The Lower Great Miami IBA extends along the Great Miami River south from the city of Hamilton in Buder County to the confluence with the Ohio River in Hamilton County. From Hamilton the Great Miami River meanders south and west for about 32 river miles. The habitat along the riparian corridor varies in width and includes several important recognized natural areas that, in highly urbanized Hamilton County, are still fairly contiguous. The Whitewater River joins the Great Miami approximately 6 miles upstream from the Ohio River
with important associated sites within its valley. The IBA has a wide diversity of habitats including bottomland forest, mixed-species mesic hardwood forest with a dense herbaceous layer, coniferous woodlands, and riparian and mudflat herbaceous communities. Much of this 32-mile corridor is wooded and sycamore, cottonwood, and maple trees predominate. Most of this stretch is semi-rural and still used as farmland, with several small parks along both sides of the river, many abandoned and overgrown gravel pits in the valleys that provide successional and scrubby habitats, some light industry, and several active gravel mining operations. Most of the hillsides in the valley are still heavily wooded, even where homes have been built. And there are still some large contiguous tracts of mature forest, both upland and bottomland, including at least one undisturbed 300-acre tract.
The Great Miami and Whitewater River riparian corridor is rural overall and many birds use the relative security of the river and the riparian habitats. Priority species breeding in the valley include: American Bittern, Least Bittern, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Red-shouldered Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, King Rail, Sora, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Chuck-will's-widow, Red-headed Woodpecker, Purple Martin, Sedge Wren, Marsh Wren, Hermit Thrush, Blue-winged Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Dickcissel, Lark Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Henslow's Sparrow, and Eastern Meadowlark.
Prothonotary Warblers are fairly common and there are probably 20 or more pairs along this stretch. Green Herons are seen in good numbers and nest in the remote woodlots. Rusty Blackbirds are fairly common to locally common migrants.
In the more wooded sections forest species found include Cerulean, Kentucky, and Hooded Warblers and Scarlet Tanagers and Wood Thrushes. Northern Bobwhites should be considered uncommon to locally fairly common throughout. Blue Grosbeaks are uncommon to locally fairly common summer residents throughout the Great Miami and Whitewater River valleys.
The river itself is used as a migratory highway for a host of waterfowl, shorebirds, gulls and terns, and other waterbirds. Bald Eagles and Ospreys are commonly seen in migration, and a few Bald Eagles usually winter. Double-crested Cormorants have become common to very common migrants throughout and have become common summer residents in the Oxbow although breeding has not been confirmed. American White Pelicans have become rare but regular visitors to the Oxbow and might be seen during any month. Red-shouldered Hawks are fairly common-common permanent residents. Peregrine Falcons nest annually. Two nesting records for American Bittern represent the most southern breeding records for that species in the state. All the shorebirds that normally occur in Ohio can be found during migration in the IBA. There are also many records for rare species.
The Great Miami valley is exceptional for migrant songbirds. All the species that breed or migrate through Ohio are regularly seen in large numbers during spring and fall migration at these locations. The ridge tops and north-south flowing rivers are natural migration corridors for all these species. Hundreds of thousands of migrant songbirds probably pass through the area each year and a good percentage of them are warblers. Thirty-six warbler species are regularly found in migration and 30 species can be recorded on any given day during spring migration. The valley also hosts 16 species of regularly nesting warblers, many of which are quite common.
Miami Whitewater Forest provides large blocks of woodland, wetland, and prairie which are relatively unfragmented, providing habitat for large numbers and varied species of birds. The wetlands area attracts Pied-billed Grebes, American Bitterns, Least Bitterns, Hooded Mergansers, Blue-winged Teals, Ruddy Ducks, Virginia Rails, Soras, Common Moorhens, American Coots, Sedge Wrens, and Marsh Wrens during breeding season. In the surrounding fields, Grasshopper and Savannah Sparrows are present in summer, while Northern Harriers and Short-eared Owls have been found in the winter. Dickcissels and Upland Sandpipers appear occasionally in migration.
The Mitchell Memorial Forest is known for its considerable stands of mature
pine stands, which host a sizable number of breeding Pine Warblers and attract conifer-dependent species in winter and during migration (Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Hermit Thrush, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Pine Siskin, Cape May Warbler, etc.). Breeding songbirds, similar to those of Miami Whitewater and Shawnee Lookout are relatively common here. Common breeding warblers found here include Cerulean, Hooded, and Kentucky warblers, Ovenbirds, Louisiana Waterthrushes, Northern Parulas, Yellow-throated, Pine, Prairie, and Blue?winged warblers, and Common Yellowthroats. Other common breeding birds include Red-shouldered Hawks, Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks, Great Crested and Acadian Flycatchers, and Wood Thrushes. Broad?winged Hawks regularly breed here. The ridge tops are excellent migratory songbird corridors.
Located right along the east shore of the Whitewater River, The Campbell
Lakes Preserve attracts waterbirds, waterfowl, and songbirds during migration. Breeding birds include Green Herons, Spotted Sandpipers, American Kestrels, Northern Flickers, Belted Kingfishers, Bank Swallows, Purple Martins, Blue Grosbeaks, Orchard Orioles, Willow Flycatchers, Eastern Kingbirds, Horned Larks, Brown Thrashers, Warbling Vireos, Yellow-breasted Chats, Prairie Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Field Sparrows and Eastern Meadowlarks. A Bell's Vireo was present here in the summer of 2006.
The primary threat within the corridor is encroachment from general development.
The Hamilton County Park District owns more than 7,500 acres in the corridor, and has secured conservation easements on another 900+ acres in the floodplain. Some of these owned acres were bought with support from Oxbow, lnc. Prairie and wetland habitat in Miami Whitewater Forest continues to expand each year as additional areas are converted from agricultural fields.
Oxbow, lnc. was formed in 1986 to preserve habitats, to research natural history, and to educate the public about the Oxbow area. Oxbow, lne. has bought 780 acres ofland, and they have bought conservation easements on 230 additional areas ofland. They continually work at gaining better control of the area, and strengthening what is done in the area for birds and wildlife. Conservation education through public and school walks and sponsorship of biological research including plant and animal surveys are important functions of the organization. Economically, the Oxbow is a rich agricultural area that never fails in drought years. Oxbow lnc. leases over 300 acres of farmland to nearby farmers whose contracts require leaving a percentage of crop standing after harvest to feed wildlife using the Oxbow during the winter. Management plans of Oxbow, Inc. include the maintenance of habitat for shorebirds and other bird groups.
There are numerous Native American prehistoric sites in the Oxbow area.
Some are on Shawnee Lookout Park and fully protected; others are minimally protected.