Sometimes you take a birding trip and it’s everything you ever dreamed about. Our time in Australia two years ago was like that. And sometimes, you try your hardest and things just don’t work out the way you anticipate, such as the trip we took exactly one year ago. Pete had arranged a series of work-related meetings in Michigan and Ontario, and I had never been there, so we decided to make a vacation out of it and drive around the Great Lakes. In the process, I visited my last four states, culminating in North Dakota as number 50.
Except for a single June day in Upland, Indiana, I’d never been birding anywhere in the Midwest, so I had visions of lifers and more lifers. What I learned is that, while the late summer weather was (mostly) delightful, if you’re looking for birds, that is not the best time to visit. Of course we’d missed spring migration, but I figured I could see the same birds on their way south again. It didn’t work out that way—we were just too late.
Pete had a stop in Columbus, Ohio, so my first day birding was spent at the renowned Magee Marsh. Now I know why the Biggest Week in Birding is held in May.
We first headed for the visitor center at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. I was happy to realize that the large pond in front was full of Trumpeter Swans, a fairly rare bird back home in Colorado. Then I wandered down the dirt road, looking for more species. I did find a few goldfinches, but the biggest thrill was the ginormous snapping turtle lurking at the water’s edge. One look at that beast and I remembered why I usually avoid swimming in lakes!
Not finding much else, we continued on to the boardwalk at Magee Marsh. Pete dropped me off and I headed out. The day dawned had gray, with a light drizzle, not ideal for viewing or photographing much of anything. The dreary light meant colors washed out, and I was constantly drying my lenses—camera, binos, and eyeglasses. The resident birds were smarter than the birder—they were sheltering under the leaves, out of the rain and out of sight. And since it was long past the breeding season, they weren’t even singing.
I had hoped to meet some more experienced birders who might help me learn the local birds, but the place was mostly deserted. I tried to shoot pictures for later inspection, but in the low light, I struggled to keep my shutter speed high enough for a sharp image.
It was a frustrating day, mostly because I’d had such high expectations, but not a total loss. The trees were full of Gray Catbirds and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.
A rust-colored blur of spots caught my eye, and I got my first lifer of the trip, a cooperative Veery. A bit later I grabbed shots of what I decided is an Acadian Flycatcher, another lifer.
There were other birds, ranging from Mourning Doves and Red-winged Blackbirds to a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Brown Thrasher, and Red-breasted Nuthatch.
This Black-and-white Warbler looks a bit fed up with being stared at, as it stared right back at me.
I as getting rather soggy, and Pete was due back soon to pick me up, so I turned around and navigated the maze of boardwalks back to the parking lot. I was content; even the worst day birding is better than almost anything else I could have been doing. Besides, now I know I need to come back… in May!
To be continued…