My recent trip to Ohio was nothing less than revelatory for me. Not only did I have an incredible time at the 2009 Midwest Birding Symposium but I also gained a new appreciation for the natural beauty of the Buckeye State. The biggest surprise in terms of the latter was definitely Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge; who knew that northwest Ohio was so sweet for shorebirds?
Everything about Ottawa NWR is gorgeous, from its opulent visitor center to its vast holdings of varied habitat. We, and by we I mean me, Birdchick, and our friend Hugo Haroldo Enríquez Toledo, were fortunate enough to receive an exclusive invite to observe shorebird banding in an otherwise off-limits parcel of the refuge. I was thrilled to run into a mixed flock of birders I have a lot of respect for like Alvaro Jaramillo, Paul Baicich, Wayne Petersen, Arthur Morris and a whole host of guides. However, the real stars of this show were the two Toms managing the banding station and the shorebirds themselves. While herons, egrets, and eagles soared overhead, Tom and Tom collected birds from the nets, bagged them, measured them, banded them, and realeased them before our amazed eyes. No doubt, the Wison’s Snipe, Semipalmated Plover, and Least, Semipalmated, and Pectoral Sandpipers processed while we attended appreciated their hosts’ gentleness and solicitude.
Accompanying Tom Bartlett to empty the nets offered the opportunity to scope out more of the refuge while spotting flocks of Canada Geese and mixed ducks, mostly Mallards, American Black Ducks, and Green-winged Teal. We also encountered Stilt Sandpipers, both yellowlegs, and more snipe than I’ve ever seen in my life. Best of all, I identified my life Buff-bellied Sandpiper. Still, I learned the most back at the banding station:
The namesake semipalmations of a Semipalmated Plover
ID these two peep lookalikes
A pec sand in the hand is worth two in the bush
See how flexible is the snipe’s bill
All in all, I had an awesome morning and can’t believe I’m looking forward to returning to Ohio. If you’re passing through upper Ohio, invest a few hours in Ottawa NWR. If you’re interested in further analysis of how cool shorebird banding can be at Ottawa NWR, Birdchick has much to share on the topic.