Cold Lake + Hot Water = Best Winter Birding at Miller Road Park

Bald Eagles, Peregrines and more than 40 varieties can be seen. Join naturalist Gary Gerrone Saturday to learn what to look for.

Avon Lake is a “hot spot” for winter birds and on Saturday, Jan. 5, bird lovers and watchers can join Recreation Director Gary Gerrone for prime birding activity.

The new program is inviting the public our on Saturday from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. to join Gerrone (and a few thousand birds) in Miller Road Park.

The timing is right.

“As this is the first cold spell of the winter season, Lake Erie is not at all frozen, Gerrone said. “But the water is quite cold and fish do tend to congregate in the hot water discharge of the power plant. A congregation of fish leads to a congregation of fish-eating birds.  

“If the lake does freeze, this gathering of birds is nothing less than phenomenal, and not just because of the overall number of birds, but because of the variety of birds."

Gerrone, a naturalist, who has conducted birding outings with the Metro Parks and the Black River Audubon Society many times in the past, said local conditions can result in tens of thousands of birds and up to 40 different species.

The Ohio Ornithological Society lists the Avon Lake Power Plant as a prime location for watching birds, citing the numerous species that congregate in the area.

Gerrone said it is the combination of the plant and water that attracts the birds.

“In the fall, long before there is any chance of Lake Erie freezing, millions of birds seek out the lake's water and shore for rest and fuel,” a press release issued by Gerrone said. “When cold weather arrives, large numbers of birds choose to seek out open water areas to delay, or deter, their migration.  With the discharge of hot water from sources like power plants, winter freeze never does happen.  This 'winter oasis', in turn, hosts tens of thousands of birds...sometimes for the entire winter...and not just 'common' birds, but birds both rare and worth seeing.”

The conditions have made Miller Road Park, which is adjacent to the power plant's hot water discharge, one of the best winter birding sites on the entire Great Lakes. The mixture of the high bluff, and the 500' fishing pier, along with, of course, the unfrozen water, make Avon Lake a nearly unmatched winter birding site. 

Gerrone said he’d like residents to be more aware of the birding opportunities nearby.

“What has been really lacking is an awareness and appreciation of the home town folks,” he said. “The major reason for this is that doing anything along the lakefront in the winter is not thought of as fun…or comfortable.  And winter birding along the lake shore does require extra layers and preparation in order to remain warm enough to see all that there is to see.”

Those who bundle up will likely be rewarded.

“Another reason why bird congregate here is that Lake Erie is the southern-most of the Great Lakes,” Grrone said. “As birds follow the shorelines southward in the fall, they can't get further south than Lake Erie, at least not without passing over land. Since the water is open, and food is available, many species of birds will end their winter wanderings here.”

Several species of gulls (not just seagulls), a dozen or more types of ducks, and some loons and grebes and cormorants will likely be available, Gerrone said, along with raptors and possibly bald eagles and peregrine falcons.

Attendees should dress warmly in layers to combat cold and wind chill. Binoculars are needed and Gerrone will have a spotting scope.

“We will not walk much, but we may venture out on the pier,” Gerrone said. “If residents have not seen the ice formations at the end of the pier, then this outing is even more worthwhile.”


lake swimmer January 03, 2013 at 09:02 PM
enjoy it while you can... once the power plant closes in 2014 there will be no more "hot water".. what will happen to the birding then?


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