Posted by: Sand Squiggles -- Richard Modlin's Blog | May 23, 2014

Lake Erie’s Great Birding Weekend

Red-winged Blackbird and Cowbird on a feeder.

Red-winged Blackbird and Cowbird on a feeder.

Recently I visited near Toledo, Ohio. Although my visit was for a different purpose, it was the Great Birding Weekend along the southwestern shore of Lake Erie provided the greater attraction. Though parts of the weekend were a bit cloudy, misty and rainy, an abundance of migrating birds waded puddles, swam on ponds, ate at feeders, flew between trees, and soared across the gray sky. As a bird watcher, I could not pass up an opportunity to enjoy my favorite pastime.

 

Lesser Yellow-leg

Lesser Yellow-leg

Lesser Yellow-leg

Lesser Yellow-leg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before heavy rains inundated the area on Friday, my wife, brother, sister-in-law (all ardent and dedicated birders), and I took the chance of driving the dikes and back roads of the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (N.W.R.). (On special occasions this refuge is opened to vehicular traffic. About seven miles of normally closed access roads and dikes are opened to automobiles.) This gives visiting bird watchers an opportunity to view some of the refuge’s remote marshes, ponds, streams and forests.

Dunlin

Dunlin

 

 

Pair of Dunlin

Pair of Dunlin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Except for three other cars, we had the refuge almost to ourselves. Resident and migrating birds were everywhere. (Ottawa N.W.R., being one of the largest freshwater marsh environments on the Great Lakes, supports a great population of red-winged blackbirds.) Red-wings, along with the resident house wrens, entertained us along the entire drive. Common yellow throats, yellow warblers, yellow-rumps, black-throated blues, eastern kingbirds, red- and golden-crowned kinglets, rose-breasted nuthatches, swamp sparrows, redstarts, and tree swallows were the most common migrants. Though we wanted to photograph a pair of great horned owl chicks, which others had seen in a nest atop a dead tree next to an iron bridge, our major goal was to photograph the shorebirds. We found the bridge and the tree, but not the owls, so we turned our telephotos toward the water.

Canada Goose on nest.

Canada Goose on nest.

Adult Trumpeter Swans

Adult Trumpeter Swans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before we could properly set up our cameras, a flock of sandhill cranes flew over. Nearby, in an expanse of shallow open water, lesser yellow legs and a large flock of dunlins waded. Around islands of last year’s cattails swam mallards, coots, shovelers, and blue-winged teals.  Small flocks of trumpeter swans and Canada geese glided on the surface of deeper ponds, while difficult to identify plovers and sandpipers dabbled on muddy shoals. A mature and juvenile bald eagle flew overhead as we exited the refuge.

Baltimore Oriole eating grape jam.

Baltimore Oriole eating grape jam.

 

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interestingly, some of the other inhabitants in the Ottawa N.W.R. gave us an opportunity to watch them. While on the bridge where the owl chicks were to be, a weasel ran past next to us. Now this is a rarely seen animal. It crossed too fast for anyone to photograph it. Muskrats swam in pools nearby, while painted turtles lay on logs basking, soaking up warmth.  And, a large number of individuals from Lake Erie’s carp population were roiling the waters below the bridge. They appeared to find the pond a perfect place to cavort, mate and spawn. There were hundreds splashing, swirling, plowing, cruising and chasing. It’s no wonder the pool below the bridge looked like a vat of butterscotch.

Painted Turtle

Painted Turtle

Dorsal fins of Spawning Carp

Dorsal fins of Spawning Carp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My brother’s back deck provided the venue for the remaining weekend of bird watching.  With all his feeders, suet cages, and specialized foods (grape jam), rose-breasted grosbeaks, Baltimore orioles, chipping sparrows, a great-crested flycatcher, cowbirds, mourning doves, and red-winged black birds entertained us.

∫ ∫ ∫ ∫ ∫

For information on Ottawa N.W.F and other southwester Lake Erie birding locations, please check out my book, Chasing Wings. For information about the book, please click on My Books above.

© Copyright by Richard Modlin, May 2014

 


Responses

  1. As always, we enjoyed your stay and our bird watching exploits. The week after you left, we had an unexpected visitor for a few days. It was a Hooded Oriole. Kept checking the book and that is what we came up with. Sang very beautiful and kept eating the grape jelly. Olive yellow in color with a black bib or chest plate. It was oriole size. I know they are not normally around here, but this was an abnormal winter and spring.


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