Birding Killdeer Plains by Jennifer Kuehn

From Donna Kuhn:

With temperatures predicted to be in the 70s, we set out from Worthington, hoping to bird around the predicted rain. On arrival to Killdeer Plains it was great to see that the tall grass obstructing the view of the Harold Roe Wetlands had been mown. In an effort to be prepared, a footstool was supplied for a vertically challenged participant. Birds were scarce at this location, although we did find a Wilson’s Snipe, Pectoral Sandpiper, both Yellowlegs and a Least Sandpiper. We checked out a few other areas, including Pond #3, which was mostly dry. We watched an immature and an adult Red-headed Woodpecker in a dead tree.

After a compulsory stop at McDonald’s we headed towards Lake Erie. By the time we reached the lake we were experiencing a torrential downpour. Desiring to stay out of the rain, we took the Ottawa Auto Tour.

Since we weren’t seeing many birds (and the few birds that we did see were difficult to identify because they were so wet), the participants in second car resorted to songwriting to fill the time. When the lead car stopped, and they were trying to figure out what was being seen, they were prompted to make up the following ditty (of course, borrowing the tune from a well-known Christmas song):

Said the Driver to the passengers, 
“Do you see what they see?
Why’d they stop? Tell me, passengers,
Do you see what they see”
“A bird, a bird, sitting in a tree.”
“Could it be an Eastern Phoebe?”
“It’s a Kingbird, not a Phoebe”

Another passenger commented that boredom had officially set in. We are serious about birding, but we like to have fun too. Fortunately the storm blew through and the skies cleared as we headed over to Howard Marsh. The birding picked up dramatically.

Black-necked Stilt by Andy Sewell
Black-necked Stilt by Andy Sewell

The Black-necked Stilts did not disappoint. Several pairs have been nesting there this summer. We saw nearly a dozen of them foraging in the mudflats. Another group birding the area helped us find a Baird’s Sandpiper. It was relatively close and along the shoreline with some Semipalmated Sandpipers for nice comparisons. The wings extended beyond the tail. The scaly appearance of the back with the buffy, streaked throat and upper chest helped us distinguish the birds.

As we were leaving, a couple people in our group saw a Yellow-headed Blackbird among the hordes of blackbirds. It was a young male on top of a leafless tree.

Since a Red Knot was a life bird for one participant, we scurried over to the inland beach at Maumee Bay State Park, where we quickly relocated the bird. With over 400 terns on the beach, and a child flushing them, we gave up trying to determine exactly how many were Common and how many were Forster’s Terns. Why didn’t the terns poop on the child who flushed them?

We made a quick stop at Metzger where the road remains closed. The wetland is becoming overgrown and drying up, so very few birds were seen here. We headed for home, completing another 12-hour birding field trip.

Our 68 species are list below, 13 shorebirds:

Canada Goose
Trumpeter Swan
Wood Duck
Blue-winged Teal
American Black Duck
Hooded Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Wild Turkey
Pied-billed Grebe
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
American Coot
Black-necked Stilt
Semipalmated Plover
Red Knot
Baird&’s Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Wilson’s Snipe
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Bonaparte’s Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Caspian Tern
Common Tern
Forster’s Tern
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Cattle Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Belted Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Kingbird
Blue Jay
American Crow
Horned Lark
Tree Swallow
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
American Goldfinch
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Common Grackle
Yellow Warbler
Northern Cardinal
House Sparrow