Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Montezuma Wetlands Complex Howland’s Island

Sunday July 31, 2016                                                                            Most Recent Posts:
Cayuga Lake State Park                                                                         Seneca Meadows & It’s a Wonderful Life
Seneca Falls, New York                                                                         Get a Grip Tour and The National Park


I forgot to mention in yesterday’s post that in the morning before visiting the It’s a Wonderful Life Museum (see link above in blue), we spent the morning moving from site 15 in the small campground with electricity to the larger campground across the road with bigger nicer sites but no hook ups.  Of course Winnona looked wonderful in such a large site but I totally forgot to get her picture before we went to the museum and after we came back AND this morning when because I could not get a site in the small campground for two full weeks since Saturday night July 30 was totally booked, we move back across the road.  This time to site 17 also overlooking the road and also noisy.   If it just weren’t so hot up here this year I’d have stayed in the bigger campground but we need to run the AC while we are gone during the day so that we can have it cool enough to sleep at night. Two moves in two days.  Oh well, you do what you gotta do. 


Anyway we get all set up again, set the AC and  leave to hike in the upper section of Montezuma Wetlands Complex known as Howland’s Island.

On the map you can see Seneca Falls in the lower left corner.  The main Wildlife Refuge with the visitor center is the large green section in the middle and Howland’s Island is the green section in the upper right.

The 3500 acre island has been under state ownership and management since 1932.  It is described in the Montezuma Wetlands Brocure as containing over 300 acres of restored marshes scattered within a varied topography of grasslands and woodlands surrounded by the Seneca River and the Swift Water Channel of the Barge Canal .




 We find the water down and far away from the mowed path. The grasses are up between me and the water making it nearly impossible, because of my height, for me to see if there are any waterfowl on the water.  Unfortunately for the blog, David did not bring his camera today.

By holding my camera up in the air and pointing it where David tells me to, I get this picture of the water under cloudy skies.  Why didn’t I just give him the camera?  I have no idea.






Standing on my toes and zooming in gives me a closer picture of the water but not the ability to see if anyone is on it.



At nearly a foot taller than I am, David says he sees some ducks.



I move around to the upper end of the water and get this not so hot picture of them.  The white eye rings make me think they are not the blue winged teals we’ve been seeing everywhere else.  Mid summer is not the best time for birding at the Montezuma Wetlands Complex.  It’s much better during the spring and fall migrations since it is right in the flight path and a popular stop for resting.



But at least from here I can see some of what’s going on by looking up this canal.







There’s quite a bit of swooping going on.






There are several of what I assume are nesting “platforms” around the edges of the water and one in the middle.




I’ve never seen something like this before.





Not being an expert birder, I can’t say for sure, but these look like young woodducks. They aren’t blue winged teals.   Maybe Judy is reading and can confirm or set me straight.




Though there is water in the main pond, many of the other obvious waterways are bone dry.





Having seen all we can see here, David has another place he wants to go and use the bikes.  We drive a short distance and find a nice parking lot.  We set off. As you can see it is a nice wide dirt and gravel road that heads directly down.  And then up.



We do one big down and one long up and don’t come across any water.  Without water there are few things to see.

The Wetlands brochure said there are 17 miles of administrative roads in this 300 acres which has QUOTE “exceptional hiking, biking, hunting, birding and horseback riding”. 




We turn off on another road in search of water.  No luck here either.  The signs at the parking lot were all about hunting.  Which dates and sections for this animal and which for that.  Turkey hunting, weasel, possum, racoon, skunk and fox hunting, black bear hunting, and bobcat hunting. 

Are you kidding?  There are so many bear and bobcat that they have a hunting season on them?  Very depressing.  I guess Howland’s island isn’t part of the National Wildlife Refuge but rather the refuge is a section of the much more permissive Montezuma Wetlands Complex.

Anyway, all we find down this road is more corn.  I guess the land must be leased to farmers to grow corn.  This sure doesn’t look like a wetland.




We’ve ridden down roads on the map that should have had water if not wetlands.  Or at least we think we have.  But with nothing more to discover, we aren’t up for another search based on the map.  So we head back.  We were not able to find the “exceptional” hiking, biking or birding.


But we do get a laugh about this house in the village of Savannah.  We try to imagine who the owner is and what he’ll do if he ever wants to sell it.   Does the highway department know about this?  They don’t look like old used and cast off signs.













Well the highway department must know.  Very close by we drive past a giant indication for why, although I really do like this area, I’d never want to live here.




  1. I really like the picture of the ducks (5th or 6th photo) especially the coloring in the picture. It gives it a hazy, surreal look. The house with all the signs is funny, but I think I'd get tired of looking at them if it was my house.

  2. I wonder what makes people do that to a home. If they wanted an eyesore, they made one. I did not know bobcats were hunted anywhere. It was allowed to take one out if they became a danger to livestock, but that seldom happened.

  3. Sorry the wetlands were a bust. Hopefully some of the more recent rains will add enough for the fall migration. We have seen so much corn in the last six states that I was really hoping NY didn't have any! I'm always surprised by hunting signs in refuges, I keep saying I'm going to read about the practice...... One can only imagine how the sign house got started - I'm sure it's not very popular to the community.

  4. Yep, those look like wood ducks to me. I do have a comment about all the blue winged teal that you say you've been seeing. A few posts back you labeled one of your photos as blue winged teals, but they were actually mallards. Maybe you inserted the wrong photo??

  5. Love the cattails along the canal. The signs on the house are funny. Too bad there was a lack of water, and too much hunting going on.

  6. That sign house is....ummmm.....creative. I'm always amazed at the stuff people decide to collect. And decorate with. Too bad about the wetlands not really being wetlands. :-(

  7. That sign house really is a show stopper.

  8. Good thing Judy is there to positively ID birds. I have enough trouble telling birds from cows! :cD

  9. Haha - you really should have given your camera to Dad, but I know how you are with your camera ;) You got some neat pictures anyway, although must have been fustrating not to find what the map indicated you should find in terms of water on the bike ride. Wonder if that house belongs to the director of the Savannah Highway Department - lol.

  10. Lots of sights there in Savannah!


  11. Monarch or Viceroy? I don't see enough to have them clear in my mind. Lot's more to see of Howland's Island, but we figured our

    sampling was representative and did not go back for more given the low water and management practices it was probably just bad timing for us.


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