Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve (Cleveland Loop)
The 88 acres now known as the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve began life in 1979 as a dredge impoundment to contain spoils excavated from the Cuyahoga River. About 280 species of birds have been recorded to date, and spring and fall migration can bring spectacular fallouts of birds.
Key Species by Season
- Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
- Palm Warbler
- Golden-Crowned Kinglet
- Cooper's Hawk
- Mourning Dove
- Northern Mockingbird
- Northern Saw-Whet Owl
- Least Flycatcher
- Sedge Wren
- Long-Eared Owl
- Great Black-Backed Gull
- Field Sparrow
20 - Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve
Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority
1100 West 9th Street - Suite 300
Cleveland, OH 44113
Open during daylight hours; permit no longer necessary
Take I-90 East to the University Circle/Martin Luther King Jr Drive exit (#177) and turn left (north) onto Martin Luther King Jr Drive. Go under the I-90 overpass and immediately turn left (west) onto the North Marginal.
What to Look For
The 88 acres now known as the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve began life in 1979 as a dredge impoundment to contain spoils excavated from the Cuyahoga River. Sediments were deposited in the basin until 1999, and since that time the formerly open mudflats have grown over with a variety of woody and herbaceous plants. Birders who are long familiar with the site will recall that it was originally known as Gordon Park (the name of the adjacent state park), then Dike 14, before it was branded with its current name.
About 280 species of birds have been recorded to date, and spring and fall migration can bring spectacular fallouts of birds. The preserve is particularly noteworthy for the numbers and variety of sparrows that can occur in autumn, with October the peak month. On a big day, well over a thousand individuals might be noted, which might include Chipping, Field, Savannah, Song, Lincoln's, Swamp, White-throated, and White-crowned sparrows. Other, scarcer sparrow species are possible and one-day tallies of 15 species of sparrows are not unheard of.
Fall migration is good for a great diversity of warblers, including Orange-crowned Warbler, and most other songbirds. Large numbers of Chimney Swifts often congregate overhead in late fall, and good numbers of American Pipits, Lapland Longspurs, and Snow Buntings can be heard flying over.
There are many records of Le Conte's and Nelson's sparrows, and these shy skulkers are undoubtedly annual fall visitors. One of Ohio's few Say's Phoebe records comes from here, and Northern Saw-whet and Long-eared owls are sometimes found in thick grapevine tangles or in the ornamental conifers just south of the preserve. In its early days, much of the impoundment was open mudflat, which created excellent shorebird habitat. Ohio's first—and still one of only two—record of Sharp-tailed Sandpiper was found here, in October 1984.
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is only ten minutes to the south, at 1 Wade Oval Drive, University Circle, Cleveland OH 44106-1767. The museum can be reached at 216.231.4600, or by visiting their website. There is always an interesting array of exhibits and programs, and a large collection of stuffed birds in dioramas is housed in the museum.
Calvary Cemetery is located at 10000 Miles Road, a few miles due south of Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve. It is locally renowned for its wintering Merlins. As many as three birds can be present, and sometimes good numbers of winter finches can be found.
Nearby Lake Access Sites
Euclid Beach Area. A nearly 19-acre lakefront site that is part of the Cleveland Metroparks' Lakefront Reservation. There is a sandy beach, and the park offers great vistas of Lake Erie. The park is located on the north side of Lake Shore Boulevard (State Route 283) just east of 165th Street.
Villa Angela/Wildwood areas. These two sites, which are separated by Euclid Creek, are part of the Cleveland Lakefront State Park system, and of the six sites that make up the park, these are the easternmost. There is almost a half-mile of sand beach, and a fishing pier provides good lake-watching opportunities. The parks are at the northern terminus of East 174th Street, just north of Lake Shore Boulevard (State Route 283).
About the Cleveland Loop
The Cleveland region—Cuyahoga and Lake counties—is by far the most populous area along Ohio's Lake Erie shoreline. It also harbors the most birders, and as a consequence the bird life of the Cleveland vicinity is better known than probably anywhere else in Ohio. Birding is good at all seasons, and records of exciting rarities abound.
This loop is the most populous region on the trail, as the city of Cleveland and neighboring areas are the most developed locales on Ohio’s Lake Erie shoreline. There are more sites on the Cleveland Area Loop – 28 – than any other loop. Every type of habitat found along the lake occurs on this loop, and some of the sites are among the most famous birding hotspots in the Midwest. The total species list for this loop is 356, and a remarkable 12 of those have only been recorded in this region.
What to Look For
The centerpiece of this loop is the city of Cleveland. The Greater Cleveland area is the largest metropolitan region in Ohio, with a population over two million. There are probably more active birders here than anywhere else in the state and as a consequence this loop's bird list is large and spectacular.
Many of the sites along this loop offer outstanding birding opportunities during spring migration, and a number of these same sites support a great diversity of breeding birds. Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve is a standout among migratory hotspots, and boasts one of the largest bird lists of any single site in Ohio.
The greatest sheer numbers of birds occur in fall migration. Lakeside spots such as Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve draw in scads of songbirds: warblers, thrushes, sparrows, and many others. As fall merges into winter, tremendous numbers of Bonaparte's Gulls and Red-breasted Mergansers build up, especially along the downtown Cleveland lakefront.
Even winter has its charms. Eighteen species of gulls have been found, which puts the Cleveland region near the forefront of North America's best gull-watching locales. Joining the gulls are a wide variety of hardy waterfowl, including scoters, Long-tailed Duck, and the occasional King Eider.
At least nine species of birds have been found in the Cleveland region, but nowhere else in Ohio. Some of the mega-rarities include: Common Eider, Ivory Gull, Ross's Gull, Black Guillemot, Common Ground-Dove, Smooth-billed Ani, Boreal Owl, Rock Wren, and Painted Redstart. Some of the sites on this loop are great places to look for rare species such as Purple Sandpiper and Red Phalarope.
Ohio's best remaining natural beach community is found at Headland's Dunes State Nature Preserve. Many rare plants occur there, such as Beach Pea (Lathyrus japonicus), American Beach Grass (Ammophila breviligulata), and Seaside Spurge (Chamaesyce polygonifolia). Fantastic concentrations of Monarch butterflies can gather at lakefront sites in fall migration. Cuyahoga Valley National Park and The Holden Arboretum, in particular, support a staggering array of botanical diversity across a broad range of habitats.
1100 West 9th Street - Suite 300, Cleveland, OH 44113