Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Biggest Week in American Birding....Coming Soon!

The Biggest Week In American Birding is coming upon us beginning May 6, 2014.  It is the time of year when birders and nature photographers from the Midwest and around the world congregate in a tiny area in Northwestern, Ohio called Magee Marsh.  The other name for Magee Marsh is "The Warbler Capital of the World!"

Why?  Well, for starters, take a look at a few of the warbler images throughout this article that were  captured last year on the Crane Creek boardwalk trail within the park!

Hooded Warbler on the Crane Creek Trail - Sheen's Nature Photography
Magee Marsh is right next to Lake Erie and is a significant stopping and resting spot for migrating birds.

How easy is it to see the warblers and other birds on the trail?
At the visitor center, swallows are very people-friendly with nests right above the entrance door.  Purple martins abound in their houses along with other migrating birds on the visitor center trail.

 Official Greeter at the Visitor Center - ©Sheen's Nature Photography
On the Crane Creek trail it is very easy to see the warblers and other migrating bird species.  Of course, birds fly, dart quickly and can be elusive.

On the trail there are guides that are happy to assist in pointing out and identifying birds.  There are also many avid birders who graciously share their passion and knowledge when a bird is spotted.  

Just in the parking lot alone last year I saw chestnut sided, bay, yellow and black-throated green warblers.  This was in addition to seeing the scarlet tanager and northern oriole.  Then the trail walk began!

Photographers:  Heads Up!
Photography opportunities exist throughout Magee Marsh.  The visitor center, in the parking lot alongside the woods, the trail and along the water ways and Lake Erie all offer easy access to bird viewing.  On the boardwalk trail, it is very crowded so if you need a tripod with the big lens, you may want to use a monopod or go with a 300mm.  In the parking lot and other trails, the tripod works well.  The boardwalk can be very shady in spots so a speed light can make a difference.

When is the best time to go?
We try to arrive around 7:30 - 8:00 a.m. as that's about the time the birds start getting active.  My personal observation is that they sleep in a little longer here since it is such a great little haven.

If you can go during the week, it's highly suggested as it can get congested on the weekends.  But don't let that stop you from going on a Saturday or Sunday.  More people means more bird spotters.

Playful Yellow Warbler - ©Sheen's Nature Photography

Activities during The Biggest Week In American Birding:
Here is a link to the guide of activities during the week.  Additionally, there are numerous sponsors that donate resources and time to this event.  Exhibition booths are at both Crane Creek and the visitor center.

Some of the biggest names in birding will be there including Kenn Kaufman and his wife Kimberly.  Along the trail, experts come in all ages and sizes.  It's energizing to see our youth tackle this hobby as well as the seasoned veterans.

Another terrific participant is the non-profit wildlife rescue group Back to the Wild, One Rescue at a Time.  In past years they have brought rescued raptors, eagles and owls for educational purposes.  If you have an opportunity to be there the day they are, please give a donation.  They do great work!

Prairie Falcon Courtesy of Back to the Wild, One Rescue at a Time
©Sheen's Nature Photography

What to wear?
Be prepared for anything.  It could be rain, chilly, windy to warm and pleasant, and that's just within a 30 minute window.  I recommend a lightweight rain poncho just in case.  It's right on Lake Erie so the temperature is always a bit cooler.

May is a huge bird migration month, so even if you can't make it to Magee Marsh, nothing's stopping you from taking your binoculars, camera and going for a hike in your local nature areas.


All images were captured using:  Nikon 5100, Nikon 7100,  Nikon 70-300mm and Sigma 150-500 lenses.