Well, the first few warbler species have started showing up in southeast Michigan this month. So far we have Yellow-rumped, Pine, Black-throated Green, Palm, Yellow, and Yellow-throated Warblers, as well as Common Yellowthroats. That might look like a lot for mid-April, but these species aren’t here in large numbers yet, just a few here and there. But the rest of them are definitely on their way. Soon, my pretties, very soon!
Reading all the reports of warblers on the various online birding groups has motivated me to get busy reviewing warbler songs using the Larkwire game. Every year I hope to improve my ability to identify the birds by their songs. I haven’t been too successful with it though. I think that’s because they’re only around for a few weeks each year and my brain just can’t seem to retain what I learn in my brief pre-migration cram sessions. And there are just so many species to learn–we have something like 40 warbler species that migrate through the eastern half of the country.
This year I’m adding another tool to my arsenal: I’m using the book “The Warbler Guide,” which uses sonogram images of warbler songs to–supposedly–make it easier to distinguish the confusingly-similar songs. I’m especially eager to experiment with the techniques in this book since I’m going to be birding with the authors during The Biggest Week in American Birding. Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle are leading two of the “Birding with the Stars” walks at Magee Marsh, and I’ll be the volunteer host assisting them on one of their walks. (See, there are some sweeeeet perks to being a volunteer!) And I love the fact that Tom and Scott are donating 100% of the proceeds from their two walks to the Ohio Young Birders Club. That’s true generosity of spirit, if you ask me.
These weeks leading up to my annual visit to the Lake Erie shoreline are always hard to endure. Not only is my excitement getting boosted by the daily bird sightings, but preparations for the festival are in high gear now as we count down the last 17 days.
The new festival t-shirt design was just revealed this weekend. Created by Paul Riss (of Punk Rock Big Year fame), this one is already a big hit with everyone who has seen it.
And even more exciting, there’s now a smartphone app created just for the Biggest Week (the first time a birding festival has had its own app…very cool). I got my free copy from BirdsEye on the day it was released, and set it up to link with my eBird account. So now when I launch the app, it uses GPS to tell me instantly if there are birds nearby that I haven’t yet seen. It shows my “life list” as well as a list of all the species that have been seen by other people in whatever location I happen to be in at the moment.
As you can see in this screenshot from my phone, I still haven’t managed to see the Connecticut and Kentucky Warblers (nor the Prairie Warbler, which isn’t shown on this screen). So only three more warblers to go and I will have seen all of the eastern species at least once. The Connecticut is one of the hardest ones for anyone to see because they skulk around deep in the underbrush, taunting us, defying us to find them. I’m sure I’ll eventually see one though. I’m in no hurry. I like the idea of always having more birds to see for the first time anyway. The anticipation is almost as good as the moment you finally get to see the bird. Almost.
And the anticipation of being back in the midst of all those amazing birds is almost too much to take. This year I’ll be on my own for the first time, but I’m okay with that. I’m hoping to connect with a few special friends for quiet walks on the beach (…and in the woods and marshes). And for those times I feel the need to be with other people, it’ll be easy to mingle with a few hundred of my fellow birders on the Magee Marsh boardwalk. I don’t like to be in crowds all the time, but even an introvert like me can appreciate the fun of being surrounded by other people who love the birds as much as I do. Some of my favorite memories are from times on the Magee Marsh boardwalk when a group of total strangers shared smiles while watching a bright yellow or orange bird hopping from leaf to leaf just inches away, in total disregard of us. Those are the moments when I feel the real magic of birds, and I remember why this place is so special to so many people. I just cannot wait!
Kim, you get me excited about birds every time you write a post! I have been watching (when I get a chance) to see where the hummingbirds are nesting. I have seen more hummers this year than ever and I’m sure our wildlife friendly flowering plants and shrubs are the reason. I hear them everywhere I go so I know we have more than usual! It’s so exciting! And we have cardinals building a nest in a quince shrub right outside our guest room window. So much going on!!
I hope you figure out where the hummingbirds are nesting…that would be amazing to see! And how exciting about the cardinal nest too. Hopefully you’ll have a way to take some photos of that one.
I had a robin attempting to build a nest on my balcony light fixture last week, but every time she flew away, her wings knocked off the grasses she had just brought in. The top of the fixture is totally flat and slippery, so I decided to try to help her out. I picked up all the grasses that had fallen to the floor, formed them in a nest shape, and tied them to the light as a sort of base, to give her something to work with. But I think I was too late. She came in the morning before I did that, saw her previous work was gone, and took off quickly. I don’t think she’s coming back to this location now. I’ve been watching two robins interacting in the woods beside the building and I’m guessing they’ve found an alternate nest site. I’m disappointed that I won’t get the close-up view I was hoping for, but I did get some video of her so I’ll at least have that memory!
You have been instrumental in peaking my enthusiasm to visit Magee Marsh. The excitement in your voice and sparkle in your eyes, shows that this is a very special place. I hope to see you there Kim, as I enjoy my first visit to Warbler heaven.
Rob, I’m so happy that you’re going to get to experience the warbler migration at Magee Marsh this year!
Kim I love the T-shirt and adore that capture of the Blackburnian Warbler, You really do have a keen eye for photography and I look forward to seeing all the birds who arrive in spring over there. Im waiting for my winter birds to arrive. Although the swallows aren’t as active they are still around Im not sure if they leave or not. There is some home work for me.
Thanks for sharing the building excitement, Kim! You captured it well. Hope to see you — and the warblers — on the bird trail soon!
I hope so too, Judy!