May Birding Trips

Northern Parula

Northern Parula

I never get much painting done in May. With so many spring migrants moving through Michigan, we spend all of our spare time looking for birds. We did a few quick trips to Ottawa NWR and Magee Marsh Wildlife Area (aka Crane Creek) in northern Ohio as well as Waterloo State Recreation Area and Shiawassee NWR in Michigan. In early June we hit Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We saw an incredible variety of amazing birds and, for the most part, had pleasant weather. Now that migration is over we are sorting through hundreds of photos from the trips. While there were countless memorable moments during these trips, the bird highlight for me was finding my first Brewster’s Warbler.

Cape May Warbler

Cape May Warbler

The low point was wading through the crowds at Magee Marsh. I’m conflicted. I like the fact that people are interested in birds, but it was wall-to-wall people at times on the boardwalk. You could barely get through or see much of anything. In the places where it thinned out we were treated to great birds—sometimes too close to focus your camera on. I am not a fan of crowds, and this certainly qualified.

Magee Marsh Crowds

Magee Marsh Crowds

Bear with me for a few minutes of grumpy old man mode. I’ve been going to Magee Marsh since it was called Crane Creek… so about 20 years. I remember trips there as an alternative to viewing spring migration at Pt. Pelee, Ontario. We were treated to reasonably sized groups of enthusiastic birders from Ohio, Michigan and Indiana. As time went on we started seeing more professional photographers and birders. The introduction of the “Biggest Week in Birding” has really changed the atmosphere there. Though virtually everyone we were in contact with was pleasant, it has become too much of a good thing. Being stacked four-people deep at times trying to see one bird was sub-optimal.

While our daughter is big enough to fend for herself, we have an enthusiastic, skilled and conscientious 11-year old birder who was at one point grabbed by both shoulders and moved to the side by a complete stranger. Timmy is even keeled and seldom gets angry, but he was shooting laser beams out of his eyes for a few minutes. Fortunately he didn’t unleash his karate skills on them. (“Yes, Sensei. With power comes responsibility.”)

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole

Despite the crowds our kids got some fantastic life birds during our spring trips. They missed a wayward Kirtland’s Warbler, a Mourning Warbler and some White Pelicans at Magee, but they got Hooded Warbler and Brewster’s among other goodies, rounding out the weekend with 4-5 new birds.

Northern Parula

Northern Parula

I think Waterloo, Michigan will become a regular spring destination. We had numerous Cerulean and Hooded Warblers there with loads of other good birds. On top of that, it is fairly close and the setting is beautiful.

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler
Magnolia WarblerMagnolia Warbler

Shiawassee NWR was a little less impressive than usual because the wildlife drive was closed. We went a week later than usual, so bird numbers were down. On the upside we got great looks at a Hooded Merganser with her chicks. That was way too cute.

Black-throated Green Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler

Our last trip was to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It is a gorgeous location. I hadn’t been there in over 15 years. During our time there and in Traverse City, the kids added Golden-winged Warbler and Piping Plover to their lists. We had other cooperative birds as well, including a beautiful male Mourning Warbler. On the way home we briefly stopped by Gaylord, Michigan and added a Kirtland’s Warbler, a first for the kids. Timmy spotted a singing male and we heard at least three others. Not bad for a 15-minute break on the way back to Lansing. One more stop en route, and the kids also saw their first Black Tern. They are definitely pleased with the birds they added to their lists this spring.

Stay tuned… paintings are on the way!

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

 

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