A great spot to see Hooded Warbler, grosbeaks, buntings, and other birds on the shore of Lake Ontario.
By Jerry Uhlman | Published: 4/20/2015
A rich diversity of habitats draws me to Sterling Nature Center year after year. Two miles of lakeshore gently rise into sandy dunes and a maritime forest, and a mixed hardwood forest, complete with tangled hanging vines, berry bushes, and an occasional apple tree, provides lots of bird-friendly spaces. The property is reminiscent of the more famous Magee Marsh in Ohio and Point Pelee in Ontario.
Not far from the parking lot, you’ll find several small ponds and a large tree-ringed meadow that attracts grassland species. A small creek nearby feeds an open marsh that is home to a Great Blue Heron rookery; visitors can watch the herons from a small observation deck at the edge of the marsh. Osprey, Bald Eagle, and Great Horned Owl also nest in the area.
Roughly 10 miles of well-marked trails snake through the nature center. In spring, they attract more than two dozen warbler species, many of which are easy to spot at eye level. On one visit, I discovered three male Hooded Warblers, a specialty here, singing from bare branches just a few feet from each other. At the forest edges, it’s possible to find grosbeaks, buntings, bluebirds, cuckoos, vireos, thrushes, and much more. — Jerry Uhlman
Jerry Uhlman writes a birding column for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He also wrote about Dutch Gap Conservation Area, Chester, Virginia, Hotspot Near You No. 66, Creston Valley WMA, Creston, British Columbia, No. 111, Bear Run Nature Reserve, Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania, No. 118, Garden Canyon, Fort Huachuca, Arizona, No. 136, and Shenandoah River State Park, Bentonville, Virginia, No. 142.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Lakeshore, maritime forest, ponds, hedges, large meadow, mixed hardwood forest, creek, and marsh.
Mostly flat trails with a few exposed roots. Not wheelchair-accessible. One or two descents and uphill climbs.
Year-round: Pileated, Red-bellied, Downy, and Hairy Woodpeckers. Spring: Northern Waterthrush, Black-and-white, Tennessee, Cape May, Orange-crowned, Magnolia, Yellow, Nashville, Blackpoll, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, Canada, Wilson’s, Cerulean, Black-throated Blue and Green, and Yellow-rumped Warblers, American Redstart, Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow-throated, Blue-headed, Red-eyed, and Warbling Vireos, Swamp and Lincoln’s Sparrows. Breeding: Great Blue Heron, Osprey, Great Horned Owl, Bald Eagle, Hooded Warbler, Ovenbird, Willow Flycatcher, Veery, Wood Thrush.
When to go
Late April through May, from sunrise through late morning best.
Next to parking lot is large kiosk with trail map and, sometimes, descriptive brochures. Portable toilets near nature center building. Occasional owl prowls.
County preserve. No fees. Open daily from dawn to dusk.
A canoe launch into Sterling Creek off McFarland Rd. offers the chance to paddle through woodlands and open cattail marsh.
For more info
Fair Haven Beach State Park
Three miles west of Sterling. Bluff Nature Trail skirts lakeshore and extensive marsh. Waterfowl, raptors, shorebirds, gulls, and terns.
Chimney Bluffs State Park
20 miles west of Sterling on Sodus Bay. Unusual and picturesque sandstone stacks along shoreline. Trails excellent in spring.