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June 9, 2011 / stephanie

Recap of May Migration in Ohio: Part 2

I was pretty satisfied with my May 1st birding expedition but as soon as my next day off rolled around on May 7th, I was back and ready to see more migrants. This time a couple other people from my job and I headed North to Magee Marsh along Lake Erie. It turns out that the marsh is an excellent spot to see migratory birds since it’s their last chance to fuel up before flying non-stop for 50 miles or so across the Great Lake. It also happens to be home to the “Biggest Week in American Birding” bird festival. The “Biggest Week” involves lots of activities, talks, and bird walks for birders of all ages and skill-levels and it actually goes on for 10 days rather than just a week. There are a lot of other similar birding festivals going on in May and these events attract people from all over the country and even some international birders. Of course you do have to pay a registration fee to get in on all the official bird tours and talks, but there are no entrance fees at the parks. I was just there to see the birds anyway so that should always be free!

So on Sunday we all planned to meet somewhere at the Marsh around 6am. That was a tad early for me, so I got there closer to 6:30am. It was just a little after dawn and there were only a few others in the parking lot setting up their humongous high-powered cameras and spotting scopes. This is what the boardwalk looked like when I got there:

Aaand.. this is what it looked like 6 hours later:

The place was packed! The boardwalk trail through the marsh was maybe a one mile-loop more or less and it was filled to the brim with hundreds of birders. Possibly even more birders than birds? Well, maybe, maybe not. The warbler action was definitely in full effect and there were lots of people shouting out sightings and pointing. I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything quite like it, but I think this might be pretty typical for high-profile birding festivals, especially on the weekends.

Although the crowds of people thing tends to detract from the whole “being one with nature” aspect in my mind, it does make me appreciate the fact that there are so many people who are so enthusiastic about seeing the birds. I think I got the same appreciation in return when the older gray-haired folks looked fondly at me and my similar-aged companions as they tried to figure out what exactly we were doing there. I was asked once if I was there for school and another time asked if my parents were birders, the only logical explanations to why I wasn’t sleeping in or drowning out the outside world with a pair of headphones I suppose. My response, a simple “no,” was apparently dumbfounding to others! I just like birds a lot, and I know I’m not the only young birder out there. So, yeah, best clear the boardwalk for us and make way for the next generation!

Yes, anyway, as I was saying… BIRDS…

Yellow-rumped Warbler

This female Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler above was a common sight at Magee Marsh. The most abundant migrant by far. We also had plenty of Parulas, Tennessees, Magnolias, and Nashvilles. I had my first Orange-crowned Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, and Prothonotary Warbler of the season. I was especially excited about the Prothonotary and I think many would agree that they are especially striking. They breed in Ohio and several will probably stick around at Magee Marsh for the rest of the summer. I’m not sure if that means they have lost some of their luster with Ohioans or not, but I was pretty happy. Prothonotaries barely make it into Southern Wisconsin and this was actually only my second time seeing one so I made sure to snap lots of photos.

Prothonotary Warbler

See what I mean? That’s a good-looking little yellow bird. The other stand-out bird of the day actually was not a migrant, it was a resident although rarely seen, Eastern Screech-Owl.

Eastern Screech-Owl

I feel like I probably never would have seen him if it hadn’t been for a kind stranger who had his scope set on the bird and was pointing it out for all to see. As you can see, Screech-Owls are pretty good at concealing themselves in the daytime. Here’s another picture that I took with my iPod camera focused on the view from the spotting scope:

Eastern Screech-Owl

It was definitely a great day and I’m glad I made it out to Magee Marsh. As for the rest of May, I settled back into my busy work schedule, but made sure to spend a little time with the remaining migrants whenever I found them. For my work, I have been studying breeding birds in urban neighborhoods. The neighborhoods are clearly not the best places to see the greatest diversity of birds, but it doesn’t mean that migrants aren’t there! Here are a few migrants that stopped by while I was working:

Bay-breasted Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

Cape May Warbler

Well, Isuppose that wraps up May and migration! The warblers have all moved on to their breeding territories now. Some have stuck around though, like the Yellow-throated Warbler, which I have continued to hear singing in and around Columbus since they breed here. I think I’ll stick around here for awhile too, at least until August when it comes time to migrate again.


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