Sunday, May 11, 2014

Magee Marsh Bird Trail

Your narrator (L) poses with friends Steve and Marian Moeckel, Marian's sister Barbara, and Jim Berry under the new archway at the entrance to the world famous Magee Marsh Wildlife Area "Bird Trail".

We were just a few of the many thousands of birders who descended upon the trail, as they do every year, to bear witness to an amazing migratory spectacle. The 37-acre patch of woods and wetlands bisected by the mile long elevated boardwalk offers some of the best birding in North America. People come from nearly everywhere - every state, and many foreign countries. Perhaps 75,000 birders will visit the area from late April through May.

I spent the past three days at Magee, and spent nearly all of that time on the boardwalk. The birds were fabulous - best on Friday, but Saturday and today were also very good. I really enjoy helping new or newer birders find and identify birds, and for the most part, that's what I did. In the process I did snap some photos, of course, and will hopefully find time to share a few more of them in later posts.

Tom Bartlett (seated on ladder, right) conducts his Big Sit, just as he has for many years. Tom goes up there around dawn, and doesn't descend until the day's end. He only counts birds that he sees or hears from the ladder, and his best tally was 112 species. Last I talked to him, he was at 100 with plenty of daylight left. Proceeds raised by Tom's per-species pledges go to support the work of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory.

A group of women took a break in a nice spot with a commanding view of Lake Erie. Can't blame them; after 8 or so hours on my feet I was ready to take a load off, too.

Perhaps the ladies in the previous photo were watching the numerous Common Terns pass by, as they fished the waters of Lake Erie. One of the groups that I helped lead enjoyed watching a male bringing fish to a female that he was courting, which he then offered to her.

Two American Woodcocks were on nests immediately adjacent to the parking lots. The female in the photo is incubating eggs just feet from high people traffic areas. The Division of Wildlife staff tape off the area to keep people a safe distance from the woodcocks, which don't seem put out at all. They nest in these sites every year.

Warblers, of course, get the lion's share of attention. This male Bay-breasted Warbler posed beautifully for an assembled throng of paparazzi, sitting just a few feet away in a box-elder. Such views are commonplace at Magee. Warblers are often at arm's reach, and I would not even hazard a guess at how many millions of photos are taken here each May. In all, at least 31 warblers species were found while I was there.

If you can break away, get to Magee in the next week or so. It's well worth the trip.

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