Warbler Migration at Magee Marsh, Ohio

Before Mark and I started RVing, I would take group trips with a program called “Road Scholar.” I was introduced to them by my parents who had taken several trips that they enjoyed. We even took a trip together to the Gulf of Texas to see birds. Road Scholar has trips all over the U.S. as well as many parts of the world and caters to those of middle age and up. They frequently send out catalogues with their offerings and I would look through them to get travel ideas and also to see if there were any trips I wanted to take. Since travel is one of my favorite activities, I never tired of reading about new possibilities. One offering was at Magee Marsh in Ohio for the warbler migration. I thought this sounded intriguing since I like birding and had few opportunities to see warblers in my home state of California. I kept Magee Marsh and birding in Ohio in the back of my mind for a possible Road Scholar trip.

Cape May Warbler
Cape May Warbler

Magee Marsh is located next to the shore of Lake Erie and it is here that warblers as well as a number of other birds stop on their migration from warmer winter climates such as Central and South America. They spend time at the marsh resting and “fueling up” before heading over Lake Erie to their summer grounds in Canada. It can vary, but the time for migration is usually the first three weeks of May.

Northern Parula

There are over 40 warbler species that pass through, some earlier or later than others. Magee Marsh (as well as other nearby birding parks) has become one of the premier birding places in the U.S. with people coming from all over the world to see the birds! When traveling through the Southwest earlier this year and meeting other birders, we sometimes mentioned we were heading to Ohio to see the warblers. The question from them would usually be, “Are you going to Magee Marsh?” In the birding world, Magee is the place to go.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

When we were staying in Tucson this past March I went on some trips with the birding group and met Barbara. Barbara was visiting from Ohio and lives not too far from Magee Marsh. She told me about the upcoming birding festival in Northwest Ohio which she attends and encouraged me to plan a trip there. It is sponsored by Black Swamp Bird Observatory and is billed as the “Biggest Week in American Birding.” There are a number of events associated with this festival which is held in various locations outside the Toledo area including Magee Marsh. There are guided birding trips and classes which start around the first week of May and last for more than a week. Since we planned to visit Ohio this year I figured checking out the warbler migration would be a great opportunity. This could be our first main activity in our tour of the Midwest states this year.

Barbara and I with Greg, one of the festival’s birding guides who led our nature walk
Chestnut-sided Warbler

We spent a week at a campground near Lake Erie and I visited Magee Marsh four different days. Barbara was able to bird with me twice and introduce me to Magee. I have birded at places all around the country in our travels, both before RVing and during our recent travels. I found Magee to be the most interesting place I have ever birded. A boardwalk one mile in length went throughout the swamp with so many different birds to look at it was mind boggling. Many places I have birded the small birds are high up in the trees making identification difficult. At Magee the birds could be seen closer to the boardwalk so birding was more fun. I recall someone telling me years ago that watching warblers can be addicting and after seeing all these colorful little beauties, I could certainly understand.

Prothonotary Warbler

I enjoyed adding 22 new birds to my life list and eleven of those were warblers. People on the boardwalk would ask others if they had seen a particular kind of warbler and others would help if they could with information as to where they had seen one. This leads me to write about another reason I found Magee to be such an interesting place to bird. There were a lot of people on the boardwalk, so many that at times it became a traffic jam. People tended to cluster in certain areas when there were sightings and a few times it became difficult to make my way through the crowd. This was especially true when I went on a Saturday morning. At one spot I was stuck in a crush and could not move in either direction. One lady next to me started talking about feeling claustrophobic and not able to get out. Eventually I broke through and went on my way.

A crowd birding on Magee Marsh Boardwalk

It might sound impossible to bird in such crowded conditions, but somehow it worked. I found people to be polite – not pushy, rude or impatient and helpful with identifying and finding birds when able. I have found this to be a trend with birders in other places I have visited as they want others to enjoy the experience too. At Magee, a few even had scopes set up so people could view close up, owls and nighthawks in the trees. Thanks to fellow birders, I was able to see birds that I probably would not have been able to spot on my own. Since the warblers were so unfamiliar, I needed all the help I could get! Occasionally I was able to find quiet places on the boardwalk, sometimes with no one in sight.

Quiet spot on Magee Marsh Boardwalk
Photographing birds

There were other birds besides warblers that also caught my attention with the Scarlet Tanager my favorite. This bright red bird was a dazzling sight and it was here that I first saw them. One stayed in the same area near the boardwalk for perhaps a half hour or more. I lost track of time as I kept watching him and taking pictures.

Scarlet Tanager
Scarlet Tanager

Bald eagles nest in the marsh and kept people captivated. Several times I would see one flying carrying a long stick to add to its nest. The stick usually looked much longer than its body! The nests are so large that they were fairly easy to spot in the trees. I will close with a photo of one sunning next to a nest. I hope you enjoyed a tour of this popular birding spot!

Bald Eagle

We are working on galleries and I am going to try and add some bird photos at the end of this post. Hope you like it!

5 thoughts on “Warbler Migration at Magee Marsh, Ohio”

    1. Thanks Dave! I appreciate the comment! I have also been enjoying your blog posts and wonderful photos! I look forward to seeing more of them!

  1. These birds are so fantastically beautiful. You are so blessed to see so much of God’s beautiful creation. Bob says that you are having too much fun. I say thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for the comment Judy! Yes, we are definitely blessed to see so much beauty! I often think of that! And yes, I guess we are having too much fun also!

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