On The Road / # 292

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge/ Magee Marsh/ Maumee Bay State Park

It was a cool and dark morning when I picked up fellow birder Jon Frodge in Franklin Ohio this Saturday. This was a 2 stage pick-up with me picking up Phil Burgio just prior at his house.  This trip to Ottawa has been in the works for some time , and now we’re all pretty excited with the day finally here. With the caffeine-generated birders on board the bird mobile, the trip to Ottawa went without incident until a closed exit in Toledo made for an unexpected U-turn and a minimal delay in reaching Ottawa. We arrived at the visitors center at Ottawa by 9:00 am.

After a quick pit-stop we started to bird the boardwalk behind the visitors center. We didn’t have to go far when we hit a honey hole of birds. There were plenty of warblers to go around for everyone. When the birding is this good you hate to leave, so we didn’t. Unfortunately for Jon we didn’t go too far on the boardwalk. And with the morning waning, and the auto tour calling our names, we opted to depart the boardwalk and head out.

Phil and Jon towards the beginning of the auto tour.

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in simple terms is MASSIVE. I can see why these auto tours are popular. It’s not that you couldn’t walk or ride a bike to some of the hot spots, but this makes it so much easier, especially if you’re hauling cameras, scopes with tripods, and other birding paraphernalia. There is a handy map which you can print off their website which has the refuge and auto tour route mapped out. It’s relatively easy to follow and depending on how many times you stop, it can take several hours to complete.

This was a common sight throughout the day, Great Egrets just everywhere.

Driving East towards one of the hot spots that’s close to the estuary, we came upon these sleeping Trumpeter Swans that were right next to the road.

After crossing a bridge that crosses Crane Creek we came upon an area that held 7 Snowy Egrets, with most of them in trees. This was the best shot I could get from that distance with my digiscope rig.

Up to this point it’s been a wonderful day. A little overcast in the morning with a little bit of a breeze, however when the day wore on the sun came out as did the wind. The temperatures were pleasant so you didn’t need to wear a jacket, unless you have problems with the low 70’s.

Prior to leaving on this trip I found out that they were planning on opening up a section of road that isn’t normally open on the auto tour. This was being done as a request so participants from the Midwest Bird Symposium could enjoy a little extra that Ottawa has to offer. We as well took advantage of this. The auto tour would normally take you between 2 impoundments by following this dike. However this time we were given access by car the ability to drive all the way around a pond called MS 5. This was a treat for all of us since this part can only be accessed either on foot or bike.

And it’s at this pond that I scored my 292nd life bird. I was getting concerned that I was going to get skunked this trip, however when Jon saw what he thought were Black-bellied Plovers, well, my heart skipped a beat for a second. MS 5 is pretty big, so it took some time before we were able to spot these rascals foraging along this mud flat close to the corner of the pond.


We dared not get any closer than this, since we were also trying to figure out if any of the other birds present were Buff-breasted Sandpipers.

(On a personal note, Jon these are the only 2 picture that were any good)

After the auto tour we made our way over to the beach at Magee Marsh. The wind was really blowing and the Sanderlings were busy feeding as they raced back and forth when the waves crashed onto the beach.

We left the beach an headed over towards the west entrance to the boardwalk. We didn’t have to walk to far before we came upon another pocket of good warbler activity. And since you never leave a good spot we stayed here for some time before we wandered down the boardwalk. The further we got the lighter the activity became. After spending some time here we then decided that our last stop for the day, since the day was wearing on, would be Maumee Bay State Park to check out the beach. Rick Asamoto who was also there at Magee to do some birding just came from there with some promising news of 2 Ruddy Turnstones. Another nemesis bird that I’ve been wanting to add to my list for a long time, now within my grasps. However not today. After scouring the beach twice all we came away with were some more Sanderlings and a very cool Lesser Black-backed Gull that Jon spotted, which was another life bird for Phil.

With the light beginning to fade and appetites growing we decided it was time to head over for some food before driving home. It was a spectacular day for birding with 2 good friends. However before we left the park while we drove slowly towards the entrance I noticed a Red-tailed Hawk sitting on a post right next to the road. Normally you wouldn’t find this peculiar, however as we inched closer the the hawk just sat there. It eventually flew to a tree when we were within a few feet, and I was able to get this picture from the car. Or was it Jon who took this picture? Either way, with the fading light, and with the hawk in a tree, lighting was difficult.

What a great parting shot.

The drive home was long and quiet as we crossed Ohio with the setting sun. We arrived home exhausted from a great day of birding, and one I will look forward to next year. Notable birds for the day include:

  1. Rock Dove
  2. European Starling
  3. Red-tailed Hawk
  4. Ring-billed Gull
  5. Killdeer
  6. Great Blue Heron
  7. Mourning Dove
  8. American Kestrel
  9. Blue Jay
  10. Red-winged Black Bird
  11. Eastern Goldfinch
  12. American Robin
  13. Swainson’s Thrush
  14. Downy Woodpecker
  15. Blackpoll Warbler
  16. Magnolia Warbler
  17. Red-eyed Vireo
  18. Eastern Wood Pewee
  19. Common Yellowthroat
  20. Black-capped Chickadee
  21. Sora
  22. Cape May Warbler
  23. Pine Warbler
  24. Nashville Warbler
  25. Tennessee Warbler
  26. Tufted Titmouse
  27. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  28. White-breasted Nuthatch
  29. Indigo Bunting
  30. Great Egret
  31. Mallard
  32. Northern Flicker
  33. Blue-winged Teal
  34. Pied-billed Grebe
  35. Black-crowned Night Heron
  36. Belted Kingfisher
  37. Cedar Waxwing
  38. Northern Shoveler
  39. Yellow=rumped Warbler
  40. Gray Catbird
  41. Marsh Wren
  42. Trumpeter Swan
  43. Philadelphia Vireo
  44. Canada Goose
  45. Carolina Wren
  46. House Wren
  47. Bald Eagle
  48. Common Grackle
  49. Snowy Egret
  50. Eastern Phoebe
  51. Greater Yellowleg
  52. Lesser Yellowleg
  53. Least Sandpiper
  54. Pectoral Sandpiper
  55. Semipalmated Plover
  56. Semipalmated Sandpiper
  57. Solitary Sandpiper
  58. Spotted Sandpiper
  59. Black-bellied Plover-Lifer
  60. Tree Swallow
  61. Barn Swallow
  62. Double-creasted Cormorant
  63. Caspian Tern
  64. Herring Gull
  65. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  66. Short-billed Dowitcher
  67. Turkey Vulture
  68. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  69. Sanderlings
  70. Warbling Vireo
  71. Hairy Woodpecker
  72. Blackburnian Warbler
  73. Acadian Flycatcher
  74. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  75. American Redstart
  76. Bay-breasted Warbler
  77. Black-throated Green Warbler
  78. Wilson’s warbler
  79. Wood Thrush
  80. Northern Cardinal
  81. Least Flycatcher
  82. Wood Duck

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