Tag Archives: Magee Marsh

A Big Day with big, renewing results

prothonotary warbler, warblers

Male Prothonotary Warbler at Magee Marsh. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

Even in my semi-retirement, I’m a busy person. Keeping active and involved in the community has been a priority and passion my entire life.

That lifestyle takes a personal toll, however. From time to time, I need to recharge my body, mind, and spirit. I step away from my daily routine and spend some time just enjoying life.

I have found that immersing myself into nature is the salve that soothes the soul. I love the outdoors and all the beauty that she offers.

A Big Day does that for me. In the birding world, a Big Day is an entire day devoted to nothing more than counting all the species of birds that you can identify by sight or sound.

Folks do Big Days in groups that cover a given territory. Or they are done by simply staying put in one spot and counting all creatures avian seen or heard. That is appropriately called a Big Sit.

My Big Day, however, wasn’t either one of those. Instead, with the warbler migration in full swing, I knew the various locations I wanted to visit in northwest Ohio to view the returning and transient birds.

Traveling alone to different birding hot spots allowed me to go at my own pace, and to absorb fully all that I experienced.

Spring birding near Lake Erie means dressing for all seasons. I was glad I had.

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The steady, stiff northeast wind off of the lake brought out the winter duds in most birders on the boardwalk at Magee Marsh, my first destination. Being bundled up didn’t deter either the active bird observations or the usual universal geniality of most birders.

The boardwalk was packed with birders young, old and in between from around the world. Warblers and other birds flitted everywhere.

Even though I had gone by myself, I clearly wasn’t alone. Among the hundreds of birders at Magee, I only knew one, my friend and expert birder, Greg Miller, of ‘The Big Year” fame. The rest weren’t strangers though, helping me to locate and identify 23 warbler species. Their kindness meant more than the day’s species numbers.

Later, when I drove the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge road and then hurried to see some other rare birds, I found the same excited congeniality. Sullen grumpiness isn’t part of birding ethics. Beautiful birds and friendly birders cohabited.

(Click on the photos to enlarge them)

With the day quickly waning, I headed east to the Marblehead Peninsula. I wanted to enhance my day with a brief visit to the Lakeside Daisy Nature Preserve to view the flowers in their prime. Though the day was mostly cloudy and cool, the little buttery daisies warmed my soul with their lusciousness.

After a quick supper, I hustled to my favorite spot in Ohio, Marblehead Lighthouse. The setting sun cast long shadows of trees onto the historic white lighthouse. Its red top, where the beacon blinked for sailors, was bathed in creamy, warm light.

A handful of other photographers celebrated with me. I can’t speak for them. But with each click of the camera’s shutter, my soul felt lighter, cleansed, fulfilled.

I hurried to nearby Lakeside to watch the sunset’s golden evolution. The day was complete.

Such are the positive consequences of observing, listening, contemplating, reflecting and sharing with humankind amid the earthly creation for which we all are charged to preserve. My Big Day finished bigger than I could have ever imagined.

Joy abounded all around in regeneration. Isn’t that the real reason for spring?

Lakeside sunset, sunset

Lakeside sunset. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015


© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Birds and birders: Two of a kind

boardwalkentrancebybrucestambaugh

The west entrance to the Magee Marsh boardwalk is a great place to begin the birding.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Birds and birders have a lot in common. This thought struck me on my latest trip to northwest Ohio’s birding mecca, Magee Marsh Wildlife Area.

Billed as the Greatest Week in American Birding, the event coincided with the peak of the spring warbler migration. Warblers, and other migrating birds, use Ohio’s airspace as their launching pad to their northern breeding grounds.

Before the birds cross Lake Erie, they tend to rest along its shores. There they replenish their strength by devouring insects that flit around the budding and blooming deciduous trees, shrubs and wildflowers. Shorebirds scour the marshes and shores for their nourishment.

woodcockbybrucestambaugh

This American Woodcock chose the median of the parking lot to make her nest.

As an amateur birder, I enjoy watching backyard birds and observing passers through with equal zeal. But if I want to see a multitude of colorful migrating birds packed into one location, Magee Marsh is the place to go.

The marsh and its 2,200 surrounding acres serve as a sprawling wildlife sanctuary with varied habitat types, including estuaries, marshes, scrub lands, woodlots, rocky areas, beaches and of course the lake itself. The area also provides sportsmen with seasonal controlled hunting and fishing.

birdhabitatsbybrucestambaugh

Magee Marsh has many habitats that attract several species of migrating birds.

During bird migration season, the only shooting of birds permitted is with cameras. Believe me, plenty of shots are fired in search of the perfect picture of the incredible songbirds, shorebirds, and birds of prey.

In my meandering around the boardwalk, trails and beach, I discovered something that should have been obvious. Birders have a lot in common with the birds they watch.

boardwalkbirdersbybrucestambaugh

Birders checked out warbler on the boardwalk at Magee Marsh

Like their feathered friends, birders come in all shapes, sizes and ages. Just like the birds, birders sport different hues and clothe themselves in a variety of colors, including camouflage, worn more to soothe the birds than hide from predators.

There are other comparisons, too. Some birders maneuver and forage in solitude for their targets. Others travel in organized groups. Most birders are quiet, but some let loose with an effusive chatter when a flashy warbler or rare bird is spotted.

When a shorebird captures a fish, it often finds itself quickly surrounded by others hoping to also steal a bite. When a birder discovers a coveted find, others gather around hoping to capture the image through their spotting scopes, binoculars, or cameras. Those without scopes are graciously invited to better view the often-concealed bird. Birders are genuinely kind people.

youngbirdersbybrucestambaugh

A young family took a break from their birding at Magee.

When a bird is located along the boardwalk at Magee, birders bob and weave, stretch and stoop to get just the right viewing angle. Birds do the same in search of food or checking out habitat. Most birders go in search of birds, like the many warblers that flit from limb to limb decreasing the insect population. Others sit and wait for the birds to come to them, like a Great Blue Heron patiently waiting for a fish to spear.

Camaraderie and sharing are normal in the sport of birding. Staunch birders make life lists, month lists, day lists, yard lists,

capemaywarblerbybrucestambaugh

This Cape May Warbler dined on insects before heading across the lake.

state lists, annual lists, and just about any other kind of list you might imagine. That’s how serious they take this popular sport.

If someone finds a bird they can’t identify, a more expert birder gladly assists in teaching how to properly confirm just what species it is. Teaching and learning are just as important as appreciating the birds and their habitats.

Perhaps that is why birding is one of the most popular sports in the world. During the Biggest Week in American Birding, global citizens flock to northwest Ohio in hopes of seeing a special species.

To hear the various lyrical birdsongs and behold the flashy mating plumages first hand is truly a treat. To see the smiles and satisfaction on the faces of the elated birders is equally rewarding.

happybirdersbybrucestambaugh

Birders tend to be pleasant, engaging people.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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