Blue Week 2021

Blue Week is Here!

May is one of our busier months here at TOPS. Getting ready for summer, training new staff, making the parks look great, welcoming many more visitors, all keep us on our toes. That makes it easy to overlook one very exciting week: Blue Week!!

What’s that, you say? Blue Week, annually the second week in May, is when we take time out to celebrate the amazing and rare ecosystem we live in, the Oak Openings Region! Is the soil in your yard sandy? There’s a good chance you are part of the Oak Openings Region!

This globally rare habitat is home to the most endangered species in Ohio. Yes, I said GLOBALLY rare! The Nature Conservancy considers it one of the  “200 Last Great Places On Earth.” This week is a great time to learn and explore this amazing ecosystem in our backyards!

The full schedule of events can be found here: 

Plus, TOPS has some fun virtual activities for you at

Take a hike or attend a virtual event to find out more about the area. Bats, birds, and biking are all topics covered. Find out about the beautiful flowers that grow here, and how you can use them in your garden! 

Take some time out this week, as the weather improves, to get to know where you live a little bit better. We can’t wait to see you and spend some time in this amazing place we live. 

American Woodcocks

American Woodcocks at Sylvan Prairie Park

This past month has been a great time to hear and see American Woodcocks at Sylvan Prairie Park. Woodcocks are well known for their spectacular courtship display. On spring nights, males perform very conspicuous displays, giving a buzzy “peent” call, then launching into the air. Their erratic display flight includes a distinctive, twittering flight sound and ends with a steep dive back to the ground. Have you seen or heard this magical event?

American Woodcocks are plump, short-legged shorebirds with very long, straight bills. They are about the same size as a robin. Their light brown, black, buff, and gray-brown mottled feather patterns help them blend in well with their surroundings. You can find them hidden in fields and on the forest floor, where they probe for earthworms. The variety of nicknames for this bird are entertaining and reflect their preferred habitat and their courtship behavior. They include: the timberdoodle, the bogsucker, the hokumpoke, and the Labrador twister, night partridge, big-eye, and mudbat.

Woodcocks migrate back and forth between northern breeding areas and southern wintering grounds. In spring and summer, they breed in the North, from Atlantic Canada west to the Great Lakes area. In autumn they fly to lowlands from the Carolinas west to eastern Texas, with the greatest concentration of birds wintering in Louisiana and Mississippi. Woodcock migrate north again in February, March, and April, homing to the same areas where they were hatched.

Check out these links to learn more about the American Woodcock


Check out the diagram below showing the courtship flight of the American Woodcock. 

Watch a YouTube video of the American Woodcock courtship display:

Migrating Waterfowl are Here!

Every spring (and fall) Lake Olander plays brief host to several species of migrating waterfowl. These swimming and diving birds (ducks, grebes, coots and more) use lakes like this one as resting spots while they make their long journeys between their wintering sites in Mexico or the southern U.S. and their breeding grounds in Canada or Alaska.

And some of them are here right now!!

Ruddy Duck

“Ruddy Duck” by dfaulder, via Wikimedia Commons

Just in the past hour, I’ve seen pied-billed grebes, a pair of ruddy ducks, a bufflehead, and a possible horned grebe. Plus everybody’s favorite Lake O spring visitor… a Common Loon!

Common Loon

“Common Loon” by P199 (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

I got a special treat while I was focusing my spotting scope on the ruddy duck … one of our resident adult Bald Eagles swooped over the lake right in front of me. It was carrying a bird in its talons! The eagle carried its prey across the lake a couple times before finally settling right by the playground to finish eating its dinner.  What a sight.

This week is a great time to come check out all sorts of birds at Olander Park!

Olander Youth Conservation Corps 2015: Week Three

Red Admiral


Week three of the Olander Youth Conservation Corps has come to a close. The Corps visited Kitty Todd Nature Preserve, Fossil Park, Sylvan Prairie Park, and Pacesetter Park. The jobs included nonnative weed pulling, fossil hunting, monarch butterfly monitoring, and annual flower planting. With time to spare on the last day of the week, the Corps was able to practice paddle boating and rowing on Lake Olander.

The first day was spent at Kitty Todd Nature Preserve managed by The Nature Conservancy in Swanton where the Corps members pulled nonnative plants from a site that is meant to be a barrens ecosystem. The desired weed to be removed was cow vetch, but yellow goatsbeard and deptford pink were also pulled. The Conservation Corps was accompanied by a Northern Mockingbird for the length of the morning making his presence known through stolen songs and showy flight between trees. The restoration crew leader for Kitty Todd’s seasonal staff, Ryan Gauger, came out to the site to explain the appropriate techniques used to manage the barrens ecosystem. The method of intrigue is prescribed fire. Burning removes the unwanted dead plant material from atop the bare sand allowing the ecosystem to remain a barrens. One of the Corps members volunteered to dress in the personal protection equipment needed to participate on the fire line. Finally,  we went on a short hike into the neighboring oak savanna to discover wild blueberries, a parabolic sand dune, and a bright orange fungus growing on the savanna floor.


Anna and Patrick fill a bag with cow vetch.

Anna and Patrick fill a bag with cow vetch.


Gabe, Jordin, and Connor show off their collection.




Ryan explains the purpose of a fire shelter carried on the back of Sarah's web gear.

Ryan explains the purpose of a fire shelter carried on the back of Sarah’s web gear.

Bright orange fungus found on the savanna's floor at Kitty Todd.

Bright orange fungus found on the savanna’s floor at Kitty Todd.

The following day was split between Fossil Park and Sylvan Prairie Park, both in Sylvania. At Fossil Park we explored the fossil pit in search of trilobites, crinoids, brachiopods, corals, and more. Several Corps members found brachiopods in the Devonian Era shale. After the fossil hunt, we headed over to Sylvan Prairie to participate in monarch butterfly monitoring with Denise Gehring, a retired Metroparks naturalist and member of the local Oak Openings chapter of Wild Ones. She explained the complex life cycle and migration pattern of the monarch to us then led us out in the field in search of monarch caterpillars. We searched in prime butterfly habitat for three types of milkweed native to this region: common milkweed, swamp milkweed, and butterfly milkweed. The Corps members inspected the milkweed plants looking for monarch eggs or larvae, as well as other insects. They also measured the plant height and judged the healthiness of the milkweeds by looking at the percentage of dying and destroyed leaves. At the end of the day, Denise gave everyone seeds of native plants to plant at home!



Jordin, Gabe, and Conner hunt for fossils.

Jordin, Gabe, and Conner hunt for fossils.

Denise Gehring and Alayna demonstrate how to measure a milkweed plant.

Denise Gehring and Alayna demonstrate how to measure a milkweed plant.

Gabe, Patrick, Jordin, Alena, Alayna, and Lauren look for insects on a common milkweed.

Gabe, Patrick, Jordin, Alena, Alayna, and Lauren look for insects on a common milkweed.

A milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) on swamp milkweed.

A milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) on swamp milkweed.



















The last day of the week, we took the Corps to Pacesetter Park in Sylvania to plant annual flowers for Sylvania Area Joint Recreation District. We provided the group with a theme of red, white, and blue flowers with the occasional yellow marigold, or “firework”. The Corps members were then instructed to work together and come up with their own design. After discussing design ideas, the members broke into groups and took control of different parts of the flower bed. Some groups planted stripes of red, white, and blue, while others planted abstract American flags. Another group planted the yellow “firework” marigolds along the path and around the gazebo. By dividing the work that needed to be done and working in teams, the Corps members finished planting the flower bed quickly and efficiently. In a show of solidarity with our patriotic theme, a Red Admiral butterfly (pictured above) spent the day in the flower bed with us. As a reward for finishing so early, we came back to Olander and had an excursion out on the lake with paddle boats and rowboats.


Taylor, Alena, Emily, and Lauren plant begonias in a patriotic pattern.

Taylor, Alena, Emily, and Lauren plant begonias in a patriotic pattern.

Maya and Lauren set out marigolds before planting.

Maya and Lauren set out marigolds before planting.

Corps members embark on a nautical adventure.

Corps members embark on a nautical adventure.



















That’s all for this week, only one week left!

Pacesetter group photo

The group poses with their flowers in the gazebo at Pacesetter Park.


Birds at Olander

The Olander Park System’s Conservation Crew, with the help of Maumee Corps employees from Partners for Clean Streams, performed our annual Breeding Bird Survey at Olander Park and Southview Oak Savanna today.

Here’s what we found: (“coolest” birds listed first)  🙂


  • Eastern Screech Owl – 1
  • Cormorant – 1
  • Belted King Fisher – 3
    Female Belted Kingfisher Photo by Teddy Llovet

    Female Belted Kingfisher
    Photo by Teddy Llovet

  • Great Blue Heron – 3
  • Northern Flicker – 2 adults, 2 fledglings
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker – 5
  • Hairy Woodpecker – 1
  • Downy Woodpecker – 2
  • Whitebreasted Nuthatch – 2
  • Cedar Waxwing – 8
  • Eastern Wood Peewee – 2
  • Eastern Phoebe – 2
  • Baltimore Oriole – 1
  • Chipping Sparrow – 2 adults; 2 fledglings; plus 1 adult on nest
  • Song Sparrow – 1
  • Barn Swallow – 1
  • Cliff Swallow – 3
  • Tree Swallow – 2
  • Dark-eyed Junco – 1
  • Redwinged Blackbird – 1
  • American Crow – 2
  • Mourning Dove – 2
  • Turkey Vulture – 2
  • House Sparrow – 12 (some on nest box)
  • American Robin – 22
  • Canada Goose – 63
  • Mallard – 37
  • Common Grackle – 1
  • European Starling – 3


  • Tufted Titmouse – 4
    Tufted Titmouse

    Tufted Titmouse

  • Chickadee – 1
  • Eastern Phoebe – 1
  • Whitebreasted Nuthatch – 2
  • Cliff Swallow – 1
  • Blue Jay – 8
  • American Robin – 4
  • Mourning Dove – 1

Ohio Young Birders Club Field Trip


Birding from Kayak

Birding from Kayak

The Ohio Young Birders Club (OYBC) is a program developed by the Black Swamp Bird Observatory to encourage, educate, and empower our youth conservation leaders. There are regional chapters of the OYBC, including one here in Northwest Ohio, started and led by TOPS own Robin Parker and Patty Toneff from Woodlawn Cemetery and Arboretum. Each month student members participate in field trips to exciting places in Ohio and in service projects focused on habitat restoration and other cool projects like creating bird feeding areas. 

OYBC field trips are open to all OYBC student members. To find out more about OYBC and how to join, visit the OYBC Website.

AUGUST 2014 Field Trip

Shorebirds Galore!
Saturday, August 16th
9:30 AM – 2:00 PM

Winous Point Marsh
(3500 S Lattimore Rd, Port Clinton, OH 43452)

Winous Point is one of the nation’s oldest hunt clubs. This private club is managed for all types of wildlife. We got special permission to visit Winous Point to look for shorebirds and see lots of other marsh wildlife! 

Please wear sturdy shoes and bring a packed lunch, water, snacks, bug spray, sunscreen, and bincos!

If you have any questions, please contact Kate Zimmerman at

*Hosted by the Northwest, Northeast, Central, and Holmes County OYBC Chapters.

Ground Nesting Birds

We’ve been seeing lots of bird nests at Sylvan Prairie this week.

Eastern Meadowlark - under grasses

Eastern Meadowlark – a woven nest on the ground, under a grass roof

2014-05-22 21.17.04

Red-winged Blackbird – woven onto cattails, about 3 feet off the ground

KilldeerNest SPP 2012-04-25

Killdeer Nest – on the ground, in the open

Birding the Warbler Capital – Saturday, May 10th

Ohio Young Birders – Birding at the Warbler Capital During The Biggest Week In American Birding

Magnolia Warbler - By William H. Majoros via Wikimedia Commons

Magnolia Warbler – By William H. Majoros via Wikimedia Commons

Date: Saturday, May 10th
Location: Magee Marsh Wildlife Area 
Time: 9 AM to Noon-ish

*Meet at the EAST end of the Magee Marsh boardwalk

Ohio Young Birders will celebrate International Migratory Bird Day by birding along the southwest Lake Erie shore at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, and Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area. 

Join young birders from all over the state to look for the beautiful neo-tropical migrants
on Saturday, May 10th. Warblers and other migratory birds stop in NW Ohio during their northbound migration in huge numbers. We will bird the Magee Marsh boardwalk looking
for these amazing little gems. We will have several guides to helps us along the way. Target species will be warblers, other neotropical songbirds, and shorebirds. This trip is
free and open to birders ages 12-20.

Bring a packed lunch and beverage and enjoy a group picnic lunch at noon. We can exchange bird sightings and share exciting stories of our past birding adventures! The weather by the lake is usually 5 to 10 degrees cooler, so dressing in layers is a good idea. Also, please wear sturdy walking shoes.

For more information, please check out the OYBC Event Calendar description for May 10th.

Directions to Magee Marsh Boardwalk:  Along State Route 2 follow signs for Black Swamp Bird Observatory (13551 W. State Route 2, Oak Harbor, OH 43449). Turn onto entrance road from State Route 2 (about 18 miles east of Toledo and 16 miles west of Port Clinton) and follow this road to boardwalk.


Loon & Horned Grebe

There is again a Common Loon swimming around on Lake Olander!

We also saw a Horned Grebe on the Lake today!  That’s the first time we’ve seen one of those here!

Horned Grebe

Horned Grebe photo by black_throated_green_warbler [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons