Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Natural Resources Department messes with birders

In this case you CAN blame the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for trying.

Not surprisingly birders throughout Ohio are crying “fowl” over activity conducted this week by the Natural Resources Department.

That gung-ho drive deleted a 20-foot long or so row of invasive honeysuckle bushes from the Headlands State Nature Preserve in Painesville Township.

This 16-acre preserve lies adjacent to the 120-acre Headlands Beach State Park and the honeysuckle removal was done near the unit’s kiosk at the far eastern parking lot. This lot is typically used by anglers and hunters who access the Grand River-West breakwater.

Oh, and birders, too. Not just those residing in Lake County but from all points on the compass.

The problem, says these all-aflutter birders, is that the honeysuckle bushes are currently in bloom. That little botanical detail attracts insects which in turn draws hundreds - even thousands - of migrating songbirds, especially warblers.

Drawn to the preserve for its abundant supply of warblers are birders, complete with their tennis shoes, binoculars, life lists, and spending money are the birders.

None of which the Natural Resources Department seems to have taken into consideration when it began its clear-cutting operation.

In fact, the birders say, Headlands Dunes is one of the Lake Erie shoreline’s most important “migrant traps,” a term that designates a migrating bird-anchoring way station. And as such, the preserve and its insect/warbler-loving honeysuckle bushes draw birders from a wide area throughout the Midwest.

“I found out about this (Tuesday) and I would have thought the ODNR would have made some kind of notice or announcement; maybe even put up a sign but they didn’t even do that,” said Anders Fjeldstad of Mentor-on-the-Lake and an avid Northeast Ohio birder.

Fjeldstad said that Headland Dunes is a major birding location, especially in the spring when the low-hanging honeysuckle bushes provide near eye-level viewing of migrating song birds.

“I expect there will be 100 birders there (Wednesday), looking for warblers, but they won’t see any,” Fjeldstad said. “They’re spending thousands of dollars trying to promote birding in Ohio and then they do this? It doesn’t make sense.”

Fjeldstad said those responsible for removing the approximately 20-foot-long row of honeysuckle bushes “probably didn’t even know that the nature preserve is an important migrant stop.”

“I was told they wanted to manage this as a ‘dunes ecosystem,’ which is fine, but that last 20 feet should have been left as it was,” Fjeldstad said. “Are they going to replant with native species? ‘No.’”

That is very true on both counts.

However, with that being said, there is an effort being made by long-time DNAP stake-holders to help ensure that the Natural Resources Department and its Parks Division do not muck up this valuable commodity that has for so long been a step-child of so many previous administrations.

Good-luck with that.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

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