Australia’s national parks are actually managed by the states with grant money from the commonwealth. In Victoria a State Park has exactly the same level of protection as a National Park and is governed by the National Parks Act.
In the USA National Parks are Federal affairs while State Parks are run quite independently by the States. American State parks are quite different from Victorian State Parks. You are likely to find a golf course and tennis courts, you can take your dog, there is likely to be a full service camp ground and there may even be a nice hotel.
Maumee Bay boasts all of the above, although the dog can’t stay in the hotel (but there are dog-friendly cabins – prior notification required).
Natural values aren’t totally neglected. There is a boardwalk through marsh and woodland. It extends for a couple of miles and is an excellent way to work up an appetite for breakfast.
Here’s the front end of an Eastern Fox Squirrel …
… although it’s the rear end that earned it its name.
A night walk is sure to turn up a Racoon or three and there are Muskrat present as well.
When the sun is a bit higher turtles might sit out to enjoy the warmth.
There is plenty of bird activity. Red-winged Blackbirds are abundant, woodpeckers are plentiful, there is the odd sparrow. This Heron was intent on finding its breakfast and took no notice of me at all …
Magee Marsh and the surrounding region offer a mix of habitat that is attractive to birds and other wildlife. Throw in the fall migration and the chances are good that a bird watcher from another continent is going to have a very frustrating time trying to identify lots of half seen, hyperactive, totally uncooperative little brown jobs. It’s so much fun.
There’s only one road into Magee Marsh, pity about the spelling, so navigation is pretty easy. The first obvious land mark is the visitor centre. It’s an attractive building set behind a small lake. Adjacent to it is a trail that takes a loop through the woods around some more water ways. The visitor centre didn’t open during the three days we were there and the nature trail desperately needed some pruning. The area wasn’t getting the love it deserved.
Continuing on that single road the woods give way to genuine marsh some of which has been mowed for the benefit of Sandhill Cranes.
And leads to an extensive parking area on the lake shore. Back from the shore there is a boardwalk through the woods again. This is in good condition. So, excellent access, shore birds on the shore, long-legged birds in the marsh, swimming birds on the water and bewilderment on the board walk.
The Warblers are one particular group of American birds that offer excitement and challenge to all. They are migratory, so no matter where you live in the US you are likely to have some pass through your neighbourhood twice a year and if you’re lucky there will be a few that spend a whole season with you. There is a little book by Chris G Early that has advice for the beginner – start with the spring males. Cool, it’s autumn, I’ll come back next spring.
Well no, I’ll put the camera to good use and email the photos to my good friend from St Simon’s Island who is currently living in a motor home in Virginia. It’ll help to keep his mind off what hurricane Irma is doing to his house.
Heading west along the Erie shore the next birding spot is Ottawa National Wildlife refuge, this is more open habitat mainly in the form of shallow ponds.
Further west there is Metzger Marsh, then Maumee Bay State Park and if you keep going a little further there is Pearson Metropark which is mainly forest. Plenty to keep the visitor entertained.
The impressive skyline of Cincinnati welcomed us to the midwest.
You will recall that our departure from Florida coincided with the evacuation brought about by Irma’s impending visit. We were four days on the road. On this fourth day the proportion of Florida number plates finally tailed off. We hadn’t done justice to the states we’d passed through but it was our intention to spend the next few days on the shores of Lake Erie. It was time to get off the Interstate and hit the back roads of Ohio.
Our first stop was Fort Loramie.
It’s a pretty country town. Its heyday was back in the late 1800’s as a canal town. The Miami and Erie Canal made it possible to navigate from the Ohio River at Cincinnati to Lake Erie at Toledo. Almost 250 miles (400km) long, it boasted 19 aqueducts and 106 locks. Loramie is situated at its highest point 512 feet (156m) above the Ohio River. It was open end to end from 1827 until the new fangled railway put it out of business in the early 1900’s.
The Ohio countryside is fairly flat, open agricultural land dotted with big barns that hint at severe winters.
We stopped for a little birding at nearby Lake Loramie. Bird watchers do tend to be somewhat obsessive and Gayle is no exception. Tattooed down her side are the names of all the birds that she has seen and I have not. In Georgia she caught up with the Black-and-white Warbler and I did not. Fortunately we hadn’t passed a tattoo parlour en route.
The fall migration was just getting underway. At the lake we caught up with a few warblers including this little guy. It’s not a prizewinning photo but gee it was a sweet moment …
Our destination that day was Maumee Bay State Park. Where there is an almost luxurious hotel conveniently close to the world famous birding spot, Magee Marsh.