A Bald Eagle cruises over the Avid Birders at Magee Marsh

We started with temperatures in the 40’s, unseasonably warm for February. Our first bird was a Song Sparrow singing in the Worthington Mall parking lot, indicating that 5:30 am is not too early for the birds. Our usual early morning McDonalds stop yielded an additional five birds including the the ubiquitous House Sparrows that we always see as well as European Starlings, American Crows and American Robins. Black Squirrels abounded in town.

Just a few of the thousands of gulls seen by the Avid Birders at Huron
Just a few of the thousands of gulls seen by the Avid Birders at Huron

We arrived on schedule at Huron Harbor, which was loaded with gulls enjoying the sunny weather and 15 to 20 mph winds. In addition to the medium and large gulls (Ring-billed and Herring), we found about a dozen Great Black-backed Gulls and a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls as well. We observed several Bald eagles, including an adult pair perched together, and several unidentified immature gulls. Waterfowl included Common Goldeneye as well as both Common and Red-breasted Mergansers. An American Pipit flew overhead while we were scoping out the situation from the observation platform.

We next drove the Cedar Point Chausee and saw a couple Canvasbacks bookending a group of Redheads. More Bald Eagles were in sight, along with a lone Red-tailed Hawk. Waterfowl included Bufflehead and Lesser Scaup.

Tiring of the continued high winds on the lakefront, we opted to check a calmer location: Castalia Pond. There we found Redhead, Mallards, American Coots, a single Canada Goose, and a Domestic-Mallard hybrid.

A Bald Eagle cruises over the Avid Birders at Magee Marsh
A Bald Eagle cruises over the Avid Birders at Magee Marsh

Duty called and it was back into the breeze. The Magee Boardwalk yielded only 4 species; although the temperature was now in the 50s, wind gusts were over 40 mph. We did see an adult Bald Eagle struggling in the wind carrying nesting materials. On the beach, we found lots of people — quite a hardy lot to be out in such winds — but no birds.

Since the Ottawa Wildlife Tour (formerly known as the Auto Tour) was open, we drove through. At least 5 or 6 different Bald Eagles were seen, as were several Bald Eagle nests. Swans were abundant, including both Trumpeter and Tundra. We added a single Ruddy Duck, some Black Ducks, several Coots and Northern Shoveler to our list and noted three Northern Harriers hunting across the fields.

Metzger March gave us a trifecta of Swans, adding a pair of Mute Swans, which prompted a discussion of the current state eradication plans for this invasive species. Not confining ourselves to large white birds, we also managed to find a single Northern Pintail.

We watched our first of the year Killdeer fly across Lucas – Ottawa Road (officially countable in both counties for those who care about their county lists). We cruised the back roads, but did not locate any geese other than the ubiquitous Canada Geese. However, a small flock of Snow Buntings and a single Lapland Longspur flew past. Many Horned Larks were seen. We were reminded that spring is on the way when we saw a flock of Red-winged Blackbirds; meanwhile, it certainly felt like spring with 50 degree temperatures and warm south winds.

Our next stop with the Maumee Bay State Park Campground where we searched in vain for the elusive Long-eared Owls. We did see both Greater and Lesser Scaup, Redheads, Common Goldeneyes, and Common Mergansers on Lake Erie. We also found one of the few song birds of the day, a Black-capped Chickadee.

Avid Birders scoping from the Huron Pier
Avid Birders scoping from the Huron Pier

Walking the the boardwalk behind the nature center, we observed several species at the feeders including a house Finch, American Tree Sparrow, Downy Woodpecker, and American Robin. After a fruitless drive around park roads searching for a Northern Shrike or Rusty Blackbirds, we decided to start the 2 1/2 hour drive back to Worthington Mall.

Unfortunately, both numbers of species and numbers of birds remained low on the drive home. Traffic on 23 just north of Worthington was bumper to bumper, so it was after dark by the time we made it back to the  Mall parking lot. A couple of us experienced a drama (trauma?) in the parking lot when a male voice called out “Stop right there” as we were loading  and unloading our spotting scopes. We turned around to see a Police Officer arresting a suspect about eight feet from my vehicle! Another officer appeared and they handcuffed the suspect; we saw four police cars in the area, including two in the bank parking lot. We heard the two nearby officers asking the suspect, “where are the cards?”,  so we suspect ATM fraud. We exited the parking lot quickly, having had enough excitement for the day and not wanting to be involved in a law enforcement action.

We ended the day with 45 species, not bad for February, especially considering the unseasonably warm temperatures and windy conditions. Here’s the list:

Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Tundra Swan
Trumpeter Swan
Gadwall
American Black Duck
Mallard
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Canvasback
Redhead
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Common Goldeneye
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Killdeer
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
American Robin
European Starling
American Pipit
American Tree Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lapland Longspur
Snow Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow