The under story in Oregon’s Pearson Metropark, with its good cover and food supply, is a boon for birds. The thick woods and proximity to Lake Erie make Pearson a favorite stopover spot for a wide variety of migrating warblers, or songbirds. In May – around Mothers Day – there is no better place in North America to see these birds than the Western Lake Erie region.
Other species to look for are woodpeckers, oriole, red-eyed vireo, ovenbird, scarlet tanager, redstart, woodthrush, hermit thrush and Acadian flycatcher. Occasionally, visitors will see predatory birds, such as screech and great horned owls and sharp-shinned hawks.
A “Window on Wildlife” at the Packer-Hammersmith Center in the center of the park provides a quiet retreat where you can observe birds and other animals in their natural environment. Educational programs led by Metroparks naturalists are another way to learn more about the natural history of the park.
The 300-acre addition to Pearson north of Starr Avenue offers a unique perspective on the benefits of wetland habitats. Visitors will notice how the land holds water part of the year. They will also notice that water on the land is a magnate for birds. Already, water-loving birds from killdeer to red-wing blackbirds, great egrets to great blue herons and a wide variety of warblers have discovered the site.
A zone in Pearson North is a wet prairie. It includes shrubs such as paw-paw and bladdernut and grasses such as sedges and switch grass. Jaeger said in the spring the paw-paw produces deep burgundy flowers and in fall fruit that looks like mangos. The bladdernut produces little green sacs that drop to the vernal pools and float away like small boats before finding purchase elsewhere and germinating. Milkweed has been planted to attract monarch butterflies. When mature, this area should attract migrating birds like thrushes and warblers. Visitors are also likely to see sandpipers, red tail hawks, eagles, green herons and the Great Blue Heron. Canada geese should not find these wetlands attractive, John Jaeger, retired director for natural resources at the Metroparks of the Toledo Area,
The site promises opportunities for nature watching, including the appearance of a wide variety of birds more typical of Lake Erie marshes. The springtime woodland will offer important foraging areas for neo-tropical migrating birds such as warblers and thrushes. The oasis of trees and water and meadow provided by the area will be a natural stop-over for birds, and meadows with wildflowers will provide important nectaring sources for butterflies and insects.
The Metroparks is required to keep track of migratory birds and water fowl at Pearson North. Jaeger walks through a three-hour bird survey every 10 days. Jaeger is contracted to perform the survey for the Columbus-based Ohio Wetlands Foundation.
Pearson North has 10 different bird stations, and Jaeger spends 10 minutes at each station. After 29 days touring the park, he said he’s seen "some amazing birds that have stopped off here since the opening."
In 2010, he heard a whip-poor-will one evening walking around the park — a sound not heard in Northwest Ohio today like it was decades ago. Another day, he picked up a pie-billed greed.
"That's pretty amazing because they are usually found now at places in western Lucas County, like Oak Openings," Jaeger said.
"The whip-poor-will was unusual and probably migrating through," Jaeger continued. "We had a stopover flight of Dunlin's which nest up around the Arctic Circle. There was a lack of warblers, as the sample was done in the open wetland, and warblers prefer the woods and shrub and scrub areas. There was a group of Great Egrets attracted to the area along Seaman Road west of Wynn Road. The abundance of tadpoles, toads and frogs provided ample food for them."
Jaeger said he has observed 24,086 birds in the 300-acre expansion area, with 15,462, or 64 percent, on the northeast side. The remaining 8,642, or 34 percent, were found on the southwest side.
He observed 97 different species with an average daily diversity of 22 species. On May 29, 2009, he observed a high of 37 species, and on March 19 he observed a low of six species.
He counted 6,846 birds, the most on a single day, on October 10, 2009, and the low of 71 birds was on May 5. On an average bird day, he counted 831 birds (24,086 divided by 29 days).
More importantly, he says, is finding unique species, such as the return of the whip-poor-will or the Dunlins. About 34 Dunlins were hanging around the Johlin Cabin one day, he said, and they were not bothered by the historic house or a strong wind.
Other species include killdeer and marsh hawks, and Pearson North has become a "song sparrow factory," with over 1,000 produced at the park, plus other species of sparrow.
"They (song sparrow) have a wonderful call," Jaeger said. "They are very happy here."
And, believe it or not, there really is a bird called a snipe, Jaeger said, and he is finding them at Pearson North.
Jaeger counted 2,061 waterfowl (nine percent), 4,568 shorebirds (19 percent), 298 wading birds (one percent), and 148 birds of prey (.6 percent), but he explained there will be an effort to reduce the number of geese.
"You might see some bailing twine to discourage the geese from hanging around," Ohio Wetlands Foundation President Vincent E. Messerley said. "They (the geese) would really like it if the park district would mow around it and make it like a golf course. Thankfully, they don't do that."
Messerley spoke alongside Jaeger at the February meeting. Messerley believes development of the wetlands at Pearson North should include more down logs and brush that will provide cover from predatory birds.