Category Archives: The Biggest Week in American Birding

A Handsome Bird at The Biggest Week

As I went about reviewing and organizing my photos from The Biggest Week in American Birding, I realized that I neglected to mention one of the stars, for me, of The Biggest Week. One evening as I was returning from Magee Marsh, I came upon a very beautiful Trumpeter Swan on the levee road. Unlike my usual experience with swans, mostly involving distant observations, this one was right next to the road, and he proceeded to put on a show for an admiring audience. Here are some of my favorite photos:

The Biggest Week in American Birding

The Biggest Week in American Birding

The Biggest Week in American Birding

The Biggest Week in American Birding

The Biggest Week in American Birding

The Biggest Week in American Birding

The Biggest Week in Amercan Birding

The Biggest Week in American Birding

Here is a short video of the swan. What a show off!

Note: The heads and necks of Trumpeter Swans are often stained a rusty color from contact with ferrous minerals in the soils of wetland bottoms during feeding.

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American Woodcocks at The Biggest Week

One of the highlights for me of The Biggest Week in American Birding was coming across a nest of newly hatched American Woodcocks near the parking lot at Magee Marsh. Fellow New Mexican Donna Madrid-Simonetti and I stayed well back from the birds and photographed them with our 400 mm lenses.

When we first saw them, they were snuggled up under a log. This photo is heavily cropped, as we did not want to disturb them.

Magee Marsh, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge

American Woodhen and chicks.

There was caution tape around the area where the birds were sheltering, and birders and photographers kept a respectful distance as we admired the Woodhen and her fuzzy chicks.

Not far away I found the empty eggshells. The tiny chicks had hatched only that morning. The nest where the Woodhen had incubated her eggs was little more than a slight depression in the leaves, and the eggs had blended in perfectly with the detritus on the forest floor.

Magee Marsh, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge

American Woodcock eggshells

I left the area to do some birding elsewhere. When I came back later that day, the little family was out for a stroll.

The Biggest Week in American Birding

Out for a stroll

I was backing up as I took this photo.

The Biggest Week in American Birding

They started to walk straight toward me.

I had stayed far back from the birds. These images were taken with a 400 mm lens, and they are heavily cropped. But at this point, quite a few people started crowding around the poor Woodhen and her chicks. People were thrusting point and shoot cameras and cell phone cameras right in their faces. The chicks became confused, and the mother Woodhen became distressed. Concerned birders started trying to move people away from the birds, but the babies became scattered. Finally, the babies were coaxed back to the mother and people backed away from the birds. The whole episode was distressing to watch.

Kim Claire Smith wrote about a similar situation with a Kirtland’s Warbler on her blog here. These situations highlight how important it is to be respectful of wildlife, particularly when they are taking care of their young. No photo is worth causing the stress to birds that I observed in this instance.

I am happy to say that the next morning it was reported that the American Woodcock family had crossed the parking lot and was safely in the woods. Here is a video that I took of them before the crowds of people descended. Please note that this small group of birders was far back from the birds. You can see how close the birds were to the parking lot.

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A Canoeing Adventure at The Biggest Week

When I signed up to go to The Biggest Week in American Birding, the field excursion “Birding by Canoe” caught my eye. There aren’t many places to go canoeing in New Mexico, and in fact my one experience in a canoe had been at Disneyland when I was ten years old. My excitement about a canoe trip was slightly tempered by apprehension when Kimberly Kaufman told me that CBS Sunday Morning would be filming during the trip. I had visions of my New Mexico derriere being filmed disappearing into the water. To be on the safe side, I left my DSLR at the cottage and took a point and shoot with me.

We met at the designated place at 6:00 a.m. We stood around chatting and waiting for the film crew to arrive. It looked as if it would be a gorgeous morning.

The Biggest Week in American Birding

Biggest Week Birders await the canoe trip.

When we reached the canoe launch site, we were instructed to choose life jackets.

The Biggest Week in American Birding

Prospective canoeists choose life jackets

We watched as the Sunday Morning crew made their preparations.

The Sunday Morning film crew makes their preparations.

The Sunday Morning film crew makes their preparations.

The Sunday Morning crew set off down Green Creek, and Kimberly Kaufman spied something on the stream bank: an Eastern Phoebe.

CBS News Sunday Morning

The CBS crew sets off in a canoe

We paddled toward the bay in the calm waters.

Tom Kashmer, a naturalist with Sandusky County Parks, and Serena enjoy the scenery

Tom Kashmer, a naturalist with Sandusky County Parks, and Serena Altschul with CBS News enjoy the scenery

Kimberly Kaufman and Katie Anderson show fine form

Kimberly Kaufman and Katie Andersen show fine form

The film crew had a boat with a small motor. The rest of us provided our own power.

News crew, with motor

News crew, with motor

We saw Bald Eagles throughout the morning, and I discovered that it is very difficult to take photos from a moving canoe.

Bald Eagle nest

Bald Eagle nest

Bald Eagle photo from a moving canoe

Bald Eagle photo from a moving canoe

We paddled out into the bay and listened as Tom Kashmer told us about the history of the area.

Paddling out into the bay

Paddling out into the bay

Tom Kashmer relates the history of the area

Tom Kashmer relates the history of the area

Kimberly Kaufman and CBS Sunday Morning Contributing Correspondent Serena Altschul were kind enough to allow me to take their photo.

Kimberly Kaufman, Serena Altschul

Kimberly Kaufman and Serena Altschul

It was a delightful and interesting trip with wonderful people, as are all of the adventures at The Biggest Week. What a wonderful festival!

CBS Sunday Morning will air a story on birding on May 26, 2013. The Biggest Week in American Birding will be featured in that segment. Be sure to watch!

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Warbler Wednesday-Wings on Wednesday

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Warbler Wednesday-Wings on Wednesday

I have recently returned from a week at The Biggest Week in American Birding, a ten-day birding festival in Northwest Ohio. Nothing in my experience as a New Mexico birder prepared me for the dazzling array of migratory warblers that I encountered on the boardwalk at Magee Marsh, located on the south shore of Lake Erie. I have been slow in getting blog posts together, in large part because I had such a wonderful time in Ohio that I arrived home totally exhausted. If you’re a birder, you MUST go to The Biggest Week. Kenn and Kim Kaufman and their dedicated team put on a wonderful event.

One of the warblers that I really enjoyed seeing was the Black-throated Green Warbler.

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I am still going through my photos, and I will do several more posts on The Biggest Week. Be sure to check back.

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A New Mexican at The Biggest Week

From the first time that I heard of The Biggest Week in American Birding, a birding festival on the south shore of Lake Erie in Ohio, I wanted to go. I had planned to go last year, but professional obligations kept me from attending. This year I was determined to attend. I rented a little cottage right on Lake Erie very near Magee Marsh.

I arrived rather late on Saturday evening, and I was pleased to have dinner with birding friends Dawn and Jeff Fine and equally pleased to see and meet other old and new birding friends.

The next morning I woke up early and headed for Magee Marsh. I was looking forward to attending a photo workshop with Christopher Taylor. I had followed him on Twitter for four years. I am an admirer of his work, and I was anxious to meet him in person.

Our little group of eight photographers set out along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh, looking for warblers and other migrants.

The Biggest Week in American Birding.

Christopher Taylor (far right) leads a group of photographers in search of migrants.

There were many warblers in the trees, but many of them were in the shadows. This is a situation that I am not much accustomed to encountering in sunny New Mexico, and I struggled a bit to adjust my camera.

The Biggest Week in American

Yellow Warbler

I seem to have a certain effect on birds when I attempt to photograph them.

Biggest Week in American Birding

This is the most common view I had of warblers on my first day in Ohio.

This Palm Warbler was sitting prettily on a branch until I tried to photograph it.

The Biggest Week in American Birding

A Palm Warbler flees from my camera.

We spent some time watching a Black-capped Chickadee feeding a fledgling still in the nest. Here is the nest, which was right on the boardwalk.

The Biggest Week in American Birding

Do you see the hole in the tree? That’s the chickadee nest!

The Biggest Week in American Birding

Black-capped Chickadee feeding a fledgling.

The Biggest Week in American Birding.

Black-capped Chickadee feeding an almost-grown fledgling,

A highlight of the morning was seeing a pair of Great Horned Owlets that were almost ready to fledge.

The Biggest Week in American Birding

Aren’t they adorable?

The Biggest Week in American Birding

Another look at the Great Horned Owlets

Of course, being a handsome, successful photographer isn’t only endless birds and admiration. There can be fallout from standing under trees filled with warblers.

The Biggest Week in American Birding

Chris Taylor is appalled that those lovely warblers would treat him with disrespect.

I am now four days into my personal Biggest Week. I have seen more warblers in three days than I have seen in my entire life, and I’ve even taken photos of some of them. My slow internet connection makes it difficult for me to do many blog posts, but they will come along in a few days. In the meantime, please enjoy Christopher Taylor’s beautiful photos here

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