September 24, 2022: Homecoming

Important background: Growing up here, I was clueless that the area all around my hometown was a birding mecca! Like any typical teen, I was more interested in friends, fun, and the three sports I was involved in. Even had someone invited me to the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, I would have rolled my eyes. Fast forward thirty years, and I hear other birders speak dreamily of the Biggest Week in American Birding. They are talking about my stomping ground!

Today, I ventured out to Sheldon’s Marsh Nature Preserve, a 472-acre wooded area right on Lake Erie that is said to attract around 300 species. I arrived at 7:15, just as the sun came up, and made my way up a grassy walkway to a small pond not far from the parking lot. I knew before I arrived that this area is well-known for migrating warblers, but I assumed I was a bit late in the migration process. As I neared the pond, I became surrounded with so much bird activity that I was a bit stunned! There were some of the usual customers-cardinals, blue jays, but I also immediately spotted multiple warbler-shaped birds, flashes of yellow, and the occasional wingbar. My camerawoman Dixie was not along, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to do this experience justice, but I did my best! I snapped some photos with her hand-me-down camera and moved on up the walkway, onto the paved area, and toward the marsh area.

Along the marsh, I spotted tundra swans with two colts (babies), great egrets, and wood ducks galore! All along the paved walkway. Little birds–warblers? Kinglets? flitted in the bushes all along in the brush. Overhead, Canadian geese in large v-formations honked noisily by. Something large-a juvenile bald eagle, as it later turned out-dropped its shadow on me as it flew over.

It was magical couple of hours. The path was a tree-lined tunnel decorated in the reds and oranges of fall. As I walked along, I reflected on how special this place is, and how my memory of my hometown has changed as I’ve rediscovered these special outdoor spaces. You can come home again, especially if you go there with fresh eyes.

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