Eight of us endured summery weather in a long loop up north in search of birds of the season: shorebirds, gulls and terns, and migrant passerines, with an emphasis on rarer Ammodramus sparrows. Needless to say we didn’t find them all, but overall it was a memorable trip. The beach and lagoon at Maumee Bay SP had been good for others in recent days, and we made it our first stop. We were unprepared for the sight of hundreds of tents crowded together near the beach, and many hundreds of boy scouts tending their campfires. The beach itself, only a hundred and fifty yards north, was deserted. And I mean deserted. We had a few flyover birds, but a GBH was the only one on the ground, and we retreated with as much dignity as we could muster.

The loop trail behind the MBSP nature center came next. We took our time in a deliberate walk here, and eventually found some warm spots where migrant birds were observed. We discovered one more thing to dislike about phragmites: birds will land in them, but immediately sink out of sight as the foliage bends under their weight. We were treated to a parade of immature wood warblers that tested those of us who hadn’t done our yearly homework on their intermittently-glimpsed dingy plumages. This turned out to be our only time spent under the canopy; the rest of the day was in the wide open spaces.

After a fairly unproductive stop at Metzger Marsh, where the best event was a single great egret, we undertook the “Death March” at Ottawa NWR. This walk, or rather stroll, runs a minimum of 2 ½ miles and a maximum of almost 4, and can be demanding, but this sunny day with temps in the upper 60s dispelled all thoughts of expiring along the way. After a few passerines and the obligatory eagles along the way, we soon came in distant view of Crane Creek, spangled with thousands of white spots we knew to be birds, and the fun began.

South and west winds over the previous days had brought tempting reports of water-loving birds in this estuary, as shallows and mudflats had been exposed. Our pace slowed as we started spotting birds: five hundred ruddy ducks, four marbled godwits, four hundred roosting terns. All the impoundments seen on the way in had been virtually deserted by birds; here was their retreat. The water was shallow enough in a hump in the middle to allow terns to stand, and in the corner a large bar of mud and sand hosted innumerable shorebirds. It was not a peaceful, static setting; the terns regularly executed “dreads,” deserting the roost as one in a noisy group, circling in formation for a while, then returning, with no discernible cause we could see. This provided a rhythmic backbeat to the scene.

The birds’ numbers steadily grew over the next three hours. We started with twenty-some spectacular Hudsonian godwits, and ended with thirty-five. A few sanderlings on the bar grew past fifty; the same happened with dunlins. Three red-necked phalaropes appeared out of nowhere. Nearly all the shorebirds were in crisp new juvenal plumage, though some species, like dunlins and sanderlings and long-billed dowitchers molt into basic plumage along the migratory route. From time to time, less often but just as mysteriously, the shorebirds took flight like the terns, and keeping track of them was difficult, but we found sixteen species, even though we missed commoner ones like spotted and solitary sandpipers.

At some point, while many of us were absorbed in finding the phalaropes and counting the changing numbers of godwits, Bob pointed out that the sandbar had disappeared, and the smaller birds had vanished. Apparently the wind had shifted to the north, and backed enough Lake water into the estuary to erase the habitat; it was the first time I, at least, had witnessed this phenomenon. There aren’t many places left on the Lake shore where a shift in wind makes such a difference.

It was early afternoon, and we felt woodland passerines might be difficult to find, so we dipped on a visit to Sheldon Marsh and settled for a low-ride along the Cedar Point Chaussee. This maneuver yielded more gulls and terns-maddeningly, no Caspians again-and a handful of common shorebirds, so we didn’t undertake the walk.

Intriguing reports of shorebirds and more had come from the Lorain impoundment in recent days, so we took the long leg over that way. After surviving a three-mile trip from the freeway that took twenty minutes, we found the harbor impoundment pretty much bereft of intriguing birds, with only a few dunlins and some coots. It looked like what it was: a construction site, with raw earth surrounded by a ring of indomitable phragmites inside the breakwall. We walked a few hundred yards in, and found only a phenomenal number of juvenal white-crowned sparrows.

Time was awasting, so we jumped onto southbound roads for a last fling at the “Meijer wetlands,” a little mitigation marshlet situated behind a huge new shopping venue not far from Delaware. The setting sun was pretty effective in preventing us from getting a good look into the cattails where both Nelson’s and Le Conte’s sparrows had been reported two days earlier, but at least most of us got a chance to find out where this productive spot is located. Flocks of red-winged blackbirds were disappearing into the roost in the gathering darkness as we called it a day. The day’s list of 83 species follows:

Canada goose
Mute swan
Wood duck
Blue-winged teal
Northern pintail
Green-winged teal
Hooded merganser
Ruddy duck
Pied-billed grebe
Double-crested cormorant
Great blue heron
Great egret
Black-crowned night-heron
Bald eagle
Northern harrier
Sharp-shinned hawk
Red-tailed hawk
Broad-winged hawk
Virginia rail
American coot
Black-bellied plover
Semipalmated plover
Greater yellowlegs
Lesser yellowlegs
Hudsonian godwit
Marbled godwit
Semipalmated sandpiper
Least sandpiper
White-rumped sandpiper
Pectoral sandpiper
Stilt sandpiper
Long-billed dowitcher
Red-necked phalarope
Ring-billed gull
Herring gull
Common tern
Forster’s tern
Rock pigeon
Mourning dove
Chimney swift
Red-bellied woodpecker
Yellow-bellied sapsucker
Downy woodpecker
Northern flicker
Eastern phoebe
Blue-headed vireo
Blue jay
American crow
Horned lark
Tree swallow
Black-capped chickadee
Red-breasted nuthatch
Brown creeper
Carolina wren
Golden-crowned kinglet
Ruby-crowned kinglet
Swainson’s thrush
American robin
Gray catbird
European starling
Tennessee warbler
Nashville warbler
Black-throated blue warbler
Yellow-rumped warbler
Bay-breasted warbler
Blackpoll warbler
Common yellowthroat
Eastern towhee
Song sparrow
Swamp sparrow
White-throated sparrow
White-crowned sparrow
Dark-eyed junco
Northern cardinal
Red-winged balckbird
Common grackle
Brown-headed cowbird
American goldfinch
House sparrow