Our First Trip to Magee Marsh

Magee Marsh East Entrance Sign
The East Entrance to Magee Marsh

Each May, northern Ohio’s Magee Marsh is a magnet for birders who want to see a wide number of warblers and other migrants up close. The local Ohio birders make the trip even more worthwhile by throwing The Biggest Week in American Birding festival during the height of warbler migration, with all kinds of activities held at birding hotspots throughout the area. If you are a birder, it really is an awesome adventure.

This year’s festival ran from May 5 through May 14. Jim and I traveled from Maryland to bird the area from May 6 until May 12. It was our first trip there. We saw so much and learned so much and got to see one hundred and one bird species (sixteen of them warblers.) We added twenty-seven new birds to our life list, including five warblers we had never before seen.

This post is an account of what the experience was like for us as first-time visitors to the marsh and the festival, including some of the logistics of staying in the area and visiting the marsh and other local birding hotspots. I’m also working on a companion post with additional photos of the birds we saw that will touch on what we learned in trying to photograph them.

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Spring Birds in the Yard

Male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
Male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

Here in central Maryland, while it has been feeling like summer lately, we have to remind ourselves that it is actually still spring. The yard has been lively, with quite a few interesting spring visitors over the past week. Most of them will not settle in to become yard regulars and will continue on their way within a day or two, but it sure is fun to watch them while they are here.

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Looking Beyond The Bird Feeder

Palm Warbler
Palm Warbler

During the winter months, most of the bird action in my yard is at the feeders. There are also birds looking under leaves and in bark crevices for bugs or searching for natural sources of seed or fruit. But none of these things is as abundant in the cold months, so for many birds that stay around here through the winter, the feeders become the center of activity.

But come spring, there are more and more things around for birds to eat so, while they’ll still happily come to feeders, many can also be seen in other places in the yard. Sparrows who up until now were mostly found under the feeders are now searching for seed and bugs in the grass (or what passes for grass in my yard) or up in the trees that are now leafing out. Some birds are getting nectar from flowering plants or finding insects attracted to the flowers. And there are all kinds of really interesting spring migrants coming through that don’t come to feeders at all, but who might be found in your yard if you watch for them.

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Chipping Sparrows Arrive

Chipping Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow

While this winter’s White-Throated Sparrows and Dark-Eyed Juncos will soon be leaving us to migrate up to Canada where they breed, Chipping Sparrows are now returning to Maryland and other parts of the US and Canada from their winter spent in the south.

The first Chipping Sparrow of the spring showed up in our yard this week. These tiny little guys are definitely welcomed back!
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American Robins

American Robin
American Robin Eating a Juicy Worm

When we think about American Robins, many of us think, “Spring!” But these very common birds are actually around all year long in much of the United States. While some in the north do migrate southward, in many areas, they stick around if there is food to be found. Their behavior changes in the spring though, which is probably why we tend to notice them more as the days start to lengthen and the weather warms. I thought today, the first day of spring, would be a good day to share some interesting tidbits about robins.

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Birds in the Storm

Fox Sparrow & Northern Cardinal
Fox Sparrow & Northern Cardinal

The most active and interesting days are often not the bright beautiful sunny days but the stormy days when birds are eager to eat as much as they can to keep energy levels high. Yesterday’s storm brought us just such a day with really interesting feathered visitors and activity, so I have pictures and stories to share with you.

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Finding a Brown-Headed Nuthatch

Brown-Headed Nuthatch
Brown-Headed Nuthatch

This past weekend, Jim and I went in search of a Brown-Headed Nuthatch. Now, if you live in the southeastern US, you might be thinking, “Ho, hum. I see those all the time. What’s the big deal?” But here in central Maryland, it is not a nuthatch we see often. They don’t stop by our house and aren’t usually found in our local woods, so we had to go just a little further afield to find one.

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