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Buzzards return to Hinckley right on time on Buzzard Day, bringing hope for spring

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Posted at 3:08 PM, Mar 15, 2023

HINCKLEY TOWNSHIP, Ohio — It’s a bird! No, it’s a plane! Wait a second, it is a bird! Wednesday was Buzzard Day at Hinckley Reservation. People from all over Northeast Ohio, and even from around the world, came to Medina County hoping to catch a glimpse of the first sign of spring. Buzzard Day is when turkey vultures return to their roost after spending the winter as far away as South America. It doesn’t matter if it feels like spring yet. Naturalist Natalie Schroder told News 5 the birds know what’s up.

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2023 Buzzard Day

“Even though it’s cold they know that spring is coming and it’s time to try and find a place to nest,” she said. She should know, Schroder also bears the title Official Buzzard Watcher. How did she earn such a prestigious role on this hallowed occasion?

“I don’t know, I kinda volunteered?” she said.

She may not know how she got her title, but she does know a lot about the history of Buzzard Day. Schroder told us people have been coming to this spot to look out for the return of the turkey vultures since 1918. Buzzard day officially became a thing in 1957. Jim Mainte has been coming for almost as long!

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Jim Mainte comes to Buzzard Day with Brutus Buzzard

“My dad brought me out here to the second buzzard day in 1958,” he said. While the Parma resident doesn’t make the trek every year, he makes it most. Complete with his stuffed buzzard companion named Brutus Buzzard. Mainte told us he loves to come for the characters. He even met some who drove all the way from Alaska one year. “A lot of crazy people…show up here purposely to do a Cleveland rite of spring, how’s that?”

One of those characters is Thom Kotulak. You may recognize him from Buzzard Days past. He’s very distinguishable by his buzzard hat, giant buzzard-topped staff, and an assortment of stuffed buzzard fashion décor. It’s kind of like a uniform for the event, completed by his embroidered buzzard jacket.

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Thom Kotulak brought a giant buzzard-topped staff to Buzzard Day

“My mom did that,” he explained. Kotulak said he’s waited until as late as two in the afternoon to spot the first buzzard in years past. He predicted “9:30ish” this year and was right on the money! The crowd cheered as the first buzzard was spotted around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. As the temperatures warm, more buzzards will come home to roost. But for those who braved the cold for that first sighting, it’s about more than birds or the hope of spring. It’s about the friends they made along the way.

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