I was birding around north Hoover back in late June, and I had to stop and confront myself. I had thought to go out to the Hoover Boardwalk, but some part of me said, ”Don’t Bother. The water will be deep and the birds will be few.” I overruled the thought and went anyway, and can tell you that I spent nearly an hour out there, much of it with another birder (Jason Simonides) already there. It was defintely not a waste of time!
What could keep us out on the boardwalk in the Summer? Plenty, it turns out. Not only are there cool nesting birds, but there are lots of bird vagrants in the Summer, and the north end of Hoover is a great place to wait for them. Probably our best bird of the morning was a vagrant – a basic plumaged Common Loon that Jason spied out on the bay. We also had stray gulls and cormorants, and even a Great Egret graced the shoreline.
The residents were no slouches either. An Osprey pair fussed over a large chick on one of the nesting platforms. Later, 3 more Ospreys flew by; at one point we had 5 all around us, sitting, fishing, soaring, or nest-tending. We even had an Osprey chase a Bald Eagle commuting back to it’s nest down-reservoir. It wasn’t too long ago when Osprey and Bald Eagles were notable rarities in central Ohio. Not anymore, and upper Hoover Reservoir is one of the best places to find them.
Swallows were also putting on a good show. Cliff Swallows nest in a colony under the Galena bridge, and you could see their nests from the boardwalk. Many of the birds were out foraging over the reservoir for midges, and commuting back and forth to the nest colony. Tree Swallows also nest in many of the dead snags around the north end of Hoover, and many of their young had recently fledged. The chittering of young Tree Swallows was one of the dominant sounds out here, as they perched in small groups on several trees around the bay. There were a few Barn Swallows flashing low over the water, and even a few Bank Swallows amid the throng.
The boardwalk is not so far from the shore that we couldn’t also see and hear land-based birds as well. A pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers adorned a snag on the opposite shore of the Little Walnut channel; these birds can often be heard and seen in snags around the bay. We could also hear and occasionally see Eastern Kingbirds and Prothonotary Warblers. Two of the male Prothonotaries even came out to us; they flew out to the boardwalk and foraged for spiders and trapped bugs on the webs along the boardwalk. It was bizarre hearing their song out there from under the deck! Several times, the 2 males confronted one another, flying up into the air in a complex aerial duel that we rarely see in their swamp forest habitat.
So the Boardwalk is a great place for birding even during Summer’s high water. It wasn’t even that hot, with clouds and a breeze. And it only gets better as Summer progresses. First there will be the large flocks of migrant swallows and swifts in July and August. Then as the water recedes, the shallows will attract waders and eventually shorebirds. We’ll even have the first small groups of migrating teal and shovelers by the end of the summer. It’s not too corny to say that it’s just starting to heat up out there.