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Record number of bird species spotted in Cleveland this year, including one not seen since 1967

Record number of birds spotted here in 2017
Record number of birds spotted here in 2017
Record number of birds spotted here in 2017
Record number of birds spotted here in 2017
Record number of birds spotted here in 2017
Posted at 12:24 PM, Dec 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-28 12:24:52-05

It was a labor love and her year-long mission to find the most species of birds in one year. Like many who work in nature, Jen Brumfield, a naturalist for the Cleveland Metroparks, has a particular niche in the realm of nature—all things birds.

Brumfield invested most of her days since January 1, 2017 searching the shores of Lake Erie for every type of bird species she could find—from common species to rare—and she totaled a record 271.

That number was good enough to break the record of most birds found in Cuyahoga County in one year. The previous record was in 2012 with 270 birds spotted in the county. Prior to 2012, Brumfield said the record was sometime in the late 80's at 250 birds.

On December 20th she spotted bird No. 271, a Northern Gannet, a rare seabird often found along the North Atlantic coast. 

"I usually find my own birds, but I found a picture of this one [Northern Gannet] on social media late at night. It had been flying back and forth along the lake so I rushed down there the next morning," said Brumfield.

Among the over 200 birds Brumfield spotted, she discovered other rare birds that most bird watchers only dream of seeing in their lifetime. She found a Loggerhead Shrike (lasted spotted in Cuyahoga County in 1967), Say's Phoebe, Little Gull, (her 270th discovery), the American White Pelican, Piping Plover and the American Avocet.

All the sightings of these rare bird species point to something else happening in Northeast Ohio—a healthy lake and fish population that is bouncing back after years of being plagued by pollution and mismanagement. 

"People no longer see Cleveland as a rust belt city, even though it's still identified as that, but we're not really rusty anymore. Our natural resources are incredible and have bounced back," said Brumfield. "The river is no longer on fire and the conservation along the lakeshore is drawing a high number of birds to the area."

Brumfield said spring and fall migration times are the best opportunity to see the birds along the lake.  She compares the flight of birds to the region with the way people travel.

"The two things you need are a good place to stay and good food, and Northeast Ohio has just that," Brumfield explained.

If you want to spot some birds on your own time, grab a pair of binoculars and start looking around, Brumfield said. There are also bird watching groups who meet on a regular basis such as the Kirtland Bird Club, The Audubon Society of Greater Cleveland, and organizers at the Lake Metroparks.

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