The Biggest Week in American Birding is a celebration of the epic spring migration in western Ohio lakefront and commences May 3 – 12th. Yours truly will be there, blogging the event in official capacity along with several other talented bird bloggers. The event is headquartered out of Maumee Bay State Park, a stone’s throw from excellent Ohio birding sites such as Magee Marsh, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), and Oak Openings.
The festival is hosted by Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO), Lake Erie Shores & Islalnds, Maumee Bay Conference Center, and Destination Toledo tourism.
Besides it being fun, full of great birders and good people, there are many good reasons to put this festival on your HIGH PRIORITY travel list. Here are my top six.
1. It’s the Warbler Capital of the World, Minus the Warbler Neck. Western Ohio is the best place to witness spring migration of songbirds anywhere in North America. The southern edge of Lake Erie acts as a barrier that birds are reluctant to cross during migration. The birds tend to “pile up” in the woodlots surrounded by marshland on the lake’s southern edge to rest and refuel before crossing the Lake. The timing of their arrival is early enough in spring that the trees have not leafed out, there are few biting bugs, and the birds are incredibly low and accessible.
An active birder is likely to see: American Redstart, Black-and-white Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Canada Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Golden-winged Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Northern Parula, Northern Waterthrush, Orange-crowned Warbler, Ovenbird, Palm Warbler, Pine Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler.
In fact, you’re likely to get drop-dead looks of many of them. Bring your camera.
2. Many Highly Productive Sites to Explore. Must-see sites include the iconic Magee Marsh Boardwalk for warblers and other songbird migrants; Maumee Bay State Park for waterbirds and their boardwalk for songbirds; Ottawa NWR for warblers, shorebirds, and waterbirds; Black Swamp Bird Observatory for American Woodcocks and migrants visiting the water feature outside the window on wildlife; Metzger Marsh for waterbirds and migrant songbirds; and Oak Opening for woodland species. The festival has also worked to provide field trips to private conservation lands that serve as refuge to many species. See the area birding checklist for a glimpse of all the possible species, below.
3. It’s Family Friendly. The festival features a Family Friendly bird walk hosted by Birds & Blooms Magazine (Sunday, May 5), a Young Birders Field trip (May 11), and slow, easy guided walks that are fun for the whole family. Beginning birders of all ages are welcomed with open arms here at the fest, and will benefit from the series of identification workshops held at Ottawa NWR. Check out other attractions and points of interest.
4. Test Out New Optics At Optics Alley. Optics Alley will feature many different optics dealers with a large variety of binoculars, scopes, and accessories. And throughout the day, several mini-workshops will be held to go over how to purchase the right binoculars, caring for optics, tips on digiscoping, and much more!
5. Biggest Week Birding Means Big Bucks for the Region. From April through May, from 50,000-75,000 people from several countries are expected to traipse through the area in search of birds. This is expected to pump upwards of $20 million into the local economy. So what, you ask? All those green backs are good for birds. When businesses and local governments see the power of birds to draw in such ecotourism dollars, they’ll pay more attention to preserving habitat and might not be so easy to permit towering bird slicers (wind power farms) smack dab in the center of this migration hotspot.
6. You are Supporting Conservation. With moneys earned from the festival, Black Swamp Bird Observatory will continue to provide research, education, and activism on a number of initiatives, such as promoting sensible wind power, providing Spanish language Kaufman guides for diversity outreach programs in northern Mexico and the desert southwest, and cultivating the next generation of conservationists. They’ll also continue their long-term research projects, which have shedlight on the mysteries and complexities of the migration of songbirds, raptors, shorebirds, and rails. BSBO data has been used to assist both private and governmental land owners in better managing their properties for migratory bird species.
I’ll be roaming the festival from the 7th – 11th and co-leading a night hike on May 8th. Nature Travel Network contributors Adrian Binns and Ethan Kistler will be leading tours at the festival. We hope to see you there. Please say hi!
REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN. But hurry! Trips are filling up fast.
– Get up and go!