Bohemian Waxwings perched in a tree near the Maumee Bay SP Nature Center

We’d held our breaths as nice numbers of boreal finches were reported across the state, and hoped to have a look at some on our December trip. A day of sunny skies and temperatures in the high 50s invited fourteen of us to head north to meet these northern visitors first-hand, as well as enjoying arriving waterfowl at some interesting locales on the way up. We left at the customary 5:30 am time, and sunrise met us at the Findlay reservoirs in Hancock County. A lot of gulls and waterfowl were visible in the morning mist, and we garnered a nice list of them before moving north.

There are seven reservoirs in Fostoria and vicinity, and we visited four of them; mostly we found a few familiar species, but at the big one along Rte 23 we had our first excellent finds. In a flock of Canada geese we picked out four snow geese and one cackling goose in the miasma from a fertilizer factory.

We arrived in less than an hour at the Lake. Hoping for a look at a well-reported northern shrike, we sought it along the Metzger Marsh causeway, weaving our way among muskrat trappers, etc., finding next to nothing. Of course no waterfowl were present, and we sidestepped to Maumee Bay SP, where we first visited the cottage road, which was pretty much deserted—by humans at least. Brad, who has justified faith in this venue in winter, found a northern shrike, and everyone had excellent views of this scarce juvenile bird. A lot of other species, importantly some redpolls, were seen here as well.

Bohemian Waxwings perched in a tree near the Maumee Bay SP Nature CenterWe were headed for the lagoon when one of our small-bladdered constituents begged a stop at the nature center, which was immediately granted. We aim to please, or at least to relieve. While we were there we tallied some new species at the feeders. On the way out, Andy called everyone’s attention to a flock of cedar waxwings on the north side of the center, then suddenly cried out “No, the top one’s a Bohemian waxwing,” then immediately “They’re all Bohemian waxwings!” And so they were, eleven of them, an extraordinary find. Less rare decades ago, no flock this size of this scarce species has been reported in Ohio for decades, and we hung around for fifteen minutes to greet the first waves of listers who arrived to see them. Eventually they moved into the fruiting trees near the parking lot, and we bid them farewell

We scoped the lagoon at MBSP, finding only some Bonaparte’s and a nice adult winter lesser black-backed gull. As we moved on, Steve called out that he had some swallows over a distant pond. December is not a likely time to see swallows along Ohio’s north coast, but it is a good time to see the rare cave swallow along its recently adopted route to the Atlantic through the Great Lakes. We sped over, but our arrival must have disturbed them, and they had to go unidentified as they flew off into the sun.

Looking at Red CrossbillsWe next threaded our way through urban Toledo, aiming at Woodlawn Cemetery to seek winter finches. Apparently the name of the street that marked the exit for the Cemetery had been changed to honor a medical facility, and we had to endure a lengthy trip through a thousand stoplights to reach the old cemetery. We quickly stumbled upon some white-winged crossbills, but spent an hour—with only some siskins to show for it—hunting other finches through a spot rumored to be good for them. Three of our participants had to head back early, and eventually we decided to drive through an unexplored part of the cemetery. As time was running out, some activity was spottedin a fairly small sweetgum. This tree species is generally attractive mostly to redpolls and siskins, but prolonged study found not only these species but also both crossbills, which rounded out our want-list for the day. Satisfied, we eventually found our way back to the freeway and headed happily home.

Our list, consisting of only 56 species, was more than satisfactory considering our narrow concentrations on wanted ones, and the discovery of the waxwings—a new Ohio record for many of us–made our day a memorable one. The list follows:

Common loon
Pied-billed grebe
Great blue heron
Snow goose
Canada goose
Cackling goose
Northern shoveler
Black scoter
Common goldeneye
Hooded merganser
Red-breasted merganser
Ruddy duck
Bald eagle
Cooper’s hawk
Red-tailed hawk
American kestrel
Ring-necked pheasant
Bonaparte’s gull
Ring-billed gull
Herring gull
Lesser black-backed gull
Rock dove
Mourning dove
Belted kingfisher
Red-bellied woodpecker
Downy woodpecker
Hairy woodpecker
Northern shrike
Blue jay
American crow
Horned lark
Swallow sp.
Black-capped chickadee
Tufted titmouse
Red-breasted nuthatch
White-breasted nuthatch
Eastern bluebird
American robin
European starling
Bohemian waxwing
American tree sparrow
Fox sparrow
Song sparrow
Dark-eyed junco
Snow bunting
Northern cardinal
Red-winged blackbird
Red crossbill
White-winged crossbill
Common redpoll
Pine siskin
American goldfinch
House sparrow