I arrived at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory at 7 am and immediately felt that I was an hour or two late. The place was already buzzing with hoards of birders / photographers. The parking lot at the boardwalk (map here) was already filling up, and dozens of birders were already crowding the west entrance. I squeezed past several small groups and headed toward the observation platform (West Tower), hoping to catch a glimpse of a Prothonotary Warbler. No such luck, but I took in the calls of Blackpoll Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Yellow Warbler, and Northern Waterthrush.
I walked for a while but couldn't find anything to photograph. Finally, I turned a corner and found a Gray Catbird perched on the railing just a foot away (Marker #10). It posed for several frames before joining its mate on the forest floor.
A Wilson's Warbler and Common Yellowthroat were singing in the trees to my left, and I managed brief glimpses of each with binoculars. Farther out an American Redstart was singing, but was too far to photograph. I turned just as a lovely Yellow Warbler appeared next to my ear and belted out its song - loud enough to pop an eardrum! (end of Marker #10 boardwalk)
Following the boardwalk along the south canal a pair of Black-and-White Warblers flew across my path and lighted onto bare branches to my left (Marker #21). A lovely female followed shortly by a more cooperative juvenile bird. Note the buff coloration on the cheeks!
Up ahead a lovely American Redstart sang overhead (Marker #24). Beautiful bird. The willows to my left were active with Magnolia, Wilson's and Yellow Warblers.
This Wilson's Warbler appeared just overhead and permitted a couple of quick frames (Marker #23B). Unfortunately for me I was too slow to get its best pose. It flew before I could get a focus on it.
A couple of ladies up ahead of me were watching the trees overhead, and I was able to spot a female Prothonotary Warbler near its nest cavity (~Marker #18). As it flew across the boardwalk the male appeared, and proceeded to entertain the three of us for the next several minutes. I took dozens of frames from just a few feet away as it fed in the open. Unfortunately for me (again) my success rate was poor. Problem with shooting Aperture-priority is that the flash will provide proper exposure but the camera can still expose only 1/30 sec..... Lesson learned? - expose to stop action!
Returning toward the west entrance a group of birders were scanning the woods for a Mourning Warbler. It did not appear, but a Wood Thrush nearby was a nice consolation (~Marker #15).
Another group of birders were crowded around the entrance, but I neglected to check out what they were looking at: a male Golden-winged Warbler! And I missed it. Instead, I headed along the parking lot and took in the sights of dozens of photographers lining the woods and waiting for birds to appear. The parking lot was full, and it was only 8:30 am! I picked up another Chestnut-sided Warbler and American Redstart as I headed toward the east boardwalk entrance. Once on the boardwalk, I was able to photograph a nice male Common Yellowthroat. Marker #34. Too bad the birding along this stretch was going to involve severely back-lit photography.
Up ahead, another group of birders were scanning the canal shoreline for a female Golden-winged Warbler. It flew out just as I approached and landed in the brush just a foot away (Marker #30). After several attempts it appeared momentarily and allowed a single keeper.
Continuing on a Northern Waterthrush appeared (Marker #27), followed by several nice Magnolia Warblers and American Redstarts. A short distance later I came upon a cooperative Chestnut-sided Warbler, followed by a lovely Northern Parula. Marker #21B.
I then ran into Charles Owens, and walked with him for a while. We spotted another Prothonotary Warbler at a distance, and another Magnolia Warbler. I missed seeing a Black-billed Cuckoo that was hidden by trees and leaves, and would later miss an American Woodcock near the entrance. But I did find two males and one female Scarlet Tanagers feeding at a distance.
I left the boardwalk and headed out. I stopped at the Bird Center to photograph the Purple Martin colony just outside the office. Along the way I found an Eastern Phoebe, White-crowned Sparrow, and pair of Baltimore Orioles and a pair of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. The orioles and hummers were in a bright red honeysuckle bush, but wouldn't come out into the open to get their pictures taken.
All in all, a good morning!