Birdwatching Notes - Sat, Apr 27, 2019

In the late afternoon and early evening, we visited:

Weather: windy, drizzly, chilly.

We needed to dress warmer, again. After all of these years, it's hard to believe that I still get burned like this when birdwatching along the lakeshore.

The strong winds ripped from the west-southwest, not off the lake. Maybe a front moved through or something, causing the temps to drop throughout the afternoon and early evening.

I wore wool socks, wool sweater, my crocheted wool scarf, cotton gloves, ball cap, hooded sweatshirt jacket, and regular jeans. I needed to wear my heavier, flannel-lined jeans and my crocheted wool beanie hat.

We went out because Deb saw a report of American Avocets being reported in the new private wetland that now exists along Krauss Rd. That wetland did not exist last year.

The photo showed 5 to 7 avocets. When we arrived around 5:10 to 5:15 p.m., I spotted avocets, but Deb could not see them because of the dike or mound of dirt that existed along the edge of the dug-out wet area. I saw around 7 or 8 avocets.

We stood on the edge of the car, and Deb could see the avocets. I saw more, totaling 11.

All 11 American Avocets were in their beautiful breeding plumage. It's a large, striking shorebird.

Most of the avocets were lined up, east to west, resting. A couple moved around. Mixed in among the avocets were a bulking, large-ish, grey shorebird with a stout black bill. We bother wondered if these other shorebirds were Willets, since a Willet was spotted today on the inland beach at Maumee Bay State Park.

I counted 5 of these large, grey shorebirds. The birds were out kind of far. Thankfully, these are large shorebirds. Our views were still nice, since the avocets were in breeding plumage.

This was the most avocets that I have seen at one time. It has been several years, I thin, since I have seen an avocet.

While watching the birds through binoculars, two more of the large grey birds flew in and landed. Since I could see their wingspan, the mystery was easily solved. They were Willets.

Willets look spectacular in flight with their bold black and white wing patterns.

Another Willet strolled into the area. It's possible that more birds were flying in as the daylight waned.

The count was 11 American Avocets and 8 Willets. At least that's what we could see. Maybe more existed, but their views were blocked by the long mound of dirt.

At one point, all of the avocets and Willets lifted up a short distance, moved a little to the west and landed again. All of the birds looked great in that short flight, especially the Willets.

But when the birds landed, their views became mostly blocked by the mound of dirt. I could see mainly the heads of a handful of avocets. We decided to move on from Krauss Rd at 5:40 to 5:45 p.m.

While watching the avocets and willets, 7 Sandhill Cranes flew in and around the area, low. The cranes landed in a field south of Krauss Rd and north of the east-west stretch of Route 2. Then later, two more Sandhill Cranes flew in and around for a bit, low again, finally landing in a field near the south edge of Krauss Rd. These two cranes landed next to a lone Sandhill Crane. This landing location was different than where the first 7 landed. I'm guessing that the lone crane was not a part of the group of 7. If true, then 10 Sandhill Cranes existed along Krauss Rd.

The private wetland exists along the north side of Krauss Rd. Our car faced west on Krauss Rd. We stood along the edge of the car on the driver's side, which allowed us to lean against the top of the car. The strong winds pushed the car doors against us, pinning us secure against the car. We needed a step ladder to view the birds when they made their little movement.

Our next stop was Howard Marsh. But as we drove north on the north-south section of Route 2, an Osprey flew in from the east, and a Bald Eagle trailed below the Osprey. The eagle caught up to the Osprey, which dropped whatever it was carrying, and the eagle snatched the item as it fell. It was an impressive sighting that occurred ahead of us over or near Route 2. Bald Eagles and Ospreys do not get along.

We heard that an easy-to-see, lone American Avocet existed at Howard Marsh. We drove the length of the driving area, but we didn't see the avocet.

Around 6:00 p.m., we stopped by the bathrooms because two Horned Grebes foraged in the water by the boat ramp. Last week, we saw three Horned Grebes in the exact same location. Today, one of the Horned Grebes was in full breeding plumage while the other contained a mix of winter and breeding plumage. Transitioning.

While watching the Horned Grebes, we saw 8 White Pelicans fly around in the northwest, probably over Metzger Marsh. A group of White Pelicans flying around is one of my favorite sightings.

At 6:00 p.m., the winds were still strong. Rain began falling around. We got lucky to avoid the rain while watching the birds along Krauss Rd. The car thermometer showed outdoor temp to be 45 degrees at 6:00 p.m.

The Howard Marsh boat ramp is located at the north side of the restrooms. The Osprey tower is located northeast of this spot.

Three Osprey hung around the tower. One perched on the tower while two others flew about.

Standing at the north side of the Howard Marsh restrooms and looking northwest, north, and northeast over the marsh provided views of an amazing amount bird activity. Hundreds of swallows foraged low over the marsh. Caspian Terns hovered as they hunted for food in the water. Cormorants, gulls, terns, Canada Geese, egrets, ducks, shorebirds, and more flew around and foraged in the water.

We saw some ducks at Howard Marsh, including Lesser Scaup, Blue-winged Teal, Ruddy Ducks, and Bufflehead. At the Krauss Rd private wetland, it appeared that Green-winged Teal were in the water, but it was a long distant sighting in poor light.

On our drive back out of Howard Marsh, we were stopped looking through the blackbirds for a possible Yellow-headed Blackbird when a vehicle of birdwatchers asked if we saw the avocet. The Howard Marsh American Avocet was located directly out from us. It was distant, but the bird was easily viewable. It foraged in deep water up to its belly. Female Bufflehead ducks swam near it. The avocet wore its breeding plumage colors. Good looks at the bird even for my six-power binoculars.

After Howard Marsh, Deb wanted to see a Snowy Egret. We went looking. We drove around at ONWR, but we did not see any. Hardly any egrets existed. The water was high everywhere again, probably due to more recent rainfall, a day or two ago.

We drove the Magee Marsh causeway, but we didn't see any egrets. Again, the water along the causeway was much higher than normal.

We stopped at the Magee Marsh boardwalk west entrance at 7:00 p.m. Only one other vehicle existed in the entire boardwalk area parking lot. That vehicle left, leaving only us. Strange. A week from now, assuming that the weather is better, the parking lot will much more crowded at 7:00 p.m. as the Biggest Week in American Birding festival will be underway.

I strolled on the boardwalk to the small loop while Deb waited in the car. At this point at 7:00 p.m., the wind had died down. I noticed little to no wind on the boardwalk.

During my brief boardwalk visit, I saw a handful of Hermit Thrushes, heard a Yellow-rumped Warbler sing, and that was about it for migrating birds. It's odd to see the boardwalk so empty of migratory songbirds on April 27. I'm sure others existed, but it was tough viewing conditions with the drizzle and especially the low light.

After leaving Magee Marsh, we went back to Howard Marsh because Deb read that someone spotted a Yellow-headed Blackbird on the vegetation out in the marsh, near where the avocet was seen.

We arrived at Howard Marsh and searched the very distant blackbirds, perched on the reeds or cattails. They all appeared to be Red-winged Blackbirds. This was scope country. We needed a spotting scope to scan the marsh. The light was quite low because of the dense, low cloud cover and light rain. We looked north. We needed the sun at our back.

Since the Yellow-headed Blackbird was reported to be perched in vegetation away from other birds, and since the person who reported the sighting on Saturday afternoon said that the bird called at times, then it's possible that this Yellow-headed Blackbird might attempt to nest. We have a chance to see it this week or later.

While at Howard Marsh, another birdwatcher stopped and said that over 20 American Avocets were seen at the Krauss Rd private wetland. These were seen after we left. Either more landed, or they moved out away from the mound of dirt, making them more visible.

We left Howard Marsh around 8:00 p.m. for home.

Our highlights from late this afternoon and early this evening include:

April 27, and our excellent birdwatching was not done on the Magee Marsh boardwalk. In fact, Howard Marsh opened to the public about a year ago this time, and the Krauss Rd private wetland did not exist a year ago.

Speaking of Magee Marsh and high water, as we drove past the BSBO after exiting Route 2, I noticed a lot of water among the shrubs and up to the age of the Magee Marsh road. I told Deb that I don't remember ever seeing water this high.

Between the BSBO and the Sportsmen's Center, a low area exists in the road, along the pond. In recent weeks, the water has come to the edge of the road. Last week, I think, the some water spilled over onto the road in a couple spots, making puddles.

But today, several construction barrels were placed along the edge of the road, warning motorists where the edge of the road existed. The road was completely submerged under water. The road was not closed. I could see the double-yellow center lines. We drove through the water that was a few inches deep. That was definitely a first. I never saw that before.

Interesting weather once again. Thanks to Howard Marsh and the new Krauss Rd wetland, good birdwatching still occurred.

We don't own a spotting scope. Most of my birdwatching occurs in the Toledo area. Since we rarely have good habitat for a long period that supports shorebirds, I resisted buying a spotting scope. But the ducks AND the shorebird activity at new Howard Marsh has made us considering buying a spotting scope.

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