Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ducks in Trees and Other Delights

I slipped quietly onto the boardwalk after watching the sunrise over Lake Erie at Maumee Bay State Park. As they were the day before, the Red-wing Blackbirds were again the most numerous and clamorous of the birds, but suddenly I heard a louder rustling than one of them could have made. I looked up and saw...a pair of Wood Ducks perched in top of a tall tree! The photo on the left shows the tree, a ways away from me and quite tall, with the duck perched near the top. I knew Wood Ducks nested in holes in trees a fair distance from the ground, but I had never seen them perched so high. During this morning walk, I observed many of them flying to and from tree tops. 
Wood Duck perched in center tree
Zooming in on perching Wood Duck
Next I spotted a bright-eyed raccoon watching me through a screen of reeds...

You can't see me...
A couple of Hermit Thrushes hopped and perched in the underbrush, bobbing their tails as they  watched me passing by.
Hermit Thrush
 After almost three hours rambling along the boardwalk, I headed back to the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. When there, I found only five Trumpeter Swans where there had been thirty-four the evening before. Were they on their way farther north?

Several Blue-winged Teals were feeding-- the first I'd seen in many years. The blue on their wings was beautiful when they flew.
Blue-winged Teal (male)
There were two families of Canada Geese on one pond; one pair both had bright white chin straps...
whereas the other pair both had chin straps that were more of a tan color. I am trying to determine if they are a different subspecies. Does anyone reading this know? I know there are seven subspecies of Canada Goose (and four of the related Cackling Goose), but I can't find descriptions with photos.
Everywhere I went I heard the Red-winged Blackbirds proclaiming their ownership of reeds, trees, and shrubs. It was a privilege to visit this land that belongs to them and all these other denizens of the wild, and I look forward to visiting again someday. In the meantime, may they be fruitful and multiply and live in safety in their beautiful world.
Red-winged Blackbird

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Birding in NW Ohio

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge
I knew I’d be ready for some time alone after three days with 2,000 people at The Festival of Faith & Writing (more on that in a later post), so I planned a meandering journey home with plenty of time for both planned and spontaneous birding breaks. I spent this afternoon and this evening along the coastal marsh areas in NW Ohio, stopping at nearly every wildlife refuge and natural spot I came upon.
Maumee Bay State Park
The soft pastels of the cattail marshes spread far and wide, dotted with clumps of trees, alive with a plethora of Red-wing Blackbirds singing, squawking, and flitting by. I’ve always liked the showy males with their red and yellow epaulets, but I’m finding that now I especially love the more muted, yet still striking, colors of the females. These blackbirds filled the air with their song, perched on reed and small trees throughout the marshes, watching me walk by on trail and boardwalk.              

Great Blue Herons, gulls and terns of various sorts, Egrets, and Bald Eagles fly over the marshes. At Magee Marsh this evening, there were about ten Great Egrets feeding in the pond, standing still, bill poised over the water, then suddenly striking. 

The ponds are filled with water birds, and I saw my first American Widgeon, Greater Scaup, Northern Shoveler, and Trumpeter Swan. Thirty-four Trumpeter Swans! They were dotted throughout a waterway in the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, reaching under to graze on water plants, then lifting their graceful heads to look around. I didn’t want to leave, and kept stopping my car to watch them.
Trumpeter Swan
Northern Shoveler

I walked a mile or so back in the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, enjoying the sights and sounds, the wind blowing so hard I couldn’t hold my binoculars steady. That wind meant few songbirds were active, but it also meant that, when I was downwind of a muskrat, it had no idea I was there and so it came fairly close, ripping grasses to carry away. Eventually he had gathered enough, then he slid into the water and swam off with a tremendous mouthful of grass.

A refreshing day of solitude immersed in the beauty of creation. From the excitement of “firsts” to the quiet wonder of watching a muskrat gathering grass, my soul was nurtured and filled as I savored God’s good handiwork.
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