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Warblers Winging Through
Jul 14, 2019

For about 10 days each spring, Ohio becomes the birding capital of the world. This is especially true of a short stretch of marshland along Lake Erie, where thousands gather to view warblers.

If you're not from the Buckeye State, I'll give you a moment to get through the shock. If you bleed scarlet and grey, you get the same amount of time to savor this reality. 

You have every right to challenge my claim. Ohio has pleasant enough topography, but it's not an adventure destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Lake Erie still harbors the reputation as the most polluted Great Lake. 

How, then, does Ohio become a birding hotspot? 

The height of the spring migration of birds is from late April to early May. Ohio is flyway for warblers. Hundreds of thousands of these small, colorful songbirds cross Ohio.

Magee Marsh is along Lake Erie about halfway between Toledo and Sandusky, OH. In early May, the marsh has one of the strongest concentrations of warblers in the world. As such, it also attracts thousands of birders and photographers.

On a whim last spring, I tried to photograph warblers in central Ohio. I was shocked to find warblers along unassuming creeks and runs. There were Yellow and Palm Warblers, Chestnut-sided and Blackburnian Warblers! Most were only around for a few hours or a day. 

It was immediately clear I needed more skill or better equipment (or both) to capture warblers. My warbler photos were blurry and grainy and unpublishable. 

This spring, I joined the throng at Magee Marsh for a day and a half. I figured that, at the least, I could learn from other photographers. 

It was chilly and overcast and often windy, not exactly great conditions for photography. The weather didn't slow either the birds or the birders. I added 11 birds to my *"life list." In a 30-minute stretch, I met people from eight different countries.

While I'm still not pleased over with my photographs, here are images of six warblers and a warbler cousin: Magnolia Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Palm Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Blackpoll Warbler and Philadelphia Vireo. 

*"Life birds" are birds positively identified for the first time. At Magee Marsh I added to my list: America Redstart, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Northern Parula, Philadelphia Vireo, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Sora, Veery, Warbling Vireo.

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