A quick report from the field: Magee Marsh, Ottawa NWR and Metzger Marsh, May 11-13. The weather conspired against me during my 2 1/2 days of birding the "Warbler Capital of the World" and the Biggest Week in American Birding. It was cold, gray, wet, and rather miserable. Let's just say, I have had better trips here. However, a bad day at Magee is better than a good day just about anywhere else in the world, so I'm still satisfied.
I ended up with a Trip List of 99 species, 19 of them warblers. I missed the Kirtland's Warbler by 1.5 days, the Mourning Warbler, the Golden-winged Warbler, and the Black-billed Cuckoo by hours, the Canada Warbler by minutes, and numerous other birds that should have been easy for numerous other reasons.
I missed getting my life Orange-crowned Warbler twice. A guy on the board walk told me he was "90% sure" that the tiny, backlit bird way, way high in the tree tops was an Orange-crowned. My own personal rule for Life Birds requires that I see the bird well enough to be able to ID it again in the future. I couldn't do it, so I didn't count it. Two days later, I saw a small, drab warbler working the edge of the parking lot, and thought I had an Orange-crowned. I studied it carefully, looking for every possible field mark. I narrowed it down to two species, and talked to Kim Kaufman in the BSBO office to help me confirm or deny my ID. I thought I had it, but on further review, I have decided I didn't seen the undertail coverts well enough to determine their color, and the rest of the field markings and behavior have made me conclude I had a female Tennessee instead.
I did pad my trip list a bit by counting two birds seen only "in-hand" at the banding demonstration put on by Black Swamp Bird Observatory. The tent set up just outside the BSBO building was crowded with observers, and I only stayed a few minutes. I picked up photos of this Northern Waterthrush, held by Kim Kaufman
and this Black-capped Chickadee held by Mark Shieldcastle. I was trying to show its field marks, including the white frosting on the wings. Bill Thompson, III calls that mark a "hockey stick," and I can never see in the field. I prefer to use the smudgy edges of its bib, compared to the clean lines of a Carolina, but that photo was unusable.
I got a decent shot of a male Baltimore Oriole along the causeway at Metzger Marsh, but the female flew before I could bag her. I took very few pictures on this trip. It rained most of the time, and when it wasn't raining, the light was terrible.
My favorite photo was of these Barn Swallows, who were assessing the housing potential of the sign on the door at the Bird Center at Magee Marsh. This door opens and closes every couple of minutes all day long in spring, and I imagined the conversation went something like this:
male: "Honey? What about here? This looks like a good spot."
female: "No, I told you over and over again. There is too much traffic here."
male: (mutters under his breath)
female: "What? I heard that. What did you say?"
male: "I said, 'Yes, dear.'"
female: (flying off) "My mother was right about you."
My complete trip list:
Great Blue Heron
Sora (HO=heard only)
American Woodcock (doing his "sky dance")
Eastern Phoebe (HO)
Horned Lark (HO)
Wood Thrush (HO)
Prothonotary (pair at nest cavity)
[19 total warblers]
Eastern Towhee (HO)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (3 M/2 F at one feeder)
Yellow-headed Blackbird (female; 1st Ohio)
total 99 species
I also saw lots of birders, including both old friends and new. I had a lot of fun meeting and birding with Alan Davies, a professional bird guide from Wales (they call birding "twitching" over there, you know) and hearing his stories. He and his wife took a year off work to travel and bird the world, in an attempt to break the record for the number of species seen in a calender year. The previous record was 3662; Alan and his wife, Ruth Miller, beat that on Oct. 31, 2008. Their final total was 4341! You can read about "The Biggest Twitch" here.
My 100th bird of the trip was a Life Bird, and it was well worth the two hour detour from NW Ohio to Columbia Station Reservation in Lorain County, just west of Cleveland. This was it, a Purple Gallinule, a tropical/subtropical bird that has no business being in northern Ohio. This one has been hanging around a Metropark for a couple of weeks, and it became my own personal "twitch" to chase down this vagrant.
Those of you who read my blog for my (occasional) bird posts are going to be a bit disappointed. I get my new puppy tomorrow, a 10 week old female Boston Terrier named "Panda," and I predict the blog will be filled with puppy stories for quite a while. I'll try not to gush too much or grouse too often, and I'll try to mix up puppy tales with pottery and nature, too.