Three Landbird Hotspots
Lake Erie presents a sizable barrier to songbirds, which understandably look for the easiest way across. For many the jump-off point is Presque Isle, a curving peninsula just north of the city of Erie and a birding wonderland any time of the year, especially in spring. To reach Presque Isle State Park, take I-79 North to Exit 44B (Route 5 West/12th St.). The exit makes a long, sharp curl to the right and merges with Route 5 West. Go 0.6 mile and make a right turn at the light onto Route 832 North, marked by a sign for Presque Isle. The park office is 4.5 miles from the intersection; stop and pick up a park map, which shows the confusing roads and trails.At the peak of the migration, and especially during periods of bad weather that trap the birds on Presque Isle, virtually every tree on the peninsula can be full of songbirds, but there are some areas that consistently produce superior results. From the park office go 3.5 miles along the loop road (marked variously as Marina Drive, East Fisher Road, Thompson Drive and Pine Tree Road on the park map) to Misery Bay, an excellent area for mergansers and other diving ducks, while Grave Yard Pond across the road is home to wood ducks, great blue herons and other wetland species. The woodlands in this area also hold large numbers of songbirds.
Just past the turn for the Coast Guard station, park in the paved turnout at Thompson Circle and follow an unmarked path across the road, which passes between two small ponds. This is a good place to look for Virginia rails and other marsh birds, and the shrubby birch, willow and honeysuckle forest is usually full of warblers and vireos. The path ends at Thompson Bay, with the isolated Bird Sanctuary across the water.
Return to the road and walk north along the marsh to the parking lot for Bundy Beach (unmarked); the trees along the road are excellent for songbirds. The entrance to the Bird Sanctuary is at the far right corner of the first parking lot. Another 1.9 miles along the loop road is the north trailhead for the Sidewalk Trail, with a large map of the park's trails. Presque Isle has a surprising number of interesting trails. It also, unfortunately, has one of the worst-marked systems in the region, so be alert at all intersections. Because the park is relatively small it is impossible to get truly lost, but wrong turns are annoyingly easy to make.
Follow the thin pavement of the Sidewalk Trail about 100 yards, then turn right onto the Marsh Trail, which bisects the Cranberry Pond marsh. At the far side, turn left immediately onto the Fox Trail, which follows a sand ridge, eventually becoming Ridge Trail (not shown on current trail maps). In addition to migrants, this area has a healthy population of red-headed woodpeckers, an unusual bird for such a northern site. At the far end of Ridge Pond (on the left), the trail rejoins the Sidewalk Trail. Turn left to return to the north trailhead, a total distance of about 2 miles, or turn right a short distance to Thompson Drive on Misery Bay.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication