Birds were my first love. I became captivated by the avian world at the tender age of eight. Growing up in Maine I was in the great outdoors at every chance watching these masters of flight and identifying new ones to add to my life list. Today birding has become a far more main stream hobby than it was back then.
In those days the bird watching field trips that I went on were attended by elderly birders – and me. I didn’t care though, those folks thought it was great to see someone from the younger generation as passionate as they were and they eagerly shared their knowledge. I studied everything about my feathered friends and was inspired to draw pictures and even wrote some poems about them.
As I became more serious about my artwork I wanted to ensure that my drawings were my own rendering from start to finish. So I saved my money for a few years and bought myself a Pentax K-1000 camera and a Sigma 500mm mirror lens which allowed me to capture an image of my subjects to draw from. During the next couple years my love of photography continued to grow, eventually overtaking my interest in drawing. I had hopes of one day embracing this hobby as a career and in time I set aside my sketch pad altogether and jumped into my new found passion feet first.
Fast forward a few decades and my love for birds is still as strong as ever. I‘ve since realized those childhood dreams of becoming a full time nature photographer. These two factors led me to visit Magee Marsh this spring during The Biggest Week In American Birding to participate in one of the largest birding events in the world and in hopes of expanding my portfolio with some of these colorful songsters. I returned home two weeks ago and the very thought of this place brings a smile to my face. Known as one of the birding meccas in North America, Magee Marsh covers a vast area on the shores of Lake Erie and is the perfect combination of marsh, wooded areas and open water, with a variety of fringe habitats that attracts songbirds by the thousands. The neo-tropical migrants (some from as far as South America) stop there to feed and rest up, awaiting the ideal weather conditions so that they can finish their journey across the vast expanse of Lake Erie up into Canada.
The variety of species is astounding and bird lovers come from all corners of the world to witness them, particularly the warblers. It was quite a spectacle. As a photographer I prefer to shoot alone most of the time, but I have to say that it was an incredible experience being surrounded by hundreds of other people that all shared the same passion and appreciation for birds that I do. We all automatically had our love for birds in common and conversations flowed naturally and easily between complete strangers. At any time I could easily find solitude by walking off onto one of the quieter trails, and often did so, those locations yielded some of my best images from my trip.
During my visit I met a number of other photographers and bird enthusiasts that I am connected with online, but had not yet met in person. I also had the honor of exchanging a few words with Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman. Kenn is universally known as one of the world’s most renowned bird experts and his wife Kimberly is the Executive Director of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory . The Black Swamp Bird Observatory works through research and education to promote bird conservation, is responsible for organizing The Biggest Week In American Birding and conducts regular bird banding sessions. I’m proud to call them both friends and greatly respect their talents and efforts. They were both wonderful event hosts.
I still remember my first experience of a warbler migration in my youth all those years ago in Maine, it was wonderful… this was spectacular. There were birds absolutely everywhere you looked. I would arrive each morning before dawn and not leave the Marsh until after sunset, back at my hotel room the songs of the birds would still be echoing in my ears until long after dark.
If you wish to experience the thrill of the Spring songbird migration I encourage you to add this destination to your future travel plans. I intend to return again next year, until then I’ll enjoy reliving my time there as I continue to process more image files from Magee Marsh. Be sure to watch my Newest Images Portfolio for additional photos from this trip.
Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.
* Natural subjects in their natural habitat – All of these photos were taken in the wild on natural perches, none of the birds were called or fed.