05.10.20: Bright yellow

Male Yellow Warbler perched on branch, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Oak Harbor, Ohio.

Male Yellow Warbler perched on branch, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Oak Harbor, Ohio.

Another week, another memory of normalcy

‍Tech specs

  • Date/time: May 13, 2015, 7:54 a.m.
  • Location: 41°36'53.598" N 83°12'7.074" W (Show in Google Maps)
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II 
  • Lens: Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm)
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Shutter: 1/1250th second
  • ISO: 1000

‍For years around this time in May I’ve driven to Ohio’s “north coast” along Lake Erie to photograph migrating warblers heading from their winter home in Central and South America and the Caribbean to their summer home in Canada. I photographed this male Yellow Warbler a few years ago during the migration, hanging out at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Oak Harbor, Ohio.

‍The birds gather in trees along the south side of Lake Erie, most often  in Magee Marsh but also in other parks in the area. The area makes a convenient warbler rest stop, allowing the birds a chance to eat and rest, a refueling opportunity before they make the long flight across Lake Erie to Canada.

‍I’ve photographed 22 types of warblers during my spring trips to the area and I’ve probably seen about a dozen more. It’s a fun time.

‍The gathering of migrating warblers has brought several nicknames for the area, with people referring to the peak migration period as Warblerstock and the area called the Warbler Capital of the World.

‍A little over a decade ago, all the activities were grouped as The Biggest Week in American Birding, with a website and promotional material.

‍More than 75,000 people from around the world converge on the area to see the warblers. Many are birdwatchers. Others are wildlife photographers or photo hobbyists. And others come just to see what they can see. Estimates are that the week adds about $37 million to the area’s economy every spring.

‍But the global coronavirus pandemic has cancelled The Biggest Week in American Birding this year. The birds will still be there — migration is migration, after all, and no stay at home orders or travel restrictions can change the warblers’ schedule. And I’m sure some people will still show up, although practicing social distancing on the tight boardwalk through Magee Marsh — ground zero for the vast majority of bird week attendees — will be difficult. But all organized events are cancelled.

‍It’s sad, but The Biggest Week joins a very long list of annual events crushed by the pandemic.

The gathering of migrating warblers has brought several nicknames for the area, with people referring to the peak migration period as Warblerstock and the area called the Warbler Capital of the World.