Monday, May 10, 2010

The Biggest Week in American Birding

At mid-day, we arrived at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory for the Biggest Week in American Birding. The parking lot was full, and I gotta say, these Ohio folks take their birding seriously even with their license plates! One guy even likes the Water Ouzel, as his plate is H2O Ouzl! Even before finding the hotel, we checked in for the week, then drove next door to the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. As always, we want to do everything, and will have to pick and choose our activities. Fortunately, there is time built into our schedule for independent birding, and we have lots of maps to use. A boardwalk beckoned us into the marshes while we waited for the shore bird walk to begin. A couple sat along the edge watching for an Oriole that chased a Crow around. "Are you looking for the Owls?" they asked? What owls? "There are some baby owls in a tree down the trail a bit." Whoopee! Let's go! Sure enough, the cluster of birders directed our attention to a branch where two Great Horned Owl babies peered back down at us. Everyone was amazed at the size of these owlets. The guide led a convoy of cars to shallow water along the road. As we piled out of the cars and set up spotting scopes, there were more birders than birds, I think. Well, there were lots of small mud-colored shore birds, so maybe the birds out-numbered the people after all. I don't know where my mind was when we packed this morning, but I did not bring a spotting scope. Somehow, my mind was expecting warblers, and I can't find warblers in the scope, so I didn't put it in the car. Duh! Didn't think about stationary shore birds at all. I wonder if those Zeica people would be willing to rent me a scope for the week... If they did, I would probably love it so much, I'd want to buy it and take it home, for mucho dineros.
I recognized the Semi-palmate plover with only one neck-band. The guide showed us some Dunlin, which I'd never seen in breeding plumage before. We also saw some Pectoral Sandpipers and a White-Rumped Sandpiper, a true lifer for us, since I'd never even heard of it at all. This Solitary Sandpiper showed off his nice eye ring, but the Yellowlegs were too busy to stop for pictures. Someday, I'll have enough practice with shorebirds to recognize more than 3 or 4 of them on my own. Several immature Bald Eagles soared overhead. I like BIG birds! The temps will be in the 50's and 60's all week, according to the Weather Channel, and we pulled warmer jackets out of our suitcases right away. The wind will make the difference I think, although the chance of rain tomorrow is 100 percent. Not to worry! I survived a week of birding in the rain last year at the New River festival, so I can handle this.
Not only birds live at the NWR. A muskrat swam busily about, while some gray snake sunned on a mound of reeds. Look at his head next to that green leaf. Think he'd found any eggs to eat? When we arrived at the hotel, I almost had heart failure. When questioned, the clerk said that in the Vintage Suite you had to plug into the bottom of the phone jack! ACK - I just got a new laptop, and it doesn't even have a dial-up modem!!! I was ready to start calling around town to see if there were any other rooms available, and saw that this place advertises wireless Internet. Call down, take a few deep breaths. Just give it a try, maybe the clerk is clueless. Yes, I picked up the wireless for a good connection. Whew! The week is saved!

1 comment:

Mary Beth said...

Off to a great start with the Owlets. Have a good birding week mom. Can't believe you forgot the scope though....