We admit it: we love to watch birds. We also admit that we are not good at the whole thing. For us, the hardest birds to identify have always been warblers. So, what better challenge than to head for the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, the “Warbler Capital of the World”? We had high expectations that this might be a turning point in our birding skills.
Many birds (including warblers) migrate north in the spring from as far away as South America. One of the flight pathways they follow takes them through this marshy area on the shore of western Lake Erie in Ohio.
We, too, landed at the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area’s boardwalk, surrounded by an unimaginable number of birds calling around us and everywhere we looked. There were also more birdwatchers than we’d ever seen in one place before.
Everyone seemed incredibly helpful in pointing out where to look for interesting birds and identifying them for us. Even with coaching from other birdwatchers, it took us about 10 minutes of searching with binoculars to finally see a perfectly camouflaghed whip-poor-will sleeping on a fallen log in the brush.
The Virginia rail is an elusive bird, and we have heard its call but not seen it in many years of looking. Photographers lined up when a Virginia rail was spotted. This was our opportunity!
One wet day we walked in outlying areas and saw two new birds for us – the eastern towhee and rose-breasted grosbeak
We had signed up for field trips, workshops, and special events over our five-day stay at “The Biggest Week in American Birding Festival.” By the end of our stay, we had seen well over 100 species of birds and of those, 17 were warbler species.
After bird watching for well over 40 years, we learned some new ways to look at birds that should greatly improve our identification skills. Of course, if identifying warblers still turns out to be difficult, we can always head back to the annual “Biggest Week in American Birding” festival and get those experienced, helpful birdwatchers to tell us what we’re looking at.