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Magee Marsh

We've been having a great time with the bird migration. We've gotten out and on the hiking trails more than usual and, while seeking out rare bird sightings, have really enjoying the outdoor time in our beautiful spring weather and the first blushes of spring in pretty little blooms on trees and plants everywhere.

We're really fortunate to have a lot of parks and preserves nearby. We're just ten minutes from some of the best birding and hiking spots in southeast Michigan, and our county parks system is pretty rich in beautiful lands. But in Ohio, an hour and a half away on the shore of Lake Eerie, is Magee Marsh, a wildlife preserve that is famous in the birding world—as in drawing birders from all over the country during migration week famous. Being so close, Calvin and I decided it was worth a one day field trip, so on Thursday, May 14 (historically peak bird activity date), we packed school work for the car ride and lunches for after the hike and headed down there.

I laughed with Calvin because there is definitely a difference between biridng in our little parks and birding in a world famous park. One difference is the camera power. Around here my 70-300mm zoom is amongst the top dogs, down there Calvin and I decided it was more like a pocket camera next to the big guns most people were toting around. Another difference is the level of knowledge—not that birders here aren't knowledgable, but at Magee, everyone knows (or thinks he knows) a lot, and it was common to hear birders spouting rare facts or engaging in (usually) friendly debates about an ID. Which brings me to another big difference: the level of competition among birders. I've mentioned this before, but if it surprised me on the trails here in our little parks, its extent on the boardwalk in Magee totally threw me. And the aggression with which birders sought IDs and sightings ("Where did you see that one? When? When??? Which way did it go??? Where can I find it now???). It was an education in and of itself.

Our trip was great fun. One of the great things about Magee is the number of species that fly through the area on their way north for the summer, another is the sheer number of individual birds, but the best thing about it is their accessibility. The park has a boardwalk that goes right thorugh the brush, raising birders enough to put them at eye level with a lot of the birds, and close enough even to the tree tops to get good views of those rare species. Apparently it's so popular that the boardwalk can become almost too crowded to be passable, especially on peak weekend, but on Thursday morning towards the end of Big Week, it was relatively quiet, though there were enough other birders there to help us locate and identify species as we walked along. For all the competition, there's also a heck of a lot of comeraderie—a person would ID a bird, announce it, and help everyone else find it. Whether it was for bragging rights or not didn't matter, it helped Calvin and me find four species we had never seen before on this one trip alone.

Northern Waterthrush


Gray-cheeked Thrush

Tennessee Warbler

Pine Warbler (female)

Pine Warbler (female)

Northern Parula

Black-and-white Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Baltimore Oriole

Blanding's Turtles (an endangered species)

Warbling Vireo

Yellow Warbler

Bay-breasted Warbler

Nashville Warbler

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