After driving past the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge countless times on my way to or from Syracuse over the years, I finally went through it on Sunday. Because of the rainy weather, Clem and I skipped the walking trails and stayed inside the car to explore Wildlife Drive, a three-mile route through the refuge, which is about 45 miles from Rochester.
Montezuma's website says that Wildlife Drive is "where you'll see the greatest variety of wildlife from ducks, geese, and herons to shorebirds, songbirds, bald eagles and other birds of prey! The Drive offers great birding and photography opportunities. You may also see turtles, muskrat, beaver, white-tailed deer and red fox."
Well, we didn't see much. Maybe it was the weather, which got worse as we drove; maybe it was the time of year; maybe it was bad luck; or maybe the animals were hiding behind bushes and laughing at us. Other than a few shorebirds (egrets?) at the entrance to the refuge, all we saw was a bunch of swallows (I think) that were swooping around too quickly for us to get a good look at them. We had better luck a few years ago in Delaware at Bombay Hook (which, incidentally, would be a good band name). I had brought my SLR -- film, not digital! -- and did have some fun taking closeups of flowers and a pretty snail shell.
When we finished the three miles, we drove to the Visitor Center, which has displays and a small gift shop. I think taxidermied animals are creepy, so I mostly passed those by, but the center also had an interesting map showing all the wildlife refuges in the U.S. as well as bird migration routes. If you push a button for a certain species, a series of small bulbs lights up to show the path that bird takes. (I am easily amused.) According to a sign in the center, visitors can borrow binoculars and field guides for the drive or trails.
Before we left, I flipped through a notebook in which refuge visitors had jotted down the birds they'd spotted. Recent entries mention blue herons, eagles, sandhill cranes, ospreys, and kingfishers, so maybe if we had picked a different day or time, or used binoculars, or had more patience, or something, we would have seen more. Montezuma doesn't charge a fee to get in, so someday we'll have to try again!
NEARBY: Women's Rights National Historical Park, National Women's Hall of Fame. Down the road is Montezuma Winery.
TIP: The Montezuma website points out which times of the year are the best for viewing wildlife.