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Published: Thursday, 5/16/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Tie between birds, Oak Openings evident at Metroparks

BY NATALIE TRUSSO CAFARELLO
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Several area people, including Natalie Swonger of Toledo, left, view birds  in Wildwood Metropark in Sylvania Township. Several area people, including Natalie Swonger of Toledo, left, view birds in Wildwood Metropark in Sylvania Township.
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Nothing is sweeter than starting the early morning rise listening to the melodic tweets, chirps, and songs of the birds that call the Oak Openings Region their home.

“They start chirping at 4:30 in the morning,” Brandon Hooper, 66, said.

Sylvania resident Mr. Hooper and his wife Barb, 60, have been avid birdwatchers for about three years, and at 8 a.m. Wednesday they joined about a dozen other bird-lovers for the Wildwood Preserve Coffee with the Birds, at Wildwood Preserve Metropark, 5100 W. Central Ave., Sylvania Township.

The sightseeing walk along the Parks Trail Connector Path that ended with a warm cup of coffee was also part of the Oak Openings Region Green Ribbon Initiative Blue Week, nine days dedicated to celebrating the delights and natural jewels of the northwestern Ohio’s unique ecosystem.

The group meets weekly in different areas of the Toledo Metroparks. The month of May is especially fascinating because the birds are mating, and also the brightly-colored warbler makes a stop in the area before migrating to Canada, the Hoopers said.

PHOTO GALLERY: Coffee with the Birds

A group of bird watchers at Wildwood include Metroparks naturalist Kim High, center, and Janet Weiden of Holland, front right. A group of bird watchers at Wildwood include Metroparks naturalist Kim High, center, and Janet Weiden of Holland, front right.
THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Naturalist Kim High, who led the group, told them to look around for movement. Many birds sat shaded in the stately oak tree branches, feasting on insects who were in turn filling up on the tree’s dangling flower called the catkin.

Standing still, the group intently watched for movement, and with success spotted various species.

In the prairie, a bluebird, with its spectacular blue feathered coat, darted above the grassy plain. Then it stood silently on the tip-top of branch that jutted straight out of a low-lying bush. Everyone’s binoculars were pressed to their noses, trying to get a magnified look at the bird.

Throughout the walk, Mrs. High mimicked the whistling call and sounds of the birds, and educated the birdwatchers on what the sounds mean.

At one moment a blue jay’s voice was heard.

“Don’t underestimate the blue jay,” she said. The common call of the songbird is not for pleasantries. The blue jay and the oak trees have a symbiotic relationship, and other birds depend on its siren call to warn them of predators, she explained.

"The blue jay is a keystone species to the oak openings," Mrs. High said.

The bird has no taste buds and is not turned off by the unpleasant taste of the oak tree’s acorns. So the birds are integral in burying the nut in a strategic pattern that create oaks and openings.

The openings that are prairie lands shaded by the trees, a breeding and nesting ground for some birds, and a habitat for the ground-eating bluebird.

The habitat in Lucas County has the most rare and endangered species, mostly plants, in all of Ohio, said Scott Carpenter, director of public relations for the Metroparks of Toledo.

The ecosystem is formed from a patchwork of various habitats that depend on the land’s sandy soil left behind after the glacial Lake Warren receded more than 12,000 years ago, according to the site www.oakopenings.org.

Area parks, including the Metroparks and Olander Park in Sylvania, are hosting various events at different natural venues through Sunday which showcase the Oak Openings ecosystem.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356 or ntrusso@theblade.com



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