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Sheldon Marsh Roving Naturalist Guide Series

Posted on 6/3/2015 by State Nature Preserves

1st & 3rd Sunday of each month from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

At nearly 500 acres, Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve protects an amazing array of habitat types, including expansive marsh, swamp forest, upland forest, old field, and beach habitats. This diversity protects an incredible variety of rare plants and animals – and ensures that some of Ohio’s rarest species have a place to thrive.

Under the canopy of a hardwood swamp forest, spring and summer wildflowers such as violets, trillium, anemone, and buttercups provide a spectacular backdrop for nesting eagles and waterbirds, turtles and snakes, and even muskrat and mink.

Exploring this area during the spring bird migration can reveal nearly 300 different bird species, including songbirds, shorebirds, and waterfowl.

Each spring, millions of brightly colored, insect-eating birds leave their wintering grounds in Central and South America and fly north toward boreal forest and arctic tundra breeding grounds. By the time these migrating birds reach Ohio, they have already flown hundreds - if not thousands - of non-stop miles.

Seeking protective patches of forest and shrub thickets, waves of migrants flock to nature preserves such as Sheldon Marsh, which provide critical habitat in which to rest and replenish fat reserves before crossing Lake Erie.

However, most migrating songbirds and raptors are reluctant to cross any large expanse of open water, and this reluctance results in major concentrations of birds, which “fall-out” onto forested beach ridges in large numbers, affording spectacular bird watching opportunities.

With the exception of the Gulf coast, no other region in North America hosts the incredible numbers and spectacular songbird diversity of migrating birds like Lake Erie’s coastline. Vireos, tanagers, flycatchers, thrushes and up to 36 species of warblers can be found here in the spring and fall, voraciously consuming the season’s fresh insect hatch.

Some days the trees positively drip with songbirds, and as they move closer to breeding grounds, the males of each species adorn brightly-colored nuptial plumage and sing with increasing frequency. Each bird’s stop-over feeding frenzy lasts for a few days, until favorable weather conditions and stockpiled fat reserves allow for continued northward migration.

Starting in May, and continuing throughout the summer, on the first and third Sunday of each month, a preserve naturalist will be on-site at Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve from 9 a.m. – noon to answer questions and help identify the rare plants and animals found at this 500-acre preserve.

Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve has a paved, handicapped accessible trail which provides access through the preserve, and ends in a ¼ mile long boardwalk leading to the barrier sand beach along Lake Erie.