The Girdham Road sand dunes of Oak Openings are famous, or they should be, for their unique flora and fauna. Lark Sparrows, Red-headed Woodpeckers, and Summer Tanagers are only a few of the regulars that birders can find in one stop.
These sand dunes, surrounded by huge oaks, are the last remnants of what used to be the beach of Lake Warren, the huge forefather of the current Lake Erie.
However, nature abhors a vacuum and successional plants are constantly waging a war against the barren dunes, looking for a toehold to colonize this apparent wasteland.
Sedges are the first to make inroads. This growth pattern, in outward rings, creates a tiny windbreak, allowing the shifting sands to accumulate, and paving the way for other successional plants to follow.
Wild Blue Lupine, a specialist here in northwest Ohio.Dwarf Dandelion, another rare species, found in the Oak Openings region.
From tiny acorns, great oaks do grow, and here is an oak sapling, trying to make its way in a veritable desert.
Want proof you're in a desert? How about a cactus plant? Prickly pear cactus, that is, the only cactus native to Ohio.
The Black Oak habitat along Girdham Road, between Sagar and Monclova, is home to my favorite woodpecker species - the Red-headed. A colony of nesting birds lives here, and you are guaranteed to see at least one, if not more, when you visit. I found two willing to pose for me, although further away than I would have liked.Also on that visit, I had a lovely encounter with a bluebird family, including this charming juvenile.
It seems like Oak Openings is always an afterthought with birders visiting northwest Ohio. So much time is spent at places like Magee Marsh and Ottawa NWR that this unique treasure is overlooked, and that is a pity. There is so much going on here that it really should be the main entree of your next birding and nature trip, not merely the dessert.