On all of our drives between Toledo and Sandusky, we passed by the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge numerous times, and we kept telling ourselves we needed to stop by and check it out. Last weekend, we had a cooler day on Saturday – a perfect day to take the top down on the Jeep and go for a drive.
This wildlife refuge is pretty much the northern version of the Santee NWR, where we volunteered last fall – it’s the summer home for ducks, geese, and other migrating waterfowl. On the weekends, there’s a 7 mile wildlife loop that’s open, allowing the public to drive into the water management areas of the refuge.
We stopped in the Visitor Center first,
to look around at the displays, talk to the volunteers, and get our “blue goose” stamp in our NWR passport book. The Visitor Center is really beautiful – even nicer than the one at Santee, and I thought that one was really nice!
There were several nice displays – a hunting lodge,
a muskrat house,
and an amazing duck display!
From the upper level, you could look out at the gardens and the boardwalk behind the Visitor Center,
and also down at the Volunteers’ Desk in the main area of the VC.
We stopped to talk to the volunteers for a few minutes – compared notes on our experiences volunteering in Wildlife Refuges (they volunteer at Waccamaw NWR, which is at the other end of the Francis Marion Forest from Santee NWR in South Carolina), and he gave us some tips on wildlife to look for as we explored the refuge.
Before setting out on the wildlife drive, we took a walk along the boardwalk and around the pond.
Armed with a map labeled with the location of several bald eagle nests and additional tips for spotting wildlife, we set out on the wildlife drive.
We drove past wildflower meadows, cornfields, and along the banks of Crane Creek.
We saw a few Great egrets,
and located the volunteers’ campsites (nice!),
but I didn’t see even one bald eagle, and never even spotted any of the nests!
The lily pads were in full bloom, though,
and we came around a corner and spotted a Trumpeter Swan with three babies.
She attempted to hide from us in the tall reeds,
and then just led them away.
They’re quick swimmers!
We left them alone and finished the wildlife drive, then headed over to the hiking trails, where the volunteer had told us we might find a whole group (flock?) of trumpeter swans.
We starting walking along the side of the canal, and we could see something out there in the distance.
As we got further along the trail, we could see that it was a group of swans hanging out between the canal and the lake.
There were a few in the water, too,
and more going in as we got closer.
We got fairly close without creating a disturbance, but this guy was flapping his wings and showing off his feathers. They sure are large birds!
We weren’t quite brave enough to walk through the group, so we turned around and headed back to the Jeep.
We got a nice view of Davis-Besse in the distance,
and spotted another Great Blue Heron.
Our last stop for the day was at the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area.
The Visitor Center was closed already, so we drove straight down to the beach trail. There is a huge parking lot at the beach, but apparently it’s not for beachgoers . . .
We walked along the beach, along with several others who were searching in the rocks along the shore.
Tom asked one couple what they were looking for . . . sea glass. We had a couple days of strong winds and big surf, and it had turned up lots of new treasures on the beach.
I found a piece of blue sea glass, which this couple told us was quite rare, and a really good find! I may have to make it into a necklace . . .
It was a really nice day, and we enjoyed our explorations of the wildlife refuge.