Sunday, May 13, 2012

Magee Marsh--Kirtland's Deja Vu

After posting my entry last Wed. morning, I headed over to Magee to see what might be around.  As I drove up to the parking area at the east end I saw a large crowd of birders intensely focused on the top of a huge cottonwood tree.  I parked quickly and jogged over to see what bird was creating such a commotion.  To my amazement and delight, having just missed seeing one 2 days ago, I discovered it was a male Kirtland's warbler.  I proceeded to watch for the next 10-15  minutes as it moved along the branches and trunk of the tree, often out of sight behind the leaves.  Unlike the bird shown below (photo by Adrian Binns) that entertained 100's of birders while feeding at ground level on the beach just east of this location back in 2010, this bird was a good 50 feet up in the air.  As you might imagine, there was great excitement with high fiving and jubilation in the crowd.

Unfortunately Dan and Doreene were still leading a tour group, and missed the bird because it disappeared some time after 9:30 AM. I moved my truck further into the parking area, and snapped another vanity plate of a birding friend, Ann Oliver, to add to my plate collection.

Later that afternoon Rob and Ricki arrived, and the five of us birded the boardwalk which was still very "quiet" birdwise for Magee.  There was still pretty good diversity, but the numbers were way down from my normal experience of birding there.  This was partly a result of the wind blowing in from the north rather than the south.  That said, I still found a total of 22 warbler species, which was my highest count for a day so far this trip.  I also was pleased to see the fox snake crawling out of the dead tree stump into the leaves of the adjacent shrubs to sun itself (click on any photo to enlarge).

On Thursday we decided to check out some other nearby birding sites to see what else we might find since the boardwalk would be pretty slow with the wind still blowing from the north.  We headed over to Camp Sabroske to check on the western sandpiper that had been reported from there.  On the way in we met another birder, Tom Camp, from Columbus who Dan and Doreene knew.  We all walked far enough around one of the impoundments to be able to get good looks thru our scopes of a small shorebird with a damaged wing.

Like other birders who had seen it since it was originally reported, our first thought was that this was a western sandpiper.  But then as it began to move around allowing us to study it, Tom suggested that maybe it was not a western sandpiper.  So we continued to examine its features. The bill was too long, and the bird was too big overall to be a western.  It ate like a dunlin of which there were several also in the impoundment area.  Finally, we could see a few feathers starting to form part of the distinctive black patch found on the belly of all breeding plumage dunlins.  We left to do other birding, but contacted another birder we knew to go over and take some photos of this bird.  He did and later let us know that we were right about it being a dunlin that had just begun its breeding molt cycle.

We finished the day celebrating Dan's 69th birthday at Danny Boy's restaurant in Sandusky.  We were looking forward to Friday morning's birding when we were going on a tour of Cedar Point, a part of Ottawa NWR that is not open to the public but was being made available as part of the Biggest Week in Birding".  Stay tuned!

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