The non-warblers at Magee and Ottawa NWR

We went up for one day to Magee Marsh during the warbler migration.  It is about a 2 hour drive for us so we really ought to be able to manage it most years.  Unfortunately May is usually a very busy month so it can be tough with the kids still at home.  But- Jonathan took the day off work and we went up.  We left around 6:30 in the morning and got back around 10:30 p.m.  It was a long day and also quite hot.  It was 89 or 90 degrees so fairly unpleasant.  We went through a lot of water!  We headed straight for the boardwalk at Magee and there were a few birds around.  I got quite a few lifers, some of which were not warblers.  One of the first birds that we saw was a Gray Catbird.  They were abundant all along the trail.  We have them at home, but I still enjoyed them.  They are always so handsome.

Gray Catbird

The Scarlet Tanager made quite a stir along the boardwalk:


and the Baltimore Orioles were also quite popular and fairly common.


The first non-warbler lifer for me was the Swainson’s Thrush.  They were also fairly common along the boardwalk.


There were two other non-warblers that were lifers for me, both of which we had glimpses of on the morning walk but got much better sightings when we came back in the evening. First is Lincoln’s sparrow.  These became much easier to find in the evening as they must have been more active.


And finally we got some good views of a Woodcock.  I have wanted to see one of these for quite a long time.  I love how strange they are shaped and their lovely camouflage plumage.  I was so happy to see one.  It took me a long time to find it, but the other birders were very patient with me until I could finally see it. 


You can see that he was hiding pretty well behind the greenery.  This was the best photo that we got.  Although he is kind of obscured, still you can make it his strange shape and long bill.
As I mentioned, we saw the sparrow and the woodcock much better when we went back to the boardwalk in the evening.  We left the boardwalk around noon for a picnic lunch and then decided to drive along the auto-route in Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge next door.  Since it was so hot, there was not much action even in the pools there, but nevertheless, we did see some nice birds.  Cedar Waxwings were a lovely addition to the day.  It seems that they were actually eating these flower petals.  Interesting!



We also saw several Eastern Kingbirds.  The best photos were from the Auto-tour.


After the Auto-tour Jonathan walked a wooded trail at Ottawa NWR while I tried to nap in the car.  There was little shade to be had but there was a bit in one parking lot.  I noticed several other birders taking a siesta as well.  The birds were mostly taking naps so it seemed like the logical solution.  After my nap, we grabbed an early dinner and then headed back to the boardwalk.

My next post will be of several of the  warblers that we saw along the boardwalk.  Of course, there are always a few that we didn’t manage to get photos of, so we still have a  great reason to go back next year.

More Ohio Water Birds: Early Spring 2015

After a brief stop at Sandy Ridge Nature Preserve in Elyria – See my last post –  We continued on to our destination which were the parks near Lake Erie, mainly Magee and Metzger parks.  At Magee we checked out all the ponds as we drove in where there were quite a lot of ducks and other water birds, including this sweet little Pied-billed Grebe which was another lifer for me.


We then stopped off in the parking lot, looked out at the lake and then walked the relatively long boardwalk.  It was a lovely day for a walk.  There were quite a few birds about, mostly Red-winged Blackbirds, Grackles and a few other common ones.  The only lifer for me were the adorable Winter Wrens which were quite busy.


After the boardwalk we drove through Metzger Park and then in the morning we retraced our steps.  Some of the beautiful birds we found were:  Blue-winged Teal,



Sandhill Cranes,



and Trumpeter Swans.  I actually think that there were three species of swans at Metzger Park.  I believe these are Trumpeter and I can confirm Mute Swans from my photos.  I think there were also Tundra but can’t confirm it.


The next day we found this lovely Scaup.  Maybe someone can tell me if it is Lesser or Greater, but I must say that I have no idea.


We also got some wonderful looks at several Northern Pintails.



While watching the Pintails at Magee we got a very brief view of a this Northern Harrier hunting in the field behind the pond.  My last lifer of the trip, with ten altogether.


And finally, I will leave you with a photo of these two Northern Shovellers, which we saw plenty of on this trip.  I love their huge bills, and also wanted to mark on the blog the day that I found four of them near my house.  I was driving to work, around the middle of March, and found the little flock in a flooded field on Route 604.  Definitely an unusual sighting for me that day.  I do think it is pretty exciting to see the birds when I know for sure that they are on migration as those four undoubtedly were.


Water Birds

Ohio is a bit like Zambia in that they are both landlocked, but also have a lot of water in the form of rivers and lakes.  Zambia is famous for its water birds (at least in the birding world) and I am finding out that birders love Ohio’s water birds as well.  Especially during migration, there are many.  I would even have to say that as far as my personal experience goes, Ohio’s ducks beat Zambia’s.  I didn’t think it was possible for birds in Ohio to beat out any in Zambia, but I think the ducks have done it.

Jonathan and I recently got a week free of kids.  We had originally thought to go on a fabulous vacation but we decided it was really too short to enjoy all the bother of travelling and we could save a lot of money by staying home.  We spent a couple nights out, travelling around Ohio and managed to get some birding in.

I was pretty psyched on a quick trip Sunday, to Columbus, that wasn’t really supposed to involve birding, to make a stop at a small, local park and pick up two lifers.  We didn’t have a camera that day, but later that week got some pictures of Bufflehead.  Greater Scaup was the other lifer.



On Monday, we went up to a local park near our house where a Common Loon was hanging out.  Turned out there were quite a few loons,  which was a first for me in Ohio, and also some Horned Grebes and Red-breasted Mergansers, both of which were lifers.The day was dark, so our photography was difficult, but we enjoyed our outing and my two lifers.




I love the scruffy crest on these Mergansers!

On Wednesday we went for a one night trip up to Lake Erie.  We stayed the night at Maumee Bay State Lodge and visited several nearby parks.  Our first stop which was on the way was at Sandy Ridge State Park near Elyria.  I had read on Facebook that there were Sandhill Cranes there.  We missed out on the cranes but I got some lifers so it was well worth the stop and it is really a lovely park. 

Again, the birds were far away and liked the shady areas so photos were tough. . . . All of these are heavily cropped.  Lifers included:





Ring-necked Ducks,


and my favorite, Hooded Mergansers.  These guys certainly rival any ducks that I saw in Zambia.  Their hoods are amazing and the rest of their plumage is quite striking with their black, white and deep chestnut markings.  They among some others, have restored my interest in birding in Ohio. 


The Wood Ducks were not a lifer, but their plumage is also striking and beautiful and I love to see them whenever I get a chance. 


Well, enough for now. After this, we moved on to Lake Erie, but I will  write the second half of this on another day.

Back to the Blog: Fall Birds

Well, I have been a bit absent from the blog for a while.  The pace of life in the U.S. is a bit faster than in Africa, even for homebodies like me.  There is lots more stuff for me to occupy myself with that is not blogging so it kind of gets pushed to the bottom of the list.  I’ve started but not posted several posts as they never seem to get finished.  But today is different.  Today I  am actually going to post, or by the time anyone might be reading this, I will have already posted. 

Most of the time, I am not driving around looking for birds, but I enjoy them in the yard on most days.  Our feeders have gotten busier during the fall, and since I have been able to keep bird seed them, now that the raccoons seem to have disappeared.  So here are some of the best bird photos Jonathan got this fall, with the changing leaves in the background.







I had several lifers this fall, in the yard.  First was a Golden-Crowned Kinglet, hanging out with the bird-feeder birds.  He was very beautiful, but unfortunately I did not have the camera handy.  That was a week ago, I believe.  The very next day, I got another lifer.  I came down to the kitchen to make some coffee and saw a large bird fly down to the ground back in the woods. I thought it was probably our resident hawk, but I kept my eye out and watched when it flew up to perch to see what it was.  I saw it fly up and land but it seemed to disappear.  After quite a few minutes of searching, I tried a different window, and then I thought I could just make out it’s tail, way at the back of the woods, almost to the field.  I had to kneel down to see the entire bird from where I was.  It wasn’t a hawk, but an owl!  A Barred Owl.  We hear them quite often but it was the first time I had seen one!  An exciting day.  Again, I was bummed that we did not manage to get any photos!

My final lifer this fall was discovered today.  About a month ago we had seen hawk in the front yard and Jonathan had gotten some photos.  I was surprised when I finally checked them out today to discover it was a Red-Shouldered Hawk.  All along I had been seeing him as a juvenile Red-tailed, but when he finally got his adult feathers, I discovered the truth.  I am assuming this is the same hawk that we have been seeing over the last year.  Jonathan thought so too.

Lifer #648



Linking up with Wild Bird Wednesday  and  the Bird D’Pot.  Enjoy.

Yellow Warbler

My most recent lifer was the Yellow Warbler which I saw on two occasions about a month ago.  First, I saw it at the park where we go swimming, and later I saw it on the trail I take while jogging or walking.  Unfortunately, in both cases, I did not have my binoculars with me, but I am still pretty sure of my id because these two birds were almost completely yellow.  I do not think any other bird in the U.S. is as completely yellow as this warbler. 

A few days later we started hearing a particular bird in our yard regularly, and by regularly, I mean constantly. “Sweetie Sweetie Sweetie Sweet Sweet Sweet.”  It turns out that it was again a Yellow Warbler, so Jonathan ventured out to get some photos.  I still hear this bird calling pretty often but he is pretty tough to find in all the foliage in our trees.  One of these times I hope to go out and find him, but no luck for me yet.

Jonathan had better luck.





For more great bird blogs, try I’d Rather B’ Birdin’  and Wild Bird Wednesday.

May and June Birds

Around the end of May or the beginning of June I kept hearing a particular bird in the yard.  (When I say yard, it is actually a small woods.)  I did not recognize the sound.  I am not much of an expert at bird songs and I am not good at remembering the ones that I have heard from recordings.  The best way I know to learn them is to stop and find the bird that is making the sound.  I tend to be a very visual person so this makes sense.  I like to see the bird actually making the sound.  Only then do I put two and two together.  Previous attempts at learning from auditory recordings only have failed miserably though I haven’t yet tried recorded videos.

Anyway –  I kept hearing this chicka weeeyooooooooo. It was very “whistley”.   It was practically impossible to ignore.  I had tried on one occasion to locate the whistler with no luck.  I went out again a few days later.  I kept hearing it coming from different locations and this time my little friend did not stop as soon as I arrived on the scene.  He moved around a good bit and then finally I thought I had got a sighting of him.  He rested for a while on a prominent perch out in the open and I could see him but he was quite high up and hard to get a good view of.  “Flycatcher looking with a yellow bill,” was about the best description I was able to make.  After consulting the field guide,  I was guessing an Eastern Wood-Pewee.  Fortunately I was able to confirm this with one of my birding apps on my tablet that had the sound recording for me.  The description of the song in the field guide was only mildly helpful.  Peeeahweeeeeee is supposed to be the sound which I eventually did hear.  Peeeyoooooo was listed secondarily but mine seems to say that much more prominently.  I was glad I had the apps recording to confirm my id.  A week or two later Jonathan was able to get some photos as well.

Wood Pewee

He did a lot better with the catbird who though shy, at least stays a bit closer to the ground and thus a bit closer to us for photo purposes.  I only see him occasionally as he likes the thicket at the end of the yard and I don’t have any windows that face out that way.

Catbird (5)

Catbird (9)

Another bird that has become common around the house is the Red-eyed Vireo.  Though a bit tricky to see with all the trees leafed out, still I see him pretty regularly in the backyard.



The vireo and the wood pewee were both lifers for me.  Again common birds that I imagine are not too hard to find.  I am beginning to consider this my first year as a U.S. birder.  With five years of birding in Africa under my belt, it is fun to get to know the birds back home.  Other recent birds I have seen were a yellow warbler at a nearby park.  That was a lifer and I wish I had had my binoculars for a better view and confirmation.  At the same park, there were also lots of Bluebirds, and a near lifer for me, was an Eastern Kingbird which I saw again while driving near my house.  Years ago I had seen one, one other time – when one almost died against my windshield.  In the end, I am pretty sure I only nicked it.  Happy to see two very alive specimens so close to home.


When we returned from our trip to Portland, we realized that Spring had arrived in Ohio.  The weather was nice, the daffodils were in full swing, and we were ready to do some birding.  My original plan for the year was to go to the Biggest Week in American Birding and see all the warblers along Lake Erie but alas, soccer practices, work schedules and other social outings got in my way.  Next year maybe I will book early.  Plan B:  see if I can find some migrating warblers in our own woods.

One of our first nights back, Jonathan went out trying to get a photo of our resident Cooper’s Hawk.  They were no where around it seems but he came in and said he thought he had seen a new warbler.  I checked out the photo on the camera and then went out to see if he was still around.  In fact there were several of them flitting about in the trees in the front yard.  They were very small and gray, acting like warblers flitting about in the trees catching insects.  We watched for a good while and got a few photos.  It was hard to get a good look at their color because they were pretty high up.  I asked Jonathan whether he thought they looked more blue, or more gray.  “I’d have to go with Blue-gray,” he said!  It didn’t sound too helpful, but we both agreed it was the best we could do.

I went back inside to check my field-guide.  There was nothing in the warblers that looked promising as this bird had absolutely no yellow on it and no real facial markings and was not any of the warblers that lack yellow.  Hmmmm.

I started working my way back through the book, and after only a few pages, came upon a picture that looked just right- gray back, white belly, white eye-ring.   What else could it be but a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher?  After double checking the photos we had, I confirmed the I.D. Sometimes bird names do make sense!  And a lovely little lifer at that.




About a week later, I was checking the woods behind the feeders in the backyard, scanning to see if the gnatcatcher was back there or anyone else of interest.  Sure enough there seemed to be some warbler action flitting about in the trees. Over the next several days, several different warblers made an appearance and all my housework was temporarily forgotten!    The first one I saw turned out to be a Chestnut-sided Warbler.  There were several of these in the woods, but they were not a lifer as  I had seen these in Costa Rica in January, but was a new bird for me in the U.S.  IMG_5362

Among the Chestnut-sideds was one lonely Nashville Warbler.


Later on there were several of these Black-throated Green Warblers.  Now, there’s a mouthful.  These and the Nashville, were both lifers! 


It’s always exciting to see a “new” bird in your own backyard, so this was getting pretty exciting!  The next morning I got up and was immediately on the lookout, but the birds were too fast for me.  I saw two new warblers before I even had a chance to get the camera.  Oh No!  Later on Jonathan and I were able to get photos of the Palm Warbler



but I will never forget the one that got away.  A Prothonotary Warbler made its way past my feeders that morning, quite low to the ground and I was able to get good views of it for about a minute or two but sadly, no pictures and I never saw him again, (so far!)  Oh my!   He was the brightest neon orange-yellow that I had ever seen on a bird. 


Linking up with I’d Rather B Birdin’  and Wild Bird Wednesday.