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.
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, but hit hard by economic downturns, the streets are 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.