Portage County North 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.

Portage County North Birding Drive
Click on the hotspot names below to view the page about that hotspot.

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

Tinkers Creek State Nature Preserve

1230 Old Mill Road Aurora, Ohio 44202

From Aurora, drive south on North Chillicothe Road for .7 mile. Turn right onto Aurora Hudson Road and go 1.6 miles. Turn right onto Old Mill Road and drive 1.6 miles. The parking area for Tinkers Creek State Nature Preserve is on the right just before you reach a railroad crossing.

Tinker’s Creek rises in northern Portage County and flows across a high plateau region of bays, swamps, and marshes before cascading through a deep gorge and entering the lower Cuyahoga River.

Tinker’s Creek State Nature Preserve lies amid thousands of acres of rich peat, swamp, and marshland. The nearly 786-acre preserve teems with a great diversity of plant and animal life. Nesting waterfowl and songbirds may be seen during the spring and early summer. Canada geese and wood ducks nest throughout the marshes and can be seen from the trails around the Seven Ponds area.

Beaver ponds dot the preserve and add to the diversity of plant and animal life by providing habitat for greater numbers of species. Whitetail deer, raccoon, mink, weasel, muskrat, and fox are some of the mammals frequently spotted along the trails. Among the reptiles and amphibians present are snapping turtles, water snakes, four-toed salamanders, and bullfrogs.

Even though it is located near a large metropolitan region, the Tinker’s Creek area has remained isolated from development and retains much of its pristine charm and, natural integrity.

Aurora Audubon Sanctuary

896 East Pioneer Trail Aurora, Ohio 44202

From Tinkers Creek State Nature Preserve, drive east on Old Mill Road for 1.6 miles. Turn left onto Aurora Hudson Road and go .2 mile. Turn right onto West Mennonite Road and drive .8 mile. Turn right onto South Chillicothe Road, then turn left onto East Mennonite Road and drive 1.1 miles. Turn left onto North Page Road and go 1.1 miles. Turn right onto East Pioneer Trail and go .2 mile. Arrive at Aurora Audubon Sanctuary on the right.

The Aurora Preserve, owned by the Audubon Society of Greater Cleveland, is the oldest bird sanctuary in Ohio, acquired in 1941 by the Greater Cleveland Audubon Society’s predecessor, The Cleveland Bird Club.

Aurora Sanctuary is located north of Pioneer Trail Road, near Page Road in Aurora. It was purchased in 1941 by The Cleveland Bird Club. It is the oldest bird sanctuary in Ohio. The former owner of the property, the Smythe family, intended to develop it in the 1920’s, but the depression forced the abandonment of the plan, and The Cleveland Bird Club bought the property from the Cleveland Trust Company.

Biological Assets: The bulk of the 165-acre preserve is in a mature beech-maple forest, although two field areas are preserved from an earlier time when the property was partially farmed. Approximately half of the property has been left in an entirely natural state, without trails or other alterations of any kind. A trail system on the western portion of the property is about two miles in length and lends access to a large variety of habitat types. The sanctuary is a State Nature Preserve dedicated in 1999, that is open to the public.

There are four ponds on the property. The largest, James Fulton Pond, is currently 10-15 acres in size. An observation blind overlooking Fulton pond was constructed in 2003. An original smaller pond was expanded in the early 1950’s by the addition of a cement dam, and it grew further in the 1960’s and ‘70’s as beaver returned to the area and raised the dam. Beaver have also created a small pond adjoining Fulton Pond on its east side, and the area of this pond is noted for its population of both Closed Bottle Gentian and Smaller Fringed Gentian, the latter of which is State listed as an endangered wildflower. A smaller pond at the northwest corner of the preserve, the Hamann Pond, is about 3 acres in size and was built by Society members in the early 1950’s. A fourth small pond is entirely natural, the result of glacial activity.

Due to the many habitat types in this sanctuary, it clearly has great potential as an educational resource. Management problems in the Aurora Sanctuary include protecting its integrity from growing development pressures on neighboring land and dealing with one invasive plant, in particular, European Buckthorn.

A central feature of the Aurora Sanctuary is a deep glacial gorge which carries a stream called Hickory Creek that drains the wetlands associated with our Blanche Katherine Novak Sanctuary to the north and merges with the Aurora Branch of the Chagrin River at the western edge of the property (see maps). Hickory Creek is noted for its purity, accounted for by the fact that it has historically been isolated from farming or development activities.

The Aurora Sanctuary is also noted for historical artifacts that have recently caused the Aurora Landmark Commission to seek to landmark the property. They include an 1820’s wagon road that forms the sanctuary’s western boundary, bridge artifacts from the same period, and a substantial ditch, originally intended as the right-of-way of a never-completed railroad, dating from the 1850’s known as “The Clinton Airline”.

Novak Audubon Sanctuary

Townline Road Aurora, Ohio 44202

From Aurora Audubon Sanctuary, drive east on East Pioneer Trail for 1.5 miles. Turn left onto Chamberlain Road and go .9 mile. Turn left onto OH-82 west and drive 1.1 miles. Turn right onto Townline Road and go .8 mile. Novak Audubon Sanctuary is on the right.

The Blanche Kathryn Novak Sanctuary is located east of Aurora, about .75 mile north of the intersection of Townline Road and OH-82. The sanctuary lies both to the west of Townline Road in Aurora City limits and east of it in Mantua Township. There is a very fine Category 3 wooded wetland on the Aurora side and fields and secondary woods on the Mantua side. This wetland has the highest species diversity of five natural wetlands of Northern Ohio studied by the Ohio EPA. The wetland is approximately .8 miles from the parking lot on Townline Road and is reached by a dirt road. Trails in the woods are marked on the Mantua side as well.

The sanctuary is a rich habitat for nesting birds with at least 56 species on the wetland side and 41 species on the Mantua side. The area has been part of the spring bird walks of the Audubon Society of Greater Cleveland since 1993, and the migratory birds seen are part of that census. An observation blind in the wetlands area was completed in 2002, further enhancing their educational potential. The Novak Sanctuary was dedicated in 1999 as a State Nature Preserve (more information) by the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves of the Ohio Department of Natural; Resources.

Biological Assets: The wetland is protected by both the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the Ohio Division of Natural Areas. In 1997, Ohio EPA published a report that compared natural wetlands with wetlands created by mitigation projects. One of the 5 wetlands chosen for this study was the Novak wetland. (Fennessy. S. A Functional Assessment of Mitigation Wetlands in Ohio: Comparisons with Natural Systems. Ohio EPA report to the Federal EPA.) Of the wetlands studied, the Novak had the highest species diversity. Because of the nature of this wetland and the interest in it by the U.S. Corps of Engineers, the Society was able to get an in lieu agreement with the Corps to buy conservation easements with money given by developers of areas with small low-grade wetlands. Using these funds, we have been able to obtain one conservation easement and have ongoing negotiations for another.

The Aquatic Biology Class of the Biology Department of Case Western Reserve University has studied the largest wetland pond for two years. The depth of this pond has been mapped, and many species of macro-invertebrates were identified. The changes in water level have also been registered. Water quality has also been assessed. These studies lead to a foundation for educational programs for students of all levels.

The vegetation of the wetland has very few invading species such as phragmites which has ruined many Northern Ohio wetlands (e.g. Mentor Marsh).

James H. Barrow Field Station

11305 Wheeler Road Garrettsville, Ohio 44231

From Novak Audubon Sanctuary drive south on Townline Road for .8 mile. Turn left onto OH-82 and drive 8.2 miles. Continue straight onto OH-305 east and drive 1.7 miles. Turn right onto Wheeler Road and go .7 mile. Turn right into James H. Barrow Field Station.

The James H. Barrow Field Station was established in 1967 to provide Hiram College students with the opportunity to supplement classroom activities with hands-on learning experiences.

The field station has since developed into an active research and educational facility that enhances the College’s science and environmental studies programs; in addition, it provides a means for the general public to increase their understanding and appreciation of Ohio natural history. Experiences gained at the field station enhance student research, teaching, and leadership.

Alumni often credit their experiences at the station as inspiration for further study in science, education and/or environmental studies.

Eagle Creek State Nature Preserve

11027 Hopkins Road Garrettsville, Ohio 44231

From the James H. Barrow Field Station, turn left onto Wheeler Road and go .7 mile. Turn right onto OH-305 and drive 3.2 miles. Continue straight onto Parkman Road for .1 mile. Make a slight right onto Center Road and go .6 mile. Turn left onto Hopkins Road and drive .7 mile. Arrive at East Creek State Nature Preserve.

Located in Portage County 2 miles northeast of Garrettsville on Center Road. From Garrettsville go east on OH-82 for two blocks to the flashing light. Turn left (north) at the light onto Center Road. Travel Center Road for 2.3 miles to Hopkins Road and turn right (south).

This preserve encompasses a variety of communities supporting a diversity of flora and fauna typical of northeastern Ohio. Eagle Creek meanders through a wide floodplain dotted with beaver dams, marshlands, small bogs and buttonbush swamps. The north-facing slopes are forested by beeches and maples; white oak woodlands are common on the drier, south-facing slopes. There are more than 100 species of woody plants including uncommon trees, such as cucumber magnolia and yellow birch, as well as 70 species of spring wildflowers. More than 20 species of ferns have been cataloged in the preserve, including ostrich ferns nearly five feet tall. The sphagnum bog shelters such northern rarities as large cranberry, winterberry holly, cotton sedge and insect-eating plants including round-leaved sundew and northern pitcher plant.