Revised 2011 bird total:
437 species

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The great Ohio adventure

Black-bellied Plovers along with American Golden Plovers were the shorebirds that graced the fields in Ohio.  Golden plover was a lifer for me and Black-bellied Plover was a year bird.  A Black-bellied is pictured here.

Last night in Maysville Kentucky I gave a quick, really quick post about my Ohio trip.  Some of you may say "what?  that's a normal sized post for Gabriel!, not really quick".  But it really was really quick.  I did it in a few minutes at a public computer at a Super 8 Motel at 10 at night and only covered a little bit of the Ohio trip in brief notes.

Friday, May 6 I set off headed northwest with my awesome dad to Ohio, northern Ohio and more specifically, the Magee Marsh and surrounding areas.  The target was warblers.  This was my warbler trip, but even more so my birthday trip, I was turning 12 on Sunday May 8th. Without warblers my year list would be very non-complete.  I needed a great warbler trip. And this was it.  Yes, the warblers were awesome, but I also got many year birds in the thrush, vireo, waterbird, and shorebird category as well as great views and encounters with raptors.  It was a bird trip, as all trips for birding are.

Friday was simply a travel day, but adventures did occur.  Our GPS ("Josephine" we've nicknamed it) took us on an adventure.  Our original route was via I-81 North, then some backroads through Berkley Springs West Virginia and then straight west on the Penn. Turnpike and then the Ohio Turnpike to Magee Marsh with one night in Penn.  We simply missed one exit on the turn to Berkley Springs WV and Josephine took us on a MAJOR re route via Hagerstown Maryland.  Do we turn around or do we trust the GPS?  We were in for an adventure, and heck, maybe I'd pick up some birds on the way.  We went via Hagerstown.  No birds that day, not unusual ones anyway.  Of course we saw birds, starlings, pigeons, House Sparrows, a few common hawks too, but nothing out of the ordinary.  Late in the day, once well in to Penn. we did stop at a nice "McDonald's Picnic Table Wetland" where I picked up my first warbler of the trip, a female Yellow.

The next day, Saturday we arrived at Magee Marsh but before hand birded at a few different spots in Ohio on the way.  We stopped at a very nice riverside park somewhere along the way where I got the first year bird of the trip, Northern Waterthrush.  They turned out to be a fairly common warbler at Magee Marsh but before this day I had never seen one, not ever in this lifetime so it was completely exciting.  Many other familiar birds there too, but exciting because they were new for my "Ohio list".  After the park along the way, in a roadside habitat, I spotted a Ring-necked Pheasent, a new year bird.  We then went to a bayside park near Port Clinton where I added two new life birds, Kentucky Warbler and Nashville Warbler which both gave extraordinary looks.  The excitement was full on now!  Arriving at Magee Marsh, it was incredible, and apparently this was not even a great day.  Myrtle Yellow-rumps, Palm Warblers, Black-throated Greens were everywhere.  Every five minutes or more often a new species would appear for the trip and all the birders on the boardwalk would help me out.  "Cape May male two thirds of the way up this tree on a right hand branch", "Prothonotary singing in the low grasses over here", "Blackburnian male at Number 3, just down that way", "this is a good area in the last few minutes, have has the regulars plus a Chestnut and a Blackburnian".  I was getting these kinds of quotes from many different birders.  And I'd be asking "what do you see?" or "what are you photographing?" and their answer could be anything from a Yellow-rump to a Woodcock.  In the first 10 or 15 minutes at Magee I didn't see any year birds, but that soon changed.  My first year bird there was a Black-throated Blue Warbler male that gave nice looks.  Also amazing about this place is that some of the warblers are just a foot or two away.  Magnolia Warbler was my first lifer at Magee.  After searching with many great birds, I came across a "hot spot".   My dad spotted a "what's that?" flying (he's not a great birder, but he's getting better every day and he's an AWESOME papa) and I said "a cuckoo, Yellow-billed Cuckoo!".  That was a lifer for me.  While trying to get other birders on the YB Cuckoo, they said "all I see is a pair of Black-billed Cuckoos".  As it turns out, they were looking in a different place and did have a pair of BB Cuckoos so that was another lifer for me.  Then, although not a year bird, we saw an Eastern Screech-Owl, very special to see.  By the time we were done at Magee for the day, and done at nearby Ottawa Nat. Refuge for the day, we did a bird count and noticed I was already at 88 species for the day and still had three hours of daylight!  If I wanted to, I could go for an

Ohio Big Day and hopefully get over 100 species!  So the focus became chasing day birds and the next logical place to go was nearby Metzger Marsh, the last of the main area hotspots I had not been to.  On the way, I picked up American Kestrel and House Finch.  Northern Shoveler was on a pond at the entrance to Metzger.  "Swamp Sparrow, Hooded Merganser" I was calling them to my dad because he was writing them down for me.  "Pair of swans over there, Trumpeters".  I assumed they were Trumpeters because we had seen several earlier in the day and they apparently are common there, but getting the BINS on the bird, they were Mutes.  So I called to my dad "write down Mute Swan".  We had met an avid birder at Ottawa who said that she discovered a Tricolored Heron at Metzger 10 days beforehand and that it was still around.  With ease we found the heron at Metzger along with a special Beaver nearby.  We arrived at the end of the road at Metzger and there were some birders "warbling" in the woods.  I asked them which they had seen.  They named the ones I already had for the day "Blackburnian, Black-And-White, Magnolia, Yellow-rumped, Palm, Orange-crowned".  There, he said Orange-crowned.  That was a well wanted day bird.  He said he hadn't seen it in half an hour though.  Just two minutes later a different guy was waving me and I said "what is it?".  He replied "the Orange-crowned is in the scope".  I looked at it, told my dad to put it on the list, thanked the guys for getting it for me, and I went along the water's edge nearby looking for gulls, terns, and other waterbirds.  The same group of people moved to the water are too and started asking if I had the birds they had.  "Cormorant?" "yup, I got it", "Ruddy Duck?" "yup", "Redhead duck?" "no.  Where!?".  "right in the scope".  I thanked them again and went on my way.  I asked them about Chickadee and Titmouse because I didn't have either of those.  They didn't know for chickadees, they said they're kind of tough in this area but they did say that a titmouse had been visiting the feeders at Magee earlier today and I didn't check the feeders when I was there.  I rushed over to the Magee feeders, got Brown-headed Cowbird new for the day, no titmouse but I picked up a Black-capped Chickadee, one of my favorite birds.  I had heard that a Marbled Godwit had been seen at an Icecream Shop a few miles up the road.  We scooted over there.  No godwit, but a beautiful, amazing pair of Bald Eagles was in a tree right near the Icecream Shop, a special blessing on the eve of my birthday and a new day bird.  A Sora was in the marsh there, day bird 100.  I had reached my goal but was going for more!  We took some backroads on the way home and came up with three more day birds: Northern Harrier, Brown Thrasher, and Horned Lark.  At somepoint in the day I saw a Great Black-backed Gull which was a year bird.  I finished the day with 103 species, a total amazing success for my last day of 11!

My birthday was awesome too and the birds were on the Magee boardwalk in the morning.   I got few non-life year birds that day but a good number of lifers.  About a half hour in to the board walk, somebody said "Wilson's over here, low".  I got good looks at the beautiful warbler, my first lifer of the day!  Then, a Common Tern flew above Lake Erie and was another life bird, one I've been wanting for a long time.  A Warbling Vireo was in the trees at the Magee Parking lot, another lifer.  As I was getting ready to enter the boardwalk again, somebody said "Blue Grosbeak on the beach over there".  We walked over to the beach, and sure enough with 200 people looking at the bird, I got good looks at the male bird, a lifer for me!  A nice birthday treat.  On that round on the boardwalk, I picked up one lifer, a Bay-breasted Warbler.  At 3 pm there was a guided shorebird trip out of Ottawa Refuge for 2 hours that I went on.  At the different trips, I got the following year birds: Dunlin, Semiplamated Sandpiper (lifer), Black-bellied Plover, American Golden Plover (lifer).  I've been wanting golden plover for a long time.  That evening I got to have the chance to meet, talk with, hear speak, and get my Kaufman Field Guide autographed by one of my most favorite, and most respected birders: Kenn Kaufman.  It was a great pleasure to talk with Kenn and his wife Kimberly, what nice people and amazing birders.  Kenn gave an amazing, interesting, and funny talk on Bird Migration Patterns.  Thanks Kenn!

Monday was a bit slower for the year birds, only four but still a very, very special day.  Started out on the Magee Boardwalk where I got Yellow-throated Vireo and Tennessee Warbler as lifers.  I went to one of the spots I was at on the shorebird trip the prior day, met my listserv "friends" from Virginia, John and BJ Little and got Semipalmated Plover as a year bird.  Back at Magee, I got Wood Thrush for a year bird, one that I should have had before that.  Also that dad, during a windy spell my dad and I took a nice walk at Ottawa Nat. Wildlife Refuge and had many great encounters with Canada Goose goslings.  On the drive to the hotel that dusk, we saw a Great Horned Owl.

And now good old Tuesday, one of the, if not the most amazing day of the trip.  Since we had to leave that afternoon, the day was set fully to the Magee Boardwalk.  The warblers were everywhere that morning and it was considered a small fallout by the local birders.  I got up close views of many warblers. I got to see my first Blackpoll Warbler of the trip, my favorite of the warblers.  Philadelphia Vireo was an awesome life bird and gave nice looks.  After completing a loop on the boardwalk with my dad, ate lunch, and while my dad cleaned up and napped, I headed back to do the boardwalk by myself one last time.  In the parking lot I saw a well wanted lifer, Swainson's Thrush.  Beautiful bird.  Right as I entered the boardwalk the second time, a nice, familiar-looking gentleman walked up to me and said "are you Gabriel?".  "Yes I am, how do you know?" I responded.  "well, I did a big year last year in the lower 48 states" the man said.  "oh, so you saw me on the NARBA website, I see.  And you did a lower 48 states big year last year.  Wow.  So you must be Chris Hitt?" I said.  "Yes, I am" Chris said.  I began to talk with him because I've seen his blog ( and have always wanted to meet him!  He said that he wanted to talk to me about the Garganey because he has some news about it and he asked around to try to find me and he was glad to find me.  Soon he talked about the Garganey I talked about in previous posts in my blog and said things like "you know, the Garganey is a real bird.  I saw it and it's been seen this morning.  It's really worth going for."  Shocked that it's not a domestic bird I responded "wow.  So it's not a domestic bird.. how do you know?"  I can't remember his response in great detail but the bottom line was that the records committee had seen it and they felt confident it was a wild bird.  I said "ok, well we have to go home today and my dad has to get back to work but gosh I'd love to go see the Garganey".  Chris was joined by his friend Dan Sanders and Dan agreed if it all possible it's really worth while me going to try for the bird.  Chris said "you got to go talk to your dad, you've got to convince him to take you, who knows when the next Garganey will show up, and you can tell your dad that one of Ohio's top birders said that you have to go for the bird".  I thanked Chris and Dan and ran off to the car, but my dad was already asleep napping so I couldn't talk to him.  So I went back to do more birding on the boardwalk, saw Chris and Dan again, birded with them for a bit and then went on my way to find dad and do a bit of last birding at Magee.  Once I got to my dad, he took a few minutes to think about it but he said that between the rareness of the bird, what happened with Chris, and it being my birthday trip on my big year we had to go for it.  AWESOME news, THANKS so much Papa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Soon we were on our south on I-75 (I think that's the number) and at 7:15 pm we rolled into Fernfield Preserve and hopes were high that the Garganey would be at the pond by the Visitor Center, where it has been seen for the last few days.  There were several birders there, and they gave us the rejoicing news that the Garganey was there.  It was hanging out with a pair of BW Teal and we got great photos, and some low quality photos of this amazing, beautiful, and super special duck over the course of 30 minutes before we continued on our way to our hotel where we spent the night in Maysville Kentucky and then arrived home here in Virginia at about 5:15 or 5:30 pm tonight.  What a special day and super amazing trip.  The trip total was 145 species and the year total now is 295 species.

Garganey, a mega vagrant, a lifer for me and year bird # 295.  Such a special bird.


1 comment:

  1. Gabriel,
    I was talking with Chris Hitt today and he told me about your blog. When I was 11 I had never heard of a big year, but if I had I'm sure it would have instantly become my lifes goal to do one. I'm glad you got to see the Garganey, Chris was right, that's a great bird. It sounds like your birthday was awesome, happy 12th. Best of luck on your adventure

    Matt Stenger