Turn your eyes to the skies in several locations at Lake Metroparks to see the fascinating fall migration of the area’s avian species

Yellow Rumped Warbler3
Lake Metroparks offers several fun (and free!) programs for the birding-curious or avian experts.

By Mimi Vanderhaven

Have you heard the old joke, “There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot”?

True confession, darlings—that’s how Mimi used to feel about the pursuit of birdwatching. But then I read a statistic that upwards of 51 million Americans have taken it up.

So, Mimi grabbed her Barbie-pink binoculars and met up with Lake Metroparks Assistant Chief of Interpretive Services Caitlin Ambrose, who is a local expert in the fall migratory patterns of our feathered friends. We went to her five favorite birdwatching spots (Lake Erie Bluffs, Chagrin River Park, Hidden Valley Park, Beaty Landing and Penitentiary Glen Reservation) for a peek.

She was full of fascinating facts. For instance, fall migration lasts much longer than spring migration, which only lasts about two weeks. Sparrows head south in October and waterfowl follow in November.

“Each species heads to a destination, such as the tropics and South America,” Caitlin says. “If a bird can forage in the winter for berries and seeds instead of its usual diet of bugs, it might stay here instead of migrating.”

The migratory patterns are always changing so birds can adapt and survive. She mentions that a bird known as a veery seems to predict if a bad hurricane season is coming two months in advance and leaves its breeding grounds early to get down to its winter place.

Lake Metroparks offers several fun (and free!) programs for the birding-curious or avian experts, including Before-and After-Work Bird Strolls offered along the trails of Lake Erie Bluffs, Chagrin River Park and Beaty Landing. Times vary. Led by a park naturalist, participants learn about identifying different species. Caitlin says they will lend you binoculars.

The What’s the Bird? program on Wednesday, September 27, from 4-5:30 p.m. is targeted to beginners with loads of tips and tricks. It takes place at Chagrin River Park. You can register for either program online at goto.lakemetroparks.com/birding-programs. Happy birding!

Lake Metroparks annually provides more than four million visitors recreational and educational experiences including a nature center and more than 60 miles of trails at 39 parks. Visit LakeMetroparks.com for more information.