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Warblers aplenty for birdwatchers at Howard Marsh Metropark

Opened in 2018, the former farm land was transformed into native wetlands and is now a hotspot for bird watching.

LUCAS COUNTY, Ohio — Pleasant spring weather is around the corner and there are plenty of places in northwest Ohio to experience nature.

Howard Marsh was opened in 2018 after being converted from farmland to wetlands.

At the time, the Metroparks Toledo project was the largest wetlands restoration in the U.S. east of the Mississippi River.

The 1,000-acre park quickly brought back many native species of birds and other wildlife that had been sparse or missing from the area since before the Black Swamp was drained.

"The first year we were open, in the first month, we had 10,000 people that came through here just checking the area out and bird watching." Denis Franklin, the natural resources supervisor for Metroparks Toledo, said.

Howard Marsh features six miles of water trails for canoeing and kayaking and five miles of dike-top trails for hiking and bicycling.

But its biggest draw is bird watching.

Currently, the marsh is occupied by many winterfowl from up north, but will soon be part of the largest collection of migratory birds in North America during the Biggest Week in American Birding in May.

"We do have some tree lines out here that will host some of the warblers and stuff like that," Sam Wilhelm, a natural resources technician for Metroparks Toledo, said. "So, what you're going to see is dependent on the weather and as it warms up the waterfowl are going to be kind of less dominant, and you're going to see more of those warblers coming up, which is kind of the main focus for a lot of the birders."

Credit: Jon Monk
Howard Marsh attracts a variety of bird species year-round.

Metroparks Toledo recently expanded Howard Marsh with this new wetlands and boardwalk across South Howard Road in 2022.

Along with being built to offer yet another outdoor area to explore, the wetlands are also a vital natural resource not only for wildlife, but for Lake Erie water quality as well.

"Improved water quality with the algae blooms and stuff like that that Lake Erie is known to have," Wilhelm said. This is nature's kidneys, essentially, you get that filtration."

Howard Marsh is hosting a special Winter Waterfowl and Other Winged Wonders hike on Saturday from 9-10:30 a.m.

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