Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Biggest Week in American Birding - Day 5 - May 13, 2014

     On our final morning in NW Ohio we awakened totally exhausted from the previous 4 days of excitement, but were very sad that our time at the festival was coming to an end. With the car packed up, we checked out of the motel around 6am and headed to Magee Marsh for the morning. Due to our exhaustion, we decided to relax a bit and take the time to enjoy the sights and sounds of the festival and the spectacle of bird migration. Being a Tuesday, most of the crowds from the weekend were gone, and moving around the boardwalk was a lot easier. This is not to say that the place was deserted, as there were a fair number of people who were there for the whole week. Birding at a more leisurely pace allowed us to spend more time appreciating and photographing even the more familiar species.

House Wren

Bay-breasted Warbler about to snag some food.

Gray Catbird

Yellow Warbler

Gray Catbird singing in the breeze. 

     Around noon we began to think about getting on the road towards home. However, we were distracted by a last minute text about a Henslow's Sparrow that was spotted along the boardwalk! This bird belongs in grasslands, not on the ground in a marsh. Furthermore, it is not an easy bird to find even in the proper habitat, and would be a lifer for all of us.  We had to go see this bird. Back onto the boardwalk we went, this time re-energized, and speed walking for fear that the bird would disappear before we got to see it. By the time we got to the reported location, there was already a crowd gathering. I promptly found the bird and slipped into a spot among the photographers who were waiting patiently for the bird to hop into a patch of sunlight. The entire time I was also communicating the status of the bird's presence to a friend of mine via cell phone. He was being held up with another activity and to his chagrin could not immediately drop what he was doing to see his lifer Henslow's Sparrow. In the end he did get to see the bird, I got the photo I wanted, and it was all worth the effort!

Henslow's Sparrow

     As we were working on saying our goodbyes to the birds, new friends, and a new favorite birding spot, I happened to see a special sort of bird fly into a tree right alongside the Magee Marsh parking lot not too far from where we were milling about. I immediately got the attention of everyone around me and went looking for the super secretive.....cuckoo!!! It had conveniently perched just above eye-level, and gave the growing crowd of birders decent views before moving further back into the vegetation. We had already seen a Black-billed Cuckoo earlier in the trip, so we were really hoping to get a Yellow-billed Cuckoo before leaving. Luck was on our side this time and this last bird of the trip did indeed have a yellow bill.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

    Our visit to The Biggest Week in American Birding turned out to be very much worth the trip, and we are already thinking about going again next year! I encourage anyone who has not experienced this festival to drop whatever else you were going to do in the second week of May, and GO!!!!

The official list of all species seen during the festival (as of the day we left). 

Although our time at the Biggest Week was over, my birding adventures for the week were only halfway through. The day after coming home from Ohio I repacked my bags and flew down to Florida to visit a friend who was working on Sanibel Island.....more on this adventure coming soon!

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