American Redstart – a very common migrant at all of the Great Lakes hotspots.
Nikon D300 & 600mm f/4 + TC14e, f/7.1 @ 1/320, ISO 500

The commercialization of birding is something I never fathomed when I started back around 1980. Migrant traps like Point Pelee, Ontario and Magee Marsh, Ohio were nice places to visit in mid May where one could easily rack up 100+ species in a day. Sometimes I wondered why so few people were out enjoying stunning views of some of the world’s most beautiful birds. Fast forward to 2013 and these places have changed big time. Tents full of optics for sale, hot dog vendors, full parking lots with every license plate in the U.S., motels and campgrounds that are booked months in advance. Birders are a friendly bunch but with an estimated 77,000 people visiting Magee Marsh during one week there are bound to be a few flared tempers.

Really?!  A billboard advertising field guides? Maybe the blimp will be at Magee next year.

On the really great days dealing with the crowds may be worth it. Neotropical migrants are so engrossed in scarfing up insects and preparing for their Lake Erie crossing that they seem oblivious to people. They are often too close to focus cameras or binoculars on. I saw one birder getting full-frame shots of a Blackburnian Warbler with his iPhone! If a rarity shows up be prepared to wait your turn and for total gridlock on the crowded boardwalk.

“Got it?”  “No.”  “See that twig that is broken? If you go to that and then follow that grapevine up about 10 ft. it’s just to the left of that willow on the right
of that box elder, the one with the squirrel nest. Got it?”   “No.”

Taking the red-eye. Neotropical migrants like this Red-eyed Vireo depart in the evening and fly all night. Small birds avoid predators by flying at night and some species use the stars for navigation.
Nikon D300 & 70-200mm f/2.8 + TC17e, f/8 @ 1/125, ISO 800

Periods of south winds help the birds cross the lake. North winds, rain and cold temperatures ground most species and generally, the uglier the weather, the better the birding. On really cold days insects are lethargic and hard to find. These are great times to see many tree top species hopping around on the ground as they hunt for insects.

Always a crowd-pleaser – a male Hooded Warbler.
Nikon D300 & 300mm f/2.8 + Tc20e, f/7.1 @ 1/640, ISO 800

Culture clash in northwestern Ohio. I wonder if these people drove past Scarlett’s?



I’m happy to see so many people interested in birds and it’s especially encouraging when I see younger people out with binoculars and field guides. Let’s hope that more people means more conservation dollars and in turn, more areas for breeding birds, resting areas during migration and more public land for people to enjoy. But after a few trips to Magee I’m ready for some solitude. It was fun, but the reasons so many of us are drawn to nature is to escape so called normal life, to be quiet , meditate and be alone.

Blackburnian Warbler – a bird that summers in the mature coniferous forests of the north.
Nikon D300 & 600mm f/4 + TC14e, f/8 @ 1/320, ISO 500


~ by David Stimac on May 17, 2013.

6 Responses to “let’s go BIRDING! BIRDING! BIRDING…..”

  1. I laughed at your description…’got it?’ ‘No’. Reminded me of the trip to Niagara Falls at Thanksgiving and you & Erika were trying to help me find the Galacious Gull. Don’t think I ever did see it. But it was fun trying all the same!

  2. Commercialization. Not a good thing. Have I heard any birders’ voices raised in protest to industrial wind turbines desecrating “Important Bird Areas”? The state energy commission just completed a series of a half-dozen public forums across the state. I was there [Delta College, Bay Co]. Where were the “friends” of WPBO? MI Audubon? Anyone?! Why, yes. Sierra Club MI had its paid personnel there pushing for green energy– including bird- and bat-killing 400+ft tall turbines. (Isn’t THAT staying true to John Muir’s vision.)

    It would be gratifying if “commercialization” led to “commitment”. It hasn’t happened yet. As to these “birding pilgrimages,” count me out.

  3. Wonderful information that you have shared. As always, I enjoy seeing your bird images, here and on G+. Thanks for sharing the beauty of the natual world! Look forward to seeing more of your work.
    Susan Wilkinson

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