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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Birding Fail 2014

With exams and commencement behind me, I succumbed to a rare burst of spontaneity. The details of my occasionally-complicated existence being irrelevant to most of the world's population, let me say only that this impromptu adventure led me to Magee Marsh during this month's warbler migration, at a time when Northwest Ohio is called "the warbler capital of the world." For anyone not in the know about the habits of small, generally  brightly-colored songbirds, they winter in Central and South America and head to Canada once spring is well underway. Given the length of the migration, the birds are generally tired and hungry by the time they reach Ohio, and they still have Lake Erie to cross before arriving at their breeding grounds.

Yes, there is land on the other side of that large lake. You can almost see it in the center of the picture.

Magee Marsh, near Toledo, seems to be a magnet for weary warblers, with thousands of the little creatures passing through in waves, leading to waves of humans hanging out on the boardwalk that has been built through part of the marsh to accommodate visiting birders. Even though I arrived late on a Sunday evening, I had plenty of company, human and otherwise.

The first few yards of my amble brought delights, not least among them this Prothonotary Warbler, who obligingly posed on a tree adjacent to the boardwalk. Unfortunately, most warblers prefer to hang out in the foliage, resulting in numerous variations of the following photograph.

Some of the bird enthusiasts present claimed to be getting great shots of the visiting passerines, but I was not among them, and gave up. I can barely see that fast, let alone photograph that fast. A further complication is that the bone spurs on my cervical vertebrae allow for approximately fifteen seconds of backwards head-tilting before reminding me that this position is a Very Bad Idea. Given a choice between experiencing the warbler wonderland and continuing my frustrating attempts at documenting the experience, I chose having. And what an experience it was, despite my technological fail.

Along this simple, mile-long, wheelchair-accessible boardwalk were magnolia and Wilson's warblers, along with redstarts and common yellowthroats, with their charming bandit masks. People with more bird knowledge than I rattled off the names of a dozen or more other species spotted in the last hour. A swallow darted in and out of a tree cavity, woodpeckers drummed in the distance, and a most elegant white heron hunted the adjacent wetland. Even though I am not one of those people who can hear two notes of birdsong and identify species and gender, I did become quite familiar with the vocal range of the local catbirds, who were announcing their presence to all and sundry. The boardwalk sojourn was a most satisfying hour.

Leaving the park by its sole access road, I encountered birds much more willing to be photographed--or at least, more my speed.

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