By Stephen Ingraham
The Biggest Week in American Birding is well named. For 10 days in early May, the birds and birders put on an unrivaled show on the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio. Migrating warblers and other songbirds are the main attraction, and they draw increasing numbers of both seasoned and casual birders each year.
The boardwalk at Magee Marsh, Black Swamp Bird Observatory, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, and Maumee Bay State Park host the thousands of birders from all over the United States, and many visitors from abroad. It is like old home week for American birding. But of course, while birders enjoy meeting and greeting each other—there was even the first ever Birder Prom, held one night at the Maumee Bay Lodge—the real show is always the birds.
On a good day, you can stand on the boardwalk at Magee and have a dozen species of warblers feeding at eye-level and arm’s-length, or right overhead: Yellow, Cape May, Bay-breasted, Chestnut-sided, Blackburnian, Black-throated Green and Blue, Black-and-white, Yellow-rumped, Prothonotary, Redstarts, and the occasional Worm-eating, Cerulean, and even the super rare Kirtland’s, just to name a few.
In addition, Baltimore Orioles; Scarlet Tanagers; Rose-breasted Grosbeaks; nesting Bald Eagles, Great Horned Owls, and American Woodcocks; many thrushes, what seems like hundreds of Gray Catbirds; muskrats and turtles (including the endangered Blanding’s) enliven the mix.
And, as if that were not enough, each year more optics and photo companies and dealers gather at the Optics Alley tent at Black Swamp Bird Observatory to serve those who come back from the boardwalk feeling the need for better binoculars and cameras.
Each evening at the Maumee Bay Lodge, you can visit a growing number of ecotour companies and other business that cater to birders, to make your plans for the rest of the year—should you have enough energy left after the Biggest Week in American Birding.
Here are a few photo highlights from this year’s festival:
About the author and photographer: Stephen Ingraham has been taking pictures for 55 years and watching birds for 30. He lives with his family in southern Maine. He recently retired as the Birding and Observation Product Specialist for Zeiss Sports Optics and now serves as the Zeiss Senior Brand Advocate for Birding and Nature.