A Magnolia Warbler perches in the woods, Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Oak Harbor, Ohio.
It’s closing in on warbler season.
I get nearly all of my warbler photos during the spring, when the birds are migrating north from their winter homes in Central and South America, or occasionally in the fall during migration south. The range maps for most warbler species show Central Ohio as part of the summer breeding range, but it's been my experience that few hang around here for the summer. Most head north into Canada.
But it takes a short road trip each May for my best opportunity to see warblers. I drive north a few hours to parks along the southern bank of Lake Erie when bird watchers from around the world show up in parks in that area for a week each May to watch the massive number of warblers in the trees and fields. It’s been dubbed the Biggest Week in American Birding. The prime focus is Magee Marsh Wildlife area, which is packed every year on Mother’s Day weekend when the spring warbler migration is at its peak. The birds gather in trees and bushes along the edge of the lake to rest and refuel before flying nonstop across the lake to Canada and their summer breeding range.
I’m not a bird watcher. I’m a photo hobbyist who happens to enjoy photographing wildlife. And I hate crowds when I’m shooting. So I usually avoid Magee Marsh, which — during birding week — has more people than space. I spend my time at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, which is about a mile down the road and much less crowded.
But I did catch this male Magnolia Warbler in breeding plumage while visiting Magee Marsh in May a few years ago. And, as usual, the click of my camera to photograph this warbler brought a crowd of binocular-carrying people to my side trying to see the bird I had photographed. Naturally, all that commotion scared the bird away so there were no follow-up shots.
I see more than warblers when I visit that area in May. I’ve photographed nesting Bald Eagles, nesting Killdeer, Sandhill Cranes, Trumpeter Swans, Scarlet Tanagers and a number of other species that find the wetlands along Lake Erie to be a suitable summer home.
I’m not a bird watcher. I’m a photo hobbyist who happens to enjoy photographing wildlife.