Saturday, September 30, 2006

Ohio, Lake Erie shore sites

I drove from Brother Chris' to Minerva Ohio, and stayed with my Uncle Steve. My Grandmother at 102 is in a local nursing home, and I wanted to see her as well, also a long lost cousin Vicki, Steve's daughter. The next morning after another brief visit to the home, I headed on west to the far end of Lake Erie, just south-east of Toledo. There are several sites along the lakeshore worth visiting. I started with Maumee Bay State Park, which has an excellent boardwalk, over a mile of wetland walking through varied habitat. It wasn't very birdy there, being well past noon. There's a nature center there as well, and I got directions to an area called Crane Creek, an undeveloped State Park and consrvation area, which had been mentioned by another birder I met on the boardwalk.

Turns out it's one of the premier birding areas on the northern border of the US. The geography thet generates that distinction is its location opposite Point Pelee in Ontario. Southbound migrants especially funnel to the point, and then crossing the lake by the shortest path come ashore in the area between the state park and Crane Creek, which also includes Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. Although I didn't stop there on this trip, I once walked miles of levees and had a wonderful time. The three sites together could keep a person entertained for a week easily during either migration, with camping or a lodge at Maumee Bay.

So it's getting later in the afternoon and I start down the boardwalk at Crane Creek. Met several birders, and I had the atomic bird calling device, so turned it on. Within minutes I was seeing over half a dozen warblers and other passerines. Very satisfying. I tried it at several other likely looking palces along the walk, and didn't check it all out, since I was reluctant to linger having still to get to some camping. In about three hours of non-prime-time, it was still possible to add nine species to the Ohio list. I ended the trip with a stop at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, which has a bookstore and information center near the entrance to Crane Creek. Highly recommended, very nice and knowledgeable folks.

Then I had to drag through rush hour in Toledo, with lots of road repair, to get to Sterling State Park in Michigan, maybe 30 miles north and on a small island on the western end of the lake. Very intensely developed, mostly a a parking lot with some grass for a campground. Most folks seemed to be there to launch boats into the lake. Expensive too, almost $30 for a night, probably the most I've ever paid to park and sleep in the campershell. But it turned out to have some pretty good birding, especially along one grassy field where I'd gone to look for an Osprey nest. Found several warblers, the Osprey, ducks and waders also. I birded there before sundown, and again early the next morning before heading north.


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