The Biggest Week in American Birding

The Biggest Week in American Birding from May 5 through May 15 the Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) is hosting day trips, guided walks, guided auto tours and a slew of workshops. This past weekend, with the miracle of good weather, I was blessed to observe hundreds of migrating birds there. BSBO and the surrounding protected areas of the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge
and Crane Creek are nestled in Northwest Ohio along the Lake Erie shoreline. The BSBO specifically is one of the most significant bird conservation areas, and has been officially designated a globally important bird area. These monikers are resultant of the mass bird migrations that route through this area, where hundreds of bird species use it as a stop point and nesting site.

The highlight of the trip was the BSBO-guided walk aptly named Warbler Workout. From the moment of setting foot on the west end of the Magee Marsh Boardwalk at the observatory, the flurry of flitting, singing, calling and flying activity made my head spin. Our strategy of arriving early paid off this day, as the birder numbers were low, and the bird count was very high. Picking one spot to focus on took concerted effort. It was a virtual warbler wonderland.

The Blackburnian warbler, the first of the day, I thought was my favorite. As the day progressed and flowed into the next, I concluded that each one is my favorite, as they all elicited great excitement and joy just to see and hear them. Here is the first beauty. More to follow in the coming days.

Blackburnian nestled in branches
Blackburnian Nestled In
Blackburnian warbler investigating
Blackburnian Investigating
Blackburnian taking off
Blackburnian Take Off

Five Easy Ways to Identify a Warbler

Warbler migration season is upon us, and with over 50 species of warblers, you’re almost certain to see a few of these brightly colored birds. Classified as wood warblers, family paruleda, about half of its plentiful species reside in North America.

Seeing is one thing, but knowing what you’re looking and listening for is most, if not all, of the battle. I’ve experienced the joy of seeing a new bird, only to be clouded by the frustrating reality that I had no idea what exactly I saw.

Below is a brief  review of how to identify a warbler.

These following five categories are essential to identifying any bird:

  1. Size – Smaller than a tree sparrow
  2. Shape – Many have a round plump body with a short tail, most have a slightly more of an elongated body with a longer tail.
  3. Color – Two thirds of North American warblers have yellow markings, ranging from bright – pale yellow. Other common colors include combinations of black and white, dark-to-bluish gray or blue and white, and in just a few instances, smaller chestnut-to-orange markings.
  4. Sound – High-pitched rubber-ducky type sound. Mostly chirps and trills. Some songs, most of which have a buzzing element, typically at the beginning or end.
  5. Behavior and Habitat – Vast and varied habitat range. Warblers over flit and look about nervously within the same tree or to one in close proximity. Warblers are also tail-wagers, very similar to a cardinal’s tail wagging behavior.

For a more in-depth look at each category read this warbler identification article.