Tag Archives: Maumee Bay State Park

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


“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_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.


” 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_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” (Summary)

Magee Marsh, Ottawa N.W.R.Metzger Marsh, Maumee Bay State Park

Since our return from our annual trip to the Lake Erie hot spots for migrating birds I’ve been nothing but busy, busy, busy. With just a few days before I return back to work the list of chores and appointments was pretty long. And with that comes the delay with getting any post for my blog out to you.

The trip was epic! The birds were abundant! The boardwalk was busy at times but I’ve seen it worse in years past. The lodge at Maumee Bay State Park was everything and more. The room was nice with a great view of the lake, which cost extra but worth it. We only ate in the restaurant twice, but it to was nice. And yes plans are in place for a return visit during this same time next year, but maybe rent a cabin and invite the kids to stay during the weekend if they want.

We arrived on Saturday morning, and left Wednesday morning after one more walk on the boardwalk. And since Kathy isn’t a birder, yet, there were plenty of things to do while we were there. Like I told here if I was here by myself I would be birding non-stop for most of the day. However this time we both ventured out and went out to eat in Port Clinton and Marble Head. We also visited the Lighthouse at Marble Head one afternoon.


So we broke up this trip with some touristy things and some birding things. We were lucky to have been up there on the weekend when the auto tour was open at Ottawa N.W.R. It’s one great way to really measure how immense this place really is. It was during the auto tour that I was finally able to get a poor photo of a Bald Eagle sitting still.


Overall it was a great trip. Total species count was 137, with 30 Warbler species. That is the most Warbler I’ve counted since I started going up there.

IMG_3770Eastern Wood Pewee

IMG_3776A very cooperative Scarlet Tanager. Too bad I couldn’t get a decent focus on it.

IMG_3779Palm Warbler at the East Beach. They were everywhere at this location.

IMG_3778The state used caution tape to create a barrier around this nesting American Woodcock that the grassy area between the parking lots was the best location to hatch her chicks.

IMG_3801As I came off the causeway into the parking area at Magee Marsh I noticed this small Egret feeding at that corner where you turn left. A Snowy Egret.

IMG_2592Snowy Egret

At times during our visit the boardwalks were this deserted. Here I am standing in one spot and shooting a picture in both directions.

IMG_3815 IMG_3814

IMG_3803Black & White Warbler

IMG_3817Chestnut-sided Warbler

IMG_3823A very vocal House Wren

IMG_3828Northern Waterthrush

IMG_2602Trumpeter Swans

IMG_3845A Veery along the path was you approach the Estuary Trail

IMG_3866Prothonotary Warbler as it emerged out of it’s nesting cavity.

IMG_3863And I always try to make it at sunrise along the causeway for great pictures like this.

IMG_3867And the best way to sum up why I do what I do.

Notable birds:

  1. Bald Eagle
  2. Osprey
  3. Red-tailed Hawk
  4. American Kestrel
  5. Turkey Vulture
  6. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  7. Sandhill Crane
  8. Great Horned Owl
  9. Song Sparrow
  10. White-crowned Sparrow
  11. White-throated Sparrow
  12. House Sparrow
  13. Swamp Sparrow
  14. Chipping Sparrow
  15. Clay-colored Sparrow
  16. Lincoln Sparrow
  17. Great-creasted Flycatcher
  18. Least Flycatcher
  19. Eastern Phoebe
  20. Eastern Wood Pewee
  21. Olive-sided Flycatcher
  22. Willow Flycatcher
  23. Eastern Kingbird
  24. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  25. Acadian Flycatcher
  26. Blackburnian Warbler
  27. Blackpoll Warbler
  28. Black & White Warbler
  29. Magnolia Warbler
  30. Cape May Warbler
  31. Yellow Warbler
  32. Black-throated Blue Warbler
  33. Black-throated Green Warbler
  34. Yellow-throated Warbler
  35. Kirtland Warbler
  36. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  37. Hooded warbler
  38. Northern Parula
  39. Ovenbird
  40. Louisiana Waterthrush
  41. Northern Waterthrush
  42. Blue-winged Warbler
  43. Prothonotary Warbler
  44. Palm Warbler
  45. Wilson’s Warbler
  46. American Redstart
  47. Canada warbler
  48. Tennessee Warbler
  49. Nashville Warbler
  50. Bay-breasted Warbler
  51. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  52. Pine Warbler
  53. Mourning Warbler
  54. Orange-crowned Warbler
  55. Common Yellowthroat
  56. Mallard
  57. Blue-winged Teal
  58. Lesser Scaup
  59. Canada Geese
  60. Wood Duck
  61. Pied-billed Grebe
  62. Trumpeter Swan
  63. Mute Swan
  64. Double-creasted Cormorant
  65. White Pelican
  66. Herring Gull
  67. Ring-billed Gull
  68. Common Tern
  69. American Woodcock
  70. Killdeer
  71. Semipalmated Plover
  72. Black-bellied Plover
  73. Ruddy Turnstone
  74. Willet
  75. Semipalmated sandpiper
  76. Least sandpiper
  77. Dunlin
  78. Great Egret
  79. Snowy Egret
  80. Green Heron
  81. Great Blue Heron
  82. Hooded Merganser
  83. American Coot
  84. Common Gallinule
  85. Sora
  86. American Bittern
  87. Lesser Yellowleg
  88. Pectoral Sandpiper
  89. Spotted Sandpiper
  90. Warbling Vireo
  91. Red-eyed Vireo
  92. Philadephia Vireo
  93. Blue-headed Vireo
  94. White-breasted Nuthatch
  95. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  96. American Robin
  97. Northern Cardinal
  98. Blue Jay
  99. Scarlet Tanager
  100. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  101. Common Grackle
  102. Red-winged Black Bird
  103. Common Crow
  104. Black-capped Chickadee
  105. House Wren
  106. Marsh Wren
  107. Carolina Wren
  108. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  109. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  110. Gray Catbird
  111. Baltimore Oriole
  112. Northern Mockingbird
  113. Brown-headed Cowbird
  114. Swainson’s Thrush
  115. Hermit Thrush
  116. Gray-cheeked Thrush
  117. Wood Thrush
  118. Veery
  119. Downy Woodpecker
  120. Hairy Woodpecker
  121. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  122. Northern Flicker
  123. Tree Swallow
  124. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  125. Purple Martin
  126. Bank Swallow
  127. Barn Swallow
  128. Chimney Swift
  129. Cliff Swallow
  130. Mourning Dove
  131. Eastern Meadowlark
  132. American Goldfinch
  133. Brown Thrasher
  134. Eastern towhee
  135. Belted Kingfisher
  136. Pine Siskin
  137. European Starling

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

” On The Road “

This road trip was definitely an emotional roller coaster ride for me. Hitting the road at 4am and making real good time, with hopes of reaching the boardwalk at 7:30, only to be shocked into despair  by the loss of my cell phone. Then lifted back up by the thrill of just being up in this wonderful birding area for only a couple of days. And scoring on a lifer of a lifetime.

Of all the places I birded for these past few days, I enjoyed them all equally.

This is where it’s happening! As soon as you make that left hand turn into the drive, your greeted by this sign. The sponsor of the birding festival.

As you drive past the headquarters for Black Swamp Bird Observatory, you come upon the main building for Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. This is called the Sportsman Migratory Bird Center. One thing to remember is that the Observatory is a private organization, where Magee Marsh is run by the state of Ohio. Here is their headquarters.

Around the headquarters there’s plenty to do. The headquarters itself has a gift shop, museum, and displays and exhibits concerning nothing else but birds. Now how cool is that. They have a real nice trail which winds it’s way around the headquarters area.

However the walking path was closed about half way. It seems a Bald Eagle has taken up housekeeping on the back side of the property. I was able to get some poor quality pictures of the nest with one adult Eagle.

If you click on the picture, the image will enlarge.

The place to be though during migration is the boardwalk. However to get there you need to traverse the causeway which bisects the marsh from the beach area.

Sorry for the poor quality picture, but you get the idea.

Rising at 5 am everyday to get a jump on the day, I’d be greeted by sunrises like this as I crossed the causeway towards the boardwalk.

As you exited off the causeway you’d make a left into the grand parking lot. This lot is enormous. Even though it never was completely full while I was there, it would take you some time to find a good spot if you got there even a little late. My plan was to get up at 5, shower, eat, and drive there, and arrive no later than 6:30. It was roughly 18 miles to get to the turn off at Magee Marsh.

The parking lot runs parallel to the beach and the boardwalk. There is an East and West entrance to the boardwalk accessible at either end of the parking lot. So if you plan on walking the whole trail, parking towards the center of the parking lot will save you some steps in the long run. For myself, I parked towards the West entrance, since that’s where all the action is. Walking the entire boardwalk took some time. And if it was real crowded, it took longer.

However other times, especially towards the East end, the boardwalk would be practically empty, like the evening I spotted the Kirtlands Warbler.

Birds were plentiful on the boardwalk, especially Warblers. There were times that you could almost reach out and touch them. As much as I tried to get some pictures, I had to delete most of them because it was so difficult to get good pictures with the camera I have. And since Warblers move all the time, getting them into focus was quite a challenge.

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

Bay-breasted warbler

American Redstart

American Redstart (female)


Another refuge close by was Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge.

This place was awesome as well, with good trail’s and a headquarters building with a gift shop, and information desk. I visited there twice and on one occasion I was able to digiscope some decent pictures of some birds that would hold still long enough.

The most common bird up there, Red-winged Blackbird.

Tree Swallow

Purple Martin

Great Egret

Eastern Kingbird

The refuge is enormous, at over 9,000 acres it would take you over a week to cover this place on foot. I never made it to the Lake Erie from the parking lot, which was one of my goals.

On my second trip I walked it’s own boardwalk and  wooded lot that was close to the headquarters building. Level terrain with good birds throughout.

The boardwalk was wide, hence no need for hand rails.

After a short walk the boardwalk dives into the woods, where it becomes a nice level hiking trail, with beautiful scenery.

With all the rain they’ve received lately, the landscape was green and lush. Since they are in a later growing zone than us in Southern Ohio, plants and flowers were just beginning to burst.

One thing to remember is that area was once called Black Swamp. It covered most of what is North West Ohio, and seeing this water covered forest floor, the name is applicable.

Always try to look up every now and then. You might see a Bald Eagle.

Came upon a group of birders trying to locate a Golden-winged Warbler. Tough little bird to find.

 Here’s my sad attempt at getting it’s picture.

As the trail wound through the woods I thought I would take some artsy pictures of some of the vegetation growing on the forest floor.

One evening I ventured over to Maumee Bay State Park to see if there were any good birds on the beach.

David and I stayed in the camp ground on our visit last year, and with such a beautiful facility a perfect place to stay when I go up again. The park has it’s own extensive trail system with good birding for all ages. I can remember the last time I was there, David and I were tearing down camp while a strom was blowing in off the lake. While we ate breakfast in the resort dining room, the rain was blowing horizontal across the dining rooms huge windows. We were debating whether to go birding or not. We did.

Even with losing my cell phone in the beginning, this trip was too much fun. I took a lot more pictures than what I’ve shown on this post, most of the bird picture will be added to my photostream on my Flickr account. So don’t forget to check it out later.

All told after 4 hard days of birding I came away with 116 different species of birds. That may seem like a lot, but I know I could do better. I had opportunities to see birds that slipped away just that fast. These are the things that keep me coming back for more day in and day out. I did top my total species list from last year, and next year I’ll try to do better. I may have to change up the dates to try and catch some of those elusive types.

So here is my trip list.

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Mute Swan
  3. Trumpeter Swan
  4. Wood Duck
  5. American Black Duck
  6. Mallard
  7. Ruddy Duck
  8. Pied-billed Grebe
  9. Double-crested Cormorant
  10. Great Blue Heron
  11. Great Egret
  12. Green Heron
  13. Black-crowned Night Heron
  14. Turkey Vulture
  15. Bald Eagle
  16. Northern Harrier
  17. Red-tailed Hawk
  18. American Kestrel
  19. Spotted Sandpiper
  20. Common Moorhen
  21. American Coot
  22. Killdeer
  23. Least Sandpiper
  24. Dunlin
  25. American Woodcock
  26. Ring-billed Gull
  27. Herring Gull
  28. Common Tern
  29. Mourning Dove
  30. Black-billed Cuckoo
  31. Eastern Screech Owl
  32. Whip-poor-will
  33. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  34. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  35. Downy Woodpecker
  36. Northern Flicker
  37. Eastern Wood Pewee
  38. Least Flycatcher
  39. Eastern Phoebe
  40. Great-crested Flycatcher
  41. Eastern Kingbird
  42. Yellow-throated Vireo
  43. Blue-headed Vireo
  44. Warbling Vireo
  45. Philadelphia Vireo
  46. Red-eyed Vireo
  47. Blue Jay
  48. Purple Martin
  49. Tree Swallow
  50. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  51. Bank Swallow
  52. Barn Swallow
  53. Black-capped Chickadee
  54. Tufted Titmouse
  55. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  56. White-breasted Nuthatch
  57. House Wren
  58. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  59. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  60. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  61. Veery
  62. Swainson’s Thrush
  63. Wood Thrush
  64. American Robin
  65. Gray Catbird
  66. Golden-winged Warbler
  67. Tennessee Warbler
  68. Orange-crowned Warbler
  69. Nashville Warbler
  70. Northern Parula
  71. Yellow Warbler
  72. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  73. Magnolia Warbler
  74. Cape May Warbler
  75. Black-throated Blue Warbler
  76. Black-throated Green Warbler
  77. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  78. Blackburnian Warbler
  79. Yellow-throated Warbler
  80. Pine Warbler
  81. Kirtland’s Warbler
  82. Prairie Warbler
  83. Palm Warbler
  84. Bay-breasted Warbler
  85. Blackpoll Warbler
  86. Black and White Warbler
  87. American Redstart
  88. Prothonotary Warbler
  89. Ovenbird
  90. Northern Waterthrush
  91. Mourning Warbler
  92. Common Yellowthroat
  93. Hooded Warbler
  94. Wilson’s Warbler
  95. Canada Warbler
  96. Scarlet Tanager
  97. Eastern Towhee
  98. Chipping Sparrow
  99. Song Sparrow
  100. Lincoln’s Sparrow
  101. White-throated Sparrow
  102. White-crowned Sparrow
  103. Dark-eyed Junco
  104. Northern Cardinal
  105. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  106. Indigo Bunting
  107. Red-winged Blackbird
  108. Common Grackle
  109. Brown-headed Cowbird
  110. Orchard Oriole
  111. Baltimore Oriole
  112. House Finch
  113. American Goldfinch
  114. House Sparrow
  115. Starling
  116. American Pipit