I took the auto tour on Saturday. Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge is a fantastic place full of multiple habitats: Mud flats, deep ditches, vast expanses of deeper water, marshes, swamp...
The auto tour is my favorite part of the area because you can go at your own pace, and birding from a car is easy on the feet.
At one point, I had stopped (it's easy to find an 'exciting' bird, because a bunch of cars will be stopped and everyone will be out of their car, looking in the same direction). I noticed large, dark birds circling above. Vultures are around, but not like here. A large dark bird is worth checking out.
There were three birds:
1. The first one was obviously an immature bald eagle; Wings held totally flat. dark overall with lighter splotchiness.
2. The second one was too high up to tell anything.
3. The third one was holding its wings in a very shallow dihedral (a "V") and the plumage was all dark brown. It turned into the sun and I saw a golden gleam across the head and nape.
Oh my God. A Golden Eagle.
I stood there in disbelief for a minute. Golden eagles are hard to come by in Ohio. But I got my validation when the carload of people just down from me started yelping....I heard one woman say, "That looks like a Golden to ME!"
I grabbed my cell phone and left a probably maniacal message for Kathi.
I couldn't get a clear picture of it, so I just watched it until it was gone. Grinning like a fool, I got back in the car and moved on. As I turned a corner, I saw the second bird swoop low enough to ID it...an adult Bald Eagle. Whoot.
I came across another car stopped, and I got out to see what they were looking at. It was the "swarm" of dunlins. I asked them if they had seen the Golden.
This guy said, rather snarky, "Well, I saw the IMMATURE bald eagle."
I said, "I did, too. But there was a Golden with it."
He then started schooling me in raptor identification. I decided not to alert him to the fact that I don't need schooling in raptor identification.
I moved on...and began to second-guess myself. I know I shouldn't have, but he bugged me.
I went over all that I had seen, and I kept telling myself that I did see a Golden.
The next day I checked the Hawk Watch Tower list, and observers had seen FIVE Goldens. I had my validation.
I adore other birders. We are, for the most part, helpful people who are fun and who listen. And then there are those "Crotchety Old Lady From The Birds" types. COLFTB's.
Have I just created a new acronym?
So, anyway. That Golden Eagle makes my 17th raptor species. Woo hoo!