Tag Archives: Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge

“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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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

“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” (Summation)

Magee Marsh/ Metzger Marsh/ Ottawa N.W.R.

As I sit here gathering my thoughts on how I can best sum up this birding trip you realize that it’s not just about the birds, it’s the people you meet along the way that can make a good trip into a great birding trip. Meeting Rick and Allan while I was there was a treat, however having some of the Amish youth speak to you was a surprise. This close knit group are great birders and can be seen all along the boardwalk as a family. Then there was Sally and her mother who I meet at Metzger Marsh where we birded for a couple of hours and then meet up again the next morning at the boardwalk. This common bond we have is the catalyst that starts new friendships that can last a long time. I love this aspect of birding. Birders love nothing more than to talk about birds with other birders.

Except for a brief thundershower in the morning on my last day, the weather was nothing but beautiful. The crowds were smaller than what you’d expect to see when the festival was going on. Getting a parking spot close to the East end entrance to the boardwalk was never a problem in case you had to run back to your car for anything. This played out on a couple of occasions when I would leave the boardwalk and walk a few hundreds yards to the Estuary Trail. I’d pick up my spotting scope on the way since you’ll need it as you look out over the estuary.

Birders along the Estuary Trail, with Lake Erie on their right.

2 views overlooking the estuary at Ottawa NWR

The channel of water in the fore ground links directly to Lake Erie. The water is pretty shallow here because as you looked out over the water you could see the backs of Carp break the surface.

The birds were great as usual and timing and weather can determine what you see. Also with the warmer than average Spring the ground cover was thick which hide birds that you would normally see. Thrushes which will forage on the ground were difficult to pick up. One of the surprise birds that I wasn’t able to find were the Ovenbird. A Warbler species that I’ve seen regularly in years past, not this time though.

Yellow Warbler was the dominate species here. They are everywhere you go, either on the boardwalk or at Ottawa or Metzger. Become familiar with it’s call or it will drive you crazy as you try to ID a Warbler you hear only to find out that it’s another Yellow Warbler.

If you visit here and not see any Yellow Warblers, then something is seriously wrong either with you or Mother Nature.

Prothonotary Warblers are friendly, aggressive, and easily photographed. Besides being a beauty to behold, they have no fear when it comes to us upright walking humanoids.

Most of all the other Warbler species were difficult to photograph since they were feeding mostly in the tops of the trees. Even the photographers with their big rigs were having a problem getting onto the bird and squeezing of a shot. If the bird wasn’t out in the open, they were out of luck.

On the last day we had a proliferation of Cape May Warblers near the observation deck near the East end of the boardwalk. My favorite and most beautiful Warbler species, wouldn’t you agree?

Black Poll Warbler

Female Baltimore Oriole

This male Baltimore Oriole was as close I you’d normally see while here. These tree top dwellers were always heard, or seen as a orange flash before landing into the thickest portion of the tree. A striking bird.

I always make a trip to Ottawa NWR since it’s a fabulous place to bird, and being right next door to Magee it would be foolish not to go. While having lunch you can watch the Purple Martins as they put on their aerial display.

Another one of my favorites, a Canada warbler showing off it’s trademark black necklace.

The omnipresent American Redstart

Remember this area just isn’t a jumping off point for bird migration. Nesting birds are very common throughout all the parks and preserves along the lake, like this American Robin.

Black-throated Blue warbler

As with all trips they must come to and end, and preparations need to be made for next year. As I reflect on this trip I would have to give it an A+, even though my original plans was to be there for another day. Well there’s always next year. So now here’s the list of all the bird species seen with 24 species of  the Warblers.

  1. Rock Pigeon
  2. American Robin
  3. European Starling
  4. House Finch
  5. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  6. American Finch
  7. Northern Cardinal
  8. Common Grackle
  9. Red-winged Blackbird
  10. Killdeer
  11. Semipalmated Plover
  12. Black-bellied Plover
  13. Veery
  14. Swainson’s Thrush
  15. Gray-cheeked Thrush
  16. Hermit Thrush
  17. Eastern Kingbird
  18. Eastern Phoebe
  19. Eastern Wood Pewee
  20. Least Flycatcher
  21. Willow Flycatcher
  22. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  23. Tree Swallow
  24. Barn Swallow
  25. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  26. Purple Martin
  27. Lincoln Sparrow
  28. Song Sparrow
  29. Field Sparrow
  30. Chipping Sparrow
  31. Indigo Bunting
  32. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  33. Mourning Dove
  34. Canada Goose
  35. Mallard
  36. Red-breasted Merganser
  37. Wood Duck
  38. Ruddy Duck
  39. Least Sandpiper
  40. Semipalmated Sandpiper
  41. Upland Sandpiper
  42. Ruddy Turnstone
  43. Dunlin
  44. Great Egret
  45. Snowy Egret
  46. Black-crowned Night Heron
  47. Green heron
  48. Great Blue Heron
  49. Short-billed Dowitcher
  50. Lesser Yellowleg
  51. American Coot
  52. Common Gallinule
  53. Herring Gull
  54. Ring-billed Gull
  55. Forester’s Tern
  56. Common Tern
  57. Black Tern
  58. Double-creasted Cormorant
  59. American White Pelican
  60. Pied-billed Grebe
  61. Trumpeter Swan
  62. Sandhill Crane
  63. Bald Eagle
  64. Red-tailed Hawk
  65. Turkey Vulture
  66. Eastern Screech Owl
  67. Great Horned Owl
  68. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  69. Downy Woodpecker
  70. Northern Flicker
  71. Blue Jay
  72. American Woodcock
  73. Scarlet Tanager
  74. Baltimore Oriole
  75. Orchard Oriole
  76. House Wren
  77. Marsh Wren
  78. Blue-headed Vireo
  79. Red-eyed Vireo
  80. Philadelphia Vireo
  81. Warbling Vireo
  82. White-eyed Vireo
  83. Black-capped Chickadee
  84. White-breasted Nuthatch
  85. Eastern Meadowlark
  86. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  87. Black-billed Cuckoo
  88. Gray Catbird
  89. Yellow Warbler
  90. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  91. Nashville Warbler
  92. Tennessee Warbler
  93. Northern Parula
  94. Magnolia Warbler
  95. Wilson’s Warbler
  96. Canada Warbler
  97. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  98. Black-throated Green Warbler
  99. Cape May Warbler
  100. American Redstart
  101. Prairie Warbler
  102. Black Poll Warbler
  103. Prothonotary Warbler
  104. Bay-breasted Warbler
  105. Blackburnian Warbler
  106. Yellow-breasted Chat
  107. Black and White Warbler
  108. Black-throated Blue Warbler
  109. Yellow-throated Warbler
  110. Mourning Warbler
  111. Connecticut Warbler
  112. Common Yellowthroat

“On The Road”

Magee Marsh/ Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge/ Metzger Marsh

Is it just me or is 3 am the normal time for birders to get up? Considering how excited I was to go on my abbreviated birding vacation I have to ask myself what is sleep. I was out the door at 4 am with my to-go cup and thermos full of java trying to put a dent into the darkness as I traveled Northward to my own birding Mecca.

One cause of all the excitement was the discovery of a Uplands Sandpiper real close to Ottawa NWR. This comes from a very reliable source and worth checking out before hitting the boardwalk. However before I tell too much about this bird, let’s return later to this story line.

With the festival just ending the boardwalk was rather quiet without all the crowds which made it enjoyable to say the least.

Granted it wasn’t like this throughout the entire boardwalk, there was your usual congestion when something good was showing itself, like a Prothonotary Warbler.

I wish this one turned out a little better, but I’ll try again tomorrow.

I wasn’t on the boardwalk more than 20 minutes when a friendly face showed up besides me, Rick Asamoto. I’ve birded with Rick on a number of occasions and being up here is going to make this day extra special. He has a very keen eye which comes into play when we go and try to re-locate the Upland Sandpiper.

Throughout the day we traveled between all 3 parks trying to add to our already bulging bird count . While at Metzger we had a great surprise as we were walking on the causeway that separates the lake from the marsh we noticed 2 Ruddy Turnstones foraging on a thin strip of sand and stones along the waters edge.

It was prior to our arrival to Metzger Marsh that I made the decision to turn onto Stange Road, which runs into Rt.2. It’s at this intersection that the Uplands was last seen the evening before. It was Rick and another birder that posted the sighting on the Ohio Listserv, and why I got so excited. This was my second stop here today, striking out on my first attempt, however this time Rick sighted it along the grassy edge that ran parallel to the road. Hoorah for me, new life bird!

Here is crappy photographic proof of my new life bird. I would say that I would go back tomorrow to see if I could get a better shot, but while I was here trying to get this picture the farmer was working the field with this tractor and some other implements that tear up the soil. In a cloud of dust it was gone.

I think this is a Warbling Vireo.

With 2 more days left and very little sleep, I’m going to cut this post short a little. However here is today’s list of birds for those keeping count.

  1. American Robin
  2. House Sparrow
  3. Lincoln Sparrow
  4. Song Sparrow
  5. White-crowned Sparrow
  6. Indigo Bunting
  7. Canada Goose
  8. Mallard
  9. Pied-billed Grebe
  10. Killdeer
  11. Semipalmated Plover
  12. Great Blue Heron
  13. Green Heron
  14. Black-crowned Night Heron
  15. Great Egret
  16. Snowy Egret
  17. Trumpeter Swan
  18. Red-winged Blackbird
  19. Mourning Dove
  20. Least Flycatcher
  21. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  22. Short-billed Dowitcher
  23. Dunlin
  24. Least Sandpiper
  25. Ruddy Turnstone
  26. Common Coot
  27. Moorhen
  28. Lesser Yellowleg
  29. Barn Swallow
  30. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  31. Tree Swallow
  32. Common Grackle
  33. Common Yellowthroat
  34. Yellow Warbler
  35. Eastern Kingbird
  36. Eastern Wood Pewee
  37. Eastern Phoebe
  38. Baltimore Oriole
  39. Orchard Oriole
  40. Prairie Warbler
  41. Blue Jay
  42. Cape May Warbler
  43. Red-eyed Vireo
  44. Northern Cardinal
  45. American Redstart
  46. Blackpoll Warbler
  47. Northern Parula
  48. Blackburnian Warbler
  49. Bay-breasted Warbler
  50. Prothonotary Warbler
  51. Gray Catbird
  52. Tennessee Warbler
  53. Black-throated Green Warbler
  54. Magnolia Warbler
  55. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  56. Scarlet Tanager
  57. Nashville Warbler
  58. American Woodcock
  59. Eastern Screech Owl
  60. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  61. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  62. Cedar Waxwing
  63. Veery
  64. Swainson Thrush
  65. House Wren
  66. Marsh Wren
  67. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  68. Wilson’s Warbler
  69. Ring-billed Gull
  70. Forster’s Tern
  71. Bald Eagle
  72. Black-capped Chickadee
  73. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  74. Turkey Vulture
  75. Eastern Meadowlark
  76. Ruddy Duck
  77. American Goldfinch
  78. Palm Warbler
  79. Canada Warbler
  80. Brown-headed Cowbird

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