Seven acres of magical birding

Last week, during the Biggest Week in American Birding, we spent a great deal of time on the boardwalk at Magee Marsh. We missed birding here during last fall’s Midwest Birding Symposium, so it was our first visit.

Magee Marsh East End Sign
East entrance to the boardwalk.

The boardwalk is the stuff of birding legend, and the stories are all true. Birds perched in front of your nose, great looks at 20+ species of warblers in under an hour, and hundreds and hundreds of birders.

Boardwalk @ Magee Marsh
Crowds of birders everywhere!

We arrived at the Marsh late Wednesday afternoon, after a long day of driving. The first thing we saw on the boardwalk was a small group of birders staring into the foliage. One of them said matter-of-factly, “There’s a Black-throated Blue right there.” Expecting to peer deep into the vegetation, it took me a moment to find the bird. I didn’t expect it to be within 7 feet of my nose.

Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler on the boardwalk.

Later, we entered the boardwalk on the west end, where the railing marker numbers start.

Numbers are provided for bird location purposes only
What do the numbers mean?

There must have been millions of dollars worth of binoculars and camera equipment on the boardwalk during any daylight hour. One morning, we saw the previous day’s losses waiting to be reclaimed.

Lens caps
Home for wayward lens caps.

Most of these photos were taken with my trusty Canon S2IS, a 5MP “superzoom” point-and-shoot camera.

American Redstart
American Redstarts were everywhere, too.

Scarlet Tanager
Scarlet Tanager.

Black-throated Green Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler.

The boardwalk passes by swampy water in several places, where waterbirds skulk for prey.

Green Heron
Green Heron seen through thick foliage.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron out in the open.

While many of the warblers are passing through Magee during their migration north, some birds like Prothonotary Warblers and Yellow Warblers breed at the Marsh. Birders were delighted to watch them bringing material to their growing nests. All at eye level, mind you. No warbler neck required.

No Warbler Neck
Crouching Birder, Hidden Warbler

Magnolia Warbler
Magnolia Warblers were all over the place.

Chestnut-sided Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warblers were abundant as well.

Prothonotary Warbler
Prothonotary Warblers were busy nest-building.

Prothonotary Warbler feeding for the birdarazzi.

At one point we noticed a pair of Yellow Warblers madly chipping. Arthur spotted a snake in the tree between the birds; we guessed the predator was “disrupting” their nesting activity.

Although the birding on the boardwalk was phenomenal, the search for birds usually began in the parking lot. Here’s a typical scene – full parking lot, birder tailgate party, birdwatchers clumped along the entrance of the boardwalk in the background.

Parking Lot @ Magee Marsh
Magee Marsh parking lot.

One morning a roosting Common Nighthawk caused some excitement.

Common Nighthawk
Roosting Common Nighthawk.

Of course, Magee Marsh is not ALL about the boardwalk. Especially on Friday, May 14th, when a very special bird was spotted on the beach. More on that in the next post!

Share the birds, share the love!
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