March is my favorite time to bird 5,521-acre Killbuck Marsh — the wetlands seem to explode with birds at that time of year. This is the largest wetland complex south of Lake Erie in Ohio, so there is plenty of room for waterfowl to stretch their wings. And ducks, geese, and swans define early spring at Killbuck. I have seen as many as 21 species of fowl here in a morning, and many of them in staggering numbers. A good spring day might produce thousands of Gadwall, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, and Lesser Scaup. Big numbers of Tundra Swan are often seen, and rarities like Eurasian Wigeon and Long-tailed Duck appear regularly.
The area is also a hotbed for raptors, with nesting Bald Eagles and Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks as well as many wintering Rough-legged Hawks and Northern Harriers. The region is also one of Ohio’s few spots for nesting Sandhill Cranes. The long-necked, long-legged birds are often seen by the dozens in migration.
April and May are also fantastic. A defining bird of the swamp forests is the spectacular Prothonotary Warbler. I recall one gorgeous morning when our group heard four singing at one spot and probably found more than 12 males in an hour. Plenty of other great marsh birds are here, such as Common Moorhen, Marsh Wren, Sora, and Virginia Rail. Black Terns put in regular appearances, too. All told, the list for Killbuck is about 275 species (the Ohio list stands at 418), and there are plenty of interesting birding opportunities at any season. — Jim McCormac
Virtually inaccessible on foot in places, but birding is great along the roadways.
Expected in season: waterfowl, herons, raptors, rails, shorebirds, terns, kingfishers, woodpeckers, flycatchers, swallows, warblers, and sparrows. Notable birds: Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Bald Eagle, Sandhill Crane, Black Tern, Red-headed Woodpecker, and Prothonotary Warbler.
When to go
March and April are best.
No restrooms. Maps in box at beginning of lane leading to wildlife station. Self-guided tours, workshops, vendor displays, and pancake breakfast at annual Shreve Spring Migration Sensation in March.
State wildlife area. Admission free. A network of lightly traveled roads provides excellent access to much of wetlands. Look for designated pull-off areas for parking. The refuge between Centerville Rd. and Force Rd. is always closed to the public.
Scopes very useful. In warmer weather, mosquitoes can be common, so wear appropriate clothing and bring repellant. Also, this is a public hunting area; be aware of the current season.