Little Birds Bring Big Crowds
By James Proffitt

Little Birds Bring Big Crowds

Thousands Flock to Northwest Ohio for Biggest Week in American Birding 

“Ssshhh, right there, behind that branch, see?” “Listen…hear it? There-there right now, look!” “Oh, my, goodness.”  “She’s coming around the other side, up about 10 feet.” “There’s a Kirtland’s on the beach right now, let’s go!” These are the kind of whispered conversations you will hear on the crowded, and amazingly quiet boardwalks at Maumee Bay State Park and Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. Despite hundreds of folks on the boardwalks, everyone speaks in hushed tones to best gather in the chirps, trills and whistles. Or, as quoted in the Kaufmann Field Guide: zhr zhr zhr zezee, and pickety-wip pickety-wip, and chpit chipt chipt.


The Biggest Week in American Birding will return to northwest Ohio from May 5-14, and if you’ve never seen the stars of the show, warblers, then you need to come and see. Then, look even closer. Some weigh as little as a nickel and fly thousands of miles solo, at night, to their breeding grounds in the north. And many are brightly-colored, exotic-looking little birds. But warblers aren’t the only draw!


Woodcock, owls, eagles, egrets, herons and Baltimore orioles are just a few of the feathery creatures you may glimpse in the region. And if you’re not a birder, fear not, because there will be hundreds of bird fans from all over the nation, and the world, eager to share their knowledge, and binoculars, with newcomers. BWIAB-central is the nearly mile-long boardwalk at Magee Marsh State Park where the warblers congregate to eat, rest and entertain. 

This is the 25th year the Black Swamp Bird Observatory has brought birds and people together in northwest Ohio. This year, more than 200 events and field trips will take place in Ottawa, Lucas, Erie and Sandusky counties where the state’s natural wonders will be on display. Kim Kauffman, executive director of Black Swamp, dedicated to bird conservation, says four workshops for beginning birders help get newbies into birding, and offer beginning birder supplies. “And the best part is these workshops are free,” she said. 


And while most people are looking up, there’s plenty to see looking down on the boardwalks, which wind through marshes filled with turtles, snakes and other creatures, plus a wide array of plants and fungus on natural display. The family-friendly event is perfect for kids, even small ones. But boardwalks winding through marshes aren’t the only areas where birding is big. Magee and Maumee are on the shores of Lake Erie, which provides opportunities to see birds on the beaches and in the water.  

“Migration is right on schedule,” says Kauffman, “the warblers are arriving and so are visitors.” Dozens of parks and wildlife areas in the region will host events and trips and visitors bureaus are working to make guests happy. A Twitter feed will keep attendees up-to-date on many things, including rare bird sightings and locations.

Canon will have equipment which visitors can check out and try for up to 24 hours, and Black Swamp offers binoculars on loan. A tent at Magee will feature a dozen or so vendors with hundreds of binoculars and spotting scopes for sale. Local visitors bureaus will be working hard to make sure visitors have all the information for lodging, eats and area activities and birders are recipients of many area discounts.



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