'Birds of Lake Erie': Lake Erie Nature and Science Center

BAY VILLAGE - It was finally warm enough Friday for wildlife specialist Taryn Leach of the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center to sit outside and relax at the picnic bench behind the main building.

A few yards away, at the treeline of nearby woods, air traffic was heavy at four bird feeders and a suet feeder. Two downy red and black woodpeckers swooped around two of the feeders. A hummingbird flitted nearby, eager for some nectar.

The bird activity was the perfect backdrop for Leach to talk about the center’s upcoming Birds of Lake Erie Day being held from 7 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 27. Now in its fourth year, the event draws bird lovers and families from all over the region eager to spot and identify the birds they might see every day at their own feeders but have trouble identifying.

“We are hoping to help people identify birds often heard but not seen, or seen but now knowing what they are,” she said.

The day starts with a 7 a.m. adult bird hike, led by Tim Jasinski, wildlife rehabilitation specialist and birding expert. The hike will be held on the science center’s wooded grounds, a prime birding spot not only because of the natural setting, but also because of its proximity to the lake.

The adult programs, including animal presentations, run from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., while children’s programming is from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Cost is $10 a person for the programming. The bird hike is also $10 a person, a separate charge from the other events. Reservations are suggested, since some of the venues (including the Schuele Planetarium) have limited seating. If organizers know how many people are coming, they are able to schedule enough presentations to accommodate the crowds.

Besides focusing on area birds, including hawks, owls, eagles, falcons, sparrows, hummingbirds, cardinals, blue jays and American woodcocks, the center’s bird experts will be talking about migratory birds and the annual “lights out” program initiated three years ago by the center. Participants can attend a presentation on light pollution in the center’s planetarium.

“The Cleveland skyline is gorgeous, but during spring and fall migrating time, we ask businesses to turn off their lights,” Leach said. In the spring, many species are flying north. Because of the proximity of Lake Erie, many stop here mid-migration to rest. “Cleveland is a stopover.”

The city’s lights draw birds into buildings, sometimes causing them to smash into windows. “In the spring, we probably have about 1/10 of the migration that we do in the fall,” Leach said. “Every morning, about 5 a.m. we travel routes in Cleveland, collecting the injured and the dead birds. We mark them and the dates. We give the dead birds to the (Cleveland) Museum of Natural History. … The species (collected) may vary from year to year, but we can spot trends. The data is vital.”

Last fall, the center collected about 2,000 birds, with a high percentage of them already deceased.

The “lights offs” days are in effect now through May 1, “but we keep looking for the birds through probably the end of May,” she said.

After talking about the Birds of Lake Erie Day events, Leach went inside to gather one of the stars of the event — an imposing turkey vulture. She came out with the bird perched on her gloved hand, one wing outstretched while a second, damaged wing only partially extended. As nearby children looked over in awe, Leach glanced with fondness at the bird flapping at her side.

“People ask me what my favorite bird is,” she said. “I always say my favorite one is the one on my glove.”

She paused for a minute. “Isn’t he beautiful?”

4th Annual Birds of Lake Erie Day

When: 7 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Saturday, April 27

Where: Lake Erie Nature & Science Center, 28728 Wolf Road, Bay Village

Events: 7 a.m., adult bird hike; 9:30-11:30 a.m., adult programming featuring live raptor program with hawks, owls and falcons, and a planetarium program about light pollution; 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m., family events including arts and crafts and animal presentations.

Cost: $10 per person for each event.

More information: lensc.org or 440-871-2900.

Contact this reporter at editor@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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