While traveling around I have wanted to become a volunteer for the National Fish and Wildlife Services. Being outdoors, working outdoors, working with wildlife reserves has appealed to me for most of my life. It’s never too late to get involved. I had applied for a volunteer position with the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in June. The Refuge is located in northern Ohio. It is located east of Toledo and bordered on the south by S.R. 2 and on the north by Lake Erie. I received a phone call in mid July asking if I would still be interested. “You bet’cha!”
I reported for work on August 9th. My duties are as diverse as the number of jobs that need to be done. I have worked in the visitor’s center, the maintenance garage and helped with the trails. I am only requested to work 24 hours/week. I have a place to dock the RV without sewer hook up. There is a workaround for the lacking sewer.
The off hours are great. I use the time to walk the dykes separating the marsh areas taking photos. Are there bugs? Yes. It’s a marsh. There are birds, deer, muskrat, beavers, and many other wildlife common to northern Ohio. Best of all the property and wildlife are protected. The birds are as diverse as they come: bald eagles; herons; goldfinch; egrets; trumpeter swans; osprey; Canadian geese, the list goes on.
On tonight’s walk I happened across a pair of trumpeter swans with their solitary cygnet (young). In past encounters they have slowly eased off the trail into the water. Not tonight. The cygnet was satisfied to sit sternly in the middle of the gravel. The pen (female) hissed and then eased down the bank into the water. The cob (male) turned towards me taking 3 steps in my direction. Swans can be very aggressive and will attack a person flapping their wings and biting. It looks very unpleasant. I stayed facing the cob while taking three purposeful steps backwards. He stopped yet continued his vigil.
I decided to try a different tactic. I made soft whistling peeps. This caught the attention of the cygnet. It slowly stood, walked to the grass and promptly sat down again. I whispered, “No, no. Keep going.”
I had stopped the whistling. The cob seemed to take notice and took several steps in my direction again. I again stepped backwards. I took up the whistling again. I was considering walking the long way around to detour the possible encounter. Just then the cygnet took notice again, stood, stretched then plodded down the bank into the water. The watchful father followed. Once I was assured that the threat was gone I continued on my way. I kept a watchful eye on the aggravated trio as they settled into the water. I had been delayed by five minutes. More importantly I was unharmed.
Not all walks are as exciting but they are all memorable in their own way.
The people I meet and work with have all been very nice. Many of the interns are heading back to college. They are being replaced by volunteers and new interns. There are a lot of visitors to the refuge. Many are retired regulars. The gravel roads are a great way to experience the marshes while exercising. The seasons are changing soon and the bird migrations are just around the corner. I look forward to learning about the many species that cross paths through the region. The roads are opened for driving on the weekends now. I highly recommend visiting the refuge. You won’t be disappointed. The price is right too, free. Check out the web site: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Ottawa/