Walnut Beach Park (Ashtabula Loop)
Walnut Beach Park offers excellent access to Lake Erie, and protects an extensive sand beach. The best birding occurs in fall and early winter.
Key Species by Season
- Ruddy Turnstone
- Northern Rough-Winged Swallow
- Caspian Tern
- Ring-Billed Gull
- Purple Martin
- Red-Breasted Merganser
- Horned Grebe
- Snow Bunting
- Bonaparte's Gull
- Common Goldeneye
4 - Walnut Beach Park
City of Ashtabula
1645 Walnut Blvd.,
Ashtabula, OH 44004
Open daily, year-round
Hiking Trails, Restrooms (seasonally), Picnic Area
From State Route 2, exit onto North Ridge Road/U.S. Route 20. Follow U.S. Route 20 as it becomes West Main Street. Turn left at West Avenue, then make a slight left at Lake Avenue. Cross Walnut Boulevard to continue on West First Street
What to Look For
Walnut Beach offers excellent access to Lake Erie, and protects an extensive sand beach. The best birding occurs in fall and early winter.
Late summer through September brings migrant shorebirds that stop in to rest on the beach. Many do not linger long, especially Whimbrel, which is notorious for its brief stopovers. October is a good time to watch for several species of sparrows lurking in vegetation behind the beach.
November and December bring large numbers of birds moving offshore over Lake Erie. Huge numbers of Bonaparte's Gull and Red-breasted Merganser can be tallied, along with large passages of Common Loons. Early mornings are an especially good time to catch flyover loons, and productive mornings can produce several dozen or more.
Although spring does not bring the diversity and numbers of species that fall does, March is a good time to watch for migrant raptors. Migrant hawks tend to hug the shoreline of Lake Erie, and large numbers of Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks can be seen. Rough-legged Hawks, Northern Harriers, Bald Eagles, and even Merlin and Peregrine Falcon might also be recorded.
Whimbrel is always a possibility in August or early September, and Brant sometimes occurs on the beach, with most sightings from November. Cold, blustery October days are a good time to watch for flyby jaegers, with Pomarine Jaeger the most likely species. Scoters and Long-tailed Duck are possible in early winter, and winter brings the chance of Snowy Owl or unusual gulls such as Glaucous, Iceland, or Lesser Black-backed. Good numbers of sparrows can sometimes be found in scruffy vegetation behind the beach; October brings peak numbers and diversity.
The western parts of the beach support a number of now-rare beach plants. Most of Ohio's Lake Erie beaches are heavily used by bathers and beach-goers, leading to the decline of our native beach flora. Some of the rare plants at Walnut Beach include Inland Beach Pea (Lathyrus japonicus), American Beach Grass (Ammophila breviligulata), and Seaside Spurge (Chamaesyce polygonifolia). A threatened insect, the Hairy-necked Tiger Beetle (Cicindela hirticollis), also occurs on the beach.
Ashtabula County Convention & Visitors Bureau
City of Ashtabula
Nearby Lake Access
Lakeshore Park. This 53-acre park is managed by the Ashtabula Township Park Commission and features a sand beach 900 feet in length, and a 250-foot pier into Lake Erie. When not heavily populated in warmer months, the park can be good for a variety of waterbirds. Located at the junction of State Route 531 and State Road, 1.6 miles east of Walnut Beach Park.
About the Ashtabula Loop
The northeastern shore of Lake Erie is the most sparsely populated corner of Lake Erie in Ohio, and the section least visited by birders. Nonetheless, scores of rarities have turned up in the region and huge numbers of migrant shorebirds, gulls, and waterfowl pass through.
Tucked in the extreme northeastern corner of Ohio, this section of the Lake Erie Birding Trail features the least developed shoreline on the trail. Five sites are featured on this loop, and one of them, Conneaut Harbor, has produced in an inordinate number of very rare birds. The total species list for this loop is 313, and two of those – Red-necked Stint and Black-throated Sparrow – have only been found in this region.
What to Look For
This section of the trail is located in Ohio's extreme northeastern corner. Included are sites in Ashtabula County (Ohio's largest county), and neighboring Lake County (Ohio's smallest county). This region can produce outstanding birding and rarities seldom seen elsewhere.
Conneaut Harbor is legendary among Ohio birders and regularly draws people from all over the state. Conneaut boasts a lengthy list of rarities, and an impressive list of migrant shorebirds.
The best birding on the Ashtabula Loop is during fall migration. By early July, many species of shorebirds begin to appear in Ohio. These early returning plovers and sandpipers are all adults; probably individuals who failed in their nesting attempt. Most shorebirds seen in Ohio breed in the tundra, and the brief Arctic summer doesn't allow for a second chance if the first nest fails.
As fall migration picks up, wooded sites can be filled with migrating songbirds: warblers, vireos, flycatchers, grosbeaks, and others. Marshy areas are good for sparrows, rails, and herons. As late fall rolls into early winter, scads of ducks and gulls move along the Lake Erie shoreline.
Many exceptional rarities have turned up in the Ashtabula area. Some of the more noteworthy include King Eider, Barrow's Goldeneye, Northern Gannet, Brown Pelican, Piping Plover, Red-necked Stint (only Ohio record), Sabine's Gull, Black-headed Gull, Ross's Gull, and Cave Swallow. Some of the sites on the Ashtabula Loop are also excellent spots to find birds that are seldom seen in the state other than along the Lake Erie shore: Brant, all three scoter species, Long-tailed duck, Whimbrel, Red Knot, Red Phalarope, and Nelson's Sparrow.
All of the sites included in the Ashtabula Loop contain beach dune plant communities, a habitat that has become quite rare in Ohio. A number of threatened and endangered plant species occur at these sites. All of the five stops on the loop can also be very good for butterflies and dragonflies. Some of these insects are highly migratory, and just as birds do, tend to stop their northward flights when they meet Lake Erie. Lakefront habitats can be good places to look for unusual species such as the Striped Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea calverti). Many southbound Monarch butterflies cross Lake Erie and can collect in large numbers in September along the lake.
1645 Walnut Blvd., Ashtabula, OH 44004