Long time no see! Sorry for the absence, I've been extremely busy with school and sports, but now I'm back for good! Last week, I had the chance to go to the Biggest Week in American Birding, in Oak Harbor, Ohio. I was invited to speak about young birders at the festival this year, and I readily excepted. I have gone to The Biggest Week for the past four years, and I love it. The people are amazing and the birds never disappoint. Kimberley Kaufman is the coordinator of the festival, and the head of Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO.) The festival has been around for the past eight years, and it is the largest birding festival in America.
We arrived late Wednesday night, after my brother's birthday. I was pumped because this is one of my favorite times of year. After settling in at our condo, and collapsing into bed, we got up around 5:30 am the next morning. We drove to Magee Marsh in anticipation of a great day. When we got there, we noticed it was pretty quiet, by Magee standards. We walked the boardwalk for a few hours and found a few birds such as Northern Parula,
Blue-winged Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler,
and Black-throated-blue Warbler. We headed back to BSBO to go to the optics alley, which is where most of the cameras and binoculars are sold, or rented. We stopped and said our hellos, before heading over to watch Noah Stryker do his keynote presentation on amazing bird behaviors. Afterwords, we checked out the social event, but we headed home kind of early, because I had to get up extra early for a trip I was co-leading the next morning.
The next morning, Tyler Ficker, a young birder that currently attends The Ohio State University, picked me up around 6:30 am. We drove about 45 minutes to Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve. We were leading a trip with Sarah Lucas and Jeremy Dominguez, two amazing birders from southern Ohio. We had a total of 65 species for the day, with the highlights being Scarlet Tanagers, Northern Parulas, Blue-headed Vireo, and a Mourning Warbler that I heard. After a quick attempt at Huron Point to try and see a Black-headed Gull, we headed back to Black Swamp where I picked up a Canon EOS-1DX Mark ii to try out. It was amazing! 14 images per second! It sounded exactly like a machine gun! It took me a while to get used too, but I did get some decent shots! The boardwalk had an American Woodcock,
a few Nashvilles, a Magnolia,
and a few Black-throated Greens, but other than that, it was dead. We went to Maumee later that night for the social, but before we headed inside, my brother and I went to the Maumee Bay boardwalk to look for Eastern-screech Owls. We found two birds, a Gray phase
and a Red phase. After taking a few photos of them, we headed back to the social. It had been a halfway decent day!
Saturday morning we got up around 5:30 am and headed over to the boardwalk. The variety was better, but quantity was down. There were some decent looks of a Whip-poor-will perched just off the board walk, but other than that, it was not very active. I was co-leading a walk with Tyler McClain and Nate Koczycki. It was the Ohio Young Birders Club annual Biggest Week walk. We had about 65 species, a decent amount, with the best birds being Black-crowned Night-heron, Yellow-throated Vireo, and a few Scarlet Tanagers. I had to leave the walk early and go to Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge for my presentation. I got there about an hour early and waited for the previous presentation to end. Once it was over, we headed on in and started to set up. A few minutes before my presentation, we realized that my mom's Mac didn't have an HDMI output and we couldn't hook up to the projector. My dad was kind of panicked. We tried at least finding another laptop, but the IT guy wasn't around and we were scrambling. My mom left to go back to the condo and get my computer, but when she opened the door to our condo, a Barn Swallow flew in! My mom then made a quick decision to grab the computer and go, leaving the screen door open for the swallow to fly out, which it eventually did. By the time she got back, one of the workers had found a computer and my dad was able to put my presentation on it. From there, everything went smoothly and I really enjoyed sharing my thoughts on how to get more kids involved in birding.
The Social that night was awesome! Kimberly gave a great closing speech and they raffled off a pair of Zeiss binoculars and and a Swarovski spotting scope!!! Of course we didn't win them, but it was still cool. After that, we hung out for the rest of the night, then headed back to the condo. When we got home, there was a Whip-poor-will singing across the harbor. I tried to find it but I couldn't.
Sunday was our last and best day there. We got to Magee around 6:45 am after picking up Mariel and Angel Abreu from Nature is Awesome Birding and Wildlife tours. When we got to the boardwalk, it was loud. Very loud! Tons of warblers were singing and flocks of 25-50 were flying over. I was ecstatic!
We started at the boardwalk and noticed the migrants moving along the lakefront, heading west. So we left the boardwalk, and headed to the west end of the parking lot to go to the Estuary Trail. We started by birding around the little breakfast shack. There were warblers flying over and around us constantly! About 15 Scarlet Tanagers were feeding in a tree, flocks of 100's of Redstarts were flying in, a Cerulean Warbler was singing, and at least two Mourning Warblers were feeding on the side of the path. It was crazy! We continued walking towards the end of the trail, while hundreds of birds continually poured in. We got to the end of the trail and just stared up. I had never seen anything like it before! I estimated about 150 migrants about every five minutes! Blackburnian Warblers were going over, along with Prothonotary Warblers and lots of other great birds. The migration started to slow down by 9:00 am, so we started to walk back slowly towards the parking lot, but that took a while. Even more birds were in the trees : Philedelphia Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, Prothonotary Warbler, Black-throated Blue-warbler, and a lone Eastern-screech Owl. The boardwalk was pretty decent for the amount of time we were there, which wasn't long. Tyler Ficker called me and told me that he was going to go to Pearson Metro Park to go find the Connecticut Warbler, and to see if I wanted to go with him. Tyler drove me to Black Swamp to drop off my Canon 1DX Mark ii. While there, we said our goodbyes to Kimberley and we took a picture of all of the youth birding guides.
We then continued on to Pearson. We got out of the car and checked in a location where the Mourning Warbler had been seen, nada. We saw where all of the birders were heading and walked that way. About 50 people were lined up trying to at least hear it. We waited for about fifteen minutes before heading back to our car, and heading back to Magee, to do a little more birding. We stopped by optics alley, and said goodbye to everyone. Then we headed out. It had been a really amazing trip. I had lead a few trips, done a presentation about young birders, and had an amazing time with the best birders I know! I can't wait for next year!!!!
Thank you for everything BSBO!!