As our state begins to thaw, check out these park-system events that’ll help you embrace the longer days and climbing temperatures.
Hinckley | March 15, 7 a.m.
Every March 15 since 1957, bird-watchers have gathered at Cleveland Metroparks’ Hinckley Reservation to help spot the first returning buzzard of the season. Participants gather at Buzzard Roost at 7 a.m. and scan the skies until the first bird of the day appears.
The buzzards’ well-timed appearance is a curiosity of nature, for sure, but park naturalist and official buzzard spotter Sharon Hosko says there is also a biological reason the birds return.
“They come back because they nest in this area,” Hosko explains. “They don’t build a nest like a typical bird — they lay their eggs on a rocky ledge or hollowed-out tree.”
Local legend indicates the buzzards’ annual return may also have its roots in a mass hunt held in Hinckley Township in 1818 to cull wild animals that were threatening farmers’ livestock. The theory is that the ancestors of today’s buzzards dined on the wealth of carrion left behind during that hunt.
“It’s said the buzzards may be drawn back because of that,” says Hosko. Corner of State Road and West Drive, Hinckley 44233, 440/526-1012, clevelandmetroparks.com
Westerville | March 20, 7 p.m.
Celebrate the vernal equinox with this 2-mile guided hike through Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks’ Blendon Woods. “We are looking for signs of spring,” says park naturalist Jamie Kidwell. “It’s a woodland area with nice ravines — some of it is hilly, some flat.” The 652-acre park is also home to a variety of waterfowl and songbirds. 4265 E. Dublin Granville Rd., Westerville 43081, 614/ 895-6221, metroparks.net
Whitehouse | March 12, 10 a.m.
Trek through an oak savanna ecosystem at Oak Openings Preserve Metropark on this guided expedition for participants comfortable with covering 10 miles on foot. Hikers should bring plenty of water and a lunch. “We just want to get people outside,” says hike leader and outdoor skills specialist Amanda Howard. “Besides the summer, there are a lot of pretty things happening in the other months of the year that get overlooked.” 5440 Wilkins Rd., Whitehouse 43571, 419/277-6276, metroparkstoledo.com