Tag Archives: Magee Marsh

“On The Road”

Well it was another successful trip up to Lake Erie for spring migration this year. The weather was typical as you’d expect with very windy conditions and either too hot or cool temperatures. I traveled up early last Tuesday, arriving by 8 am, and staying till Friday late morning. This year was a little different than in years past. In the past I’ve stayed in local hotels either in Port Clinton, or Oregon. We’ve also stayed in the lodge at Maumee Bay State Park, and one of the cabins in years past. This year I camped, just like one of the first times I visited with my older son. And with my senior discount I was able to camp for the 3 nights for $50.00, which isn’t bad, considering it had electrical hookups. I ran an extension cord into the tent so I could run a fan on those hot days, plus I needed to recharge my cell phone overnight. And since I wasn’t planning on any cooking, coffee was a must have in the morning. So my wife came up with the idea of taking our Kuerig along to make my morning coffee. Brillant!

Breakfast was coffee, a banana, and a granola bar. Lunch was a PB & J sandwich and trail mix. All I had to do then is eat out for my dinner. Birding on a budget.

Home Sweet Home

In years past I would get to the boardwalk early enough to beat the big rig photographers before they set up house either on the tower, or the walkway up to the tower. This year I just couldn’t get there early enough. It was always the same group of people, set up in the same spot every day.

For the most part my morning was spent on the boardwalk at Magee Marsh till either the crowd of people drove me off, or the birding slowed down. So if I wasn’t at the boardwalk I was at either Metzger Marsh, Ottawa N.W.R., or the back roads looking for wading birds in some of the sky ponds in the farm fields.

Both Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos seemed more common than in years past. Normally I’d struggle to get the Black-billed, however this year it was an easy “tick”.

 This Screech Owl was found towards the end of the Estuary Trail.

The nest box where this little guy was found is on the boardwalk at Maumee Bay State Park Nature Trail. And just to the right and above overlooking everything was…

a red phase Eastern Screech Owl.

Flycatchers made an appearance in a big way while I was there. All the ones I was able to identify I did by their call. So when I took a photo of one if I didn’t hear it call, I left it as a unidentified flycatcher.

 Another bird I didn’t have to work to hard in finding was a Snowy Egret. Every year it can either be a hit or miss bird, however this year one could always be found along the causeway as you drove towards the parking lot at Magee Marsh.

This year there was a treat for everyone. A very cooperative Black-crowned Night Heron. Easily spotted from the boardwalk on a daily basis, it was nothing to take a few dozen photos of this beautiful bird as it stalked for food.

Another bird I’ve had a bit of luck finding, usually along the drive of Metzger Marsh at one of the pull-offs, are Common Gallinule. I find them such striking birds.

Pretty reliable in the past few years are Sandhill Cranes. For the most part I’ve heard them as the feed just out of eye sight, but this year I was able to catch a couple in flight while I was stopped on the causeway.

  However the real reason the majority of birders come to Lake Erie, and this special spot in particular are the warblers. This year did not disappoint with 21 species seen. For me anytime I can reach 20 or more warblers during my stay here I feel blessed, and this year was a good year. Maybe not for the quality of the photographs, but for the birds it was great.

 The ever present Yellow Warbler

Mourning warblers seemed particularly plentiful than in years past, with female being spotted from the observation tower. Sorry for the poor quality, these skulking birds are tough in even the best conditions.

I think a front came through while I was there because it seemed that the Black-throated Green and Canada Warblers appeared in good numbers.

I know, for some reason I have really bad luck when it comes to both the Canada and Blackburnian Warbler in getting a clear photograph. I’ll just keep trying till I get a good one. I hate auto-focus.

Of course you would have to tilt back your head with a stick in the way. Nothing comers easy.I’m definitely a better birder than photographer.

Magnolia Warbler

 Not as striking as the males, the female Magnolia warblers were a little more cooperative for us inconsistent photographers.

And as expected the Prothonotary Warbler stole the show. Always present since they breed here, their clear song can be heard all over the boardwalk, and they tend to sit still long enough for people like me.

And considering how windy it was, even the birds found it difficult to keep their feathers in place.

You would think that the Yellow Warbler was the most common warbler species here, but I think it’s the Common Yellowthroat.

Northern Parula

I think the first song I heard as I stepped onto the boardwalk was of a Northern Parula

This was one of my photographic nemesis birds, the Bay-breasted Warbler. Now they may not be the best of quality, but I’m really pleased.

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Wilson’s Warbler

But not everything was warbler believe it or not. I was able to capture some decent shots of some of the other inhabitants.

Red-eyed Vireo

If for some reason you need a Baltimore Oriole for your life list, this is the place to find them. They’re everywhere.

This male Wood Duck was tied up at one of the ponds at the golf course at Maumee Bay. I think I made a inadvertent pun.

Wait a minute, that’s no bird!

Trip List

  1. Eastern Meadowlark
  2. Canada Goose
  3. European Starling
  4. American Robin
  5. Common Grackle
  6. Mourning Dove
  7. House Sparrow
  8. Brown-headed Cowbird
  9. Killdeer
  10. Cooper’s Hawk
  11. Barn Swallow
  12. Tree Swallow
  13. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  14. Purple Martin
  15. Cliff Swallow
  16. Chimney Swift
  17. Red-winged Black Bird
  18. Ring-billed Gull
  19. Herring Gull
  20. Common Tern
  21. Gray Catbird
  22. Eastern Phoebe
  23. Carolina Wren
  24. House Wren
  25. Great Egret
  26. Snowy Egret
  27. Black-crowned Night Heron
  28. Green Heron
  29. Double-creasted Cormorant
  30. Trumpeter Swan
  31. Bald Eagle
  32. Red-tailed Hawk
  33. Northern Harrier
  34. Blue Jay
  35. Orchard Oriole
  36. Baltimore Oriole
  37. Warbling Vireo
  38. Red-eyed Vireo
  39. Philadelphia Vireo
  40. Eastern Wood Pewee
  41. Least Flycatcher
  42. Willow Flycatcher
  43. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
  44. Acadian Flycatcher
  45. Olive-sided Flycatcher
  46. Eastern Kingbird
  47. Indigo Bunting
  48. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  49. Northern Cardinal
  50. Downy Woodpecker
  51. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  52. Gray-cheeked Thrush
  53. Swainson’s Thrush
  54. Lincoln’s Sparrow
  55. White-throated Sparrow
  56. White-crowned Sparrow
  57. Song Sparrow
  58. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  59. Horned Lark
  60. Mallard
  61. Wood Duck
  62. Semi-palmated Plover
  63. Least sandpiper
  64. Dunlin
  65. White-rumped Sandpiper
  66. Pied-billed Grebe
  67. Common Gallinule
  68. Common Nighthawk
  69. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  70. Black-billed Cuckoo
  71. Cedar Waxwing
  72. Northern Flicker
  73. Wood Thrush Rose-breasted Grosbeack
  74. Eastern Bluebird
  75. White-eyed Vireo
  76. Eastern Towhee
  77. Eastern Goldfinch
  78. Sandhill Crane
  79. Screech Owl
  80. Peregrine Falcon
  81. Marsh Wren
  82. Yellow Warbler
  83. Common Yellowthroat
  84. Northern Parula
  85. Magnolia Warbler
  86. American Redstart
  87. Nashville warbler
  88. Blackpoll Warbler
  89. Cape May warbler
  90. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  91. Black-throated Blue warbler
  92. Black and White warbler
  93. Tennessee Warbler
  94. Wilson’s warbler
  95. Bay-breasted warbler
  96. Prothonotary Warbler
  97. Mourning Warbler
  98. Black-throated Green warbler
  99. Blackburnian Warbler
  100. Canada Warbler
  101. Connecticut Warbler
  102. Palm Warbler
  103. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  104. American Woodcock

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Lake Erie Birding Wrap-Up

In the blink of an eye it’s over. 4 1/2 days of some of the best birding at one of the best migrant traps in all the midwest, the shores of Lake Erie in May. This year for the first time we stayed in a cabin at Maumee Bay State Park, and the accommodations were great. There’s something to be said about having your own kitchen and living space with big comfy chairs and couch to help you unwind after a day of birding. Our cabin set next to a pond where you could watch Canadian Geese with their chicks feed in the grass. A beaver glide through the water as warblers called from the thick bushes next to you. At night American Woodcocks would put on display flights as a Screech Owl called off in the distance. We enjoyed our stay so much we made next years reservation for the same cabin right before we left.

But the reason we’re here are for the birds. And the weather conditions couldn’t have been more of a challenge than those days we spent there. We really only had one good day of birding when the temps were warm and the sun was out. The other times it was wet, windy, cool,  and perfect for birding. While others may be waiting in their car for the rain to stop, not me. Throw on my rain jacket and off I go. Saturday was particularly windy, but then the birds come down from the tops of the trees making it easier to see them at eye level.

And as you would expect the boardwalk was packed to the gills. What with festival participants and everyone else, the place easily turned into a human traffic jam at times. And just like you never say “bomb” in a crowded airport, the same holds true if you speak”Mourning Warbler”. You better mean it because the crush of people will be upon you quickly. And this is where being an early riser pays off. Being at the boardwalk well before sun rise has it’s definite advantages. Fewer people makes for easier birding by ear, fewer human traffic jams and giant tripods blocking the way.

And as you’d expect the Auto Tour at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge was open daily with the added treat of having some added loops to drive. MS-5 was open for the first time in a long time. In reality I only remember once when it was open in the autumn several years ago. It was that time I got my “Lifer” Black-bellied Plover, in MS-5. And just north of MS-5 is Pool 3, and I’ve never seen that one open. Bravo to those folks at Ottawa for allowing us to extend our exploring a bit.

So once again it was a fabulous trip, one which I’d highly recommend even if it was for only a day. If I can’t convince you, then maybe some of my crappy pictures will help.

IMG_4592Scarlet Tanager

IMG_4595Blackpoll Warbler

IMG_4600The ever present Yellow Warbler

IMG_4608Magnolia Warbler

IMG_4611Least Flycatcher

IMG_4615Common Yellowthroat

IMG_4623Baby Eastern Screech Owl

IMG_4629A terrible photo of a Prothonotary Warbler

IMG_4635Common Nighthawk

IMG_4636Swainson’s Thrush

IMG_4641Another baby Eastern Screech Owl

IMG_4644Great Blue Heron

IMG_4647White-crowned Sparrow

IMG_4684Blue-headed Vireo

IMG_4688Palm Warbler

IMG_4698Red-eyed Vireo

IMG_4711American Woodcock

IMG_4718Wilson’s Warbler

IMG_4731American Redstart

IMG_4752Chestnut-sided Warbler

IMG_4761Cape May Warbler

IMG_4766Nashville Warbler

Notable birds for the trip includes:

  1. European Starling
  2. Common Grackle
  3. Brown-headed Cowbird
  4. Red-winged Blackbird
  5. American Robin
  6. Swainson’s Thrush
  7. Northern Cardinal
  8. Black-capped Chickadee
  9. Tufted Titmouse
  10. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  11. House Wren
  12. Carolina Wren
  13. Marsh Wren
  14. Gray Catbird
  15. Tree Swallow
  16. Barn Swallow
  17. Bank Swallow
  18. Purple Martin
  19. Chimney Swift
  20. Cliff Swallow
  21. Baltimore Oriole
  22. Orchard Oriole
  23. Belted Kingfisher
  24. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  25. Hairy Woodpecker
  26. Downy Woodpecker
  27. Northern Flicker
  28. Red-tailed Hawk
  29. American Kestrel
  30. Bald Eagle
  31. Cooper’s hawk
  32. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  33. Killdeer
  34. Semipalmated Plover
  35. Black-bellied Plover
  36. Least Sandpiper
  37. Pectoral Sandpiper
  38. Greater Yellowleg
  39. Lesser Yellowleg
  40. Short-billed Dowitcher
  41. Curlew Sandpiper-Lifer
  42. Dunlin
  43. American Woodcock
  44. Trumpeter Swan
  45. Mallard
  46. Blue-winged Teal
  47. Wood Duck
  48. Canada Goose
  49. American Coot
  50. Common Gallinule
  51. Pied-billed Grebe
  52. Great Blue Heron
  53. Great Egret
  54. Wilson’s Phalarope
  55. Double-crested Cormorant
  56. Herring Gull
  57. Ring-billed Gull
  58. Great Black-backed Gull
  59. Caspian Tern
  60. Snowy Egret
  61. Green Heron
  62. Black-crowned Night Heron
  63. Brown Thrasher
  64. Scarlet Tanager
  65. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  66. Indigo Bunting
  67. American Goldfinch
  68. House Sparrow
  69. Field Sparrow
  70. Song Sparrow
  71. Lincoln’s Sparrow
  72. Chipping Sparrow
  73. White-throated Sparrow
  74. White-crowned Sparrow
  75. White-breasted Nuthatch
  76. Barred Owl
  77. Eastern Screech Owl
  78. Great Horned Owl
  79. American Pipit
  80. Whip Poor Will
  81. Sandhill Crane
  82. Turkey Vulture
  83. Sora
  84. House Finch
  85. Eastern Meadowlark
  86. Pigeon
  87. Mourning Dove
  88. Red-eyed Vireo
  89. Philadelphia Vireo
  90. Yellow-throated Vireo
  91. Warbling Vireo
  92. Blue-headed Vireo
  93. Least Flycatcher
  94. Great-crested Flycatcher
  95. Eastern Phoebe
  96. Eastern Wood-Pewee
  97. Willow Flycatcher
  98. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  99. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  100. Eastern Kingbird
  101. Blue Jay
  102. Eastern Bluebird
  103. Northern Mockingbird
  104. Cedar Waxwing
  105. Northern Waterthrush
  106. Common Yellowthroat
  107. Golden-winged Warbler
  108. Canada Warbler
  109. Magnolia Warbler
  110. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  111. Prothonotary Warbler
  112. Nashville Warbler
  113. Tennessee Warbler
  114. Blackpoll Warbler
  115. Black and White Warbler
  116. Black-throated Blue warbler
  117. Black-throated Green Warbler
  118. Yellow Warbler
  119. Hooded Warbler
  120. Kentucky Warbler
  121. Blackburnian Warbler
  122. Cape May Warbler
  123. American Redstart
  124. Orange-crowned Warbler
  125. Northern Parula
  126. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  127. Prairie Warbler
  128. Palm Warbler
  129. Bay-breasted Warbler
  130. Wilson’s Warbler

IMG_4682

“On The Road” Part-2

At just over 15,200 acres the five main wildlife areas and two state parks of northwest Ohio along Lake Erie, the birder has endless possibilities to search out and hopefully find that one elusive bird. Starting in the west with Maumee Bay State Park and ending in the east at East Harbor State Park, (which in itself has wonderful birding opportunities) we can’t forget Mallard Club Marsh Wildlife Area, Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge, Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area, Ottawa National Wildlife Area and finally Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. Except for Cedar Point N.W.R. all other are open to the public. And in the short time I was visiting I was able to do a little birding at all, even Cedar Point as Jon and myself stood on the border with the refuge as we walked the border line with Mallard Club Marsh.

IMG_2597A resident Trumpeter Swan at Ottawa NWR

IMG_2613Common Gallinule

For most of the year except a certain times Ottawa NWR can only be accessed either on foot or bicycle. And at 6,500 acres this is a sizable refuge to get around on foot, and my bike isn’t built to off-road on gravel roads. So you wait for when they open up the auto tour. This gives the birder a lot of flexibility to drive a little, park their car and do some birding as long as you don’t wander too far from your car. You could spent the whole day here, which I’ve done in the past.

The past few years when Kathy and I visited it was more of a leisurely birding trip. We’d go visit some sights and do things Kathy likes to do since she’s not really a bird watcher. She appreciates them, but not at the same level I’m at. So this trip since I’m all alone it gave me more freedom to travel far and fast, and bird from sun rise to sun set.

IMG_2630As you drive from one spot to another you have to remember that some of the best birding can be right along the road your traveling on. Large open fields can hold sky-pools that offer some really great shore bird habitat. This Least Sandpiper was found at such a place next to a Marina.

IMG_2734Sandhill Cranes have a very distinct call, and I fist heard them calling while on the boardwalk at Magee Marsh. It wasn’t till I was at Ottawa NWR on the last day I heard them overhead.

IMG_2720

IMG_2735I can’t seem to get enough of Eastern Kingbirds. These 2 photos were taken while I was in my car driving through Ottawa. But sure as anything if I’d had gotten’ out of the car they would have flown off.

IMG_2725And we’ll end this short blog post with a token photo of a Great Egret, another bird that can easily be approached while in your car.

Birding in northwest Ohio during the Spring can be a phenomenal experience for the beginner or the experienced birder. Hotel and camping options are plentiful, with special rates for festival goers. Driving distance between all the parks and wildlife areas mentioned are manageable. From the cabins at Maumee Bay State Park to my hotel in Post Clinton, it was an hour drive. So you see it’s a relatively small area with a large amount of potential for birding.

Edit

” On The Road” Part 1

Everything I could possibly need was packed into the back of the bird-mobile. A rolling suitcase with all my necessary clothes and do-dads. Another rolling suitcase with all my optics, cables and connectors, and one field guide. A small cooler with enough peanut butter and apricot preserves to make 6 sandwiches, Fiber-One bars, and kettle cooked potato chips. My typical birding breakfast and lunch when you’re on the go. Tripod and a pillow, and that’s only because I hate hotel pillows.

So at exactly 2:25 last Friday, with my I-Pod on shuffle, I pulled out of work on my way for my annual pilgrimage to Lake Erie for some serious migration birding. I was tired, but stoked. It was a long week at work and the idea of driving for several hours wasn’t exactly what I really wanted to do. What I really wanted was to take a nap. But birds were calling and being a careful driver I put the cruise control on and pointed the car north. And in 3 1/2 hours exactly I was turning off Highway 2 into Magee Marsh, and the prospect of some great birding.

IMG_2575 Baltimore Orioles were plentiful

Birding predictions were pretty sketchy as to whether birding was going to be good, or great. As we all know the weather plays such an important part in bird migration, and as I walked onto the boardwalk Friday in the early evening it looked like it was going to be a great weekend.

IMG_2566 Blackpoll Warbler

And then it seemed the bottom fell out. There must have been movement overnight and the birding wasn’t as good as I’ve experienced in the past. I’m sure for the most part birders had to work pretty hard to check off birds for their trip list, and i was no exception. Don’t take me wrong, we had a fairly good variety of birds, just the sheer numbers were lower that I’ve seen in the past. That’s migration for you.

IMG_2494Magnolia Warbler.

I birded till about 7:30 and then made my way over to Port Clinton for a dinner of some fish tacos at the Jolly Roger Restaurant, and checked into my hotel for a good nights sleep, since 5:00 am comes way too early. I have to beat the morning crowd of birders and mega-photographers to the boardwalk, plus having a close parking spot pays off big time when and if it starts to rain, and your rain jacket is still in your car.

IMG_2500For the second year I scored on a Olive-sided Flycatcher

It was a 45 minute drive to the turn off into Magee Marsh and the sun was just starting to rise. I slowly crept over the causeway pausing  to listen for Rails and Bitterns. Except for the half dozen or more cars in the parking lot the boardwalk was just how I liked it……quiet!

It was the last full weekend for the Biggest Week In America Birding Festival, and it can get kind of noisy at times on the boardwalk, so getting there early can be a benefit when you’re birding by ear. Within 30 minutes the parking lot really starts to fill up, as does the boardwalk.

IMG_2658House Wrens were also plentiful as they chattered away.

Jon was already up at the lake, having arrived with some of his family and his wife Thursday evening. Once everyone got up and feed he was going to meet up with me that day. So I continued on working the boardwalk checking the tree tops and the ground, and everywhere in between for birds.

IMG_2682One of Magee Marsh’s famous ground foragers, a Swainson’s Thrush

As the morning wore on the sun started to warm the air, and then as I was standing with my bins in my hands I noticed 5 to 6 guys walking rather briskly towards the exit. For myself when I see behavior like this a red flag goes up. So I naturally followed them. Off the boardwalk and across the parking lot towards the estuary trail which takes you onto Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. From the chattering of info I was picking up as the group walked along was that a Connecticut Warbler was seen near the trail. Then for some unknown reason the group stopped. They were in a discussion and they all had a confused look on their faces. So I walked up and asked them if they were heading over to see the warbler. They were, but didn’t have a clue that the trail continued on towards the actual estuary where Lake Erie flows into and out of Ottawa and it’s marshes.

IMG_2533 Next to the Connecticut warbler for being the best “skulker” of the warbler world, the Mourning Warbler is a close second.

IMG_2541Then it finally showed itself.

So I helped them out by pointing them in the right direction, and off we went. The trail is actually the top of a dike that runs parallel to Lake Erie, with the marsh enclosure on one side and the lake on the other. And in between is some pretty thick undergrowth of mature trees and scrubby bushes with lots of leaf litter. Perfect for a Connecticut to hang out in. As we approached the far side of the trail then we saw all the people. Dozens upon dozens, all training their bins downward into the brush. And you know that bird is there, because it keeps singing every minute.

IMG_2665Always a great bird, a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.

I sent Jon a text and filled him in on what’s going on. It’s a lifer for him. A few people catch glimpses of the bird, then it goes back into hiding. The mass of people swell and then separate into smaller groups to cover more ground. Jon and I scoot 20 feet to the right by ourselves and scan the ground. Since we’re on a small dike we’re a few feet above the floor of the wooded section we’re scanning. A small pool of standing water about 10 feet in front of us. Jon first sees the bird foraging along the edge of the pool. He loses it as it moves away and vegetation gets in the way of our vision. I catch a quick glimpse and say “there it is”. People start to move in our direction as I sit down on the ground and Jon crouches low. Then the bird moves. Lands on a branch at eye level 8 feet in front of Jon and myself. And that quick it was gone.

IMG_2680A pretty reliable spot to find Ruddy Turnstones is on these metal breakwaters that run perpendicular to the shore.

IMG_2700Common Terns also shared the same perch as the Ruddy Turnstones.

It was a few hours later when I learned that Samantha, Jon’s wife, got a tip on a Yellow-headed Blackbird seen from the auto tour at Ottawa. Not wanting to appear rude or anxious, I said my good-byes and raced off to my car.

IMG_2592

IMG_2593

IMG_2594These are the addition pictures of my lifer Yellow-headed Blackbird. The other one was on my previous post.

I’m now going to run through the trip list and save my next post for when I went to Ottawa N.W.R. with more pictures.

Trip List

  1. Tree Swallow
  2. Chimney Swift
  3. Cliff Swallow
  4. Purple Martin
  5. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  6. Barn Swallow
  7. Common Grackle
  8. European Starling
  9. American Bittern
  10. Olive-sided Flycatcher
  11. Willow Flycatcher
  12. Great-creasted Flycatcher
  13. Eastern Kingbird
  14. Least Flycatcher
  15. Eastern Phoebe
  16. Eastern Wood-Pewee
  17. Mourning Warbler
  18. Yellow Warbler
  19. American Redstart
  20. Canada Warbler
  21. Black-throated Blue Warbler
  22. Black-throated Green Warbler
  23. Connecticut Warbler
  24. Wilson’s Warbler
  25. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  26. Commonn Yellowthroat
  27. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  28. Nashville Warbler
  29. Tennessee Warbler
  30. Magnolia Warbler
  31. Black and White Warbler
  32. Blackpoll Warbler
  33. Prothonotary Warbler
  34. Blackburnian Warbler
  35. Northern Waterthrush
  36. Northern Parula
  37. Bay-breasted Warbler
  38. Ovenbird
  39. Philadelphia Vireo
  40. Warbling Vireo
  41. Red-eyed Vireo
  42. Canada Goose
  43. Mallard
  44. Blue-winged Teal
  45. Wood Duck
  46. Baltimore Oriole
  47. Great Egret
  48. Great Blue Heron
  49. Green Heron
  50. Dunlin
  51. Short-billed Dowitcher
  52. Least Sandpiper
  53. Solitary Sandpiper
  54. Spotted Sandpiper
  55. Killdeer
  56. American Woodcock
  57. Ruddy Turnstone
  58. Bald Eagle
  59. Red-tailed Hawk
  60. American Kestrel
  61. Cooper’s Hawk
  62. Ring-billed Gull
  63. Herring Gull
  64. Common Tern
  65. Caspian Tern
  66. House Sparrow
  67. House Wren
  68. Marsh Wren
  69. Wood Thrush
  70. Swainson’s Thrush
  71. Gray-cheeked Thrush
  72. American Robin
  73. Veery
  74. Red-winged Blackbird
  75. Yellow-headed Blackbird
  76. American Crow
  77. Northern Cardinal
  78. Blue Jay
  79. Brown-headed Cowbird
  80. Mourning Dove
  81. Pigeon
  82. Gray Catbird
  83. Black-billed Cuckoo
  84. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  85. White-crowned Sparrow
  86. Lincoln Sparrow
  87. Song Sparrow
  88. Field Sparrow
  89. Common Nighthawk
  90. Common Gallinule
  91. Coot
  92. Sora
  93. Eastern Goldfinch
  94. Indigo Bunting
  95. Trumpeter Swan
  96. Pied-billed Grebe
  97. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  98. American Wigeon
  99. Turkey Vulture
  100. Double-creasted Cormorant
  101. Lesser Scaup
  102. Ruddy Duck
  103. Sandhill Crane
  104. Black-crowned Night Heron
  105. Hairy Woodpecker

“On The Road”

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge

Yesterday started out like most late fall mornings, gray and overcast with a forecast of snow flurries throughout most of Ohio. However the weather wasn’t going to stop my last trip to the coast of Lake Erie with my best friend Phil do get in a little birding. But this wasn’t just any birding adventure, we had planned this trip around the last auto tour that the refuge was having for the year. And despite how many times I’ve driven or walked over these same gravel roads and trails, I always look forward with much anticipation my time there. And this time it was the latest in the year I’ve been there. On other occasions I’ve gone on the October one, but things came up and the November date was the one we settled on.

Phil and myself hit the road promptly at 7 o’clock am with a good 3 1/2 to 4 hour drive depending on how traffic was this quiet Sunday morning. Well it was a great drive up. We chatted, listened to my I-Pod and counted Red-tailed Hawks as they surveyed the open farm land of central Ohio. We made one pit stop before getting of at the exit just after Bowling Green Ohio, and started working our way East and North towards the lake. Now you’re really in farm country as you substitute big rigs on the interstate, with extra wide tractors as they move about the back roads. But in spite of the moving farm implements, it’s better to go this way then work my way through Toledo, even on a Sunday morning.

When we pulled into the visitors center for one last pit stop before we started the auto tour, it couldn’t help but notice the lack of people. Sure there were a few stalwart individuals like ourselves, but I really was expecting more than we actually saw.

IMG_1595This was pretty much how the day looked. A real blessing was that the wind was pretty quiet for being so close to the lake.

As we drove we couldn’t help but notice our way was blocked by this grounded murmuration of Starlings.

IMG_1597And as you crept closer they finally took off. Despite my disgust of these birds on a whole, I will admit that when they form into a huge bio-mass it is a sight to behold. Just as long as they don’t poop on the car.

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As you visit Ottawa during the different seasons you can’t but notice the diversity of birds that come here all through the year. Granted Spring time is exciting what with all the migrating Warblers and other song birds, but Fall and Winter can be just as much fun as duck and other waterfowl fill all the unfrozen water.

IMG_1616Impoundments like this one held thousands of different waterfowl, from Gadwall. American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, to American Coots.

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However one of the real treats were the Swans, particularly the Tundra Swans which were plentiful. It seemed where there was any open water there were Swans. Which is pretty fantastic since they are such a massive bird to begin with, and just so cool to watch.

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As a bird watcher have you ever been out birding and wondered why you haven’t seen this particular bird? Could it be because we were driving we missed certain species? Absolutely. But one particular bird was missing from the whole day. Normally found this time of year feeding along the edges of a road, and scattering when you approach with a flash of white of their tails. Juncos! However there were plenty of Tree Sparrows to make up the difference as these 2 approachable fellas will tell you.

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And anytime you visit up here remember to keep your head on a swivel and always try to look up every now and then. Bald Eagles were plentiful as usual, and a real treat was a hovering Rough-legged Hawk looking for dinner. A cruisin’ Merlin over the causeway going to Magee Marsh is always a good sighting. But until you experience the “chortle” of Sandhill Cranes as they come in to land, or as they pass overhead, you’ve missed a magical moment.

IMG_1602We didn’t see loads of Sandhills, but you don’t have to, to enjoy their beauty.

IMG_1624Tundra Swans on the wing. Poor photo. I really struggled with the camera today.

As we finished up the auto tour, and before we headed off to port Clinton for a bite to eat, we made our way over to Magee Marsh for a quick stroll around. As we pulled into a near empty parking lot I can’t help but look back at the time i was here in the Spring time when parking was at a premium, and the boardwalk was, pardon my vulgarity, “nut-to-butt”. Then as we walked out there yesterday afternoon we’re greeted with emptiness.

IMG_1627On any other day in the Spring this section will be a mass of humanity, now the only thing that was moving was a lone Downy Woodpecker. It seemed that the whole boardwalk was sleeping. Waiting for the arrival of warmer weather and migration.

As we drove out of the park we pulled over to scan this lake Phil had seen something on. As he looked in one direction, I looked the other and found a nice flock of Rusty Blackbirds, my new favorite bird. As they change into their non-breeding plumage, they take on this nice brown coloration that is almost nicer than their breeding colors.

IMG_1628I really tried to get a little closer so I wouldn’t have to use my digital zoom for a better quality picture, but they were a skittish bird and not easily approachable.

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So we left Magee Marsh behind and made our way to Port Clinton to one of our favorite fish restaurants, the Jolly Roger and some incredible Perch (the Perch Tacos were great) right from Lake Erie.

It was during our return trip back home when the weather turned ugly in a big way. Construction, coupled with too much traffic, with a heaping amount of snow, made for some interesting driving. Now there’s a kind of stress I can do without, especially when I have to go to work the next day. But we made it back safe and sound with a pretty nice list for the day.

  1. Bald Eagle
  2. Rough-legged Hawk
  3. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  4. Cooper’s Hawk
  5. Red-tailed Hawk
  6. Merlin
  7. American Kestrel (probable)
  8. Northern Harrier
  9. Pigeon
  10. Mourning Dove
  11. European Starling
  12. Northern Cardinal
  13. White-throated Sparrow
  14. Fox Sparrow
  15. American Tree Sparrow
  16. House Sparrow
  17. Red-winged Blackbird
  18. Common Grackle
  19. Rusty Blackbird
  20. Sandhill Crane
  21. Tundra Swan
  22. Great Blue Heron
  23. Mallard
  24. American Coot
  25. Gadwall
  26. American Wigeon
  27. Northern Pintail
  28. Bufflehead
  29. Northern Shoveler
  30. Ruddy Duck
  31. Canada Goose
  32. Cackling Goose
  33. Common Crow
  34. Ring-billed Gull
  35. Herring Gull
  36. Bonaparte’s Gull
  37. American Goldfinch
  38. Blue Jay
  39. Northern Flicker
  40. Downy Woodpecker
  41. Red-bellied Woodpecker

The Story Of A Bird “Part 2”

The rarest of the Wood Warbler family (Parulidae), the Kirtland Warbler is a true prize sighting for any bird watcher. Especially if you happen to catch one during migration while they’re off their breeding grounds. Being a very habitat specific species they require young Jack Pine stands that are 5 to 20 years old where they will nest on the ground under the branches.

The first census taken on this bird was conducted in 1951. Then another 10 years later. Starting in 1971 they’ve annually conducted a census with 2012 showing 2,090 singing males. So you get the true idea of how few there are. So when I wrote a post on May 14th titled “A Story Of A Bird” about being one of the first people to view this beautiful female Kirtland warbler at the East Beach, I couldn’t wait to see if any of my pictures turned out.

IMG_3848This is the kind of underbrush that we had to deal with as we tried to re-locate the bird. If you look close she’s under there in the shadows.

kirtland3Here’s a closer view as you see the bird looking to it’s right, behind the stick. It then flew to a bush that had less vegetation on it.

IMG_3850kirtland2A closer view of the above picture. If only it was turned around.

IMG_3852I just kept taking pictures till I felt I had captured one image worthy. And here it is after blowing it up and cropping out the background.

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As one would expect when a rarity is spotted, the masses start gathering. I was very thankful that it wasn’t during the week of the festival because there would have been 4 times more people trying to get a good view of the bird.

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It was a great time and a great bird. And believe it or not, on the last morning we were there 3 more were sighted. It really was a great time for birding. And on this note I’m going to leave you with a very good picture of the above mentioned bird. This was sent to me upon request from a very good photographer the day we saw the bird. He was excited because he spent 8 days there already waiting to see if a Kirtland Warbler would show up.

KirtlandCourtesy of R. Bruce Richardson