A trip to Magee Marsh in northern Ohio on Lake Erie is on the bucket list of most birders. Over the years, we’ve occasionally said to one another, “That would be a really fun thing to do someday.” Someday arrived for us in early May.
Ohio was a lovely surprise. As we made our way north from Louisville, we traveled through a peaceful landscape of rolling green hills and bucolic farms.
Cincinnati: Crossing Paths With Family
On our way to the birding festivities, we stopped in Cincinnati for a couple of nights to meet up with Eric’s sister and brother-in-law, who had flown in from San Diego to embark on a Bourbon Cruise. It was a quick visit on a rainy day, but we managed to squeeze in an excursion to the colorful American Sign Museum, had lunch at the excellent Maplewood Kitchen, and enjoyed catching up with each other.
Should you find yourself in Cincinnati, Winton Woods County Campground is beautiful, with several miles of hiking trails. I’m sure there’s a lot more to explore in Cincinnati, but after our Savannah-Charleston-Asheville-Nashville-Louisville extravaganza, we were ready for some non-city time, and Winton Woods was a good place to regroup.
Meeting Up With Our Ohio Birding Buddies
We continued north to meet up with our friends Ed and Diana, fellow bird enthusiasts we met on the trails at Dauphin Island, Alabama a couple of years ago. We shared several days of birding adventures, happy hours, and dinners back in 2016, and they spontaneously decided to caravan with us to New Orleans for the French Quarter Festival for a few days on their way home to Ohio.
Ed and Diana have been to Magee Marsh many times, and seeing their photos and hearing their stories was a big impetus in getting us to Ohio. Plus, we wanted to have the chance to hang out with them again. We spent two nights at their beautiful home north of Columbus and then headed out together for five days at Magee Marsh.
The Biggest Week In American Birding: Magee Marsh
Birding at Magee Marsh is everything we imagined and more. What makes this place so remarkable is not only the vast numbers of birds that pass through, but they’re easy to see and fairly easy to photograph. Warblers are small birds, and most of the time, they’re perched on high branches. There’s a malady called “warbler’s neck” caused by craning one’s neck for hours at a time trying to locate a little bird that you can hear but not see. Speaking from experience, it’s a real thing, and it’s painful.
This Is The Place To See Warblers!
At Magee Marsh, there’s a lot of shrubbery at eye level where the birds tend to hang out. It’s fantastic. Not only that, but the shrubs and trees haven’t yet fully leafed out when the warblers are passing through, offering a relatively unobstructed view. Many avid birders learn to “bird by ear,” which means they recognize birds by their songs, chirps, and tweets. That’s a fine skill to have (and a difficult one to master), but given the choice, I like to see my birds.
Click on any photo for a larger image
If you’re interested in meeting up with fellow birders and participating in field trips, there’s a well-organized festival at Magee Marsh called “The Biggest Week In American Birding” that takes place the first half of May. Because we had our own personal guides (Ed and Eric) we opted to do our own thing. There are many places to bird nearby, and we had a great time exploring, photographing, adding a dozen new birds to our life list, and hanging out with our good friends. We’re already planning a return visit.
A Visit To The Toledo Museum Of Art
Toledo, about 20 miles from Maumee Bay, is a city that has obviously had a rough time. It’s easy to imagine a once thriving downtown. Hit hard by economic downturns, the streets are now lined with empty buildings and vacant store windows.
But there’s the Toledo Museum of Art, with an exquisitely curated collection. It’s considered one of the top museums in the country, for good reason. Founded by Toledo glassmaker Edward Drummond Libbey in 1901, it’s one of the finest art museums we’ve visited in our travels. And it’s free.
About The Campground
Maumee Bay State Park is beautiful. The sites are electric only (which is weird—someplace like the desert southwest, where water is at a premium, makes sense. Ohio, where there’s more than enough water, makes no sense at all).
Fortunately, there are nice bathhouses and plenty of faucets for filling water tanks. Verizon is good, and there are many beautiful trails for biking and hiking. The campground is enormous and all of the sites are roomy, but the cul-de-sac sites are the nicest of all.
Oh, the birds!!!!!! And not so very far from our cottage! We’ll make a try for it in the spring on our way home. Any other thoughts on camping in the area, with full hookups or even just water and electric for us sissies? Great pictures when you see them full sized, thanks.
Sue, you and Dave would love the birds at Magee Marsh, and as you said, it’s right on your way home! Unfortunately, I didn’t pay attention to other places to stay. We loved Maumee Bay SP. I think you would like it there, even without water hookups. There’s a wonderful boardwalk in the park—that’s where we saw the owls. :-)
Beautiful birds and such a wonderful trip you’re on…
Thanks, Bob. It is a wonderful trip, and we love seeing the birds!
You know me and the birding…haha! But…you found so many cute colorful birds which I do enjoy seeing. The screech owls are so adorable especially the female peaking out. What a great find:) The Trumpeter Swan is so pretty. So nice that you were able to see family along the way.
Pam, I know you love the colorful birds even if you don’t care about the rest! There were lots of bright colored little beauties during spring migration when they’re all dressed in their finest feathers. We had fun seeing family along the way and meeting up with friends for our birding adventures.
What a fantastic variety of birds…and about eye level to boot!
Looks like a fantastic time in an area I’ve never visited. I guess that’s one of the positives about moving across country each year–the incredible variety of places you get to pass through! Looks like you had some beautiful sites to stay in as well.
Lisa, you are absolutely right. We’ve often remarked that our need to travel cross-country every year (twice! back and forth!) gets us to places that we otherwise wouldn’t experience. So we’re grateful for that. And grateful that we can move at a reasonably slow pace so that we can enjoy it all along the way.
The birding in Ohio was fabulous! We’re happy we could be there when the warblers were migrating. And the Ohio parks are beautiful.
Always a joy to return to nature after time exploring a city(s). This sounds like the perfect nature experience after your city time, and sharing it with friends makes it even more enjoyable.
Ingrid, we really enjoy our city experiences—and we’re always happy to return to nature. We feel fortunate to have met up with so many kindred spirits in our travels and to be able to share adventures.
You got some great photos. It helps having your own personal guides.
Thanks, Debbie. We had the best guides! :-))
Good to hear from you, Pam. Are you traveling?
I love all of your bird photos, but your featured image is a WOW!!! What a fantastic picture! Also, we are in Bandon at the moment, closely following the “Laurel and Eric guide to Bandon,” and OMG… love it!! The cheese, the chocolate, the cliff side hikes, the Chuck’s smoked teriyaki tuna!!!!! Oh yeah we did! So awesome! Thank you!
Thanks so much Laura—I was delighted to get up-close photos of the warblers, and that Yellow Warbler was REALLY close.
I’m so glad you’re enjoying Bandon. We’ve spent many happy times there—it’s not too far from our hometown of Ashland. Isn’t Chuck’s smoked teriyaki tuna the best?!! You’re welcome! You are so appreciative, I’m happy to share our favorite things with you. :-)
Oh what a treat to see all those little beauties! The pic of all the photographers is hysterical. I can only imagine how the birds tell that story :-)) Personal guides are always the best – both for the information and the good times shared. Nice to catch family along the road too.
Haha, that’s a hilarious thought, Jodee! I never considered how the birdies might view all of the photographers and those gigantic lenses. It’s quite a spectacle—fortunately, people are respectful and well-behaved.
Having lived in Ohio for my first 18 years, I cannot imagine that park in Cincinnati. Is it on the Ohio River? LOVE the picture of you two under the Magee Marsh sign – envy envy envy. The bird photos are beyond words. So many, so colorful, so clear. I’m eating my heart out. Even owls and water fowl. WOW!! No water at Maumee probably because they don’t want to have to deal with so many pipes in winter. I’ve heard really nice things about the park. Your pictures show them to be true. Wonder what time of year might be good to check out more of Ohio’s State Park. They have a Passport America discount thing I’ve heard. So thrilled to see this post. THANK YOU!!
Sherry, I thought about you when we were at Magee Marsh, knowing how much you would love it. It’s remarkable to be so close to the warblers. Thanks for your nice comments about our photos. :-)
Maumee Bay is a beautiful state park, and I totally forgot that they offer a 50% discount from Sunday through Wednesday with Passport America. It’s a great deal! And it was really okay to not have water hookups because the showers are so nice. I think you’re right, that they don’t want to have to deal with freezing pipes in winter.
You Guys Are “Living The Dream”!
We’re having a great time, John, but it would be even better if you and Judy joined us for some adventures. It’s been too long since we traveled together! See you soon in Ashland! :-)
Well I guess if anything is going to ever get us to Ohio, great birding would be it.
Love the photos, especially that one at the very top. WOW!
I think I spotted a rare sighting in one of the pics………Amish birders?
Henry, thanks for your nice comment about our photos—you and Loretta can get close-up photos, too, if you make the trip to Ohio! Seriously, you would love Magee Marsh in the spring. And yes, you’re right—those are Amish birders. Birding is apparently a popular hobby among the Amish.
I am definitely jealous! Wow, I wished I were with you on this birding extravaganza! Since I dont think we will ever be that way again, thank you so much for sharing this little colorful birds. Love all the great photos , especially the featured image, its an OMG!
I was actually waiting for this post :)
Thanks, MonaLiza. I thought about you when we were at Magee Marsh, and I was wishing you were with us! You’re our birding buddy. :-)) You would love so much to be up close with the birds with so many opportunities for photography. We’re going to go back, maybe you should plan to meet us there! It’s worth the trip.
You hit the birding jackpot at Magee Marsh. Your photos are amazing! Our next visit to family may have to be in the spring. Thanks for showing us a piece of Ohio that neither of us knew about.
We did hit the birding jackpot, LuAnn—especially the warbler jackpot. Magee Marsh is known for warblers in spring migration, and we’ve wanted to go there for years. We’re so happy we finally made the trip! Ohio is far more beautiful than either of us realized. Glad you enjoyed the photos. :-)
We all went ice fishing in Maumee Bay. We caught nothing. Really pretty area in the fall though.
Magee Marsh looks so awesome. You photos are gorgeous. What a treat to see so many different birds in one area. We may have to take a trip up that way.
I love the campgrounds. Looks so lovely.
Marsha, I never thought about ice fishing in Ohio! That sounds cold but fun. I’ll bet it’s beautiful in the fall with the leaves changing color. I think you would love it in the spring, too. It’s probably not too far from your home! :-)