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MARKEY: Cullen Park a little parcel of paradise for birds and birders

05/09/2014, 12:00am EDT
By MATT MARKEYBLADE OUTDOORS EDITOR

Avid birders converge on NW Ohio


A male Baltimore Oriole is spotted along a mile-long causeway trail in Cullen Park, which serves as a magnet for weary migrating birds that need to rest. The Blade/Amy E. Voigt

Many of the thousands of avid birders that have converged on this region for the current “The Biggest Week in American Birding” festival will crowd the boardwalk at Magee Marsh or flock to the trails at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. That makes sense because among birders, those places are Broadway or Hollywood Boulevard.

But the birds find plenty of other attractive areas, and the birders seem to be discovering these new sites all of the time. Cullen Park, that recently resurrected and refurbished gem on North Summit Street, is letting its secrets out.

“This is a great place for birders, and one that has been very much underutilized,” said Bob Pulhuj, a member of the Visions of Cullen Park organization that has led the revival of the site, the former home of the Willow Beach amusement park.

Cullen Park, located where the Maumee River dumps into Maumee Bay, has more than three miles worth of wooded shoreline, which works as a magnet for weary migrating birds that need to rest and refuel before the long flight across Lake Erie as many of them head toward nesting areas in Canada.

“I’m not a birder, but from what I’ve learned, these birds will see this habitat and drop down to take advantage of it,” Pulhuj said. “Out at Cullen Park, we’re the little guys, but we don’t want the birders to miss out on some of the unique birds that we see stop here.”

Next to its main parking lot and boat ramp area, Cullen Park has a mile-long causeway trail that was recently given a fresh layer of mulch to minimize issues with muddy shoes.

The causeway juts out into the bay, terminating at Squadron Island, and features numerous pocket beaches and prime bird-viewing sights.

Just south of Cullen Park is the Mary and Howard Pinkley Walkway, located just past the lighthouse. This 1¼-mile path follows more wooded shoreline along the Maumee River and features a location to view an active eagles nest.

The area has also hosted avocets, Yellow Warblers, Wilson’s Warblers, American Redstarts, Cedar Waxwings, Baltimore Orioles, Palm Warblers, Warbling Vireos, Indigo Buntings and Red-winged Blackbirds.

“Birders that visit here will find shorebirds on both sides of the causeway and along the Pinkley path, as well as perching birds in the trees all along the causeway and the path,” Pulhuj said.

“We’re getting a lot of birds. I got a list from one of the local birders, and they were just amazed at what they see here.”

The birders that visit the area in search of rare warblers or some of our more common avian guests will benefit from the work of the Visions of Cullen Park organization, which was started by Vee Stader just four years ago. Birders will learn what anglers, waterfowlers, boaters, canoeists, and kayakers already know about the Point Place oasis.

“Once people come out here, their jaws drop. They tell their friends and we start seeing new groups utilizing the area,” Pulhuj said.

“I’d like to see a lot more birders here. They’ll love this place.”

On the drawing board for Cullen Park are plans to resurface the parking lot, install powerboat docks, and enhance the wetlands, trails, and grasslands in the area. Pulhuj said a kayak ramp is also in the works, and he sees it leading to more unique opportunities for birders.

“As I learn more about birding, I’d like to see us mesh kayaking with birding so we can go along the shore and have birding tours,” he said. “That would let people see these birds from a different perspective.”

Besides Cullen Park and the popular Lake Erie marsh sites, birders can also find prime viewing at the various Metroparks sites throughout the Oak Openings region, Maumee State Forest, Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve, and Kitty Todd Preserve.

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.

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