We’re down here in NW Ohio taking part in our very first organized birding event — so exciting! We had so much fun with Project Feederwatch this winter that we wanted to see if we’d enjoy birding away from home with other people. And boy do we — we’ve found thrills beyond what we anticipated here at the Biggest Week in American Birding.
My life list up to this weekend consisted mostly of birds that come to our feeders or local parks, so I only had 43 species for 10 whole years of birdwatching. But as of today (with one more day to go) I’ve added 37 more species. Hard to believe, isn’t it? I got about two dozen of those in the first 3 hours after we arrived here. It’s hard to get one checked off on your list before you hear someone else shouting about another exciting bird 20 feet away. I tell ya, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel around here!
Birds migrating northward congregate here on the southern shore of Lake Erie to rest before they make the trek over that big body of water. And Ohio has done a fabulous job of maintaining wetlands and forest areas for them, as well as making the areas accessible to people who want to watch the birds. There are nice boardwalks and trails, and plenty of parking, and several nature centers with interpretive displays.
They say that this part of Ohio is known worldwide as “the” place to see migrating warblers; I believe them too, because we’ve heard quite a few different languages as we walk the trails with other visitors. I counted at least 7 different state license plates too, and I’m sure there are many more. They say that last year there were 50,000 visitors to this area for the first annual Biggest Week. Knowing that, I’d expected it to be really crowded, almost unbearably so. But maybe since the event is spread over 10 days, that helps to spread everyone out, because it’s totally comfortable — even for someone who hates crowds with a passion.
The Black Swamp Bird Observatory here is a big bird-banding center too, and I hope to be able to see one of their banding demonstrations while we’re here. Here’s their blog where they have some pictures of the adorable critters they’ve been banding this past week.
I have to admit to one complaint though, and it has nothing to do with the festival itself. The local police here (Oregon, Ohio, just outside Toledo) apparently decided to take advantage of this influx of visitors to their fair city: They set up a huge speed trap today on the road between town and the festival, with at least a dozen police cars grabbing excited birders heading out of town. How do I know this? You guessed it — we were one of the cars they grabbed. (And no, I wasn’t driving….ahem.) So we get to add another $106 to what we’re already spending in their hotels, restaurants, and gas stations. Annoying.
So, back to the fun stuff tomorrow. I’ve got two more classes: one on bird photography, and one on sparrow identification. That last one will be taught by Kenn Kaufman, a world-renowned birding expert. We had our first class with him yesterday, and I found him to be really knowledgeable (duh) and down to earth. I’m planning to buy his new book tomorrow in the gift shop so I can have him autograph it. This is so funny — I used to be a knitting geek, and now I’m turning into a birding geek!! In my next post maybe I’ll even show you the dorky birder hat that I love…. And I’ll post the list of the birds I’ve seen here too — you won’t believe the diversity in this list.