Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Magee Marsh--KIrtland's Warbler

The past 2 days of birding has been steady birdwise.  Monday's rain stopped by noon and surprisingly based on the weather forecast it proved to be a good afternoon of birding without more rain.  On the way over to Magee we were able to find 2 upland sandpipers in the field opposite to where they had been seen the night before. The boardwalk was very active which allowed me to hit 20 warbler species for the day for the first time since arriving here.  But the story of the afternoon was about the warbler that got away.  We were on the boardwalk when the Leica rep said that there was a possible Kirtland's warbler behind the Ottawa visitor center.  Since this is the rarest warbler in North America, and the rarest to visit the Magee Marsh area each spring, Dan, Doreene and I jumped into their car and headed next door to the Ottawa NWR.

On the way to look for the Kirtland's I snapped a photo of the purple martin "housing complex" (click on any photo to enlarge).  As we were walking to the warbler site we had a chance to speak with 2 fish and wildlife staff coming out who said they had just seen it.  We rushed back to the small oak tree to find a few other early birder arrivals searching the area.

After 15-30 minutes easily 200 birders had come to look for the Kirtland's.  One of the birders was Greg Miller who I have known for over 10 years. He is the guy in the blueshirt holding the big camera.  While searching for the bird, Greg joked that since last year when the movie The Big Year came out, which is based on the book of the same name, he is often asked to speak about a record he did not set back in 1998 (Sandy Komito did), and to sign copies of a book he did not write.

After an hour of scanning the area, the most interesting thing seen was the raccoon who was sitting in the same small oak where the Kirtland's had been observed from 1-4 PM by the 3 birders who reported it.  The birders began to disperse when it seemed like the warbler had left the area.  We also decided to call it a day.

Yesterday proved to be an even better day than Monday beginning with seeing another prized bird at Magee--the golden-winged warbler. Mid afternoon found us looking at a black-billed cuckoo which is also not common on the boardwalk.  I found another vanity plate to share.  I ended the day with 20 warbler species. We ended our day with an auto tour of Ottawa NWR.  The highlight was seeing 3 sandhill cranes.  The amusing part was when a group of very good birders got into a debate as to whether they were looking at 3 greater or lesser yellowlegs.

Dan and Doreene are leading a group tour this morning, and later today our friends Rob and Ricki from Nevada will arrive.  I also have now seen over 200 species in less than 2 weeks on this spring migration birding trip. Stay tuned!

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