Sunday, May 20, 2012

Our Biggest Day at the Biggest Week!

 American Woodcocks... at this particular location along the boardwalk, there were two families totaling 8!

My son and I made a last minute decision and a mad dash north after deciding we couldn't take hearing about and/or reading one more person's post on Facebook about what a good time they were having or the awesome birds they were seeing at the Biggest Week in American Birding.  It seemed as though everybody in the U.S.(and from around the world) that had any passion for birds was there and by golly, we were going to be too!  If for only one day.

We arrived late Friday night and after getting some essential nutrition (Taco Bell and Oreos) to fuel us up for our Big Saturday we headed to bed ready to dream about the warblers to come...

 A massive assemblage of birders taking their turn to see the very rare Kirtland's Warbler.

Saturday came early but we were ready.  Not having much time, we headed straight for the main drag, the boardwalk at Magee Marsh.  This boardwalk serves as a resting spot for migrants that are heading farther north over Lake Erie as well as a final destination for other migrants that are ready to stop and nest.  It twists and turns through several acres of woodland habitat making it very appealing to birders of all ages and abilities.  Warblers and other migrants often seem to be "dripping" from the trees and at times double digits of species can been seen without hardly moving an inch - often, within minutes.  No, I am not exaggerating.

 Baltimore Oriole.  This awesome bird was everywhere!

Barn Swallow.  One of many at the Magee Marsh Bird Center entrance.

My son and I spent most of our day on the boardwalk and never left the Magee Marsh area.  In our short time, we racked up 17 species of warblers along with a multitude of other cool birds that were at times, only a few feet away from our  face.  Baltimore Orioles, Bald Eagles, American Woodcocks, Swainson's Thrushes, Red-eyed Vireos, Great Egrets, Trumpeter Swans, and Eastern Kingbirds came into view constantly throughout the day to remind us that we were definitely in a real-life fantasy!

 View of Lake Erie from the parking lot of Magee Marsh.

We took only two breaks during the day.  One, to have a quick lunch and the second, to track down some of the great people of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory.  We lucked out and were able to catch up with Karen Zach, Kim Kaufman, and Ken Keffer.  Because these amazing folks were so busy we were unfortunately not able to chat long but, we were able to exchange a few handshakes and hugs and it is this that made our day complete!

Our long trip home wasn't really long enough.  In one day we were able to bank enough bird stories to last us a lifetime.  Memories that my son and I will have forever.  Memories of our Big Day during the Biggest Week.  Memories that we would not have if it were not for birds!

Prothonatary Warbler.  We watched as this very tenacious bird remove mouthfuls of moss from the base of many trees to build her nest under the stairs of the boardwalk.

Trumpeter Swans.  Always adding a touch of class to the marsh.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

2012 IAS Spring Festival at Mary Gray

Indiana Young Birders showing off their fantastic artwork!

Every spring, IAS members come together to celebrate birds, birding, and nature at the annual Spring Festival at the Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary in Connersville, IN.  It's a casual festival that's loosely structured - on purpose.  You see, this festival is unique because it celebrates a gorgeous 700+ acre nature preserve owned by the IAS that hosts old forest, new forest, meadows, creeks, and ponds which are home to a wide diversity of birds, wildflowers, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals.  But, most of all this festival celebrates the members who care about the property and gives these same members a chance to come together and enjoy what they love the most - nature! 

Sarah proudly displaying her new Crossley guide that she won for her outstanding work on a weekend field notebook!

 Sophia showing off her new Kaufman Guide for her outstanding bird identification abilities!

One of our annual highlights is being able celebrate the property with our youngest generation of bird lovers, the members of the Indiana Young Birders Club.  This year the festival was filled with youth who not only birded and chased amphibians but also painted bluebird box doors, documented their weekend in field notebooks, and tested their knowledge with an I.D. quiz.

Our I.D. Quiz winner was Sophia T., an awesome young birder that even helped her dad band birds!  Sarah S., won a Crossley guide for her work on our weekend field notebook contest.  Another cool young birder highlight was a great presentation given by Scarlett Arvin who did an outstanding job presenting on her experience last year in Maine.  We do have a great group of kids!

Is there anything more cute than five little Carolina Chickadees?

And the birds!  Oh, the birds!  From Cape May Warblers to Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, festival participants  documented 110 species over that included not only spring migrants but local nesting birds that make the sanctuary their home.  Family life was everywhere including an opportunity for some quick looks at nesting Carolina Chickadees and Eastern Bluebirds feeding their "teenage" kids sitting on the branches of trees.  

Everywhere you looked there was something to do.  Tim Tolford., was banding birds, which is always a nature festival hit. Doug Gray was on site to express the importance of diversity in birding, and each night we were even able to relax and watch a late night movie, about birds, of course.

But, like with all good times, we eventually had to say goodbye and on Sunday afternoon we did.  Driving away smiling because we knew next year, we'd be back.

Artists at work!

Many thanks to Amy and Carl Wilms (resident managers), Trevor and Natalie Abernathy (resident caretakers), and all of the volunteers that worked so hard to make the event wonderful!

Indiana State Bird

Indiana State Bird
Northern Cardinal