The Metroparks is required to keep track of migratory birds and water fowl at
John Jaeger, retired director for natural resources at the Metroparks of the Toledo Area, 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."
He found the 300-acre Pearson expansion promises opportunities for nature watching, including the appearance of a wide variety of birds more typical of Lake Erie marshes.
For example, the field naturalist told members of The Friends of Pearson Park during February’s monthly meeting at Macomber Lodge that “the springtime woodland will offer important foraging areas for neo-tropical migrating birds such as warblers and thrushes.”
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 Mar. 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.
Frogs, insects, and bees
Jaeger added there are an abundance of frogs that have been "produced throughout the park," along with crayfish chimneys.
The crayfish could help bring back a declining population of eastern fox snake, he explained, adding that the snake population has been migrating towards to Lake Erie. He said fox snakes once resided throughout the Black Swamp region.
"This is proof that the eastern fox snake, which has declined over the last few years, is here. They historically were here, but they aren't poisonous and they are constrictors, and they are fairly easy to handle."
Jaeger discussed insects and flowers, too, adding that a multi-floral Pearson North is "getting the bumble bee on the move."
Jaeger said he counted a female 12-spotted dragon fly, which is metallic gold with white spots between black spots. He said there is potential for other species of dragon flies to be discovered.
He said Michigan lilies, which need plenty of sunlight to flower, have surprisingly been present.
"There is a wonderful population of them along the railroad able to sustain itself and it is unique to Pearson. It's a wonderful lily," Jeager said.
Jeager said the original grant for Pearson North's restoration provides for interpretative signage along a trail. Messerley added that higher vantage points will be incorporated with the signage to provide long term viewing of natural habitat.
The Black Swamp Interpretive Area will be established at Pearson North to provide a sense of place for visitors and explain why pioneers chose northwest Ohio as their place to settle.
Terry Breymaier, president of Friends of Pearson, says that the park's historical interpretation plan calls for a biological history of the Great Black Swamp. He explained the purpose of that is to celebrate the region’s natural history and not just "people who have come and gone through this area," adding it's important to present the "whole picture."
"I think the saying goes, ‘The people's effect on the environment, and the environment's effect on the people’ should be celebrated,” said Becky Finch of the Metroparks programming department.