Friday morning found us back on the boardwalk at Magee Marsh. The Biggest Week in American Birding was starting to wind down, but the birds were still spectacular. Late Thursday afternoon we noticed a sudden temperature increase, and the murmurs among festival participants was that Friday would be the day. Indeed, warm southerly winds overnight brought in tons of warblers and other migrants to the preserve, and birders were loving every minute. We were about halfway through the boardwalk path when a Chicago birding acquaintance of ours, Eric Gyllenhaal, quickly passed us. He was talking on the phone, and it was obvious he had some news. He was kind enough to interrupt his call momentarily to tell us: “Check your tweets!” Good advice. [Thank you, Eric!!]
At this time we were completely unaware of Magee Marsh outside of the boardwalk, but we followed Eric’s direction and headed east off the boardwalk. Another tweet came in.
By the time we crossed the road towards the beach, we were among several dozen birders heading towards a thicket of trees separating the eastern parking lot from the beach.
Emerging onto the beach, we found ourselves among hoards of people heading towards a growing group of birders. Since this was our fourth try to see this bird (in Ohio, even!), I tried to keep my expectations low. I asked a birder heading back to the parking lot if she had seen it. With her enthusiastic “YES!” I allowed my hopes to rise.
When we approached the birders staking out the rarity, a very kind woman beckoned us over and told us where to look. We could see the Kirtland’s Warbler with our naked eyes. In our binoculars he was larger than life.
What a gorgeous bird – such a great thrill to see. He was singing, and foraging out in the open.
The crowd of spectators grew and grew, and we in turn helped new arrivals get their binoculars on what was surely a life bird for most visitors.
It was really uplifting to be among so many happy birders. People were laughing, doing the lifer dance, high-fiving, and most of all thanking Kenn Kaufman for the amazing sighting.
The bird stayed on the beach nearly all day, and wasn’t refound the next day. Friday was definitely the day!