Monday, May 14, 2012

Magee Marsh--Wrap Up of 9 Day Stay

On Friday morning we were up even earlier than normal so that we would be at the Ottawa NWR visitor center before 7 AM to catch the tour bus to go to Cedar Point.  This is a part of the refuge that is usually not open to the public because of the stipulations of the grantor who gave the land to the Fish and Wildlife Service.  Dan and Doreene who have been coming up to Magee for over 20 years had never been able to tour Cedar Point, and all on the bus were not disappointed in what we found.

It was a chilly but sunny morning as we drove thru the entry gate, and we immediately were finding birds along the wooded gravel road.  Much to our surprise, we found the common nighthawk in the photo above (click on any photo to enlarge).  We would get out and walk a bit, then ride for a bit.  It took us about 3+ hours to cover 5 miles of really great habitat.  The roadway was bordered on the north by Lake Erie, and on the south side were the various impoundments.  Most of the roadway was lined by trees and shrubs.  We found several small groups of actively feeding birds including several warbler species like the black and white below.

After leaving Cedar Point, we stopped by Meinke marina and found 2 male bobolinks perched on a telephone wire.  While watching them we got a report of a black rail being seen again nearby at Metzger Marsh.  This was the 3rd sighting of this bird over the past week, so we decided to swing by the location to check it out.  The bird was seen by Greg Miller's cousin, uncle and nephew, so we were able to talk with them about it when we found them at the marsh.  Unfortunately, we did not have their luck in having the rail walk up out of the marsh to say hi to us.

We returned to the boardwalk after eating lunch at the Ottawa visitor center.  The bird activity was very slow but their were more birders arriving for a big weekend of birding.  We decided to go for an early dinner, and then returned to Metzger to look for American and least bitterns after 7 PM.  We traipsed out into the marsh on a beautiful spring evening but had no luck rustling up either bird.  We did flush several Wilson's snipe.  Since Rob had heard an American bittern calling at another location nearby when we had stopped to look for yellow-headed blackbirds, we went back for all of us to look and listen for it.  Once we heard its distinctive call, we headed back to our motel as the sun was setting.

As predicted, the winds had changed to the SW on Friday, and continued to blow from that direction into Saturday.  We hit the board walk about 7 AM, and by 8 migrating birds began to drop into the foliage.  At one point we found 12 warblers feeding in one small tree.  At another location there were well over 10 Swainson's thrushes gleaning in the leaves of a large cottonwood.  There were many black-billed cuckoos and a couple of yellow-billed cuckoos being seen along the boardwalk.  An acadian flycatcher was a rare find for Magee. A mourning warbler would be briefly seen before disappearing again for several minutes.  At the same place the huge moth in the photo above was seen for several days.  I also ran into Aaron and Ethan Gyllenhall, the brothers who had found the elaenia near Chicago in April.

Mid morning word began to get around that 3 young Amish boys had located a female Kirtland's warbler on the new trail at the western end of the marsh.  As on Wed., huge numbers of birders vacated the boardwalk and rushed to try to see the warbler.  I watched it feed in the top of a medium sized willow tree for several minutes before it flew further down the shrub line. 

Soon after seeing the Kirtland's, I needed to begin my drive back to North Carolina.  I heard later from my friends that the Kirtland's was seen off and on throughout the day, as was the mourning.  A golden-winged warbler also was found on the boardwalk.  I ended the day with 23 warbler species for only 5 hours of birding.  My 17 days of birding in NC, MO, KS, IN, and OH had generated 218 different species, and during my 9 days at Magee Marsh I saw 164 different species.  I am back home for 10 days before driving up to Minnesota to attend my daughter's college graduation.  I may do some birding in NC during June.  Stay tuned!

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