As reported by Kenn Kaufman just a day earlier, I took advantage of the sunny morning and headed south to the Black Swamp Bird Observatory and the Magee Marsh Boardwalk. Traffic was relatively light and, despite construction on I-75, still managed to arrive at the entrance just before 8 am.
As the marsh began to open to my left I heard the paired, musical sessions of a Brown Thrasher. I frantically scanned the shrubs lining the pond, and soon found it high atop a Sycamore Tree welcoming the rising sun. I grabbed the scope and walked a short distance onto the grass and digiscoped several frames and a video before returning to the car.
Moving ahead I came across a roosting Bald Eagle that took flight before I could get the scope out of the car. Although I couldn't get the eagle, a Whitetail Deer was standing at water's edge and allowed several frames from the car window.
Red-winged Blackbirds were busy singing and displaying all over the marsh. Swamp Sparrows were trilling in all directions, with at least a half-dozen birds within earshot. American Coot were swimming in the canal to my right, but the severe backlighting prevented any decent photos from being taken. So I settled for a pair of Blue-winged Teal in the canal to my left.
After a few minutes with the teal, I continued on. A Great Blue Heron was so intent on feeding that it ignored my presence. A few yards beyond it a female Canvasback was feeding, followed by a Pied-billed Grebe.
As I photographed them a trio of Trumpeter Swans were feeding at the mouth of a nearby channel. A pair of Northern Shovelers were also feeding nearby, but refused to raise their heads above water long enough for a couple's portrait. A quick stop at the beach netted a couple dozen Bonaparte's Gulls in various stages of molt. I tried, but the birds flushed before I could digiscope them. So I grabbed the scope and headed toward the boardwalk.
With the sun still working its way into the woods I entered the boardwalk and immediately heard the quiet singing of the Yellow-rumped Warblers and the 'tseet-tseet' of the Golden-crowned Kinglets.
The first of many Hermit Thrushes appeared in the wet leaf litter next to the boardwalk but would only allow distant photos. As I walked along the boardwalk several more birds appeared, including one individual that approached close enough for some nice portraits. Poor thing had a large tick protruding from its forehead! The bird sat motionless for several minutes and allowed many closeup images w/ the Nikon D300, Sigma 400mm f/5.6, SB-800 Flash and Better Beamer.
Soon a small flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets appeared and fed in the bare trees a few feet away. Photos were hard to come by since they were directly in line of sight w/ the rising sun. A single Ruby-crowned Kinglet was among them, and soon a Brown Creeper appeared.
As I continued on a Yellow-rumped Warbler appeared briefly, and although I could hear its thin trill, I could not locate a nearby Palm Warbler. At least one Pine Warbler was also present (another birder showed me a photo that needed ID'ing).
Continuing around the boardwalk a Fox Sparrow flew up and landed just a few feet away. It was beautifully lit by the morning sun but was obscured by several vines. Still, I did my best to manually focus the camera through the vegetation to get a couple keepers. Just a bit beyond this bird another Hermit Thrush appeared and provided several lovely portraits.
I had to be home by 11 am, so I started back toward the car. A Red-bellied Woodpecker made a brief appearance overhead, while a Northern Flicker kept everyone busy with its constant fly-by's. Wood Ducks were perched in the trees overhead, and flushed every time someone would walk by. Three Eastern Towhees appeared, including a handsome male, but it would not leave the dense thickets long enough for a clean photo. So I had to settle for partial shot.
I left the boardwalk at 9:40 am and found the parking lot almost completely full! This place will be rocking for the next few weeks, and when the Biggest Week of Birding starts, I'll need to get here before sunrise to get a place to bird. Can't wait!
Epilogue: It was reported that a Prothonotary Warbler was found on the 13th. I missed it by one day...