CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - It was a good year for rare bird sightings in Northeast Ohio and one Cleveland Metroparks employee set a new record, by breaking her old record, with 272 rare bird sightings.
That number sets a new county record, and on a national level, an extremely high number for a Great Lakes states county.
Jen Brumfield is a 13-year naturalist in the Outdoor Experiences department with Cleveland Metroparks.
"Hitting 272 for the year in only Cuyahoga County is akin to winning the world series or any other league top title," Brumfield explained. "I've been studying and searching for birds since I was 5 years old. I'm honored and humbled to be doing so today with the park district."
The previous record was 270 in 2012, also set by Brumfield and before that the number was 250 set in the late 1980s.
Brumfield's describes her work with the Outdoor Experience as an "interpreter of nature."
"We study population trends, habitat preferences, adaptations to urban and suburban environments, and monitor the success of our bird populations during migration and the summer breeding season," she said.
There are rare birds and there are mega-rare birds according to Brumfield. In 2017 there was a mix of both but some days stood out.
"On April 6, I managed to find not one but two mega rare birds in the same field, at Lewis Road Riding Ring in Rocky River Reservation. A state-endangered Loggerhead Shrike (last record was 1967 in the county) and a Say's Phoebe, a rare western flycatcher which has only been seen in Ohio a half dozen times," Brumfield said.
One of the highlights for Brumfield came with just days left in 2017.
"Dec. 20, I rushed to the lakefront before dawn to search for an extremely rare seabird - a Northern Gannet. It looks similar to an albatross, and it's typical range is far out on the Atlantic Ocean. Just two weeks ago, one was observed in Toronto, Ontario," Brumfield said. "The same bird showed up yesterday offshore Wendy Park in the greater Cleveland harbor. An extraordinary and quite mind-blowing feat."
With so many rare birds at least making a stop in Cuyahoga County the questions becomes is this a good thing?
At least for our region the answer is yes and it says a lot about Lake Erie's improved health, Brumfield said.
"Cleveland Metroparks acquisition of and conservation of lakefront habitat was essential to reaching this goal, birds go where the habitat is," she said. "The health of Lake Erie as a fishery is essential to reaching this goal - with better water quality comes a more rich diversity and number of fishes: birds go where the food is."