Posts Tagged ‘Baltimore Oriole’

It was wonderful to go birding in Minnesota again, a state that has now given me 17 life birds and some great adventures.  I shared the trip with Diane Hoese, who I met birding in South Dakota with Doug Buri and Bob Janssen in 2010.  Diane provided the inspiration for this blog; my first post was about attending Bob and Doug’s Shorebird Workshop with her.  We both love learning from Bob, so we planned this trip around his Boreal Birding Workshop at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais.

High Falls on the Pigeon River.  Grand Portage State Park.

High Falls on the Pigeon River.  Grand Portage State Park.

Bob’s workshop took us to Judge CR Magney and Grand Portage state parks, Oberg Mountain, and nearby areas where we had great close-up views of 14 species of warblers.

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher.  Cook County, MN.

We drove up the nearby Gunflint Trail by ourselves and found a few more birds, including this Olive-sided Flycatcher.  This bird had huge white tufts on its lower back.  Back home, I searched extensively and could not find any reference to a connection between the size of the tufts and gender, breeding status, or time of year.

Diane, Bob Janssen, Shelley

Diane, Bob Janssen, Shelley.  Grand Marais, MN.

After birding with Bob for two days, Diane and I set off to Ely to bird on our own for a day.  The highlight there was breeding Cape May Warblers on territory.  We found at least three pairs on our own, without playing recorded songs to draw the birds in, and enjoyed the peace of the boreal forest.  The birds behaved as if we weren’t even there – males singing from the treetops, a lovely female working a spruce tree at nearly eye level.  For me, birding does not get any better.

Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk. Echo Trail, Ely, MN.

We also watched this Broad-winged Hawk attempt to catch an afternoon snack, but he missed his prey. Earlier in the day, we had watched a different Broad-winged being harassed by Blue Jays.

Juvenile Gray Jay

Juvenile Gray Jay. Lake County Road 2, MN.

On our way south to Duluth the next day, we found a family of Gray Jays along Lake County Road 2, one adult and at least two adorable juveniles.

Next was birding with Erik Bruhnke in Sax Zim Bog.  I had hoped to see a Connecticut Warbler, but it wasn’t meant to be.  We did find a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, though, which was one of my two life birds of the trip (the other was Alder Flycatcher).  It was a lovely day that started with great views of a LeConte’s Sparrow and this goofy looking Sharp-tailed Grouse.

Sharp-tailed Grouse. Sax Zim Bog, MN.

Sharp-tailed Grouse. Sax Zim Bog, MN.

American Kestrel.  Sax Zim Bog, MN.

American Kestrel (male). Sax Zim Bog, MN.

Erik showed me his beautiful photo of a male American Kestrel we had just watched together.  He pointed out the white outer tail feathers with black bars.  When I got home, I realized that I had also captured a clear shot of the bird’s tail showing this common trait that I’d never noticed before.

After a great dinner at Fitger’s in Duluth, we sadly sad goodbye to Erik and headed towards Diane’s home the next morning.

Shelley, Erik Bruhnke, Diane

Shelley, Erik Bruhnke, Diane. Duluth, MN.

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker. Carver County, MN.

It was late afternoon and lightly raining when we arrived, but the birds were still coming to the feeders on Diane’s deck.  I was happy to capture a shot of this male Hairy Woodpecker showing a characteristic that is usually not mentioned in field guides – the vertical black line through the red patch on the back of the head.  Downy Woodpeckers do not have a line through the red patch.

My last birds of the trip were Diane’s lovely Baltimore Orioles.

Baltimore Oriole (male).  Carver County, MN.

Baltimore Oriole (male). Carver County, MN.

Baltimore Oriole (female).  Carver County, MN.

Baltimore Oriole (female). Carver County, MN.

Once again I had unintentionally taken the advice of my late husband, Burt.  I’d saved something for next time.  Now I’ve got both Connecticut Warbler and Boreal Owl to search for again.  After a wonderful trip like this, the idea of going birding again in Minnesota sounds pretty good.


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Magee Marsh boardwalk entrance

Magee Marsh boardwalk entrance

Disneyland for Birders – that is how I heard someone refer to Magee Marsh on the first day. It’s a perfect characterization of this world-famous birding hot spot. It not only provides spectacular eye-level views of birds, but it has that Disney feeling of wholesome, clean, friendly fun.

The Great Black Swamp once covered 1,500 square miles of northwestern Ohio extending from Port Clinton to Fort Wayne, Indiana.  The vast network of forests, wetlands, and grasslands provided vital stopover habitat where tired and hungry neotropical songbirds could rest and refuel before continuing their migration.  Today, most of the area has been drained for agriculture; only 10 percent of Ohio’s original wetlands are left.  Magee Marsh is one of the few remaining remnants of the Great Black Swamp.  Its wooded beach ridges between the marsh and the southern shore of Lake Erie are especially important as the last stop for migrating birds reluctant to cross the lake.  Magee Marsh State Wildlife Area, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, and other nearby areas protect a few thousand acres of habitat, but the birds are most numerous in the small 7-acre area around the Magee Marsh boardwalk.  The Ohio Division of Wildlife built the famous mile-long boardwalk in 1989.  It is wide, has guiderails, and is wheelchair accessible.  It provides birders with a wonderful vantage point for viewing the birds and it protects the habitat from trampling.  The birds seem to feel safe and come very close to the boardwalk, even perching on it occasionally.

Sandy Beasley, my birding buddy from Georgia, and I arrived on the evening of May 13.  I had heard about Magee Marsh for years, but hesitated to visit because of the crowds.  Those fears were not justified.  The State of Ohio did an outstanding job making the site accessible to visitors.  The parking lots are large and well laid-out, there are a sufficient number of porta-potties and they are extremely well maintained.  And the wide boardwalk itself comfortably accommodates a large number of people.  Most importantly, I was surprised to discover that the other birders actually enhanced my experience.  People were friendly and readily shared information.  The only “traffic jam” that I encountered was when a Black-billed Cuckoo was sighted.  Once I said “life bird”, someone pushed me to the front of the crowd and gave detailed directions for finding the bird.  Birders of all levels and from all over the country come to Magee to enjoy the spectacle of spring migration.  I frequently encountered groups of people intently looking in a particular direction.  When I asked what they were watching, the answers varied from “Mourning Warbler” to “there’s a Robin down there” to “I don’t know what the others see”.  As an intermediate level birder, I had the fun of both being helped (such as confirmation of my life Philadelphia Vireo) as well as helping others with finding birds and identification.

Black-throated Green Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler

On our first amazing day at Magee, we enjoyed many close views of warblers.  One of my favorites was the Black-throated Green Warbler who flitted around just a few feet from me and even perched on the boardwalk rail for a moment.

Another crowd pleaser was this cooperative Blackburnian Warbler who also showed off for everyone close by.

Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

The highlight of the day for both Sandy and me was a female Kirtland’s Warbler on the beach.  Kirtland’s Warbler is rare at Magee and cannot be expected every year, so we were thrilled to see it, a life bird for both of us.

The day ended with an American Woodcock alternately sleeping, preening, and posing for photos right next to the east end of the boardwalk.


American Woodcock

Our second day was equally wonderful and again we saw many beautiful warblers and other birds.  Several Baltimore Orioles brightened the scene and were easy to photograph thanks to the oranges that had been strategically placed for them.  We were also treated to another Kirtland’s Warbler, a male this time, identified as a first year bird by experienced birders.

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole

Mid-afternoon Sandy went back to the hotel with Barbara, a birder we met who had driven 11 hours from Boston.  I birded a little longer and saw a Sora near the boardwalk.  Then, I, too, returned to the hotel for dinner with Sandy and Barbara to end another perfect day.



The following morning, Sandy, Barbara, and I decided to bird another area so we headed to Maumee Bay State Park.  Maumee Bay has an even longer boardwalk than Magee – 2 miles!  It was quieter than Magee had been, but we enjoyed a pleasant day and the simple pleasures of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher on the nest, a Great Crested Flycatcher calling over the wetlands, Common Yellowthroats everywhere.  And we added a few birds to our trip list.

Purple Martins

A Purple Martin pair on the “front porch” of their house outside the Nature Center at Maumee Bay State Park.

Deer in the woods at Maumee Bay State Park

Deer in the woods at Maumee Bay State Park

On day four of the trip, we went back to Magee Marsh and saw almost no warblers in an hour’s birding.  The weather must have favored their continued journey north and had not brought in replacements.  We quickly changed plans and drove south towards Shawnee State Forest.  Magee Marsh had exceeded our expectations in every way.  Sandy and I both plan to visit “Disneyland for Birders” again.

Sandy and Shelley at Magee Marsh

Sandy and Shelley at Magee Marsh

I used the website Birding Magee Marsh for trip planning.  I wish that I had seen the info on Tips for reporting bird sightings at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area to eBird before the trip so that I could have kept better lists.  There is no general hot spot for “Magee Marsh” because it spans two counties.  For a detailed and interesting article about Magee Marsh by Kenn Kaufman, see Magee – Anatomy of a Migrant Hotspot.

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