Thursday, May 22, 2014

Quiet Time at Magee

The last couple of weeks have been jam-packed with excitement for the birdwatchers and weedpickers in Ohio. After several days volunteering at the Biggest Week in American Birding, I met up with some botany friends and had an excellent time at Flora-Quest 2014.

The boardwalk at Magee Marsh
 But when it was all over and time to wind down and gather my senses again, I headed to Magee.  That may sound odd, to those of you think of the hustle and bustle of the lively birding scene on the boardwalk.  However, with some proper timing (and a little rain) you can get the boardwalk mostly to yourself.

Black-throated Green Warbler
 I tend to linger.  Having no real interest in seeing every bird, or checking-off every species, there is time for being in the moment. Mostly I love to hear the bird song and calls.  For me, the boardwalk at Magee is synonymous with the melodic song of Warbling Vireo.  Brilliantly-colored Baltimore Orioles hold forth from the tree tops, demanding your ear- and your eyes.

The sounds of Magee are my greatest pleasure. Listen to the waves and layers of bird calls.  Don't be offended if I keep to myself, I do my best relaxing by just listening and taking it all in.

Gooseberry in full bloom.
 Yes, the plants are a part of it too.  I am constantly scanning, watching for blooms, pollinators and the clouds of tiny midges that rest on the foliage. They must be mighty tasty, as warblers love them so!

A Tennessee  Warbler dips his beak in nectar.
 If one watches closely, it is surprising what you may see.

Tree Swallow against a dramatic sky.
 The Tree Swallows chatter and fly wildly about.  Follow them, and you are likely to find their nesting cavity.
Veery rules the lower story.
 Remember to look down.  Some of the most interesting things are moving at your feet.  The  snags and tangles on the ground are likely cover for an Ovenbird or Veery.

A young rabbit feed near the boardwalk.
Be "veery, veery" quiet- and you might see a baby bunny.  This little guy was feeding on the vegetation near the boardwalk.  I snapped his photo with only my phone.

Moss covered logs are centers of activity.
 Watch those logs in the water.  Often they are a basking spot for the rare Blandings turtle.  Look for yellow throats to confirm their ID.

This mossy log was being utilized as a grocery store by the local female Red-wing Blackbird.  I spent a full thirty minutes watching her work the shore line, turning leaves, checking under moss and generally acting if this was her regular territory. She owned this section of the woods.  Even the non-warblers can be interesting to watch.

There is a colorful new sign, but the same old magic awaits.
The Magee boardwalk got some colorful new signs this year.  Sometimes the boardwalk takes on a bit of a carnival atmosphere, and gets a bit crowded.  That's all good, if people are enjoying the birds and learning. Hopefully they will also pitch in to conserve habitat and protect those birds.

After all, lack of habitat is exactly why Magee Marsh is one of the best places in Ohio to watch the spring migration. This magical woodland is a "migrant trap," being surrounded by lakes, marshes, and open corn fields.  These birds zero-in on the best place possible to get a meal before they cross the lake on the final leg of their spring journey.

This is a sanctuary for the birds.  And don't mind me if I quietly bask in my own little moment.  Magee is sanctuary for those of us who find peace in nature, as well.