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Ed Newbold | The Great Midwest Warbler Safari
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The Great Midwest Warbler Safari

The Great Midwest Warbler Safari

Posted from Seattle May 24, 2014

Brian Pendleton and I got back last night from our GREAT MIDWEST WARBLER SAFARI.  We landed in Chicago on May 16 and birded beginning Saturday May 17 through yesterday May 23 at 3 pm in Indiana.  No, make that 5 pm, we had a Kestrel over the freeway in Chicago.  We first birded Chicago, then swung a bit west in Illinois, then to SW Michigan, then to Ohio, then to Central Michigan to the most southerly Kirtland’s habitat, then back to Chicago.

Brian had 34 Warblers seen and heard and one heard only.  I had 32 Warblers seen and heard and one heard only.  That heard-only bird sadly was the gorgeous Yellow-throated Warbler, (most Warblers are gorgeous) looked for in Indiana.

The trip caught the end of the bell curve of the migration.  Some including me thought it would be too late but there’s a good argument for going late, as you can still head north and catch the earlier birds on the breeding grounds, but if you go early, you will probably miss the late migrants.

We encountered the fabulous, amazing, unbelievable phenomenon that is MAGEE MARSH in Ohio near Toledo.  It’s like a Museum diorama of the Warbler migration except the display birds aren’t dusty and they fly around.  It is crazy that Magee Marsh is still free.  There will absolutely have to be a parking fee instituted to equilibrate supply and demand as people inevitably realize the treasure that Magee Marsh is.

We had the help of the indefatigable Ryan Dziedzic of Mt. Pleasant Michigan on Thursday in Midland County.  Ryan knows every song and every chip and is most pleasant to spend a 13-hour birding day with.  We recommend him.

(We really do recommend Ryan.  Anyone planning a trip to central Michigan should feel free to contact him at ryan.dziedzic@gmail.com   Don’t be scared off by price issues, and we’re certain he’d work well with folks of any varying degree of bird-knowledge.)

 My epiphany for the trip was a Common Nighthawk that was flying perhaps a quarter-mile circuit route foraging over the tops of a woodland in Northeast Indiana at dusk.  She (I don’t know her gender, and when I don’t know that about a bird, sometimes I like to make it a point of saying “she” to counteract the millions of times we all have all called a bird that we didn’t know the gender of a “he.”) was exhilarating to watch partly for her size—this is a bird with a two-foot wingspan, and because each time she rounded the closest corner she came fairly close to me it was possible to get a feel for the speed she was maintaining and the power with which she came through the turn, all the while veering away from her course at erratic moments to catch her flying-insect prey.  Nighthawks—Long may they live!

On a sad note we saw first-hand the dead Ash trees all over the riparian woods and elsewhere.  This hugely important tree—(all three species), is experiencing a 100% dieoff of mature trees.  It’s shocking that we live in such a nature-indifferent culture this is not a particularly reported-on news item nor is it a talked-about issue on anyone’s radar, although I did detect real concern on the part of many of the folks we met at Magee and elsewhere about it.

Brian was a wonderfully great companion for the trip.  He’s a step-class above me as a birder, particularly in his ability with calls and songs, but our skills proved to be complimentary and we shared the characteristic of having grown up birding in the East, then spent most of our lives in Western WA, and never fully understood the magnificence of the Mississippi flyway and the Midwest Warbler season.  Brian also aided science by putting every stop on E-bird:  even on the way to looking for a life-warbler Brian would tend to counting photographing and appreciating birds like Song Sparrows.

This was like a candy store of colorful birds if you live in Seattle.  There were Scarlet Tanagers perhaps at nearly every stop, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks at most, Indigo Buntings and Northern Cardinals usually in the background, with a few cameos by the Red-headed Woodpecker.  We saw most of the Warblers numerous times and saw adult males in top plumage.  And some of the time, especially at Magee, finding and identifying the birds was, to borrow a phrase from our Michigan Guide Ryan Dziedzic, “like shooting fish in a barrel.”

Next are some pictures.  Brian took almost all the birds we saw and his shots will all be technically excellent.  I’ll try to get a link when they become available.   I only took the birds that insisted on being photographed, and I use the cheapest bird lense available on Amazon, which I then occasionally drop on rocks, but here are some shots:

 

American Redstart was one of the most often seen warblers on the trip

American Redstart was one of the most often seen warblers on the trip

 

Ruddy Turnstones on the shore of Lake Erie at Magee Marsh in Ohio

Ruddy Turnstones on the shore of Lake Erie at Magee Marsh in Ohio

 

This shot doesn't do justice to the Blackburnian Warbler, whose throat keeps changing from purple to orange in the evening sun

This shot doesn’t do justice to the Blackburnian Warbler, whose throat keeps changing from purple to orange in the evening sun

A male Chestnut-sided Warbler near Chicago.

A male Chestnut-sided Warbler near Chicago.

We saw Rose-breasted Grosbeaks at most stops. It specializes in heart-stops.

We saw Rose-breasted Grosbeaks at most stops. It specializes in heart-stops.

 

 

At Magee Marsh when we arrived a male Prothonotory was a foot from the boardwalk. Then fifty feet further along another was a foot and a half from the boardwalk.

At Magee Marsh when we arrived a male Prothonotory was a foot from the boardwalk. Then fifty feet further along another was a foot and a half from the boardwalk.

At a number of stops we had Eastern Bluebird, always a treat..

At a number of stops we had Eastern Bluebird, always a treat..

In my opinion, this shot of an Eastern Kingbird at Magee Marsh was the most artistic shot I got the whole trip

In my opinion, this shot of an Eastern Kingbird at Magee Marsh was the most artistic shot I got the whole trip

The Black-throated Blue Warblers were already mostly through when we got to Magee, but on Weds at least 2 males and 2 females showed up.

The Black-throated Blue Warblers were already mostly through when we got to Magee, but on Weds at least 2 males and 2 females showed up.

Common Nighthawks are most impressive in flight. This one was sitting on a branch in NW Illinois

Common Nighthawks are most impressive in flight. This one was sitting on a branch in NW Illinois

 

There were Scarlet Tanagers at most stops. This Illinois bird had red upper wingbars.

There were Scarlet Tanagers at most stops. This Illinois bird had red upper wingbars.

 

It's impossible not to try to photograph a Scarlet Tanager if there is a camera in your hand.

It’s impossible not to try to photograph a Scarlet Tanager if there is a camera in your hand.

 

What can you say about Midwest birds. Here's a Baltimore Oriole.

What can you say about Midwest birds. Here’s a Baltimore Oriole.

 

We only saw one Prairie Warbler, which is having conservation difficulties

We only saw one Prairie Warbler, which is having conservation difficulties

Bobolinks are constantly partying--or is it fighting? I'll have to read up on them

Bobolinks are constantly partying–or is it fighting? I’ll have to read up on them

I hadn't seen a Woodcock in ages. This was at Magee Marsh, but we also kicked one up in Michigan

I hadn’t seen a Woodcock in ages. This was at Magee Marsh, but we also kicked one up in Michigan

 

The entrance to the Magee Marsh boardwalk

The entrance to the Magee Marsh boardwalk

A truly poor shot of a Black-throated Green Warbler, which is one handsome warbler.

A truly poor shot of a Black-throated Green Warbler, which is one handsome warbler.

 

This Porcupine was at the north end of our itinerary in Michigan where we found Kirtland's Warblers

This Porcupine was at the north end of our itinerary in Michigan where we found Kirtland’s Warblers

This is an Alder Flycatcher. We had all five Empidonax flycatchers singing in plain sight, never happened before for me.

This is an Alder Flycatcher. We had all five Empidonax flycatchers singing in plain sight, never happened before for me.

Ryan Dziedzic of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, a great and indefatigable guide

Ryan Dziedzic of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, a great and indefatigable guide

Great Egrets were fairly common at Magee Marsh.

Great Egrets were fairly common at Magee Marsh.

 

Especially toward the end, Yellow Warblers became the most common warbler but there sure were a lot of Magnolias, which moved too fast for me

Especially toward the end, Yellow Warblers became the most common warbler but there sure were a lot of Magnolias, which moved too fast for me

 

 

 Now here is our list of 165 species all seen unless noted as heard only:

Blue-winged Teal           Michigan (forgot to put it in spreadsheet)

Canada   Goose  
Trumpeter Swan  
Wood Duck  
Mallard  
Hooded Merganser  
Ring-necked Pheasant heard only
Ruffed Grouse heard only
Wild Turkey  
Double-crested Cormorant  
American Bittern  
Great Blue Heron  
Great Egret  
Snowy Egret one at Magee Marsh
Green Heron  
Black-crowned Night   Heron  Montrose Point Chicago
Turkey Vulture  
Northern Harrier  
Osprey  
Red-shouldered Hawk  
Broad-winged Hawk  
Red-tailed Hawk  
Bald Eagle  
Sandhill Crane  
Sora heard only
Killdeer  
Solitary Sandpiper  
Spotted Sandpiper  
Upland Sandpiper Michigan
Ruddy Turnstone Magee Marsh
Semipalmated Sandpiper Montrose Point
Sanderling Montrose Point
Least Sandpiper or did we see this check with Brian memory is going
Dunlin  
Wilson’s Snipe  
American Woodcock Magee Marsh and Central Michigan
Ring-billed Gull  
Herring Gull  
Caspian Tern Montrose
Common Tern Magee
Rock Pigeon  
Mourning Dove  
Yellow-billed Cuckoo one bird at Magee perhaps seen twice
Black-billed Cuckoo  two in Michigan
Great Horned Owl Crows found it in Illinois, we didn’t Owl, too tired
Common Nighthawk  at many stops in early part of trip, none in Central   Michigan 
Chimney Swift  
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  
Belted Kingfisher  
Red-headed Woodpecker  Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan but not many
Red-bellied Woodpecker  
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Central Michigan
Downy Woodpecker  
Hairy Woodpecker  
Northern Flicker  
Pileated Woodpecker  
American Kestrel only two, Michigan and Chicago
Olive-sided Flycatcher Magee and Illinois and Michigan
Eastern Wood-Pewee  
Yellow-bellied   Flycatcher  vocalization-slam of Empidonax, all heard  and seen
Acadian Flycatcher  
Willow Flycatcher  
Alder Flycatcher  
Least Flycatcher  
Eastern Phoebe  
Great Crested Flycatcher  
Eastern Kingbird  
Blue-headed Vireo including one on nest in Central Michigan
Yellow-throated Vireo  
Warbling Vireo  
Philadelphia Vireo Illinois, Magee, Michigan
Red-eyed Vireo  
Blue Jay  
American Crow  
Horned Lark  
Purple Martin  
Tree Swallow  
Bank Swallow Montrose only
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  
Cliff Swallow  
Barn Swallow  
Black-capped Chickadee  
Tufted Titmouse  
White-breasted Nuthatch  
Brown Creeper  
House Wren  
Sedge Wren Central Michigan
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  
Ruby-crowned Kinglet surprise at Magee
Eastern Bluebird  
Wood Thrush  
Veery  
Hermit Thrush Michigan heard only
Gray-cheeked Thrush many in Illinois
Swainson’s Thrush many
American Robin  
Gray Catbird  
Brown Thrasher nice to see this great bird as often as we did
European Starling saw this a lot also
American Pipit only one in Michigan
Cedar Waxwing  
Oven bird  
Louisiana Waterthrush  
Northern Waterthrush  
Prothonotory Warbler  
Black and White Warbler  
Golden-winged Warbler Chicago River and Michigan
Blue-winged Warbler  
Orange-crowned Warbler Chicago River
Tenessee Warbler  
Nashville Warbler  
Connecticut Warbler Whoops, Brian Pendleton only, not Ed
Kentucky Warbler Whoops, Brian Pendleton only, not Ed
Mourning Warbler Magee and Michigan various locations
Common Yellowthroat  
Hooded Warbler Michigan
American Redstart we may have seen or heard at every stop or close
Cape May Warbler  
Kirtland’s Warbler Central Michigan, perhaps southernmost breeding location, nice   looking bird, exceeds the images
Cerulean Warbler Central Michigan,  two   pairs
Northern Parula  
Magnolia Warbler  
Blackburnian Warbler  
Yellow Warbler  
Chestnut-sided Warbler  
Black-throated Blue Warbler  
Blackpoll Warbler  
Bay-breasted Warbler  
Pine Warbler only in Michigan
Prairie Warbler one only in Michigan
Palm Warbler  
Yellow-throated Warbler Heard only singing once only in Indiana
Yellow-rumped Warbler not all that many, we were late in the migration
Black-throated Green Warbler  
Wilson’s Warbler I was surprised how many
Canada Warbler End Warblers
Eastern Towhee  
Field Sparrow  
Chipping Sparrow  
Savannah Sparrow  
Vesper Sparrow Central Michigan
Grasshopper Sparrow Illinois and Michigan
Henslow’s Sparrow Illinois only
Fox Sparrow Brian Pendleton only, not Ed
Song Sparrow  
Lincoln’s Sparrow  
Swamp Sparrow   
Dark-eyed Junco Central Michigan only
White-crowned Sparrow  
White-throated Sparrow  
Scarlet Tanager at most stops
Northern Cardinal  
Rose-breasted Grosbeak at most stops
Indigo Bunting  
Commn Grackle  
Red-winged Blackbird  
Yellow-headed Blackbird one female at Montrose
Brown-headed Cowbird  
Bobolink Illinois and Michigan
Eastern Meadowlark  
Orchard Oriole central Michigan only
Baltimore Oriole  
Purple Finch  
House Finch  
American Goldfinch  
House Sparrow  
   
   

 

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