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Issue Date: July 2010 Issue


For the Birds


You'll still hear some great tunes at the site of the Richfield Coliseum — but these days they come from a different kind of animal.
Amber Matheson
The brush is knee-high in the small, grassy pull-off alongside state Route 303. The wide, empty, man-made field is most impressive if you remember going to rock concerts or Cavaliers games at the Richfield Coliseum. It's gone now. This grassy field is all our kids and future generations will ever know of it.

"Within a year of this site being restored to its current condition, the birds found it," explains Lisa Petit, Cuyahoga Valley National Park resource management division chief. The coliseum was demolished more than a decade ago, but the foundation remains. It's hidden underneath a layer of dirt, and now a tall layer of field grass, which secrets away the nests of migrating birds. Petit walks along the edge of the field, explaining that staying along the perimeter avoids disrupting the ground-dwelling birds.

This 60-acre site has been named an Ohio Important Bird Area, a designation the Audubon Society gives to high-quality habitats. The coliseum site received the honor in 2004. Bobolinks, grasshopper sparrows, eastern meadowlarks and Savannah sparrows are among the bird species that make summer homes here and breed before returning to the southern United States, Mexico and South America.

Two bobolinks flit by as Petit talks. "They're very acrobatic," she says, pulling out her binoculars. "They're very fun to watch." This spot is one of the region's best vantage points for viewing these birds. "The various types of birds that found [this field] are special," Petit explains, "because they are ones that have been identified by conservation organizations as the birds [that have been] declining in population very dramatically over the last 40 years or so, because of loss of habitat."

The birds need wide open fields dry enough to build their nests, grass tall enough for proper nest building and large enough to keep them safe from predators that roam the forest. It's a rare commodity in a region blanketed with farms, forests and wetlands, but they find all of it here.

New songs drift through the air in Richfield these days. It's not Guns 'N Roses or Journey, but the bobolinks do put on quite a show. And this one's totally free of charge. Parking's easier, too.

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