Friday, May 10, 2019

One BIG Week

Green heron in full spring splendor
(just outside our field office)
As our official involvement in this year's Biggest Week in American Birding draws to a close, I'd like to again thank the Black Swamp Bird Observatory for its tireless energy and passion, remarkable organizational skills and event choreography, and general professionalism. What has been built in the last ten years is truly something remarkable, and the benefits extend WAY beyond just our feathered friends (not just to other groups of animals [including humans] but to the root of conservation itself).

I'd also like to thank all those who attended Standing Rush's presentation at Maumee Bay State Park and those who took the time to come see us in person. Guests this year again represented a staggering spread geographically (Michigan, Indiana, Louisiana, Oregon, Texas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Colorado, and even Ecuador -- just to name some off the top of my head). It was also really gratifying to have a decent number of true locals join our tours this year. As we've experienced in the past, it is a real shot in the arm to realize that people are paying attention to our efforts and that people are genuinely thrilled to see the progress first-hand.

We also received some satisfying confirmation that at least some people find our online ramblings to be not just informative but entertaining. In fact, I was introduced to the term "binge reading" as it relates to this online journal. Again, this is both flattering and a motivation to keep up the good fight.

One of our furthest human "migrants" to visit Standing Rush this week (from Ecuador), chasing swallows on the wing
with his camera when he wasn't helping to guide the group
In our interaction with Biggest Week, tour participants are highly motivated to visit Standing Rush for a unique encounter that's a little different than the traditional bird watching tour: to learn from on-the-ground restoration by experiencing it first-hand. That said it never hurts to have some decent bird activity. Yesterday, in particular, offered that perfect combination. Participants were very much engaged in the restoration stories, but they were equally enthralled by a stunning variety of birds brought in by Wednesday night's south wind (a rare occurrence thus far this spring).

I haven't seen the final list, but our talented guides tallied somewhere on the order of eighty (that's 8-0!) species of birds on the property in under four hours of touring. They were quick to underscore that "it's not about the numbers," but at the same time, we were all in awe that we surpassed 20 species before we even left the area around our field office. If you do the math, a handful of birders witnessed a new species about every 3 minutes for the entire morning on the property. I'll try to post more specifics at some point, but here are some of the highlights that I was able to capture with my own camera. I'm really hoping our guests contribute some of their favorites from their own cameras so that I can share those, too.

Yesterday marked the first time this year that we witnessed the striking Blackburnian warbler; the first three we saw eluded
my camera, but I caught this one, the fourth -- literally minutes before I left for the day (and the rains came)
This northern parula (another warbler) seemed as happy as we were to be out of the wind and in the sun;
I love photographing in soft willows and newly budding trees this time of year
White-crowned sparrows were a dime a dozen, particularly along stone-covered paths yesterday; but it's still pretty
hard to take this elegant "little brown bird" for granted when you get him magnified and in focus
This blue-gray gnatcatcher literally refused to sit still long enough to pose for the camera; we just lucked out and
captured perpetual motion in this fun still
Yellow warblers remain the dominant warbler species on the property (we literally witnessed hundreds yesterday alone),
but this singing female made for a pose I couldn't resist
Speaking of poses, this American tree swallow sat with a companion bird (on the dead-fall in the background) and
just waited for us to get our fill with our cameras
For every one decent image, there were probably a dozen subjects that just never cooperated, as this black-and-white warbler
demonstrates (that said sometimes out of focus can still make for a neat shot)

Sora, typically pretty secretive rails, have been both very reliable to find on and around our southern boundary and
quite cooperative in posing for the camera these last few days
This single row of dogwoods and willows could have kept us entertained all day

Standing Rush on display at Maumee Bay State Park -- thanks, as always, to the growing list of individuals
who are helping to support our mission

P.S. Just because the festival is wrapping up this weekend, the spring migration is FAR from over. In fact, with all the wind and cool weather we've had over the last several weeks, the best could still be yet to come! If you can't get out right away, make sure you check out the newly released documentary on the importance of our region and the coastal marshes along Lake Erie as they relate to bird migrations. As of this morning, it is now available any time from just about anywhere (free) at Thank you public media!