so, while everyone else in the world was hanging out with the Kirtland’s Warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii) on the beach at Magee Marsh last week, I was off on a Biggest Week tour through the beautiful Oak Openings Metropark Preserve looking for Lark Sparrows, Blue Grosbeak, Red-headed Woodpecker and other great local birds. The first few hours of the morning were fantastic and I count my blessings for only haven gotten wind of the warbler of all wood warblers rather late in the tour. Watching Birdchick’s video of the warbler showing off, just made me cry.
This is not Kirtland’s Warbler.
But a Magnolia Warbler hidden in a bush, but if you squint just right you can almost string a Kirtlands out of it.
And this is what Sharon did:
just makes me sick
So my question to you is this: with all the wisdom of hindsight, what would you have done? Would you have gone for the Lark Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, pornographic views of a Broadwinged Hawk, and a very vocal Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria virens) – and a total of 20 lifers? or would you have stayed behind on the Magee Marsh boardwalk for crazy views of a Kirtland’s Warbler?
Just so that you believe me that we actually did see Lark Sparrow in Ohio, here are some very poor photos:
bad photos of a good bird. Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus) showing off his head strikes and tail white.
a Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra) sang for us. Can’t complain about that.
So, Lark Sparrow or Kirtland’s Warbler? How bad should I be feeling right now?
If you have never been to the Biggest Week in American Birding, or Magee Marsh in May then you are seriously missing out. If you have any remote interest in wildlife or nature, then this needs to be put on your bucket list right now. Yup, go ahead and do it. Don’t be coy. Pen. Paper. That easy.
Having seen the Kirtlands in Michigan and knowing how easy it was see, I would go for the 20 lifers. Of course, if I was going for a state list then definitely the Kirtlands.
Well, I live in central Michigan, so Kirtland’s don’t really light my fire. And as awesome as Magee/Crane Creek/Ottawa/Metzger is, I consider Oak Openings a must-see highlight of Lucas County, Ohio. I just wish the stupid Blue Grosbeaks would show themselves some time when I’m there.
For me? Kirtland’s. Not even close. Though if I had to balance it against 20 lifers I might have a harder time deciding.
The answer is entirely dependent on personal priorities (yeah, I bet you weren’t aware of this). I would have chosen your trip over the Kirtland’s for three reasons:
1. You saw some amazing birds that are very difficult to find elsewhere around the Great Lakes, and 20 lifers are very nice to have.
2. Kirtland’s is a relatively easy bird to get in MI, and you really ought to visit that state sooner or later for spring migration and some cool boreal birds on the Upper Peninsular. Flights from Europe to Detroit are relatively inexpensive, and there are organized tours for the warbler, so logistics and success rate are excellent and easy.
3. Just the number of people around the Kirtland’s would have scared me off anyway. Seriously, I enjoy company while birding and a certain amount of birders at Pelee and/or Magee are great as they add the element of chasing and information exchange. But 1,000+ birders around one bird? Too much for me!
@Kirby & Derek, after having read your comments I started to wonder if this bird wasn’t just dross and I was being silly. When in Ohio, I was all about trying to find Pine Warbler too (which would have been great for there), but then heard them a lot in New Jersey which kinda put that in a little more perspective.
Then I read Corey’s comment and he got me all confused again. Darn, I really would have liked to see that bird. And @Jochen, seeing any bird with 1000 of your closest buddies is a whole lot of fun. What would an FC Barcelona vs Madrid game be like without a stadium full of berserkers?
But, it was the wisdom of Jochen that brought me back to reality. I humble myself to you, Yoga Yogi.
Dale, anytime you want to fly to Detroit I’ll pick you up and give you a whirlwind tour of Michigan – the best birding state that isn’t called Florida, Texas, or Arizona. Kirtland’s guaranteed if you stay more than 24hrs. We even have bird-themed guest rooms in our house. (Not by design…we just have a lot of bird and birding crap that sits in the guest rooms.)
Wait a minute…I’m now being told Alaska and Hawaii are states…well, Michigan is a lock for Top 10.
I don’t think I would trade someone else’s 20 lifers – most of which would not have been lifers for me – for long, close views of the Kirtland’s warbler in Ohio (although I hope to see it again this summer after attending a wedding in Michigan). I arrived about 15 minutes after receiving reports of the first sighting and saw the Kirtland’s again the following day. At most, there were 300 people at the first sighting, not 1,000, although this number may represent the total number of birders who saw a Kirtland’s on Crane Creek trail. There were fewer people the following day. Since the trail is quite wide, there was plenty of room for everyone and birders politely rotated out after getting long looks at the bird.
The Golden-winged Warbler sighting on the Magee boardwalk was just the opposite experience ands an example of how badly birders can behave. Four tall men stood in front for at least 20 minutes, recounting their numerous sightings of the bird but blocking any chance of a sighting by others. They refused to move for the 15 minutes I was there.
Because these men would not move, and because too many people had packed in the small space, many started pushing, shoving, and complaining. it was just too tense for me to stay. I continued down the boardwalk in hopes of seeing the Golden-winged Warbler nearby. My friend stayed in the crowd and got knocked in the jaw (by yet another very tall man) while she was viewing it. The incident even made the local newspapers.
Here’s a photo of the folks crammed in to see this bird: http://jeffsayre.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Magee_crowd_4.jpg
This photo does not show the row of tall men standing in front and blocking our view (I was standing to the left of the lady with blonde hair) in the front of the crowd). It does show that no one could see the bird.
Luckily, I got long, close, views of a Golden-winged Warbler singing in a small tree with few leaves in Tennessee while attending the joint Virginia Society of Ornithology/Tennessee Ornithological Society meeting. Otherwise, I would have remained disappointed by this experience at Magee Marsh.
I hope to return next year. i definitely will spend a morning at Oak Openings.
@Kirby, very tempting!
@Frances, sorry to hear about the bun-fight on the boardwalk. I was there a good number of days, and even when it go really crowded around good birds and good spots, I always found everybody just enjoying the social revelry of the situation – but in none of those cases was frustration a major problem.
I am glad I was not around for the Golden-winged Warbler.
Oak Openings was really cool, despite missing the Kirtland’s
@Dale: wisdom? Aaaw, cute, but you needn’t have lied.
I agree with Kirby that Michigan is a top birding state, but I’ll put it in the top 5, not just top 10. Not that I’ve been to all the states of the union yet, but Michigan has incredible birding.
Kirtland’s Warbler or twenty other new birds is a tough choice. Having once found a Kirtland’s a few miles from home, I’d most likely go for the others. When I was in California in January I had the choice of going after a Falcated Duck or spending a day in the Panoche Valley which was full of interesting birds, a number of which I’d never seen before and others that I hadn’t seen for years. I may never see a Falcated Duck but I don’t regret my decision to go to the Panoche Valley.
Thanks Dale! I wish we had joined you at Oak Openings! Glad you got the 20 life birds – I got at least that many at MM. It was amazing!
Kirtlands though I don’t know that I would have done it with those large crowds. I loathe birding in large groups. So the answer is I don’t know.
I say Kirtland’s Warbler. They are on the endangered species list (And they look much better, in my opinion).