Nature,  Wildlife

Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, Ohio – A place to Photograph Raptors

Each fall and winter, raptors including hawks, eagles, and owls migrate to Killdeer Plain Wildlife Area in north central Ohio.  This is a great location for bird and nature photographers and birders to see and photograph raptors.

Killdeer plains is located about 8 miles south of Upper Sandusky, Ohio near the town of Harpster.  It is located in the middle of Ohio farm country.  Killdeer plains is comprised of grassland, farm land, marsh, and some wooded areas.  It also has two reservoirs and over 120 ponds, making a good location to view and photograph waterfowl as well.

 
Gray Ghost Northern Harrier with a Meal
Gray Ghost Northern Harrier Killdeer Plains

Raptors at Killdeer Plains

I’ve seen and photographed several species of raptors between the months November and February.  The birds migrate to Killdeer Plains to hunt in the grassland and marsh areas.  Species of raptors that I’ve seen and photographed at Killdeer Plains include:
  • Bald Eagles
  • Short-eared Owls
  • Long-eared Owls
  • Red-tailed Hawks
  • Northern Harriers
  • American Kestrels
  • Rough Legged Hawks
  • Northern Shrike
  • Turkey Vultures
Some of the raptors species such as bald eagles and red-tailed hawks are resident at Killdeer Plains year round.

Approach to Photographing Raptors at Killdeer Plains

There is a lot of ground to cover at Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area – 9,230 acres.  My favorite approach to photographing raptors at Killdeer Plains is to drive slowly along the dirt roads at Killdeer with my car window rolled down, bean bag on the window, and DSLR with 500mm lens ready to shoot.  This approach allows you to cover a large area of the wildlife area to find the raptors.  Also, these birds can also be very wary.  Many times you only have several seconds to focus and shoot before the bird flies off, so having your camera ready is essential.
 
Northern Shrike Killdeer Plains
 
Short-eared owls and Northern Harriers like to hunt the fields at Killdeer Plains just prior to sunset.  The fields on TH-108 just north of the Sportsman Center can be a productive area to set up a tripod and wait for the Northern Harriers and Short-eared Owls to fly.
 
Former Route CH-75 has been closed and serves as a trail down the center of the wildlife area.  However, if you choose to walk the trail be careful and wear orange as Killdeer Plains is also used as a hunting area. 
 
American Kestrel Killdeer Plains

Equipment

I recommend at least a 500mm lens for photographing raptors at Killdeer Plains.  In fact, I often add a 1.5x teleconvter to my 500mm Canon f/4 lens when photographing at Killdeer Plains.  I also recommend a bean bag for shooting from the car and a sturdy tripod for staking out the Short-eared Owls in the evening.
 

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