Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Magee, Metzger, and Ottawa
More from my weekend of birding Ohio's North coast. I realized I have ZERO duck photos, so if you want an ID course on ducks, you will have to attend Kenn's waterfowl workshop. I am getting pretty good on male ducks floating on the water, so-so on female ducks (helps when they are swimming with the boys!) and useless when it comes to ID'ing ducks on the wing. Saturday's talk helped me "use bird structure to understand what I am seeing." (This is Kenn's mantra.)
Highlights were: Dabbling ducks (the kind which up-end themselves and feed along the bottom of shallow waters) have a longer wing-to-body ratio, so they fly with slower wing beats and can spring straight up from the water when they flush. Diving ducks (the ones which completely submerge in deeper water) have shorter wings in comparison to their body size. When flying, they have flap their wings more rapidly and they have to run along the surface of the water before they can take off. Dabbling ducks are close relatives, especially the Mallard/American Black Duck/Mottled Duck trio, which commonly interbreed. The Wood Duck, while classified as a dabbing duck, is a bit of an oddball, being the only dabbler not in the genus Anas. The divers are a more diverse group than the dabblers, and have different sizes, shapes, and behaviors.
Fun fact: Female Redheads are nest parasites. They will lay their eggs in the nests of other ducks, coots, and there is even one report of Redhead eggs being left in the nest of a Northern Harrier. Now, that's a supremely bad idea!
After Saturday's talk, the group was ready to put their new-found knowledge to work on Sunday morning. Here, several of my companions gather around in preparation for our walk along the dikes of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. Nearly everybody brought a spotting scope, which is an essential piece of equipment for waterfowl observation.
Although our official goal was waterfowl, I kept getting distracted by raptors. From this spot, we could see 4 perched Bald Eagles, including one adult on a nest and one 3rd year bird staring down a Red-tailed Hawk. In the distance, the Great Horned Owl nest from the last post was barely visible.
Birders from northern Ohio who regularly visit this area look at Bald Eagles as "trash birds," since they have become so common. I was enthralled every time one soared overhead, although I must admit that when I saw my 11th Bald Eagle in two days, I glanced at it and then went back to searching through the rafts of ducks for rarities.
A view across the marsh at Ottawa. There are lots and lots of ducks in this photo, but I'm sure you can't see them. I can't, and I was there.
A view of Magee Marsh, from the causeway leading back to the boardwalk.
Can you find the Great Blue Heron in this photo of Magee Marsh?
The coldest place I was during a relatively warm weekend: The dike that divides Lake Erie (left) from Metzger Marsh. As well as lots of coots and the multiple duck species I could see on the marsh from this point, I also observed Ruddy Ducks, Lesser Scaup, and a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers on the lake. The bonus bird was an Eastern Phoebe in the weeds on the right side of this path.
I had two target birds for this weekend: Eurasian Wigeon - Kenn saw one at Metzger earlier in the week and on Sunday Philip Charon saw what was likely the same bird - and Northern Shrike. Several shrikes had been seen along the causeway at Magee and one was found on the trail behind BSBO, but I struck out. The shrike would have been a Life Bird for me. I have seen a Eurasian Wigeon in Scotland, but this would have been my US/Ohio bird. Ah, well - there's always the next field trip.
This is the famous shrike spot - the third pull-off on the causeway, across from the duck signs. Despite all the birders who congregated here, (or perhaps because of all the people) the shrike stubbornly refused to appear. Tip for chasing unusual birds: Drive to the general area and look for a lot of parked cars.
And this is as close as I got to a shrike last weekend.
A picture from Norman Smith's slideshow presentation Saturday night. (And yes, he still uses slides. Three carousels' worth, to be precise!)
Here is the complete trip list of what I did see, at Magee Marsh, Metzger Marsh, and Ottawa NWR
1. Canada Geese - 3 places
2. Mute Swan - Metzger, Magee
3. Trumpeter Swan - Ottawa, Magee
4. Tundra Swan - Ottawa 5. Gadwall - 3 places
6. American Wigeon - 3 places
7. American Black Duck - Ottawa, Magee
8. Mallard - 3 places
9. Northern Shoveler - 3 places
10. Northern Pintail - Metzger
11. Green-winged Teal - Ottawa
12. Canvasback - Metzger
13. Redhead - Metzger
14. Ring-necked Duck - 3 places
15. Lesser Scaup - Metzger, Magee
16. Bufflehead - Metzger
17. Hooded Merganser - 3 places
18. Common Merganser - Metzger
19. Red-breasted Merganser - Metzger
20. Ruddy Duck - Metzger
21. Pied-billed Grebe - heard at Metzger
22. Double-crested Cormorant - Magee
23. Great Blue Heron - 3 places
24. Great Egret - (2) - flyover Ottawa
25. Bald Eagle - 3 places; 1 on nest
26. Northern Harrier - Metzger
27. Red-tailed Hawk - Ottawa
28. American Coot - 3 places
29. Sandhill Cranes - (4) - calling and flying; Ottawa
30. Killdeer - Magee, Metzger
31. Ring-billed Gull - Ottawa
32. Herring Gull - Metzger
33. Mourning Dove - 3 places
34. Great-horned Owl on nest - Ottawa
35. Downy Woodpecker - Magee, Metzger
36. N. Flicker - Ottawa
37. Eastern Phoebe - Ottawa
38. Tree Swallow - Magee
39. American Robin - Magee, Metzger
40. European Starling - Magee
41. American Tree Sparrow - Ottawa, Magee
42. Song Sparrow - 3 places
43. Dark-eyed Junco - behind BSBO
44. Northern Cardinal - Magee, Metzger
45. Red-winged Blackbird - 3 places
46. Rusty Blackbird - Ottawa
47. Common Grackle - 3 places
48. American Goldfinch - 1 male - Ottawa
49. House Sparrow - behind BSBO