Thursday, May 3, 2012

How "Sweet-Sweet-Sweet" It Is! - 03 May 2012

Although the torch hasn't been officially lit, the games have begun! Today marked Registration Day 1 for the Biggest Week in American Birding, which officially starts tomorrow, Friday, May 4 and runs through next Sunday, May 13.  I took the morning off from work to check out the boardwalk, as it would be my only opportunity to get out there until next week.

I arrived promptly at 7 am and parked near the west entrance to the Magee Marsh Boardwalk.  A number of cars were already filling the parking lot, and cameras and Better Beamers were being mounted to 500mm and 600mm lenses.  I grabbed my trusty Nikon 300mm f/2.8 VRII lens and Nikon D300s and headed for the boardwalk, myself.  Birds were already active, and plenty of binoculars were pointed to the tree tops.

It would turn out to be one of those days with the majority of birds high in the tree tops.  Kenn Kaufman had Tweeted that a reverse migration appeared to be occurring since large numbers of birds were flying back in from over Lake Erie.  Here on the boardwalk the first of many Yellow-rumped Warblers and Palm Warblers were being seen.  Least Flycatchers and Yellow Warblers could be heard from up high, while a Louisiana Waterthrush was calling from somewhere on the forest floor.  I managed to pick out a Northern Parula and a Chestnut-sided Warbler against the still-overcast skies, and heard the first Black-throated Green Warblers of the year.

It was great to run into Will Weber. We chatted a bit before I continued on.  At marker #16 I heard the familiar "Sweet-Sweet-Sweet" of a Prothonotary Warbler right above me, and quickly found a stunning male bird singing just a few feet away.

For the next 10 minutes or so he entertained us by foraging just feet away, giving us stunning looks and (unfortunately) some challenging photo opps.  It was still a bit dark in this portion of the swamp, so the Better Beamer was needed.  I managed to capture some nice images of the bird, but readily admit that my keeper rate was very poor.  Sharp images of the bird were spoiled by misplaced branches, twigs or leaves.  Still, I was quite happy to get any images of what I believe is the prettiest bird in the region.

Though bird numbers would remain relatively low, diversity was quite good.  I would end up w/ 18 warbler spp., while others would report over 20 spp. for the day.  Highlight birds included: Blackpoll Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, White-eyed Vireo (heard only), Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Veery, Wood Thrush, Tennessee Warbler (heard only), Kentucky Warbler (heard only), Wilson's Warbler, American Redstart, and Ovenbird.

I was absolutely delighted to run into Dawn and Jeff Simmons Fine, who were keeping company with fellow bloggers Chris West, Gunnar Engblom and Marsh Kraus Fulton.  They were going the other way, so I continued on, picking up Magnolia Warbler, and getting another run-in w/ the Prothonotary Warbler.

Karen Markey, Michigan's warbler expert, was showing folks a Yellow-throated Vireo high overhead, while Jen Brumfield was leading a tour near the entrance.  By 9:30 am the boardwalk was already crowded, and the parking lot was filled.  I myself had to head back to work, but not before getting to chat w/ folks like Mark Wloch, Rodney Laura and Andrew Sturgess.  I would some great birds today, including Summer and Scarlet Tanager, Mourning and Canada Warblers, and the like, but the show's just starting, so I'm not worried.

On my way out I stopped long enough to find a huge Snapping Turtle making its way across the road in front of the Bird Center.  With the amount of traffic moving on the road today, I quickly pulled over and (carefully) carried the snapping beast back to the water's edge.  I would spend the rest of the morning getting the smell of musk off my fingers.

Looking forward to Day 1 of the festival, and the weekend's outings!


Drew said...

Those photos cannot be real...I will have to come out and check this myself!

sdkielb said...

Incredible shots!

sdkielb said...

Beautiful warbler photos!

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