Oak Openings Birding Drive

Birding Drives are routes for birding trips which can be accomplished in one day, stopping to walk and bird at various eBird hotspots. For each birding drive, a Google map is provided with the route and suggested stops at eBird hotspots. You may save the link to the Google map on your smartphone or tablet, or print a copy on paper to take with you. Links are provided with information about each eBird hotspot. Follow those links for more information about birding each location.

Oak Openings Birding Drive
Click on the hotspot names below to view the page about that hotspot.

This Birding Drive explores eBird hotspots in the Oak Openings in Lucas County. When you submit checklists here you help to add to the data about birds in this region of Ohio.

The Oak Openings Region of Northwest Ohio is a globally rare ecosystem declared by the Nature Conservancy as “One of America’s Last Great Places”. The region is much more than just Oak Openings Preserve Metropark. The Florida Everglades is on the same list as this region. Who would have thought a sandy stretch of land in Northwest Ohio would be included with such prestigious company as the Everglades? They are both included on the Nature Conservancy’s list of America’s Last Great Places.

It is home to more endangered native plant species than any other place in Ohio. More than one-third of all Ohio’s rare plant species can be found here. Consequently, this part of Northwest Ohio has been a favorite place for botanists from all over the country (and world) to study the unique animal life and rare plants that grow here. A recent success story of the Oak Openings is the reintroduction of the Karner Blue Butterfly. It wasn’t seen here since the late 1980s but is now back.

The Oak Openings Region is in the western portion of Lucas County, stretching into portions of Fulton and Henry counties at the south end. To the north is extends almost to the Ohio-Michigan line It is a band of sandy soil that is approximately 22 miles long and varies from 3 to 5 miles wide.

Wildwood Preserve Metropark

5100 West Central Avenue Toledo, Ohio 43615

From the intersection of I-475 and US-20, drive east on US-20 for 1.2 miles. Continue straight onto OH-120 for .2 miles. Turn left into Wildwood Preserve Metropark.

Natural beauty and constructed elegance come together as one at Wildwood Preserve, the most visited of the Metroparks. The 493-acre park is the former estate of Toledo’s Stranahan family. Surrounded by natural habit, the stately home, now called the Manor House, played important roles in Toledo—and the park district’s—history.

Built in 1938 by Champion Spark Plug magnate Robert Stranahan, the Manor House, and the estate were purchased by Metroparks in 1975 following a vigorous citizens’ initiative to preserve the property, which was destined to become a housing development. The house, crafted in a Georgian colonial style, is open for free tours and decorated for the holidays, while portions of the home and other buildings serve as Metroparks administrative offices.

The main attraction at Wildwood is the system of trails that traverse varied terrain (a treat in the flatlands of northwest Ohio). The park is bisected by the Ottawa River and has sandy soil indicative of the rare Oak Openings Region.

The prairie community at Wildwood is home to many diverse and fascinating plants and animals. In the spring, it is a breeding site for ground-nesting birds such as rufous-sided towhees, field sparrows, and American woodcock. Summer brings a spectacular display of prairie wildflowers and grasses, such as rough blazing star, big bluestem and Indian grasses, some reaching 10 feet high.

Secor Metropark

10001 West Central Avenue Holland, Ohio 43528

From Wildwood Preserve, turn right onto OH-120 west and drive 6 miles. Turn left onto Wolfinger Road and arrive at Secor Metropark.

Secor Metropark is located on the other side of Bancroft Road from Irwin Prairie and protects one of the region’s better tracts of Black Swamp forest–a habitat that once covered much of northwest Ohio. A highlight of the forest-dependent species that nest here is Cerulean Warbler; a few pairs breed in the park. More common nesters include Red-headed Woodpecker, Yellow-throated Vireo, Veery and Wood Thrush, and American Redstart, Ovenbird, and Hooded Warbler. Spring and fall migration can be good for songbirds as well.

Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve

9987 West Bancroft Holland, Ohio 43528

From Secor Metropark, drive south on Wolfinger Road for .4 mile. Turn right onto North Irwin Road and drive .4 mile. Turn right onto West Bancroft Street and go .1 mile. Arrive at Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve parking area on the left.

A wet prairie dominated by sedges and rushes, habitat for migrating songbirds and waterfowl. The core of this preserve is a treeless, wet sedge meadow dominated by several species of sedges, rushes and wetland grasses. It is the finest remaining sedge meadow in the state. The preserve is actually comprised of a mosaic of distinctive plant communities based on variations in water table levels.

Tallgrass wet prairie communities dominated by big bluestem and spiked blazing star; sedge meadow dominated by twig-rush; shrub swamp dominated by shrubby species of dogwoods and willows; grass meadow dominated by blue-joint grass and northern reedgrass; and swamp forest dominated by pin oak and cottonwood, are all represented.

More than 26 state-listed species of plants occur here including red baneberry, Sartwell’s sedge, fringed gentian, Kalm’s St. Johns wort, Riddell’s goldenrod and grass-leaf arrowhead. Rare animals sighted at Irwin Prairie include sedge wrens, Bell’s vireo, least bittern, golden-winged warbler, spotted and Blandings turtles, and the purplish copper butterfly.

The preserve has a handicapped accessible boardwalk which provides access through Irwin Prairie. The boardwalk is a 1.25-mile loop trail beginning at the parking lot. This boardwalk does not have kick rails for wheelchairs. We suggest that wheelchair users have assistance when using this trail system.

The best time to visit Irwin Prairie is during July and August to view the summer wildflowers. The wet prairie plant community in the region has been severely impacted by the draining of wetlands. Even though the prairie grows in a state nature preserve, its future remains uncertain.

Kitty Todd Nature Preserve

The Nature Conservancy 10420 Old State Line Road Swanton, Ohio 43558

From Irwin Prairie, drive east on West Bancroft Street for .1 mile. Turn right onto North Irwin Road and drive 2.8 miles. Turn right onto Old State Line Road and go .7 miles. Arrive at Kitty Todd Nature Preserve on the right.

Located in western Lucas County north of Old State Line Road. Managed by The Nature Conservancy, Kitty Todd Preserve is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the first full weekend of the month from May through October only.

Kitty Todd Preserve consists of a mosaic of plant communities including sand barren, black oak savanna, sedge meadow and wet prairie communities typical of the Oak Openings region.

Kitty Todd Preserve is one of the finest nature preserves in the Oak Openings region of northwestern Ohio. The preserve was named in honor of Toledo conservationist and former Nature Conservancy board member, Kitty Todd.

The Oak Openings region was originally characterized by a series of windblown sand dunes and wetlands that were saturated in winter and spring and extremely dry in summer. These conditions gave rise to vegetation ranging from dry sand barren and oak savanna on the raised dunes to moist sedge meadow and wet prairie in the low-lying swales. Kitty Todd supports a number of these small sand dunes, interesting examples of the unusual geology of the Oak Openings region.

Last sited at Kitty Todd before its extirpation from Ohio, the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly was reintroduced to the preserve in 1998. More than 100 state-listed rare plants occur in the preserve including prickly-pear cactus, yellow-fringed orchid, cross-leaved milkwort, grass-pink orchid and Skinner’s foxglove. One of the state’s largest populations of wild lupine occurs here. The state endangered lark sparrow nests on the preserve.

Lou Campbell State Nature Preserve

2742 Crissey Road Monclova, Ohio 43558

From Kitty Todd, drive east on Old State Line road for 1.6 miles. Turn, right onto South Crissey Road and drive 1.8 miles. Arrive at Lou Campbell State Nature Preserve on the left.

A microcosm of the botanically significant Oak Openings region in northwest Ohio, Lou Campbell State Nature Preserve is home to more than 30 state-listed species. High-quality habitats include wet sedge meadows, swamp forest, sand dunes, sand barrens prairie and oak openings.

Rare wildflowers seen here include wild lupine, grass-pink orchid, spathulate-leaved sundew, soapwort gentian, plains puccoon and Missouri ironweed. The varieties of habitat provide a number of landscapes for endangered wildlife including the frosted elfin and harvester butterflies.

The preserve honors Louis W. (Lou) Campbell, a well-known Toledo naturalist and outdoor writer.

Located east of the Toledo Express Airport along Crissey Road, south of OH-2.

Oak Openings Preserve Metropark

Whitehouse, Ohio 43571

From Campbell Preserve, drive south on South Crissey Road for 1.2 miles. Turn right onto US-20 Alternate for 1.3 miles. At the traffic circle, continue straight onto US-20 Alternate for 2 miles. Turn left onto OH-295 south for 1 mile. Turn right onto Monclova Road and drive 1.5 miles. Turn left onto Girdham Road and drive .4 mile. Arrive at the Girdham Road Sand Dunes area.

There are many eBird hotspots in the Oak Openings Preserve Metropark. Visit as many of them as your time allows.

Located between Whitehouse and Swanton, Oak Openings Preserve takes its name from the surrounding region, which is 23 times larger than the park itself. That’s something to consider when you realize that Oak Openings Preserve is over 4,000 acres.

Pioneers trudging through a dense swamp called this area “Oak Openings.” Most of the park is an oak savanna ecosystem, characterized by alternating wetlands and vegetated dunes. The Nature Conservancy once named the sandy region one of the 200 “Last Great Places on Earth.”

Prickly-pear cactus, wild lupine and sand cherry bloom atop dry, hot sand dunes just yards away from orchids growing in low, wet swales. There are more than 50 miles of trails in Oak Openings Preserve. Stands of isolated pine and spruce planted by the WPA during the Great Depression are still visible.

Oak Openings is a birder’s paradise. It is the nesting place of bluebirds, indigo buntings, whippoorwills, Lark sparrows and many other species, as well as an excellent location to see migrating songbirds in the spring.

Blue Creek Metropark

Waterville-Neapolis Road at Schadel Road Whitehouse, Ohio 43571

From the Oak Openings Preserve Metropark, drive east on OH-64 for 1.5 miles. Turn right onto OH-295 and drive 2.3 miles. Turn left onto Neapolis Waterville Road and go 1.5 miles. Turn left onto Schadel Road and go .3 mile. Arrive at Blue Creek Conservation Area on the right.

Blue Creek is a quiet country retreat where visitors can walk a looped trail through a wetland and around a quarry pond, drop a fishing line or launch a kayak at a larger quarry.

The trail begins near an old hog barn on Schadel Road. On Providence Road (behind the Whitehouse village offices), the former Nona France quarry is also open for kayaking, stand up paddleboating or fishing from shore or small boats. Both areas are open for daily use, 7 a.m. until dark.

Located on the edge of the Oak Openings region, Blue Creek was the site of limestone quarries in the mid- to late-1800s. In 1917, the city of Toledo bought the land to build a prison farm.

The property features glacial grooves, a pond, a wetland and an oak savanna. A focal point is a 20,873-square-foot barn with a gambrel roof and plank frame built in the late 1920s. The barn and other out buildings were part of the Toledo House of Corrections, also known as “The Workhouse,” a jail where the inmates tended to the farm.

Blue Creek is operated in partnership with the Village of Whitehouse, Nature’s Nursery and the Lucas Soil and Water Conservation District. In addition to the small park area, Blue Creek is home to a wildlife rehabilitation center, a youth recreation complex, demonstration farm fields and the Metroparks native seed nursery.