Metroparks Meetup: Winter birding

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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - It's no secret that northwest Ohio is one of the best destinations in the world for birdwatching. Even on a frigid Valentine's Day morning, the siren songs of cardinals, woodpeckers and tufted titmice fill the air at Wildwood Metropark.

Master interpreter Kim High appreciates the variety of species that flit about and change from minute to minute, week to week. "Every season brings something different, whether it's pair bonding and singing right now, or watching the babies in the summer."

Even on frigid winter days, Windows on Wildlife facilities -- six in all across Toledo's Metroparks -- offer indoor amenities, and a more comfortable glimpse at nature.

"Secor Park has a great window, Oak Openings Preserve has a great window," offers High. "People love to come in here to warm up, to watch the birds and then go out and enjoy the birds on the trails as well."

At least one local group was enjoying the Wildwood window. The Woodlawn birders celebrated their 400th week of observations recently.

Patty Toneff, foundation director at Woodlawn Cemetery, says the group meets every Friday at Woodlawn "except if there's a zero windchill factor" -- and the indoor option was too good to pass up today.

Some birders prefer the outdoor experience no matter what, and with a good pair of binoculars and a field guide, you can find some hidden gems even in these colder months.

"Little tree sparrows and juncos are from way up in Canada," says High, "and they come down here as their destination... it's like their Florida!"

Weekly meetings with informal groups at Swan Creek, Oak Openings and many other parks provide year-round opportunities to take up birdwatching -- but *listening* is sometimes more fulfilling. "This time of year, when we're feeling kind of ready for spring, it's nice to hear those bird songs to tell us 'hey, spring is coming!'"

The spotlight shines on northwest Ohio every May for the "Biggest Week in American Birding", where tens of thousands of birders flock to the region -- proving a highlight for local enthusiasts.

"We're so, so fortunate in this area to have the huge migration that comes through in May out at Magee Marsh," says Toneff. "It's just a wonderful, wonderful hobby."

To download a field guide for Metroparks birding, visit their website.