Sunday, April 28, 2013

"Dr. Bob" tidbits about the Biggest Week in American Birding

Here are few "tidbits" that might  help plan your trip to Magee Marsh and surrounding areas. 

1) First, there is a detour along the main route 2 to get into the area from the west. I think a bridge is out or something, and it does not seem like it will be fixed by the Biggest Week (BW). Be sure to check out the main Biggest Week website to get the detour info as well as all the other info for the week!

2) I suggest you "cruise" the main site to see great links to all sorts of wonderful info. Click and pull down all the tabs at the top. One cool link is the Crane Creek blog by Kenn Kaufman predicting the status of migration. Hey, he has been there and checking it out for some years and he and his wife Kim are amazing birders, so I would pretty much rely on it. Yes, we all know the weather reporters on TV are often wrong, and I know predicting birds is an order of magnitude harder because they are based on weather, but Kenn normally is quite accurate. (BTW, Crane Creek basically is the same as Magee Marsh.)

3) Speaking of weather, this year has been quite fascinating for me to watch birding friends post satellite images of the bird migrations! Satellites - watching birds - astounding! Geez, these pics a lot of birds all flying at the same time!!! Imagine enough birds to make a "heavy cloud" on radar!!! Here is one example from Nemesis Birding: The site references other satellite stuff - you can just get lost in the fascination of this!

4) What an amazing blog team this year! They even added me to it. Honored indeed! Click on the underlined link to go to to the blog team page. Then click on each person's blog site. You will be amazed with the variety of views on the same subject. Some have lots of pics. Some ramble a bit (...but not as much as I?...). And all have great info!


OK. I put out some really good links to follow. I will close with another great link, but you gotta read down to get to it. Now I get to ramble more about our personal experiences. (More "tidbits" - numbering continues.)

5) While at Magee Marsh, we always like going to the Sportsmen's Migratory Bird Center  which is on the road to Magee Marsh. Besides the welcoming building (with flush toilets and running water - Judy especially appreciates it), we can always photograph and add Barn Swallows (nesting at the entrance) and Purple Martins (condo housing right outside the center) to our list. The center has good trails out back. If the leaves are not fully out, you might be able to climb the tower to see the Bald Eagles nesting!

6) We usually pull out our lawn chairs (hint - if you are driving, folding chairs are great things to put in your car! Geez, birding at Magee Marsh can be tiring!) and have lunch in the parking lot while picking up hummingbirds and "yard birds" - as well as some migrants - while eating. Afterwards, we can go in and wash up, and buy the "bird pin of the year" for our hats. They also have "year patches". Some folks we meet in the area are so adorned with pins and patches it reminds me of my years in scouting! The folks at the center are all volunteers and really helpful!

7) Another great place for lunch is at the Ottawa NWR Headquarters! It is very close to Magee Marsh - just to the west on Rte 2. The main building is large and comfortable - much larger than the Sportsmen's Center. It has meeting spaces and many BW activities are planned there. It has a great gift and book store, and again, is a place where the volunteers are very knowing and helpful. It has a great newer trail that goes thru different habitats to check out birds. Besides the main building, they have an outside building (also with running water ...) and several picnic tables under a shelter. You can eat lunch while watching birds in the nearby bushes. Last year a local organization had a food truck there serving fresh local fish (walleye!)sandwiches. Excellent! We had enough to take back to the motel and microwave for breakfast the next day!

Another really great thing is that Ottawa NWR opens up a huge part of the refuge to driving tours. Normally auto tours only are on selected weekends, but this year during the Biggest Week, it looks like they are open daily. You get a variety of habitats, and depending on water levels, you can get amazing shorebirds there! We especially remember not only the lovely Snowy Egrets, but also the nesting Trumpeter Swans and Bald Eagles - as well as numerous species of "duckers". It is a "must do"! The way the detour works, it seems if you are heading west home from Magee, start at Ottawa and do the tour, and then just head home on Rte 2 - you will have avoided the detour.

8) And, of course, be sure to visit the Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) immediately off Rte 2 enroute to Magee Marsh. BSBO is the main driving force behind this event and has great vendors who support the BW by showing off the best birding optics, a great gift shop, and so much more.  Banding demos happen there and they have nice trails to walk.

Geez, if nothing else you can say you were at the "Black Swamp Bird Observatory"!  I think this name rolls off the tongue like a bird seen often this year in Michigan and Ohio - the "Yellow-bellied Sapsucker". Just imagine saying either of these to your friends! I just love it!

"Where did you go on vacation?"
"I went to the Black Swamp Bird Observatory".
"What did you see?" 
"Well I was looking for a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, but all I got were a couple dozen amazingly beautiful warblers and twenty new additions to my life list". 
How cool is that?!!!  (Maybe you gotta be a birder to understand...but it would make a much more interesting t-shirt than "All I got you was this lously t-shirt" from some well-known attraction!) 

BTW, if you are birding this area, you are in the Black Swamp. It is an interesting history that I will not explore here, but ask at BSBO.

OK. I am tired of "rambling" for now. But I have given you links (with many more embeded links) to explore. The internet is really like a dictionary. Once you look up something, you are referred to another place .. and so on... 

Indeed! It sometimes is all too much, yet like a dictionary, you can quit and return when you want.

Basically, I presented a bit of what we like to do while birding in the area, and I gave you enough links to follow for the info you need - just keep following the links within each link. But if you follow no other links, be sure to check out the BW home page. And I really recommend checking out some of the blog team posts. I guarantee you will find a few blogs that you will want to follow not only during the BW, but thru the year.

And, I also suggest the online Visitor's Guide. It is the first time the guide is online and you can get it before visiting the area. You can get a hard copy when you are there, but it is so handy for planning before your trip!!!

(Note: I DO NOT recommend clicking on the "Download" button that appears on the right side! I did not notice it said "advertisement" in the same box so tried it. My McAfee software suggested it was not so good! )

But, it is fine to click on the pic of the guide and read it. You will not be able to print single pages like I tried to do, but it is safe to read it, and the software allows you to print the whole guide. Being "old fashioned" I just want the "book" that I will get at the Biggest Week. I have one from all the last few years when we visited there. Great reminders of wonderful times!!!

Hope you enjoyed my "tidbits"! Well, I guess I figured out another name for "ramble", but I numbered these, so they are "tidbits" ...

Go Bird! Go to the Biggest Week! You will have to wait a full year before you can do this again!!!

- "Dr. Bob"

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