Saturday, May 9, 2009


Today is International Migratory Bird Day, and as I do almost every year, I spent it at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. This 2,000-acre site is owned and managed by the Ohio Division of Wildlife, and the Division goes to great lengths to make birders welcome at this legendary birding locale.

The centerpiece for songbird enthusiasts is the 1.5 mile long elevated boardwalk, known as the Bird Trail, which bisects a seven-acre patch of woods. Hit it on the right day, and the trees are dripping with northbound migrants.

The hospitality works - extraordinary numbers of bird watchers descend on Magee, and never in greater numbers than on IMBD, which is always the second Saturday in May.

All of these cars - and this is but a snippet of the vehicles that were present - belong to birders. Staggering numbers of birders. It's hard to estimate how many people visited Magee today, but there were several thousand, at least. While crowds like this may not appeal to all, it is amazing to see so many people coming together at one locale to go birding.

I like to try and take some time to troll the lots for bird-related license plates to add to my always growing collection. I'll share a few from today, and I think you'll see a theme...

Yes, warblers. These colorful sprites are without doubt the most sought after group of birds, and they didn't disappoint today. At least 27 species were seen, and many in good numbers.

Conditions can approach near gridlock on the trail, but the beauty of this is that few birds go undetected. And you'll quickly hear about anything interesting.

The bird paparazzi come out in droves. There is tens of thousands of dollars of camera hardware in this photo, and the total value of optics and camera equipment on the trail would be utterly staggering if it could be tallied.
A huge number of these visitors stay for more than a day in the area, and nearly all of them drop some dimes locally. Birding has become an ecotourism tour de force in this area, and many of the local establishments give discounts to birders.

Those people with the $12,000 camera rigs are generally NOT after species like this beautiful male American Robin. However, me, not being much of a bird photographer, can do OK with a subject like this.

This is what the pros are after - species like this Tennessee Warbler. And now you can see why I am not a professional bird photographer. This particular Tennessee was probably the most photographed individual of its species anywhere in the world on this day. And I guarantee you that many far more stunning photos were snapped than the one above. Photographing warblers well requires specialized gear and lots of patience and skill.

It's not hard to figure out where something interesting has popped up. Just look for a throng of people. Today, a Kentucky Warbler, a Prothonotary Warbler, and roosting Common Nighthawk and Eastern Screech-Owls attracted lots of attention.
Birders of all stripes congregate, and people are in general very friendly and helpful. I really enjoy spending the day strolling around, and helping new birders find interesting birds. IMBD at Magee makes an enormous impression on those who come to visit and bird, and if you've never made this scene, please try and put it on your itinerary for 2010.


Wil said...

Wow, the crowds are amazing. Great to see birding is such a loved endeavor and seems to continue to grow.
I almost made the trip there this weekend myself but couldn't due to other commitments.
Thanks for sharing,

Dave said...

Hello Jim!
Hey, "WRBLRZ", that's me!
What a great weekend with good weather to boot! It was great to see you, though not as great as the warblers...sorry...

Dawn Fine said...

Wow..wall to wall birders..

Lady's-slippers in a spring forest

Recent spring rains created swollen streams in Shawnee State Forest (Ohio) yesterday morning. I was down there early to meet John Howard and...