OHIO AND MICHIGAN 2013
Courtesy James P. Smith
If ever there was a North American tour that could justify looking at one specific group of birds in one specific place, then this tour would have to be it. Magee Marsh on the shores of Lake Erie not only lived up to expectation but actually surpassed our hopes as a top-notch place to bring a tour. Warblers provided the biggest attraction as we rattled up 17 species on the very first evening and then tallied 22–27 species on each of the following days at Magee Marsh and surroundings. North-western Ohio is influenced by three major migration routes, which became very apparent with the impressive warbler diversity seen on the tour. The magnificent boardwalk at Magee Marsh makes for relatively easy viewing of some often difficult-to-see species. These included Golden-winged, Prothonotary, Mourning, Cape May, Bay-breasted, Blackburnian, Blackpoll, Canada and Black-throated Blue Warblers. We even had a taste of finding own rarity when we came across the first migrant Kirtland’s Warbler of the spring, still a full documentation species in Ohio. Indeed, at the risk of sounding complacent, we did incredibly well for Kirtland’s Warbler, seeing another migrant at Magee’s West Beach just one day after the first and then enjoyed a bevy of singing birds in the carefully managed Jack Pine forests of upstate Michigan. Despite fantastic views of plenty of individual birds, it’s important not to forget just how rare the range-restricted Kirtland’s Warbler really is – currently estimated at less than 2000 pairs worldwide.
But this new tour was not just about warblers. The boardwalks at Magee combined with high concentrations of birders meant that little, if anything, escaped attention. To this we owe exquisite views of crepuscular species such as American Woodcock and Eastern Whip-poor-will, as well as skulkers such as Wood and Swainson’s Thrushes, Northern and Louisiana Waterthrushes, and Ovenbird. All of these could be seen incredibly well.
Aside from Kirtland’s Warblers, our three day sojourn into Michigan was also a triumph. Here were found rare grassland breeders such as the declining Henslow’s Sparrow and Bobolink, whilst the woodlands gave us Cerulean Warbler (warbler species #31!) and Acadian Flycatcher, and terrific looks at Pileated Woodpecker. The Upper Peninsula proved challenging only by its vastness but still provided us with some quality birds as we added Ruffed Grouse, Olive-sided Flycatcher and American Pipit to the ever-growing species list.
The final day provided an all too short visit to Tawas Point on Lake Huron where we amassed yet another impressive list of migrants including Philadelphia Vireo and Wilson’s Warbler at point-blank range, and adding Black Tern and Orchard Oriole to the overall tour list.
In summary, this short but magnificent tour was a great success more than living up to expectation for all of our experienced participants. Indeed, I’m grateful to all of our participants for making the tour so enjoyable, and especially to Martyn Kenefick for his tireless contributions including the writing of this year’s full tour report.
James P. Smith, Gill, Massachusetts, USA