On a cold blustery day when other birders made only brief forays into a bleak landscape, six doughty Avids spent the customary 12 hours abroad in search of birds. Winds that reached 40 mph kept many birds hunkered down, and because waterfowl and gulls cannot easily hunker much further down, they tended to be our quarry.

After the ritual coffee stop at Upper Sandusky, your correspondent led us in the dark through two wrong turns on the way to Killdeer Plains WA, where we arrived after the shift change of the great vole hunt, missing short-eared owls but seeing a number of northern harriers. In this largely mild winter, many waterfowl had spent the winter at Killdeer, and we foiund a lot of them. Among swans, there were two locally introduced species—trumpeter and mute, not counted here—and hordes of wild tundra swans that indicated they had decided to spend the winter here. Fair variety among other waterfowl, dominated by pintails and wigeons. Shrikes, undoubtedly present, were not found because of the windy weather. Two participants had not seen Lapland longspurs, so we cruised Washburn Rd till several flocks were found and well seen. On the road out, we found a sheltered spot with many passerines in shrubs along the road. We added a few waterfowl species at the Upper Sandusky Reservoir, and headed north to a cemetery where scouts had found ten white-winged crossbills the day before.

The ~20 crossbills were duly found, though they did not give the views had earlier, when they foraged in the snipped grass practically at our feet. A lamentable resort to democracy ensued, as we debated the virtues of heading toward Toledo for an iffy chance at redpolls at a cemetery, or to Lorain Harbor via Wellington Reservoir, where we’d seen snow and Ross’s goose the day before, another iffy chance. The latter alternative, even though it required longer time (admittedly in warm vehicles), was chosen, and we headed northeast.

Not unexpected was new snow near Mansfield, but we managed a stop at Findley SP, where the dense curtain of mature pines cut the wind enough for us to add some northern woodlands passerines to our list; for the first time in years, we found tended feeders active. We almost always visit Wellington Upground Reservoir early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the maximum numbers of birds are present, and when we arrived there around noon we found waterbird numberrs low, though we saw some species for the first time in the day. The spooky snow and Ross’s geese we had found the day before were conspicuously absent.

The scene at Lorain Harbor was dramatic, with high winds, heavy waves crashing against the breakwalls on one side, and surging on the other, thousands of gulls wheeling over the water, and thousands of red-breasted mergansers afloat, sheltering from the wild waves in Lake Erie. The air was clear, and the birds fairly close, so we took advantage to do most of our birding from the vehicle. Clearly all smaller gulls had decamped, and the rarities—up to nine species had appeared a week or two before– had apparently joined them. Still, there were lots of plumages to study as we ll as the sheer spectacle of 15,000+ gulls over all the calmer water inside the breakwalls, including upriver as far as we could see. Unfortunately, as recent reports had indicated, species variety was low, and 15-20 lesser black-backed adults were the best find. We learned more about the distribution of waterfowl and Lake Erie gulls during a freakishly warm winter. We headed back to Columbus and arrived a bit after 5 pm.

Our list of 63 species for the day follows.

Pied-billed grebe
Horned grebe
Double-crested cormorant
Great blue heron
Turkey vulture
Canada goose
Tundra swan
American wigeon
American black duck
Northern shoveler
Northern pintail
Green-winged teal
Ring-necked duck
Lesser scaup
Common goldeneye
Hooded merganser
Common merganser
Red-breasted merganser
Ruffy duck
Bald eagle
Northern harrier
Red-tailed hawk
American kestrel
American coot
Ring-billed gull
Herring gull
Lesser black-backed gull
Great black-backed gull
Rock dove
Mourning dove
Red-bellied woodpecker
Downy woodpecker
Northern flicker
Blue jay
American crow
Horned lark
Black-capped chickadee
Tufted titmouse
Red-breasted nuthatch
White-breasted nuthatch
Eastern bluebird
American robin
European starling
Eastern towhee
American tree sparrow
Song sparrow
Dark-eyed junco
Lapland longspur
Snow bunting
Northern cardinal
Red-winged blackbird
Eastern meadowlark
Common grackle
Brown-headed cowbird
White-winged crossbill
American goldfinch
House sparrow