of major cities throughout Ohio as well Pittsburgh, Detroit and other Midwestern cities. Salt Fork State Park Lodge is 12 miles from Cambridge near the I-70/I-77 interchange. Mohican State Park Lodge is east of I-71 approximately 75 miles from both Columbus and Akron. Punderson Manor State Park Lodge is 35 miles east of Cleveland north of US-422. Maumee Bay State Park Lodge is 12 miles east of Toledo and north of the Ohio Turnpike (I-80). Deer Creek State Park Lodge is 35 miles south of Columbus east of I-71.

For information visit www.OhioStateParkLodges.com or call 1-800-282-7275.  Travelers can also connect with Ohio State Park Lodges on Facebook or Twitter.