Friday, May 13, 2011

Days 7 and 8 at Magee Marsh

Wow!! The last 2 days have been intense birding. The local birders with the help of radar info had predicted that Thursday and Friday could be huge days for bird migration thru the Magee Marsh area, and they were dead on. Thursday we hit the boardwalk about 8 AM to find hordes of birders hoping for a fallout day, and they certainly were not disappointed. I soon saw one of the coveted warblers, a mourning, so very briefly up in a tree before it disappeared. Fortunately within an hour it was found very close by, and throughout the rest of the day it would show up off and on at the same spot allowing for good looks. I could not a get a photo of the mourning, but I did get one of the northern parula above (click on any photo to enlarge).

One of the birds that almost everyday is found on a roost at Magee is the gray phase screech owl in the photo above. Near this bird's roost is a owl nest box where at times a red phase screech will perch 1/2 way out. As you might imagine, both attract crowds. The green heron just below also was commonly seen over the past week.

After seeing the mourning well we proceeded to work the boardwalk, looking for as many other warbler species as we could find. One of my favorites is the bay breasted warbler shown just below. It is one of the later warblers to arrive at Magee. The migration here begins to pick up speed around the 1st of May, and generally by mid May it peaks in the variety of bird species, particularly warblers. By the end of the day I had seen 27 warbler species--my personal 1 day high at Magee--including the bay-breasted warbler in the photo just below.

Another indicator of the progress of the migration is the number of female warblers relative to males. The males of any warbler species usually arrive ahead of the females, so when you start seeing lots of females as well you know that the migration is reaching a peak. Yesterday I saw females from 15 warbler species whereas a week ago I saw maybe 5 or 6. 2 other peak migration arrivals were the yellow-bellied flycatcher and the gray-cheeked thrush.

As Magee's fame has grown over the past decade, more and more birders come from all over the US, and even from other countries like England and Scotland (the Brits love birding in the US). As a result it can get quite crowded at certain places along the boardwalk when a rare bird is found. This morning for example another coveted warbler, a Connecticut, appeared for the 1st time this year. This species usually does not arrive at Magee until after the 20th of May, and even then it is quite uncommon. With 2 mourning warblers also at the same location, the crush of birders at 9 AM trying to get a view of the CT and the mournings was the most intense I have ever encountered. Friday the 13th of May proved to be the opposite of what is feared on Friday the 13th's.

The only other warbler that would draw as big a crowd is the Kirtland's, which so far this year has not come to Magee, but one did spend 4 days last week singing away in Columbus, OH on its way up to its breeding grounds in MI. I am sure the birder from VA (vanity plate below) must have loved seeing the Connecticut--it was my first one at Magee, and I had as good looks at it as the ones I have seen in MN where it breeds.

Since I needed to depart for Brooklyn, NY this afternoon, I was feeling like my week's worth of birding was perfectly bookended with the garganey last Friday and then the CT warbler showing up today. I could not get a photo of it, so I have added the photo just above of a lovely chestnut-sided warbler. I ended my 9 days of birding in Ohio with an overall total of 158 species including a personal best over a week's time of 30 warbler species. While at Magee I saw at least 20 species of warblers every day as well. I also finally got to meet and chat with Matt Stenger from Harrison, OH who is doing a full ABA big year. He was awfully happy to get the mourning and Connecticut warblers. Matt--Good luck with the rest of your big year. My next major birding will be in Alaska in June. Stay tuned!

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