Saturday, April 11, 2009

Golden-plovers at Ottawa NWR, scaup concentration at Maumee Bay

The new shallow wetland at the northwest end of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge continues to be productive. From Ohio State Route 2 just a mile southeast of the small village of Bono (or one-half mile south of the entrance to Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area), turn east on Veler Road and drive less than half a mile east to where the road ends at the refuge gate. There’s room to park here (although keep in mind that this space may serve as a school bus turnaround, which could be an issue at certain times of day). From Veler Rd you can look south into the wetland. The light here will be best in the afternoon, or on overcast days. Many of the birds are distant enough that a scope is necessary.

On the afternoon of April 11, the highlight here was three American Golden-Plovers, still in basic (winter) plumage. Also present were Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpipers, and a remarkable total of more than 100 Wilson’s Snipe. Ducks on the wetland included good numbers of Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, and Northern Pintail. Purple Martins (just recently returned) were overhead, along with Barn and Tree Swallows. I heard Sandhill Cranes calling several times from somewhere to the east; didn't see them, but they're worth watching for while birding in this area.

Late in the afternoon of April 11, from the beach at Maumee Bay State Park, I estimated 9,300 scaup out on the lake. I spent a considerable time scoping through this concentration and it was indeed essentially all scaup, with just two Buffleheads mixed in. Studying head shape and bill shape on the closer scaup, and watching wing pattern on more distant flying birds, it was clear that the overwhelming majority of the birds were Lesser Scaup. I identified just seven Greater Scaup. Of course, thousands of the birds were too far away to be called anything but scaup sp., but still I don’t think that Greaters made up more than one or two percent of the flock.

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