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Lake Erie Spring Migration Birding and Tourism Trip, part 1

June 3, 2017

Magee Marsh Wildlife Area

Maumee Bay State Park

 

Last month, a fellow birder friend and I went up to Lake Erie for some spring migration birding and some sightseeing.  When you talk Lake Erie and birding, one place is very famous- Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, THE place to be in the eastern US for spring migration if you’re looking for warblers.  We stayed at nearby Maumee Bay State Park in one of their cabins (in reality, a small vacation home).  It turns out Maumee Bay had some nice places for birding as well.

Finally, on the way home, we stopped at East Harbor State Park for some additional birding, and some some tourist-y places- Marblehead Lighthouse and the Thomas A Edison Birthplace Museum.  We’ll look at those places next month.

We timed our visit during The Biggest Week in American Birding– the 2nd week of May during spring migration.  Northwest Ohio attracts tens of thousands of birders to such places as Magee Marsh, where it is easy to see colorful migrants gathering on the southern shore of Lake Erie before they make the big flight up into Canada for another summer nesting season.

We actually stopped at some other places as well, and we would have stopped at Perry’s Victory & International Peace Monument on Put-In-Bay Island (I’m a history buff too)  but it was closed for repairs all year.  So I’ll focus on the big places that I took plenty of pictures of.

Let’s get started!

As we neared Maumee Bay, we took this as a good sign- Bald Eagles sitting on telephone poles along the road!  They certainly have bounced back very well from near-extinction in the lower 48 states.

Driving around away from the freeways is my favorite mode of travel- you get to see backroads and small towns.

Maumee Bay State Park is a fantastic park.  Here’s some general pictures of the place.  The lodge was very crowded during the day with the Biggest Week In Birding vendors and exhibits.  Appropriately enough, there were a group of Cliff Swallows nesting up above the entrance, building their mud nests.  I blogged about Cliff Swallows building nests years ago.

Maumee Bay State Park

And now, on to the much-anticipated event- our visit to the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area.  The weather was good, though the bird species counts were low due to a cold start to May.  Fortunately, migration picked up when we showed up.

Magee Marsh Boardwalk

During spring migration, large crowds of birders move through the boardwalk area at Magee.  This place is truly a Mecca for North American birders.  Overall, people were surprisingly helpful and tried not to clog up the walkways.  The parking lot is full of hundreds of cars from all over the continent.  There were even tailgaters in the lots!

Here’s some of the memorable birds we saw at Magee that day.

Nashville Warbler

Bay-Breasted Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

Black & White Warbler

Black-Throated Blue Warbler

Blue-Headed Vireo

Scarlet Tanager

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

Bald Eagle nestling

 Magee Marsh Wildlife Area

The surrounding area of the boardwalk is marshy and contains shorebirds and waterfowl.  Here’s what we saw on our way out.

Canada Geese families were common- everyone let them cross the road on their own time

Great Egret

Snowy Egret

Dunlin

White-Crowned Sparrow

Nature Center & Gift Shop

Maumee Bay Beach

looks like a lighthouse and nuclear reactor coolant towers way out along Lake Erie

fish were on the menu

Great Blue Heron

 

Caspian Terns

Common Terns

Herring Gulls

Maumee Bay Boardwalk

A nice feature of Maumee Bay State Park is a 2-mile-long boardwalk through some marshy areas and a wooded swamp near Lake Erie.

 

 

3 White-Tailed Deer browsed the marshy area and were unafraid of people

A Fox Squirrel looking intently for something near the boardwalk

Catbird- quite a few were in the wooded swamp

Common Grackle

American Robin

Veery

Swainson’s Thrush

Screech Owl in nesting box

Downy Woodpecker

Red-Winged Blackbirds

Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

Marsh Wrens were defending their territory, singing furiously in the tall marsh grass

Yellow Warbler

Common Yellowthroat- there were many of these hiding in the brush and protesting our visit

Northern Parula Warbler

Black-Throated Green Warbler

American Redstart

This concludes part 1 of our Lake Erie visit.  Part 2 will be along the first Saturday of July.  I hope you enjoyed the spring migration season as much as I did!

 

Spring at Kiwanis Park.

May 6, 2017

I’ve visited an interesting park twice in the past week.  Kiwanis Park, located in Dublin Ohio, lies along the Scioto River.  It’s a great place for birding, even though it is relatively small.  The park is a hidden gem- there’s no sign indicating that the park is at an obscure turnoff.  I’ve been there when I was the only person in the park.

Paths and boardwalks take you along the river, through the riverine woods, and into marshy areas.

The Nature Conservancy (a group that I belong to) has its Ohio office right on the edge of this park.  Here’s the building, guarded by a pair of Canada Geese.

Several nest boxes are placed around the park.  Tree Swallows and Bluebirds are nesting in them now.  I’ve seen Wrens and Chickadees also using them before.

There are marshy areas in the park.  You can tell by the foliage that grows there.  The large-leaved plants are Skunk Cabbage, which is one of the earliest blooming wildflowers in late winter / early spring.  I did a post on it a while back called A Unique Early Spring Plant.

In early May, Honeysuckle Bushes are in full bloom throughout the park.  This invasive species provides cover and food to wildlife (though not much nutrition).  Sure enough, years ago I made a post about it called A Successful Invader Blossoms In May.

The following are the most common wildflowers to be seen at Kiwanis now, most of which thrive in damp soil.  They are all yellow!  That color and white seem to be the most popular-

Butterweed

Hispid Buttercup

Golden Alexander

As I mentioned, this is a great park for birds.  Warblers and other migrants pour through the park in spring and autumn; waterfowl and shorebirds can be seen along the river.  Birds of prey fly overhead.  Woodpeckers are often found here as well.

Here’s some of the birds I’ve seen recently-

Great Blue Herons are frequent visitors

Waterfowl such as this Mallard can be often seen

A Solitary Sandpiper feeds in the shallows

A curious Red-Winged Blackbird

Common Grackle making its squeaky rasping call

A Downy Woodpecker has a good scratch

A Song Sparrow sings on a favorite perch

A Bald Eagle in 2nd-year dark plumage soars overhead

A House Wren pauses in singing its bubbling song

A Bluebird sits near its nest box

A Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher flits among the branches

A Tree Swallow rests its wings

The first Baltimore Oriole of the season for me!

And last but never least, warblers:

Yellow-Rumped Warblers frequent the park

This Prothonotary Warbler was looking for a nesting spot

This Palm Warbler hung out for days in one spot

This Yellow Warbler sang from the thickets

A Black-Throated Blue Warbler- seen in the same area I saw it in last year

Kiwanis Park packs a lot of punch for a small park.  Its location along a wooded riverbank with plenty of wet marsh means you never run out of things to marvel at.

Winter and Spring Ducks.

April 1, 2017

This post is a wrap-up of the various duck species I’ve seen wintering over here in Central Ohio, and spring migrant ducks seen in their migration month of March.  Ducks can be hit or miss when you see them- some are very shy of people and stay far away, while others are more approachable.

Mallards are the most common duck here, and can be seen year-round.

Technically not a duck, Pied-Billed Grebes- very small diving waterfowl- are also seen year-round, but they are more visible in winter and during migration time.  I usually see these ducks alone or in pairs.

Another non-duck, American Coot are seen often in winter and during migration season, They have lobed feet like marsh birds.

 

Now, back to the ducks.  These Lesser Scaup are common migrants.  Females have the white around the bill, males have the white-and-dark pattern with blue bills.  Their cousins the Greater Scaup are slightly larger with rounder heads.

These guys look a lot like Scaup, but they are Ring-Necked Ducks- look for the white outline around their bills.  Once again, they are migrants that can occasionally be seen in the winter as well.

This is a pair of Blue-Winged Teal.  I just saw these ducks today!  They are spring migrants.

Here is a pair of Gadwall.   These are winter ducks.  The female looks like a Mallard but the male has a distinctive grey and tan plumage.

The duck in the foreground of this photo is a Redhead- named for obvious reasons!  They are seen during migration time as well as in winter.  Love the orange eyes.

These striking duck-like waterfowl are Hooded Mergansers.  The male has the distinctive black and white head while the female has the sort of punk rufous-colored haircut.  You see them here in the winter.  Very handsome birds!

This handsome duck is a Common Goldeneye male.   The white patch beneath his golden eye is a distinctive feature.  You see them in winter waterways.

This female Merganser is either a Common or a Red-Breasted Merganser.  It can be a bit difficult to tell sometimes.  They are larger than ducks with distinctive bills.

Ducks can often be difficult to see without powerful binoculars or a scope.  But sometimes one gets close enough for a halfway decent picture!  These birds add some spice to the winter and early migration months.

Pictures from 2016 – Birds.

March 4, 2017
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Last year I posted some of my favorite bird pictures from 2015.  So I decided to do the same thing with some of my better pictures from 2016.

Not all decent shots I take make it into posts, so this is a way of making sure some other eyeballs get on these images.

And, without further ado, here they are!

3-17-1Great Blue Heron

3-17-2Belted Kingfisher

3-17-3Carolina Wren

3-17-4Yellow-Throated Warbler

3-17-5Common Yellowthroat (female)

3-17-6Red-Bellied Woodpecker

3-17-7Downy Woodpecker

3-17-8Black-Throated Blue Warbler

3-17-9Yellow-Rumped Warbler

3-17-10Yellow-Throated Vireo

3-17-11Northern Cardinal

3-17-12Song Sparrow

3-17-13Rufous-Sided Towhee

3-17-14Tree Swallow

3-17-15Northern Flicker

3-17-17Herring Gull

3-17-18Eastern Phoebe

3-17-19Magnolia Warbler

3-17-20Common Grackle

3-17-21Green Heron

3-17-22Hooded Oriole (1st-year male)

3-17-23Flycatcher (uncertain species)

3-17-24House Wren

3-17-25Scarlet Tanager

3-17-26Cedar Waxwing

3-17-27Brown-Headed Cowbird

3-17-28Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

3-17-29Northern Rough-Winged Swallow

3-17-41Red-Winged Blackbird

3-17-30Red-Winged Blackbird (female)

3-17-31Yellow Warbler

3-17-32Field Sparrow

3-17-33Northern Catbird

3-17-34Baltimore Oriole (female)

3-17-35Willow Flycatcher

3-17-36Indigo Bunting

3-17-37White-Throated Sparrow

3-17-38American Goldfinch

3-17-39Eastern Kingbird

3-17-40White-Crowned Sparrow

 

3-17-42Northern Cardinal

3-17-43American Avocet

 

A Large Out-Of-Season Visitor.

February 4, 2017

American White Pelican

Recently I went looking for an unusual winter visitor to central Ohio.  There have been occasional irregular sightings of birds of this species in previous years, but they usually occur during migrations, not in the coldest weather.

This odd visitor had been seen hanging around the small campgrounds beach along Alum Creek Reservoir.  I went there 9 days ago to take a look.

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It was a cold and windy winter day.  The beach was deserted save for a birder or two and an Ohio Wildlife Center volunteer, who was there trying to catch our visitor.  The bird was definitely out-of-place and alone, which was unusual for this species.  It was thought to be struggling and in need of aid.  The bird had been seen earlier that day and had flown off.

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After a while, I was alone on the beach.  It looked like somebody was trying to lure the bird in with fish!

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The rocks along the beach were covered with Zebra Mussels, a wildly successful invasive species that has been in the Great Lakes for years.  There it spread to many bodies of water via boats.  Originally from Eurasia, this species shows no sign of slowing down.

 

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I walked along the paths near the reservoir and through the near-empty campgrounds for a while, then returned to the beach.  A birder told me she had seen the bird fly by 20 minutes ago.

So I settled in my car and kept a good eye out on the reservoir.

40 minutes later, success!  A large bird came flying in-

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This is an American White Pelican, which in Ohio is seen often along Lake Erie, but is much less common inland.  And is rarely seen inland in winter.

One of the largest North American birds, the American White Pelican is majestic in the air. The birds soar with incredible steadiness on broad, white-and-black wings. Their large heads and huge, heavy bills give them a prehistoric look. On the water they dip their pouched bills to scoop up fish, or tip-up like an oversized dabbling duck. Sometimes, groups of pelicans work together to herd fish into the shallows for easy feeding. Look for them on inland lakes in summer and near coastlines in winter.

The bird landed in the reservoir a ways off from the beach- I went creeping through the woods to get a view of it, careful not to scare it off.

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What a magnificent bird!

They forage almost exclusively by day on their wintering grounds, but during breeding season, they commonly forage at night. Even though it’s hard to see, nighttime foraging tends to result in larger fish being caught than during the daytime.

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It preened in the water for a bit, then swam towards the beach.

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It got to the beach and continued preening.  The afternoon was late, and it was going to be dark in an hour or so.

These large, gregarious birds often travel and forage in large flocks, sometimes traveling long distances in V-formations. They soar gracefully on very broad, stable wings, high into the sky in and between thermals. On the ground they are ungainly, with an awkward, rolling, but surprisingly quick walk. Their webbed feet make for water-ski landings and strong swimming. They forage by swimming on the surface, dipping their bills to scoop up fish, then raising their bills to drain water and swallow their prey.

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It was great to see this bird.  Since I originally saw it, it has moved over to Hoover Reservoir and is still flying around.  I wonder if we will see more of them in the future.