A new development just north of old downtown Mason doesn’t have anything to do with houses, retail stores or office buildings.

This development is for the birds. Oh, and thousands of frogs, toads and salamanders, too.

It’s a development that has restored what once was a field of corn back to a seasonal wetland. And it’s been nothing short of a success story for the wildlife in the area.

The property, more than 500 acres on Hamilton Road and Mason-Montgomery Road known as the Bowyer Farm, was willed to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden by Dallas and Helen Bowyer, says Russ Doyle, director of major gifts and strategic initiatives for the zoo.

While most of the property remains in agricultural production, a 25-acre plot was recently targeted for restoration. Clay tile that settlers installed to drain the land for farming was broken up and a small dike was created, says Brian Jorg, manager of the native plant program for the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.

Jorg, who coordinated the restoration efforts, describes what happened next. “The aquifer came up a little bit and with the dike we were able to trap some runoff water,” Jorg says. Plants native to the area’s wetlands were then planted and bird boxes were installed. The property is now a magnet for birds.

“We have about 135 species of birds seen now on the property so far in the last two years, including bald eagles, sandhill cranes, sora rails and blue grosbeak,” Jorg says. “The wildlife out there seasonally can be very abundant.”

What’s become abundantly clear is that amphibians have also begun to inhabit the wetland. “Amphibians are one of the strong points,” Jorg explains.

“With the majority of the wetland being vernal, which means spring, it’s wet through the winter into spring and then it dries up,” Jorg says. “Well, the good thing about drying up is they never develop fish, so if you are a salamander or a frog and you lay a million eggs they’re not going to get eaten by bluegill and everything else in a lake.”

That means most of those eggs hatch. “If you go up there in the spring, the amount of toads and frogs calling is just incredible,” Jorg says.

All those frogs, toads and birds may soon be joined by a species not native to the area.

The zoo is planning to move its successful cheetah breeding facility from Clermont County to the Bowyer Farm property, says Doyle.

Right now the zoo is designing the buildings for the new cheetah breeding facility, he says. “Within the next year, we’ll be starting up there,” Doyle says.