Monday, May 10, 2010

Magee Marsh--Hooray!

Today is Monday and we got to spend the afternoon birding on a beautifully sunny day at Magee Marsh near Toledo, Ohio. But first, let's talk about yesterday and getting to Ohio. We were back at Heislerville at 7 AM to make one last stab at the curlew sandpiper. It was sunny but still quite windy, and very chilly. There were loads of shorebirds in the impoundment, plus 2 immature and 1 adult bald eagle standing around on logs. The shore birds would regularly fly up in great gyrating masses without any clear reason except for the time a male peregrine falcon strafed them. The top photo is of a group of peeps with a semipalmated plover mixed in. There were 5,000 to 10,000 shorebirds either feeding or crowding together to stay warm in the harsh wind. After an hour I once again did not find a curlew, so we packed up and headed over to Brigantine.

It was windy there, but not as bad as on Saturday. We enjoyed our drive around the 8 mile loop, but found nothing particularly special. We then stopped at Shea Cafe which is right at the entrance road to the refuge only to wait for 2 hours because it was Mother's Day, and the whole world showed up for breakfast. My wife's omelette, and my egg's benedict with asparagus and lump crab were almost worth the lengthy wait. We were back on the road at 1 PM with the truck pointed toward Ohio. We stopped about 8 PM in Clarion, PA.

This morning we were out before 7 AM for the short drive to the Piney Tract IBA--a grassy reclaimed coal strip mine. As we arrived with the sun shining brightly and the temp just above freezing, we met a hunter and his 3 weimaraners. He was checking out the area for turkey hunting, and sure enough we could hear one gobbling away in the distance. We had come here to look for henslow's sparrows, a bird that particularly likes reclaimed strip mine grasslands. We were pleased to hear several calling, and studied 3 or 4 perched on various small bushes. We also had skylarking bobolinks, and savannah and grasshopper sparrows.

We left there feeling very good about the prospects for the day, and with the henslow's being a new year bird, the week-long drought for new year birds came to an end.

We were checked in to our motel before noon, had a quick lunch and drove over to Magee Marsh. This is one of my top 5 places to bird in the U.S., and today was a perfect example of why. The 8 foot wide boardwalk was full of happy birders, and the birds were making the photographers quite happy too. The bottom picture above is of a black-throated green warbler. In just 6 hours of birding, I saw 22 different warbler species, and 61 total species. 5 more new year birds were seen--golden-winged, bay-breasted, mourning and wilson's warblers, and a warbling vireo.

Overall, 40 more new birds were seen for the week, and with 6 new year birds, the YTD total is now at 533. Rain is in the forecast for tonite and tomorrow, so we will see what effect that has on the birds at Magee. Stay tuned!


  1. I am definitely getting a well rounded experience of birding with Chris ~ from drought to abundance. Most of these birds species are of course new to me so I am enjoying them but I am on Chris' watch or count so to speak. Some of these birds he will be able to see elsewhere, it is the rare ones that are so critical. Trying to spot a "needle in the haystack" one rare bird at Heislerville in the 5000 to 10000 present was a challenge especially with the cold brutal wind. One of the things I enjoyed most (much to Chris' chagrin) was when the entire flock of birds would rise and fly in incredible formations, sweeping fluently and with grace through the sky before they would finally settle down again. Of course that messed up the methodical scan Chris was making and he would have to start all over again. Glad we are at Magee Marsh where we can walk and bird to our delight, but don't ask about the food . . .

  2. These seasons you are taking us through make no sense... Now it is winter again? Brrr... Weren't you just experiencing spring and right before that, summer? I hope you packed your earmuffs...