Tag Archives: The Biggest Week in American Birding

Birder Watching at Magee Marsh

Someone's lost bird list
Someone’s lost bird list
Chestnut Sided Warbler
Chestnut Sided Warbler

A year or two ago I saw a tweet by a fellow twitter birder / accessibility advocate about her trip to Magee Marsh in Ohio.  I kept it in the back of my head because we drive right by it when we travel to and from Illinois.

Then a few months ago I read The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik (on IB’s recommendation) and later saw the film based on the book.  I was interested in the characters,  especially the Maryland-based birder, Greg Miller — the one who worked at the nuclear power plant (played by Jack Black in the movie).  I googled his name and found out he moved back to Ohio and was active in Ohio birding.  His blog talked about the “Biggest Week in American Birding” festival which was planned for May — around the time the warblers were due to fly back to Canada.

Warbler season,  if not The Biggest Week,  corresponded with our trip to Oberlin to pick up Andrew,  about an hour from Magee Marsh.  I hoped to visit Magee and perhaps add a few warblers to my life list. Then Dean decided we should visit Illinois before the kids got out of school. This week did correspond with the Biggest Week and as we’d be stopping in Oberlin for the night to visit Andrew I planned on heading to Magee Marsh on our way to Illinois.

I mentioned this to the aforementioned birder/accessibility advocate and she made plans to meet me at Magee.

Birders
Birders

I didn’t really know what to expect, but knew that I’d be seeing a lot of birders. One of the funniest parts of The Big Year was seeing a bunch of people stare through binoculars at something in a tree. I wondered if I’d see something similar at Magee Marsh. I also knew that many of the birding folks I follow on Twitter were planning on being at Magee Marsh that week. Seeing some of the tweets got me really in the mood to go birding — something I’d not really done in years, except passively. I also knew that someone I’d hoped to meet someday, Sharon Stiteler aka Birdchick, would be around.

Birders
Birders

I did see a lot of birds, some new to me, some not. I only could identify a few. If  you’ve never been birding, one thing you need to be able to do is explain where a sighting is. I failed miserably. I saw something and mistakenly announced it loud enough for other birders in the general vicinity to hear me. I then tried to describe where it was and what it looked like. No one was able to follow my directions and there was an audible annoyed sigh when I said, “It’s gone.” (I saw it later and was embarrassed to find out it was a Baltimore Oriole. I know what they look like when I see the top of one, but this was from below. The orange of its breast was muted and looked yellow to me. I thought it was some sort of flycatcher.)

Deborah and me
Deborah and me

The birds were fun to see, some so close I didn’t need binoculars, but my favorite part was the birders. There were birders of all ages. I was surprised to see a large number of Amish birders, but it stands to reason — there are a lot of Amish in that part of Ohio.

I did see “Birdchick” but was too shy to say hello. I was not quite sure it was her, but when I saw tweets she sent prior to me seeing her proved she was just in front of me at the time. Next time I’ll make sure to say hello.

I really enjoyed meeting Deborah. We’ve been twitter buddies for years and have even spoken on the phone. She’s a lot more gregarious than I and she was not afraid to ask folks what they were looking at and ask for advice on what she was looking at.

This has rekindled a desire to get out and bird more often. I might even go on bird walks with other birders. In the past I wouldn’t add a bird to my life list if I didn’t ID it myself. I figure if real birders help each other ID birds, I can too. Now I need to get my verbal birding skills in order.

Here’s Deborah’s list of what we saw:

  • Wilson’s Warbler
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Purple Martin
  • Blackburnian Warbler
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Great Horned Owls babies on tree limbs
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Great Egret
  • American Redstart
  • Northern Parula
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Black and White Warbler
  • Gray Catbird
  • American Robin
  • Canada Geese
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler