Sunday, May 5, 2013

Biggest Week in American Birding, Day 2 - 04 May 2013

Day 1 (Friday) turned out to be very good day for the start of the 2013 Biggest Week in American Birding, which is being held at the Crane Creek / Magee Marsh area of NW Ohio.  Highlights included American Woodcock, Whip-poor-will, Cerulean Warblers and Golden-winged Warblers.

Saturday, May 4th marked Day 2 of the festival.  The boardwalk would (as expected) be crowded with hundreds of rabid birders hoping to get looks and photographs of the multitudes of warblers and passerines migrating through the area.  My day would start out at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge giving a Digiscoping Workshop to a dozen festival participants.

The morning started out clear and relatively mild, but winds quickly picked up and temperatures began to drop.  It wasn't the ideal condition for giving a digiscoping workshop, but (hopefully) we had a good time covering spotting scopes, cameras and adapters, and answering nagging questions that plagued participants. Hopefully they came away with some tips for improving their 'keeper' rates. The nearby nesting Purple Martin colony and Tree Swallows provided wonderful subjects for practice, despite the winds.  We got some nice images from 30 - 100' away.

Just before noon I headed over to the Black Swamp Bird Observatory and spent a few minutes listing to Kimberly Kaufman giving a bird banding talk and allowing participant to hold and release fresh-banded birds.  I spent some time in the Optics Alley tent talking to Stephen Ingraham (Zeiss), Jeff Bouton (Leica) and Roy Halpin (Kowa).  It was also good to see Kevin Bolton, Paul Hackett and Annette Jambloski (Kowa) before heading over to the boardwalk.

The afternoon on the boardwalk was less active than the morning, but still productive.  I started at the east end of the boardwalk and worked my way toward the west end.  Yellow Warblers and Tree Swallows were abundant.  Warbling Vireos were visible everywhere, making them some of the most-easily-viewed birds of the day.  Near the loop I managed a few photos of a Blackburnian Warbler and Chestnut-sided Warbler.  Magnolia and Black-throated Green Warblers were still active, and a few came close enough for photos.  I found out quickly, though, that the camera was having an increasingly difficult time maintaining focus on the bird with the trees starting to leaf out.  I was using a flash and Better Beamer since the bright skies were creating serious backlighting issues.

I ran into Clayton Taylor (Swarovski) and he had his scope on an Eastern Screech Owl that was roosting above the boardwalk.  A few feet further someone had their scope on a Whip-poor-will that was roosting farther back in the swamp.  Veery were spotted in a few locations, as well as a Brown Thrasher and Wood ThrushWhite-throated Sparrows were also actively scratching in the underbrush.

Near the west end a group of birders were watching a Golden-winged and Cerulean Warbler foraging in the same tree.  Both birds were extremely high in the canopy, but worked their way close enough for a few photos.  The flash helped illuminate the backlit birds, but I was finding that most of my exposures were overexposed, but the default shutter speed (1/250s) was rendering most exposures blurry.  Still, it was great seeing both birds so close.

A singing Black-throated Green Warbler just inches above my head was too close to photograph, but still hammed it up trying to get the attention of everyone around. At the west end a Mourning Warbler was garnering attention as it foraged about 100' back from the boardwalk.  I managed a few long-distance photos for record, but the bird refused to come near the boardwalk.  Walking back to the car along the parking lot failed to yield any birds, so I would be heading home by mid-afternoon.

Crowds were heavy, but folks were courteous, and navigating the boardwalk was relatively easy, even in the log jams.  I would've liked to have been on the boardwalk earlier in the day, but I had a great time w/ the digiscoping workshop, and loved catching up w/ fellow digiscopers and optics experts.  Photographing the Cerulean Warbler was a thrill, as it was one of many nemesis birds for me.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow and hoping to improve on today's mistakes.  I'll be bringing the flash, but will leave it on standby, and will make use of manual focusing to better track the birds. I'll also be looking for some notably-absent birds: Prothonotary Warbler, American Redstart, Swainson's Thrush, Rusty Blackbird - where are these birds???

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