The sun shines through snow-covered trees at Big Darby Creek.
Winter in Ohio Winter is a wonderful time for exploring all that nature has to offer in Ohio. © Rick Conner

Stories in Ohio

Ohio Natural Events in Winter

Winter in Ohio offers opportunities for all nature lovers. Discover what's in store this season!

From wildlife watching and birding to hiking and searching for animal tracks, winter offers an abundance of unique opportunities to explore nature. With leaves gone from trees, seeing and hearing birds becomes a bit easier. And as animals leave traces in the snow, tracking wildlife can become a fun family activity and a great way to get outside in the colder months. 

We invite you to lace up your snow boots, grab the binoculars and head outdoors this winter. Whether you choose to explore one of our open preserves or a park closer to home, you're sure to find some fascinating winter wonders outside!

Learn more about some of the natural events you can expect to discover at our Ohio preserves this season.

Sandhill Crane.
Great Blue Heron Beautiful Great Blue Heron showing the contrast of the orange beak, white face and dark gray stripe above the eye. © DanDzurisin, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Morgan Swamp Preserve

Morgan Swamp Preserve is a magical place in the winter. Watch for great blue herons along the banks of the Grand River as they find pockets of open, shallow water to search for fish and crayfish. While you are there, enjoy the evergreen of the hemlock forests, which provides a beautiful, stark contrast to the snowy ground underfoot. 

At more than 2,000 acres, this preserve holds one of the largest privately protected forested wetlands in Ohio. We're working to protect these wetlands so that the Grand continues to live up to the title of State Wild and Scenic River. We're also working with partners across the state to look for ways to protect Ohio's Hemlock stands from the invasive Hemlock Wooly Adelgid.

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Hiker stands in opening of large rock outcropping at Edge of Appalachia Preserve.
Edge of Appalachia Joan Jones Portman Trail at the Edge of Appalachia Preserve. © TJ Vissing

Edge of Appalachia Preserve

Winter at the Edge of Appalachia offers the best time to view the topography of southern Ohio. Look for exposed cliffs on the distant hills, rock outliers at the base of the cliffs and the deep ravines leading toward Brush Creek. Watch for the pileated woodpecker, our largest woodpecker species, or try and catch a glimpse of a yellow-breasted sapsucker. Listen for the calls of yellow-rumped warblers, Carolina chickadees and tufted titmice as they forage through the forest. Plan on staying the day—visitors can enjoy over 10 miles of trails!

American tree sparrow on snowy branch.
American Tree Sparrow Great Egret Marsh offers perfect winter birding opportunities. © Matt Williams
White throated sparrow on branch.
White-throated Sparrow These sparrows breed mostly across Canada, but they are familiar winter birds across most of eastern and southern North America. © Sujata Roy
American Tree Sparrow Great Egret Marsh offers perfect winter birding opportunities. © Matt Williams
White-throated Sparrow These sparrows breed mostly across Canada, but they are familiar winter birds across most of eastern and southern North America. © Sujata Roy

Great Egret Marsh

In winter, get out to Great Egret Marsh Preserve and hike the easy 1.2-mile trail in search of tracks from species that utilize the marsh in the winter. Watch for non-migrating birds who stick it out through the chilly northwest Ohio winters. Species to keep an eye out for include the American tree sparrow, white-throated sparrow, great black-backed gull and black duck. Also, keep an eye out for osprey who may be utilizing our new osprey tower.

Our work along the coasts of Lake Erie include combating invasive species and restoring these important lands to healthy wetlands that will in turn help protect Lake Erie.

Herrick Fen boardwalk during winter.
Herrick Fen Grasses and native plants surround the boardwalk as it winds through the wetland at J. Arthur Herrick Fen Preserve before it enters the forest. © Linda Bourassa

Herrick Fen Preserve

In winter, visitors to Herrick Fen Nature Preserve can observe the many tracks from animals that take advantage of the ease of travel along the boardwalk. Look for signs of mice, squirrel and birds foraging for seeds and any remaining berries from the surrounding native vegetation. Look out into the sedge meadows and search for the huts of muskrat, which rely on cattail and other wetland vegetation for food. 

This preserve holds several state listed endangered and threatened species. The Nature Conservancy continues to protect this habitat from invasive non-native plant species such as buckthorn and reed canary grass. 

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Brown's Lake Bog

This 100-acre preserve holds a bog with its floating sphagnum moss mat, a 7-acre kettle hole lake and an outstanding example of a glacially formed hill known as a Kame.

Brown's Lake Bog in winter.
Snowy boardwalk path at Brown's Lake Bog.
Bird in branches at Brown's Lake Bog.
Dried flowers at Brown's Lake Bog.

Transcend the starkness of winter by bundling up and hiking the trails at Brown’s Lake Bog. An easy half-mile, round-trip boardwalk trail winds whimsically through a wetland forest and ends atop a floating bog mat. If there’s snow on the ground, you can watch for wildlife tracks from the hearty critters that remain active this time of year. Go on to hike the half-mile loop trail that leads into well-drained uplands where huge towering oaks dominate.

The Nature Conservancy is working to maintain the existing open bog mat and expand the open mat to include currently shrubbed over areas around the bog lake. 

White-breasted nuthatch.
White-breasted Nuthatch Enjoy the sights and sounds of winter birds at Big Darby Headwaters. © Matt Williams

Big Darby Headwaters

Don’t let a little chill keep you from hiking the 2.5 miles worth of trails at Big Darby Headwaters. With no bugs to combat, you’ll have a peaceful experience looking for snowy tracks from still-active wildlife. Or look to the sky to catch a glimpse of resident winter birds such as northern cardinal, black-capped chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, golden and ruby-crowned kinglets and the curious brown creeper.

Our work at this preserve includes the restoration of a straight, fast flowing ditch back to the softly curving, slow-flowing headwaters stream that it was meant to be. This has brought back several rare aquatic species.