Wednesday, May 27, 2015

My Time at the Biggest Week in American Birding

Rob writes: The last few weeks have been extremely busy and I've not done a very good job of keep all of our readers up-to-date with everything that's been happening. Early in May, I made the 3.5 hour drive to Northwest Ohio for the Biggest Week in American Birding. I'm part of the planning committee for festival and am in charge of all of the field trips that go on during the festival so I spend a lot of time in the area during the first 2 weeks of May.

Each year I enjoy watching the Prothonotary Warblers that nest along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh.
This year, I arrived a few days early so that I could lead a private tour for a couple from Massachusetts that wanted to see as many warblers as possible during their stay. We lucked out and hit one of the best days of the whole spring while they were there! They saw several lifers and our views of all the warblers and other migrants that day were spectacular.

Once the festival got underway, it was a whirlwind of activity. One the first day, I helped lead a fundraising hike for the Ohio Young Birders Club that was sponsored by Birds & Blooms Magazine (which I write for). The hike featured Kenn and Kim Kaufman as the main leaders and was a blast.

Everyone on the hike enjoyed getting great looks at Baltimore Orioles.
My commitments with Birds & Blooms continued the next day when I participated in their Bird Day competition. My team and I spent 3 hours finding as many species as we could and ended up winning the competition and helping Black Swamp Bird Observatory get a nice donation in the process.

After a few days of light birding, my next group of birders arrived from the Cincinnati Nature Center to spend the next 2.5 days birding with Sabrewing Nature Tours. We ended with over 125 species during their time with us and had such a fantastic time with this group.

The rest of my time was spent leading a few trips for the festival and keeping all of our other field trips on schedule. As always, I love the birding at Biggest Week but it's really the people that attend that make the festival so special. I got to spend time with many old friends and made just as many new ones. You can read more about my thoughts on the Biggest Week and its effect on people and the local economy in my post from the 2014 festival by clicking here.

I hope that all of our readers will consider joining us at the 2016 Biggest Week from May 6 - 15. The festival is held at Maumee Bay State Park Lodge each year. Be sure to get your reservations early as the lodge sells out every year. Stay up to day with Biggest Week news by signing up for our eNewsletter here.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Quivira NWR Birding

Greetings from Great Bend, KS

If you've never been to Quivira, you should make the time to visit during shorebird migration.  Thousands of shorebirds use this Kansas refuge each year during migration; with more than 20 species possible on any given day it's a must-visit refuge for a birder.  It's a very well birded refuge but portions of it are relatively unbirded, except by one of the park staff.  Luckily he gave us tips on some of the better woodlots and drove us around the refuge roads that are closed to the public.

Now, off to Colorado.  There's never enough time, always on the road . . .

For a rarity at Quivira, a Pine Warbler has to be one of the more boring

Snowy Plover-a common nesting species at Quivira

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Quivira NWR Massacre

A Peregrine was doing it's thing . . .

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Texas Birds and Bars

For a couple weeks in late April, I was traveling around the, birdy, state of Texas.  I didn't have a chance to hit the coast, so it may not have been as birdy as it could have been, however there were many birds with some nice highlights.  I spent most of my time conducting breeding bird surveys in Lyndon Johnson NHP and Lake Meredith NRA but was able to make a quick stop at Balcones Canyonlands for Golden-cheeked Warblers and Black-capped Vireos.

One of many, this is the unmistakable Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.
An almost albino Northern Mockingbird.  Not 1 but 2 were present at
Lyndon Johnson NHP
This picture was taken a few years ago due to the rainy conditions I
encountered at Balcones.  I did have many Golden-cheeks though!
Birding doesn't have to be all serious . . . here is what I was introduced to
as a "real" Texas bar.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

More Birding at Magee Marsh in April

Last weekend, I made one more trip to BSBO and Magee Marsh to prepare for the 2015 Biggest Week in American Birding and found time to go birding on both Saturday and Sunday. Although it was nearly the end of April, it felt more like the beginning of the month with the bird species that were present. Warblers were almost completely absent with only Yellow-rumped and Palm seen and other early migrants like Hermit Thrush and Ruby-crowned Kinglet appeared in very small numbers. The best bird of the weekend for me was a Blue-headed Vireo that was very cooperative for photos!

My first Blue-headed Vireo of 2015.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Taste of Mexico

Traveling down to Mexico in this VW bus was a memorable experience.
While in Mexico, I was able to pick up a few new birds for my Mexico list
such as Lark Sparrow, Violet-green Swallow, and Gambel's Quail.

Eric writes: Greetings from Johnson City, TX

If you've never been to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southern Arizona, there's no better time than now.  In past years, much of the park has been closed due to illegal activity relating to the United States-Mexico border but it is now completely open to the public.  I was there conducting breeding bird surveys but most of the highlights came in the afternoon, after completing the surveys.  

Here are some photos from the week I spent there:

The US-Mexico border from the Mexico side.
Western Diamondback from Organ Pipe.  In one day, we had 8 rattlesnakes of 3 species.
The first Sidewinder I had ever seen.  We saw 5 on this night.
A Western Diamondback that was very well hidden.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Birding in NW Ohio in Preparation for the Biggest Week in American Birding

Rob writes: I always look forward to April. The weather starts to get better in my area, the trees start to bud, and most importantly, many of our migrant birds begin to return. April is also the time of year that the preparations for the Biggest Week in American Birding enter the final stages as we count down the days until the start of the festival in early May.

Each April, I make two trips to Black Swamp Bird Observatory and Magee Marsh in Ohio to spend time meeting with all of our amazing volunteers who serve as leaders and drivers for over 100 field trips during the festival. Once these meetings start, I know that both the festival and the warblers will be arriving very soon! Like any birder, I always find some time to sneak away during my trips and do a bit of birding.

During my time at the famous Magee Marsh boardwalk this past weekend, the area was full of typical early spring migrants such as Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrushes, Fox Sparrows, and Yellow-rumped Warblers. There were also a few surprises, like a very early Ovenbird and a species I'd never seen at Magee Marsh before - Henslow's Sparrow!

There were many Brown Creeper calling as I walked along the Boardwalk.
Hermit Thrushes foraged on the ground and seemed to ignore us as we walked along the Boardwalk.
My friend Brian captured this great shot of a very unusual Henslow's Sparrow on the Crane Creek Estuary Trail.
Another big highlight for me was photographing a Blanding's Turtle as it was making its way across the causeway leading to the the marsh. This is an endangered species, and we were sure to help it across the road after taking some photos so that no one would hit it.

This Blanding's Turtle was a highlight of my weekend!
Just before I needed to start my drive back home, we noticed that raptors were beginning to migrate overhead as the temperatures rose, creating thermals for them to ride. I saw my first Broad-winged Hawks of the year migrating overhead as well as Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrels, Bald Eagles, and one Peregrine Falcon.

I'm looking forward to heading back to Ohio in 2 weeks and seeing how much farther along migration is at that point. We are only 23 days away from The Biggest Week now!  If you haven't registered yet, there's still time to join us at the biggest birding festival in the US.  Click here for more details: