Warblers & Wine in Ohio? 

My next week of travel was Presque Isle, Erie, PA along Lake Erie’s coastline to the northwest corner of Ohio. Warblers migrate through the northwest area of Ohio during a particular time of year; however, I could not coordinate my time to be there when it was to happen. So I thought it best to scout the area now for next year’s travel through this area. I will then know best places to bird, to camp, get food, and whatever else I stumble across during my scouting. What I also discovered east of Cleveland, Ohio is wine country near Madison!

My scouting report:

The Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge protects what remains of the Great Black Swamp/marshes of Lake Erie. There is an auto drive loop, but was closed the day I was there. I will return next year.

Side Cut Metro Park in Maumee provided me with great birding on a 2.2 mile loop which paralleled the Maumee River on one half of the walk. Will definitely return here.

Well kept trail!

Wildwood Preserve Metropark has a beautiful mansion and gardens one can tour. There is plenty of hiking and bicycling activity, not great birding. My next visit here would be to cycle.

W.W. Knight Preserve has a nice short hike one can take by a pond and through a forest. I liked the quiet area. I will stop by here again.

Boardwalk along a pond and then into a forested area.

Metzger Marsh has a quick one mile drive in and a trail off the parking lot. It’s an easy way to observe birds from your car.

Magee Marsh has an auto drive of a couple of miles, but most people seemed to enjoy walking the boardwalk. I understand this area can be quite busy when the warblers migrate through the area. I will visit again.

Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve has an interesting history of being constructed with old barge/container ships. Nice trail and even deer where in the area. I will visit again.

Headlands Nature Preserve was recommended to me. The preserve is located next door to Morton Salt Co. There was interesting information about sand dune formation, the piping plover protected nesting area, and the Buckeye Trail (more about that another time). I will definitely stop here again.

About the wineries:

Growing grapes just north of the Grand River in the Madison, Ohio area is where you can find about 25 wineries. The soil from the long ago glacial activity left the best soil for grape-growing and thus vineyards are here.

Debonné Winery had good food and wine. I had a meal and glass of wine. I especially liked the Double Wing Brewing Co. beer. Entertainment happens on weekends. This was a Harvest Host location for my night’s stay and I would return here.

Paper Moon Vineyards had good food and wine. I had a meal and a glass of wine. Their Harvest Blend definitely had Concord grapes in that wine! Entertainment happens here too. This was a Harvest Host location for my night’s stay and I would return here.

Silver Crest Winery had good wine and I could bring in my hummus and crackers. I did a wine tasting of 5 different wines and had a glass of wine with my food. This was a Harvest Host location for my night’s stay and I would return here.

My other nights I stayed at Kampgrounds of America. Staying at the wineries though was a nice change of pace and especially fun ending my day, relaxed with a meal and glass of wine! The birding will be fun next year if I can catch the warblers during their migration; the wineries will be there whenever I come through!

A surprise was my stop in Vermilion, Ohio. This little town has a Main Street Stormwater Improvement Project and care is being taken of their lighthouse. Here is how I ended one of may days … in beauty …

Thank You My New York Friends!

Each day I find places to bird watch and/or visit, then move on to another state as my goal is to eventually arrive and visit family and friend in NY/PA area. Here were 5 days of travel with my goal of a daily bird checklist into eBird plus arriving to visit my friends and family:

A day

Walked Savannah, Georgia

Bird-watched at Tom Triplett Community Park in Pooler, Georgia

Harvest Host camping tonight

Next day

Bird watched at Caw Caw Interpretive Center in Ravenel, South Carolina

Walked Charleston, South Carolina and a delicious dinner at Henry’s-on-the-Market

Kampgrounds of America camping tonight

Next day:

Bird-watched at Wing’s Haven in Charlotte, North Carolina

Bird-watched at Ribbon Walk Nature Preserve also in Charlotte, North Carolina

Kampgrounds of America camping tonight

Next day:

Bird-watched at KOA I just stayed at.

Bird-watched at Virginia rest area when the rain stopped! Met Upper Peninsula Michigan person. (More to this story.)

Kampgrounds of America camping tonight & birded here too

Next day:

Bird-watched at a West Virginia rest area. Will it stop raining?

Hotel night!

Finally arrived to visit friends in New York State!!!  Wonderful to see friends not seen in a year. (A very real disadvantage my living on the other side of the USA, despite my love of where I currently live with my partner.) My friends did visit more birding places with me:

Chris and I hiked at Lime Hollow Nature Center, enjoyed lunch in Cortland, and relaxed at Summerhill Brewery for a beer! Great day with a friend!

Hike and a beer, who could ask for more with a friend?

On my way to visit other friends, I stopped at Fuertes Bird Sanctuary and hiked the Renwick Woods Trail in Ithaca, NY. Whoa …. windy day with tree branches breaking, falling and crashing! Yikes!! I literally saw it happen 2 times! On my way off the trail, I started talking with a young man only to discover he was a past Cincinnatus, NY student of mine while I was the junior-senior high principal there! Karl and I had a great conversation catching up on old times and to hear how he is doing now. Unfortunately I also heard of the death of a friend/colleague I had known from that school district. Life really is to short …  let’s live it now while we have one!

With my other NY friend, Sheila and I walked a trail at Bell Station Preserve, Lansing, New York, hoping to photograph wildflowers. She does fantastic drawings of flowers and needed good photographs to work from for her drawings. We may have been a week ahead of the real bloom …. she’ll be back to photograph more flowers and to great scientific illustrations of them!


After Harvest Host locations and talking with strangers, it was wonderful to talk with friends … people who have remained friends even with the distance between us. They each know me so well. This trip has many emotions wrapped within me and only my friends know the extent of those emotions. I was grateful to share time, thoughts and feelings with them. There is a safe place when with friends. A time to truly share deep emotions, some that often have bubbled within me at times and with no one to share them with … so visiting with these friends had been wonderful. In 4 weeks time, I will be heading home and appreciate knowing these friends are here for me if I need time to vent, be sad, share, or be with whatever emotion needs to be happening at that time. For now, I can appreciate them as the very good friends they have always been for me. Many, many thanks to my friends! Aren’t we so lucky to have good friends in our lives? I am very fortunate and can only hope they know how important they are to me. Thank you my friends.

It’s Okay To Pivot From Your Travel Plan

Where was I, when someone recommended I visit Florida’s St Mark’s Wildlife Refuge if I was in the panhandle area? As it was, I would be! An easy right hand turn and slightly more than an hour drive, a slight deviation from my plan. Wow, I could have spent days at this refuge; it was great recommendation. That’s really not hard to imagine since I can spend hours at a highway rest stop! That is what birding has done to me!

Fortunately while at the refuge, I beat the rain which did come as a downpour a few hours after my arrival. Until then I could walk some trails, stop along the refuge road and look for any interesting birds. Two new birds are added to my bird life list: semi-palmated plover and brown-headed nuthatch. (I am still trying to get a photo of that nuthatch.)

Semi-palmated plover

At another point on this trip while driving a Georgian blue highway before connecting to an interstate, I saw a Nature Conservancy sign at Altama Plantation Wildlife Management Area. As a supporter of Nature Conservancy since 1980, I stopped at this location. After a mile, one lane, drive in …. onto the road’s shoulder as 2 other cars were leaving … there is a registration box. It looked like a good place to hike.  Unfortunately I had little time and no land pass permitting me to visit here this day, plus I was not sure if it was deer, turkey, small game or waterfowl hunting season. (Note to self: add it to a future visit list.)

And then there was a turn I took to South Carolina’s oldest Angel Oak Tree. I was pleasantly surprised to see the number of people visiting this almost 1,000 year old oak tree! The tree is huge … 60 feet in height with its thick branches stretching every which way. I include a photo with some people in it so you can get a sense of its size. (Look closely to see the people.)

Angle Oak Tree in Charleston, South Carolina

Sometimes a turn is a necessary one, such as when needing to use a toilet. I stopped at a rest area in Virginia and spent a couple of hours bird watching. The highway traffic noise overwhelmed some of the bird songs, but there were quite a few birds to see. I had my 200 – 500 mm lens on my camera and all on a tripod since the birds were loving the tall deciduous trees. To other people stopping at this rest area it was obvious what I was doing. I had a conversation with a man from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We talked about birds, Merlin Bird ID app, and my interest in getting to that area of Michigan some time. About an hour later I returned to my van and I saw a note tucked at the van window. The Michigan people provided their name and phone number and wrote, “call if you happen to be in the area” visiting the refuge he mentioned. Very kind! I’ll see if that travel can fit into my plan. So many places to go!

A nice note was left for me!

Finally, it was not my plan to write this blog post now because I should be on the road and arriving at my campsite in an hour or so. However, Google maps … my co-pilot has informed me there is a car accident ahead and slowing us all for at least one hour 3 minutes. The last time I was slowed due to an accident … actually the last one was yesterday, a tractor truck trailer accident … fortunately my exit was before the crash site so I only had a half hour delay. The week prior, a RV pulling a car was disabled in a tunnel and that was more than an hour delay. What did I learn about all of this? If a rest area is available, stop there and not creep along in the delayed traffic! It also reinforces the importance of always have plenty gas or EV in your car!

Tunnel view as I watched emergency vehicles help.

The latest: the traffic is now backed up all the way from crash site to this rest area, so I guess I am staying here for a longer period of time or at least till this traffic starts moving again. Thankfully I can be flexible!

My Travel Adventure to the East Coast Begins!

My eastward van travel from Arizona to New York will be unlike last year’s trip. No freezing Colorado or Nebraska nights for me! Although seeing the sandhill cranes come to roost at night and take off in the morning in Nebraska was spectacular! Part one during this travel: discover what birds I can along the coastal waters of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida. I also decided to stay at Harvest Host locations … since I spent money for that annual membership … and really wanted to determine if it was a good option beyond KOA campgrounds.

Well the cold weather began my first night in Las Cruces, New Mexico, but with my winter sleeping bag I was fine! My favorite breakfast place is The Shed Restaurant in town. It was wonderful talking with the waitress I met on past visits. There is something to be said when we can connect with people time and time again across the USA as one travels. I again visited South Llano River Park in Junction, Texas while on my way to San Antonio. Besides viewing birds I saw my first live armadillo!

I loved the warm weather in San Antonio, Texas and a return visit to birdwatch at Mitchell Lake. While at this location a woman told me about Crescent Bend Nature Center just about a half hour away. Of course, I went there too. Next time I will make time to bicycle the gravel paths at this place.

A big surprise was meeting a family I had met at the San Antonio KOA last November. With a glass of wine and good conversation, we caught up with each other and how life has been treating us. It truly is a not small world, but simply amazing when your path crosses with another when hundreds of miles from each ones home! Rain always threatened, but I decided I brought my bicycle to ride so I hopped on it for a quick ride before rain and leaving San Antonio. One new bird: cave swallow, yet no good photo. They flew too fast for me to even take a photo.

South Llano River Park photos:

Black-chinned hummingbird
Armadillo… quite an interesting look!

Mitchell Lake, San Antonio, Texas bird photo:

Black-necked stilt

At Crescent Bend Nature Center, this northern cardinal spent many minutes looking at the window and the side mirror of the car belonging to a couple of woman who were relaxing at the park. We were amazed at the amount of time it spent there.

Northern cardinal

Finally, 2 black vultures preening each other:

Point Loma Tide Pools, California

I live in land-locked Arizona, so getting to the Pacific Ocean a few times a year is great travel fun for me. I’ve written about various California places, but walking at low tide at the intertidal pools within Cabrillo National Monument is worth a visit. Time to visit the Point Loma Tide Pools in the San Diego area!

Be sure to know when the tides are during your visit. You do not want to be caught in high tide when the water is just over 7 feet in depth. If you are looking for sea anemones, crabs and other living things it is best to be here at low tide. At this location there are 2 high and 2 low tides most days. Google it or ask a ranger the tide schedule.

I love checking out the pools of water and seeing living things there or in the cliff’s edge. See the crabs in the photo below? And look at all the life clinging to the cliffside!

Once again we see the power of water as these smaller pools were made.

Many people visit these pools, so plan your arrival as early as you can. Cabrillo National Monument which is where this place is, opens at 9am each day. I have been here other times and found the parking lot closed due to it being full. Of course there is plenty of other spots to stop at this national monument so consider doing that too. Of course, I was happy to get a good photo of a snowy egret flying by!

San Diego Visit: Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

When in California’s San Diego area, stop by Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. You can easily walk this park above the ocean water on the cliff, where signs will remind you of cliffs possibly being unstable, and/or hike down a steep set of metal steps to the ocean’s water. (Connected to and north of the park is Sunset Cliffs Coastal Trail, also worth visiting as I did, but this post is about Sunset Cliffs Natural Park.)

I walked around the park to observe the beautiful views across the ocean and also see the local plants and birds. Many walkers, runners and visitors were at the park.

Then I hiked down the steps to be at the ocean’s water. It is fascinating to see the result of years of water’s erosion of the cliffside and the tunnels that were created. Water is a powerful force of nature! We often forget this fact until we are reminded when seeing the effects of flooding with people, cars and/or homes carried away or cliff erosion and a RV going over a cliff. I was at the stairway’s mid-point when I took the two photos so you have a sense of the steps. Take your time and you’ll be fine walking the steps.

Great fun to listen to the water, walk on the rocks and enjoy the day! Check out this park if you are in the area!

My Van … Simple Travel.

I often camp at Kampgrounds of America (KOA) locations due to the clean restrooms, security, and the fact there are many locations around the USA where I can easily book a site. Each night I walk around the campground to stretch my legs and talk with fellow campers. I continue to be amazed on the size and variety of vehicles people use for their travel. My van is puny compared to some of the other travel vehicles. That’s okay though. My van allows me to travel and live simply.

See my white van in the middle of all?

Conversations are often about the fact I have no additional air-conditioning or heating unit and that the van is a short length. Well for one person it is large enough! If it gets too cold or hot in a place, then it would be time for me to move on anyway, right? Or get snuggled in my down sleeping bag or have a breeze blowing though the van screens.

The luxury of moving on is always available. As a matter of fact, I rarely leave items at the campsite even when I plan to be there for a few days. This worked to my advantage one time while in Barstow, California. It was so hot, over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, that I decided to take a drive and run the AC so I could cool off. While realizing the temperature was never going to be low enough to sleep comfortably in the van and I was not going to set up my tent since it still would be too hot, I decided to lose my campground cost, drive elsewhere, and get a hotel stay. I hope that does not happen often, but the flexibility I had made it all easy to accomplish.

Life and travel goes on in my van!

Brown Pelican … in Action!

Bird photography has its challenges! I set myself in a place to capture a photo as a bird flies into the wind and hopefully towards me and within reach of my camera lens. While on Southern California’s Pacific Ocean, I saw a number of brown pelicans and thought this was a good bird to photograph.

All set up to capture the brown pelican flying towards me.

Then before I knew it, the bird must have seen some fish just below the water’s surface and dove into the water! It’s head was well underwater!

I was originally looking at the bird’s breeding plumage and large bill and pouch, but then was holding my breath as it plunged underwater! The bird feeds on small fish and I could only hope it would be successful.

Back to the surface!

Once back on the surface, it looked like the brown pelican was running across the water. Check out the photos and see what you think. I loved seeing and photographing this bird!

Love Multi-Use Trails!

Loving the outdoors may bring you to it by a neighborhood walk or a drive to a local park. More and more, you will discover trails are available for all of us to use at the same time. These multi-use trails allow hikers, runners, cyclists, snowshoers and horseback riders to be on a trail to enjoy the outdoors.

Need an app listing trails in your area or wondering what trails to visit while in a new area? Check out the All Trails app and you’ll discover there are many places to be outdoors. Go ahead and have some fun!

Because We Need Each Other

Various charities in the USA receive my donations. I support programs helping young people have proper nutrition and a good education. A community with clean water and healthcare is important and not everyone in our country has all that available to them. Where I can, I do donate.

Recently I decided to sponsor a young person in Ethiopia, Africa. The nine year old girl I am sponsoring has needs as many here in the USA: proper nutrition, clean water, healthcare and education. I am sponsoring this young girl through Child Fund.

Past years of traveling allowed me to make donations and visits to schools across the world. I have stopped in at schools in Peru, Nepal, Africa and Costa Rica and sent packages to them when I returned home. Since the pandemic my international travel has been paused, so I decided to sponsor a child elsewhere in the world outside of the USA. Child Fund is the organization I donate to with the opportunity to write and get to know the young person I am sponsoring.

Providing help to those in our backyard and across the world is important to me. Human beings vary in their struggles and where it is possible to provide help I try to do so. I appreciate organizations such as Child Fund International. If you are looking for a way to help around the world, check out Child Fund. If you are looking to help in your own backyard, then consider Feeding America or a local Habitat for Humanity.

We need each other on this planet of ours and you can do a part in helping another person by easily donating to some great programs already on the ground helping around the USA and world. Thanks for your help!