Spring officially began on March 20, but it unofficially began on March 15 in Hinckley with the annual return of the buzzards (technically known as turkey vultures) to Hinckley Reservation. According to the Hinckley Chamber of Commerce, the buzzards’ return was first pointed out by patrolman Walter Nawalaniec in 1957. He had been noticing them for six years, and his predecessor on the force had seen them fly in every March 15 for twenty-five years prior. Nawalaniec related the story to a Cleveland Press reporter and a local historian in February of 1957. The buzzards came back that year and every year since.
Why do they come to roost in Hinckley? No one’s sure. In a post on the Cleveland Metroparks blog, Foster Brown put forth two possible reasons. According to the first, more likely theory, Hinckley’s river, lake, ledges, and tall trees make it an ideal habitat for the buzzards, with nearby woodlands and farms providing a source of food. The second has the ring of legend to it. As the story goes, an enormous hunt in 1818 resulted in a pile of hundreds of animal carcasses, a veritable buzzard feast. Every year since then, the buzzards have come back in the hopes of finding more food set out for them.