A Fun Day Of Birding | Montezuma | New York

Lately I have done most of my bird watching from my backyard. There’s nothing wrong with back yard bird watching. I always find it enjoyable. But I never get to see the variety of birds that I would if I made a trip to a specific location to dedicate some time to birding.

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

It is always fun to get online and keep up with what other people are seeing when they are out birding. I have been watching people posting some exciting sightings at one of my favorite birding locations. I thought it would be fun to go out and see if I could see any of those same birds. So off to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge I went.

Montezuma is a large wildlife refuge that contains multiple different areas to go bird watching. The area is primarily wetlands, so birds often seen there are the kinds of birds one would expect to see in a wetland environment. I don’t always get around to visiting all the different parts of the refuge, but there are certain areas I always try to visit.

Purple Martin in flight near visitor center.

FYI. I did not see any of the birds people reported seeing that inspired this trip. But I did have plenty of my own fun wildlife sightings.

Wildlife Drive

My favorite part of the refuge is the wildlife drive. It is a fun and convenient way to see a lot of the area as slowly or quickly as possible. It is a 3.5 mile road that runs along the main pond of the refuge. Being in a car is a great way to get up close to wildlife you would not normally be able to approach on foot.

Sitting in a car is also a very convenient way to be able to sit patiently and wait for wildlife to move closer so you can get a better look. I spent a lot of time watching the eagles I could see off in the distance. Hoping that the eagles would fly in closer so I could get a better look. Some of the eagles cooperated Some did not.

Great Blue Heron with its catch.

There were also plenty of Great Blue Heron along the Wildlife Drive. Great blue heron can be easily spooked and being able to approach them in a car allowed me to get close for some good photographs.

The water level in the main pond is currently low. This provided me an opportunity to see something I have not been able to see before. I watched one juvenile bald eagle fly over near the road. Then I saw another juvinile bald eagle fly over.

Two Juvenile Bald Eagles.

They seemed to be checking out some dead fish. Then one eagle flew towards the other eagle. There was a breif scuffle between the two enormous bids. I was fortunate to have been in just the right place at just the right time. And I was ready to capture some photos.

Trails And Viewing

In addition to the wildlife drive there are multiple viewing platforms and towers that are great for wildlife viewing. These platforms and towers can be found at different locations throughout the refuge.

There are also trails in different locations in the refuge. These trails are great spots to get in a little nature walk and do some birding by foot. One spot I have made it a point to visit multiple times including this trip is the Esker Brook trails.

Downy Woodpecker

Not Just For Birding

The refuge notes that several species of mammals make the refuge there home as well. I have read reports of people seeing wildlife other than birds there. But I don’t think I had ever seen any mammals other than muskrats at Montezuma before.

Mammals make all sorts of environments their home. I don’t doubt that they live in the refuge. I just had never been fortunate enough to see any.

That is until today. At one point a weasel like animal ran across the wildlife drive up in front of me. I could not tell what it was. It was too far off in the distance.

Then later on I pulled over at a location along the wildlife drive noted as a viewing spot. I almost didn’t stop. So glad I did. I was watching a heron in the water when I noticed something emerging from the tall reeds along the edge of the water.

It was so cool to be there and watch as a racoon emerged and made its way along the edge of the water. The racoon was just moseying along. Minding its own business as it passed by the heron. The racoon never stopped as it moved along.


Then the racoon climbed back up into the tall reads and seemed to vanish. I kept watching and tracking where I thought its progress was taking it. Hopping it would reappear. Then it did remerge from the tall vegetation. The racoon kept moving along. Walking at the muddy water’s edge until it was swallowed up again in the tall tall plant life.

I didn’t get the closest look at the racoon. But it was just such a cool sight. And I was ready with my camera to take some photographs. I think this might be the first time I have photographed a racoon in the wild.

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