Thursday, May 21, 2015

Magee Marsh

I've been hearing a lot about the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area recently, and especially about its reputation as an amazing hotspot for migrating birds in May. This preserve is on the southern shore of Lake Erie, and as the high concentrations of birds pass through the area in the spring, so come the birders! There was a huge birding festival at Magee Marsh all last week. Since I'm not a big crowds person, I waited until this past Tuesday morning to go check this place out. And yes, it was pretty great; a bit crowded, but still fun! Long boardwalks wind through marshy forests with lots of low bushes that help bring birds down to eye level. It was cold, cloudy, and windy when I visited, and there weren't insane amounts of birds (it wasn't one of those heavy-bird days at Magee Marsh that I've read about, when birds are practically dripping from the trees). But there were many, many cool creatures to see!

One of the most interesting parts of the visit for me was getting to walk around in an area entirely populated with birders: all these people with their soft voices and reserved movements, pointing their lenses at spots of interest in waves. I walked by one clump of people who were all staring at the base of a tree and passing around the word "Gray-cheeked Thrush," and yes, there it was (a bird I'd never seen before and would've had trouble identifying on my own). A few yards further along the boardwalk, another group was muttering "American Woodcock" and cooing happily whenever a new person managed to see the well-camouflaged bird; it was all super adorable, both the people and the bird:

An adult Bald Eagle perched in a nearby tree got a few points and exclamations, but it was much less of a celebrity than the woodcock:

So yeah, there are definitely some benefits to being around groups of other people looking for birds; I almost certainly wouldn't have noticed this slowly-moving woodcock on my own (it was trying really hard to stay hidden)! Most of the time, though, I did what I prefer to do, which is just wander around quietly on my own and see what creatures I can see.

Gray Catbirds were all over the place in these woods. This catbird was singing directly overhead near the boardwalk's entrance, and I got a clear view of the rusty feathers under its tail:

Gray Catbirds are quite handsome birds, and I'm glad they've returned for the summer:

This Eastern Kingbird was hunting for flying bugs at the edge of a small pond; I'd never noticed how beautiful these birds' wing feathers are, with those white outlines, although this individual's normally white-tipped tail was quite bedraggled:

Is it just me, or are those feet really small?

I love this bird's wide flycatcher beak:

Another Eastern Kingbird was hanging around on the beach. I think flycatchers look really cool:

Hordes of iridescent Tree Swallows were swooping through the air all along the beach, and this one paused to pick at something in the sand:

A flying Great Blue Heron strangely touched the water for a moment on the open lake, as if it thought about landing and then changed its mind; I love this dangling/dancing pose:

A male Baltimore Oriole lit up the overcast woods:

And I was surprised at how bright this American Robin looked; it's no oriole, but it's not too far off:

With so many leaves on the trees now, the smaller songbirds were pretty difficult to see! This Red-eyed Vireo only showed itself briefly:

And this is the best picture I got of a male Blackburnian Warbler who was working his way quickly through the trees:

Male Blackpoll Warblers showed up a few times, hunting for bugs in low branches:

It looks like this guy found something:

I love this warbler's stripey back:

Yellow Warblers were all over the place, males with their fancy striped chests:

And plainer (but still very bright) females:

This female was being chased by a couple of males, but she still managed to do some foraging:

Yellow warblers can look so cute from some angles:

My visit to Magee Marsh didn't yield the most birds I've ever seen, or the most amazing/impressive diversity, but it was still a great trip with lots of awesome creatures! I'm very glad I got to visit this place while I'm still living in the area.

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