For 23 years, Nature’s Nursery Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation Education has provided medical care for injured and orphaned wildlife in 16 counties of Ohio. The Toledo area in particular, at the western end of Lake Erie, is a hot spot for bird migration along the Mississippi flyway. Resident bird diversity is also high due to the variety of habitats: Lake Erie marshes and Great Black Swamp, highly productive farmland, and the largest tributary in the Great Lakes region–the Maumee River corridor. In 2009, a 22 acre site was given to Nature’s Nursery near downtown Toledo, between the Maumee River and Lake Erie Marshes. The Walk for Wildlife: Birds! event was designed to help raise awareness for the site, which includes a five-acre wetland next to a US Conservation Reserve area.
Connecting with a fantastic total of 566 participants through several weeks of bird activities, Nature’s Nursery did a great job of reaching out to several schools in the Toledo vicinity and working in the Blue Creek Conservation Area, Whitehouse, OH to try and create a birdscaping restoration area that might provide higher quality resources for migratory birds during their stopovers.
“We wanted to involve new and diverse community partners in support of Nature’s Nursery wildlife conservation efforts, especially birds,” Denise Gehring, VP of Education at Nature’s Nursery, wrote us. “We wanted youth and adults to be introduced to the beauty of birds, enjoy bird watching, citizen science data collecting, the importance of growing native plants and to be inspired to value the natural environment.” Looking for nature everywhere, even in the city, was one of their goals.
So Nature’s Nursery set up a Walk for Wildlife: Birds! event that was paired with data collection before and after the event at local schools, gardens, and a Metropark. The one-mile walk included ten learning centers that brought participants close to Ohio birds and wildlife, and activities like landscaping for wildlife and “Bird Buddy” art. Youth groups like Mountain Mentors (which pairs adult guides with at-risk youth) and Ohio Young Birders volunteered to help out, and a local television station even decided to send a celebrity host!
One of the participants writes, “It was great to see all the little kids doing the art project. I was impressed that they actually knew and remembered some of the names of the birds … some of the kids knew what they were just by the cutouts. I think they had a lot of fun, and the adults did, too.”