Marina Drive Conneaut, Ohio 44030
The harbor of Conneaut is one of Lake Erie’s legendary birding hotspots. Scores of rarities have been found here over the years, and good numbers and diversity of more common migrants routinely occur. The area is a good place to see shorebirds in spring, summer and early fall.
During peak season, it’s best to get there before 9 a.m. because the beach fills with sunbathers and picnickers, some of whom disturb the birds. However, late summer and early fall, when the weather is not conducive to sunning, is much better for observing migrating species.
The most productive birding is probably from mid-summer until early winter, with the first southbound shorebirds kicking off the parade. By early July, plovers and sandpipers are already appearing. This may be the best spot on Lake Erie to catch up with a Whimbrel. In addition, since there are no obstructions, this is a great place to see migrating species passing through by just looking up. Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, White-rumped Sandpipers etc. have been seen passing through.
As fall rolls into winter, large numbers of gulls can concentrate in the harbor, and rare species often are found within these flocks. Many species have been observed, including scores of Boneparte’s Gulls with sightings of Little Gull, Black-headed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull. Conneaut also attracts lots of ducks of many species. Snowy Owls turn up in many winters, and can be seen perched on rock breakwalls around the harbor. Watch for Snow Buntings around the parking lots.
In Fall 2011, a wildlife watching tower was erected at the edge of the sandspit overlooking the lake and marsh area.
The list of rare birds is lengthy, and includes Brant, both Brown and American White Pelicans, Piping Plover, Red Phalarope, Purple Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, California Gull, at least two jaeger species, and Le Conte’s Sparrow. Almost anything can drop into Conneaut Harbor, and the long list of rarities is sure to grow in coming years.
Conneaut Township Park. A 60-acre site just west of Conneaut Harbor, on the north side of OH-531. Good numbers of migrant songbirds can be found in the park’s trees, and this site can be excellent for hawk-watching in March and April.
Take I-90 east to Exit 241 (OH-7 North). Follow OH-7 north for 2 miles until you reach State St. Turn right onto State St until you reach Broad St (third intersection). Turn left (north) here and follow Broad Street to the lake. Once you drive down the hill into the marina, turn left and follow this road until you reach a sandy road at the end which will take you to the sand spit.
Open daily, dawn until dusk.
Parking at the Marina, with a few spots along the waters leading into the beach area. Cars can drive out onto the sandspit at your own risk. During certain rainy times cars have been known to get stuck in the sand – just use caution and common sense.
Conneaut Harbor is a stop on the Lake Erie Birding Trail.
You can drive to the end of Mariana Drive for excellent views of the harbor and breakwalls.
Snowy Owl, Glaucous Gull, Little Gull.
Black-bellied Plover, American Pipit.
Bank Swallow, migrating Stilt Sandpiper.
Shorebirds including American Avocet, Long-billed Dowitcher, and if you’re lucky Buff-breasted Sandpiper.
The 53.1-acre Conneaut Port Authority’s Access is comprised mostly of accumulated sand and fill material. However, the boat launch, fishing, walking pier area, and the beach area appear as if they have always been a part of the inner areas of Conneaut Harbor.
The nearly 40-acre beach area has around 1 mile of waterline located east of Conneaut Harbor’s west breakwaters. Massive amounts of sand have accumulated on both sides of the breakwaters with the sand in the inner harbor forming a vegetated boot-shaped oasis of trees, scrub-shrub and wetlands edged with a sandy shore. The site is a very popular birding location. Foot paths crisscross the inner areas of this sand peninsula. A wooden observation deck is onsite. Access to the beach is at the west terminus of the Lakeside Drive/Erie Street intersection.
The Conneaut Port Authority has two launch ramps with a total of five lanes. Both ramps are located at the public docks on Naylor Boulevard. The fishing/walking pier’s 800 feet of waterline surround an asphalt-paved parking lot with car-trailer spaces along the south and car-only spaces to the north. A small area of green space with a few trees is near the lot’s north end.
Content from Ohio Ornithological Society, Ken Ostermiller, and Conneaut Port Authority