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It’s spring, it’s warm, and you’re sick of spending so much time in your home. Everybody needs an outdoor hobby, especially now.

Why not bird watching?

I know what you’re thinking; it’s boring, it’s for old folk, do birds even live in Ohio? Yeah, actually they do.

And once you dip your toe in, I think you may find birding more interesting than you first thought. The thing about birding is that it’s like a puzzle. But a puzzle in 3D that’s constantly moving and changing.


man bird watching in a park with binoculars


Birding For Beginners

As you start, a lot of what you see looks the same – small brown birds flitting about. Maybe you’ll see something you know like a Northern Cardinal, but mostly you are frantically flipping through a bird guide to try and find a match.

I remember those days very clearly. It can be frustrating. But slowly, you start noticing patterns. You start seeing the same bird, recognizing her habits such as the way she pumps her tail or what she eats.

You realize that though two birds may look completely different, the snappy yellow of the American Goldfinch compared to the more muted fuchsia of the House Finch, they act in similar ways.

As these patterns take shape in your mind, you’ll find it easier to spot birds. You may see something new and think, hey, that bird is acting kinda like American Robin! And you realize it’s a Hermit Thrush, a robin’s cousin so to speak.

Searching your bird guide becomes a treasure hunt. Positively identifying a bird you haven’t seen before is a rush, like spotting the golden egg during a childhood Easter egg hunt.


close up of an orange Warbler bird on a branch

Colorful migrating Warblers can only be seen in Dayton in the spring


How (and When) to Start Birding in Dayton

To bird watch all you really need is a bird guide and a pair of binoculars. Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website is also great tool to hear bird songs and compare similar species. 

And starting this newfound hobby right now, in mid-spring, is the best time to do so.

Scores of species are migrating north from their wintering grounds in the Caribbean, Central and South America. Birds are in their bright alternative plumage, more commonly know as breeding plumage. They are singing loudly to mark territory and find a mate. Many are building nests or bringing food to little ones.

Birds right now are like mini sirens, bright, bold, and beautifully poised for you to find them.

In fact, in the last weeks of April into May are some of the only times (other than a few weeks in fall when they migrate back through) to see a fantastic group of migrants called Warblers.

These jewels of the forest positively drip with color.

Blackburnian Warblers appear dipped in Cheetos dust. Yellow-rumped Warblers are black, white and pale blue interspersed with bright pops of yellow. Wilson’s Warblers have a snazzy black cap on a yellow head. 


Hills and Dales Metropark

Dogwood Pond at Hills and Dales Metropark


3 Best Places for Birding in Dayton

So where can you find these warblers? Or where can you even bird watch in general?

Well to be honest, you can bird watch anywhere. You can start by learning the birds in your backyard, and then move on to the nearest patch of forest near you.

But if you’re interested in migrants, especially warblers, there are a few places for birding in Dayton that I especially like to frequent. 


1. Hills & Dales MetroPark

Hills and Dales Metropark, nestled in leafy Oakwood, is a 63-acre hilly mecca of native plants and wetlands.

My favorite spot starts at the Paw Paw Camp and parking lot over the Adirondack Trail Boardwalk to Dogwood Pond.

In the spring expect plenty of warblers and other migrants such as thrush and sparrow species. There are trails that snake through the large trees giving you good views across Oakwood


trail through Creekside Reserve

The trail through Creekside Reserve in Beavercreek


2. Creekside Reserve

Sandwiched between Creekside bike trail and US 35, the 137 acre Creekside Reserve in Beavercreek is my favorite place in the city.

I’ve been birding (and running) here for years and have enjoyed watching its restoration by Greene County Parks within the past two decades. Though the sound of the highway can be loud in parts of the park, myriad species can be found here by the Little Beaver Creek.

The gravel trail meanders through the woods and into meadows where Scarlet Tanagers, Great Blue Herons, vireos, sparrows and warblers a plenty can be found. 


3. Woodman Fen 

You could easily overlook this 33 acre wooded lot maintained by Five Rivers MetroParks surrounded by Kettering neighborhoods. But this gem has been restored from farmland to its natural state.

A fen is a groundwater fed wetland that supports rare plants because this ecosystem is no longer very common. Many fens, like other types of wetlands, have been drained over decades or centuries to grow crops or support development.

Woodman Fen supports dozens of native plant species. Since water seeps up from underground, boots are certainly recommended for this park.

The trail loop around the perimeter of the preserve is my favorite walk. You may see nesting Baltimore Orioles along with Hermit Thrushes, Tree Swallows and more. 

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and get birding! Your jigsaw puzzling, sour dough baking, Netflix bingeing friends will be jealous of your new obsession.


Ready to go?

Explore unique Airbnbs in Dayton – like this modern loft or this treehouse getaway – and the top hotels on to plan your trip (if you’re not from around these parts). Then, check out the rest of our Dayton series to round out your itinerary!


This article is part of the Delicious Dayton series. Read the rest below:

How to DIY Your Own Dayton Brewery Walking Tour

Did you know there’s an Ohio Donut Trail right here in Dayton?

How Small Christmas Transformed Our Holiday Season

Or, learn how to #HikeYourHomeState with the Ohio Hiking Guide!


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