groveport.jpg

Sometimes the least impressive places have a way of continually surprising me. One such area is the low-lying area along Blacklick Creek just north of Groveport. This is an area peripheral to 3-Creeks Park, east of the main part of the park. It’s just east of where Bixby Rd. crosses Hamilton Rd. It includes a portion of the Blacklick Bikepath (managed by the Metroparks) and Cruiser Park (a Groveport park). It would be easily overlooked, except that it continues to produce interesting and unusual birds.  The following map shows the parkland in green, and the footpath/biketrails in blue-gray.

groveport.jpg

Cruiser Park is a series of playfields unremarkable except for a gorgeous 5 acre wetland in the middle of it. This wetland is the remnant of an old pothole, and it’s filled with old dead snags and young willow heads. Because of all the cover, the pond host lots of waterfowl, even though it sits in the middle of a well-used park. Look for Mallards, Black Ducks, Teal, Wood Ducks, Gadwall, and Bufflehead as long as the water stays un-frozen. The large number of dead snags also make for an unusual habitat. Raptors have often taken to roosting here, and Tree Swallows and a rare pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers have been observed nesting in snag cavities in Summer. The swampy edge also has lots of Song, White-throated, and Swamp Sparrows.

One of the best things about this pond is that it’s almost a drive-up birding site. Park in the big lot along Bixby Rd and walk over to the edge of the pond. Its north and west edges offer some decent viewpoints, especially in the winter; you can walk the bikepath along its western edge to get multiple viewpoints into the several open areas of the wetland. Look for raptors roosing out on the snags or up on the power line pylons that run past the north end of the pond. On a recent morning, I drove up and was rewarded with 2 roosting Bald Eagles (1 adult and 1 immature). Best time appears to be early morning or late evening; during the middle of the day, many of the waterbirds and raptors commute out to nearby wetlands and fields.

 

The pond isn’t the only attraction here. Look north rom the parking area along Bixby Rd and you’ll see a bikepath snaking through the field and into the woods. This is a spur trail that links Cruiser Park to the Blacklick Bikeway, a trail that runs along Blacklick Creek. To the west, the path winds over the the confluence area of 3-Creeks, but it’s the eastern run that concerns us here. This is a (currently) 1-mile dead-end spur that snakes along the creek bottom, through meadows and wood-edge, to a dead end at Rt. 33. Because the Blacklick Creek corridor arrives here from the northeast, it funnels Fall migrants and winter wanderers down towards the lower part of the path (and Cruiser Park).

 

From Sept through December the path almost always has something interesting, and I’ve had fallouts of warblers, sparrows , and blackbirds at different times here. The same November morning that I spied the eagles at Cruiser Pond, I also biked the path. The lower meadows had the expected flocks of Song & White-throated Sparrows as well as a single Towhee. As the path bent to the north, the wood edges gave me chances to find plenty of woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, and other forest birds. Brown Creepers are regular here from late Fall through Spring, and I saw 2 and heard another 2 this morning. One of the best places to see many of these birds is around a feeder maintained by the MetroParks in one of the wooded pathes along the trail. A Cooper’s Hawk flashed past early in the trip, but I didn’t see the resident Barred owl despite having lots of Blue Jays to help me out. Near the dead-end, I peered to the east into a private pond, but only had mallards today. This pond has had a variety of ducks, herons, and egrets at other times.  I retraced my route back to the Cruiser Park lot. A large flock of Canada Geese had landed on the playfields, and the sky was threatening rain. My morning had already been made, by these unassuming parklands.