The Biggest Week 2013: Day 1!

This morning PA birder (and honorary Nemesis Birder) Cory DeStein, and I, got an early start out of PA for our 6 hour drive to Black Swamp Bird Observatory’s Biggest Week in American Birding! It is finally here!!! I forgot my camera cord in PA, so unfortunately photos will have to wait until I get home!

Our first stop was obviously the infamous Magee Marsh Wildlife Area Boardwalk! On our way to the east end of the boardwalk, Double-crested Cormorants were seen flying overhead, and a pair of Caspian Terns flew over the beach, hard to miss with their raspy raucous calls. Soon after, Cory spotted a bright red male Summer Tanager flying overhead, looping back towards the boardwalk…not a bad start! In the parking lot, a Yellow-rumped Warbler and a Warbling Vireo caught our attention, the latter of which would become a total trash bird after a complete loop on the boardwalk! As to be expected, Yellow Warblers were singing their faces off in every direction; while we grossly underestimated their numbers for our ebird checklist, we are sure there are 100+ in the vicinity of the boardwalk alone.

While the water’s edge near the parking lot was fairly chilly, the east end of the boardwalk was fairly warm, given its lack of canopy cover and exposure to the sun. It was a bit of a slow start, with most of the “tweet” worthy warblers being seen on the west end of the boardwalk, but Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, Warbling Vireos, and Palm Warblers were abundant here. We did hear a Virginia Rail call in this area.

Into the canopy cover of the boardwalk, warbler species diversity was surprisingly high, given the time of day (after 2:00 pm!). Bright orange male Blackburnian Warblers made a handful of appearances, a welcome sight after a long, dull winter. White-throated Sparrows were leaf-raking almost everywhere, and an occasional Veery could be seen sneaking around nearby. An Ovenbird joined the ground foragers as well. Two different Eastern Whip-poor-wills (so awesome) were being scoped, as was an Eastern Screech-Owl and an American Woodcock! It seemed like everything possible to be seen on the boardwalk had been staked out just for us! In addition to this, a Great-Crested Flycatcher and numerous Least Flycatchers made multiple appearances….crowd-pleasers all around, given the slow rate of migration in PA over the last two weeks.

The real show of the day was actually at the west end of the boardwalk. I had seen the tweets regarding a Canada Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Mourning Warbler, and Cerulean Warbler, all basically in the same area, but hadn’t imagined these individuals would still be around by the time we arrived in the late afternoon. But, a crowd was still gathered, and the Golden-winged Warbler quickly appeared, followed by the Canada Warbler! Knowing this, I was hoping the Cerulean Warbler was still nearby, and amazingly, it was(lifer)! Meanwhile, Black-throated Green Warblers, Blackburnian Warblers, and Warbling Vireos were often too close for photos. We did miss out on the Mourning Warbler, but it was seen later in the day, so we are hoping to add that to our 21 warbler species list! Stay tuned for more posts and actual photos eventually! Thanks to Cory DeStein for tweeting throughout the day when I was too distracted by all the warblys! We will be on the boardwalk early in the AM to beat our 21 warbler species count.

Jeff Bouton points out activity near a Golden-winged Warbler, with Cerulean soon to follow…thanks Jeff! (photo by Cory DeStein)