This IBA includes most of the riparian area of the Doan Brook, an urban stream that flows through the communities of Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights, and Cleveland in northeast Ohio. Much of the land along the Doan Brook is publicly-owned, steeped in history, and accessible to birders. The Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve (formerly known as Dike 14) is located adjacent to the historic mouth of the Doan Brook where it empties into Lake Erie, approximately 4 miles east of downtown Cleveland. The Doan Brook is about 11.3 miles in length and drains a watershed of about 11.9 square miles.
The Doan Brook IBA is a long corridor running north to south. At its southern end lie the Shaker Parklands, consisting of a string of wooded areas with man-made lakes and some foot trails. Included in the Shaker Parklands is the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes whose 22 acres includes marsh, wet and dry woodlands, and some uplands, and an accessible boardwalk. Bird banding of migrants has been done here for decades, as well as Breeding Bird Surveys and Big Sits. Intense invasive species removal and native tree, shrub, and plant installation began in 2010.
Bracketing the Nature Center are several lakes, formed by earthen dams built on the Doan Brook by the Shaker Colony in the mid-1800’s. These stagnant bodies of water have Common Carp (with hybridizing goldfish) as the dominant fish species. Bald Eagles and Osprey hunt here often.
Parts of the Doan Brook, including through Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood and at its mouth on Lake Erie, are confined to underground culverts. Additionally, in Cleveland’s Ambler and Rockefeller Parks, the Doan Brook flows through engineered open channels with historic retaining walls.
Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve, an 88-acre impoundment jutting out into Lake Erie, is a retired confined disposal facility used by the Army Corps of Engineers. It is now owned and managed by the Cuyahoga County Port Authority. Intensive bird surveys have confirmed the presence of a large number of migrant and resident species, although the composition of species has changed as the habitat has transitioned from mudflats to successional forests and fields. Invasive species removal and native plantings are underway.
The complete riparian corridor has a rich and documented history of bird study – over 100 years of bird observation and over 70 years of bird walks by Cleveland-area Audubon groups and others. Breeding Bird Surveys and bird banding activity add to our understanding of bird migration through this area.
The Shaker Parklands offer excellent birding for migrating warblers, vireos, and flycatchers. Ducks, grebes, and loons are often seen on the Shaker Lakes during migration. When the lakes have been partially-drained for dam maintenance, the resulting mudflats are excellent habitat for migrating shorebirds. Intense work on removing invasive shrubs is underway, with native plantings replacing the invasive vegetation.
Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve is the largest lakefront green space for 70 miles along this portion of the southern Lake Erie shore. This site acts as a migrant trap and offers critical stopover habitat for a wide variety of migratory birds. The closing of dredge spoil dumping in 1999 resulted in the gradual successional development of mudflats, then fields, then beginning forests. Some areas are being maintained as fields. Since 1979, observers from the Kirtland Bird Club, local chapters of National Audubon Society, and other organizations have noted at least 278 species on this site. The composition of species has changed as the habitat has developed from mudflats and field to primarily forest. Notable species include Least Bittern, Northern Goshawk, Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Upland Sandpiper, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Marsh and Sedge Wrens, and many sparrow species.
On fallout days during migration, very large numbers of migrating species can be found at the Lakefront Preserve. This includes single-day sightings of hundreds of White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows, kinglets, and dozens of different species of warblers. As the intensive surveys continue, additional species and species counts will be published in Ohio’s birding journal.
The biggest conservation issues facing the Doan Brook – Shaker Parklands to Lakefront Preserve IBA are a declining tree canopy and the absence of large tracts of native habitat. These issues are being addressed through local municipalities, the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, the Doan Brook Watershed Partnership, and local volunteer groups--including important activists and advocates, the Friends of Lower Lake.
The Doan Brook water quality has improved steadily as additional storm water management practices are implemented by the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (and others) under provisions of the Clean Water Act