Kirtland’s Warbler – Magee Marsh, Ohio: Norma and I left last Friday for Magee Marsh, Ohio. Magee is a must destination to see Neotropical migrants winging north. Magee is at its best the first three weeks of May, especially when the wind is blowing from the north.
We stopped in Louisville, Friday evening and spent Saturday with our daughter and son-in-law. Then it was off to Magee on Saturday night. We arrived at Magee on Sunday morning at 2:45A.M.
Sunday and Monday were quite slow. Warblers were high and not coming down for photos, but on Tuesday evening the birds began to come out of the tree tops and I got a few images.
Today (Wednesday) however, is a RED LETTER DAY. I spent about thirty minutes photographing a singing yellow warbler that was quite cooperative. Then, from the same spot a downy woodpecker flew-in, clung to the side of a dead limb and began preening. Again, a great photo op.
After the downy, I when back to the yellow warblers when a friend motioned for me to come toward her. As I got closer she told me a black-billed cuckoo was in the open and would make an easy target for my camera. Now I found myself shooting black-billed cuckoo. A bird I had never photographed before. But my day was just beginning!
There were four of us at the location I was photographing the cuckoo. Nick and Cindy Crease, a couple of Brits, now living in Canada, Beverly VanDyke from Kansas City, and myself. While shooting the cuckoo Nick says, “is this a female magnolia (magnolia warbler)? Beverly turned, then I turned and Beverly says…”It’s a KIRTLAND’S! I followed with It is a KIRTLANDS! This was just unbelievable! I had seen Kirtland’s warbler in Mio and Grayling, Michigan on their nesting grounds, but never during migration. Kirtland’s are rarely seen on migration, but I was in the right place at the right time to see it here at Magee Marsh.
I quickly turn my camera on the warbler and began to shoot. However, I had added an extension tube to my lens when shooting the cuckoo. The Kirtland’s was less than a dozen feet in front of me and it was too large in the frame, I was only getting a part of the bird.
Here was the best opportunity I have ever had to photograph this rare bird, and I was, of all things, TOO CLOSE. Calmly, and I kept saying to myself, stay calm, stay calm, stay clam, I removed the extension tube, reattached the camera and followed the bird as it moved to a branch twelve feet in front of me. I shot four images. The first shot nailed the bird. It was tack sharp, and had a perfect background.
The four of us, Nick, Cindy, Beverly and myself had the kirtland’s to ourselves for less than thirty seconds. No sooner had Beverly and I said the word Kirtland’s, another nearby birder was on the scene yelling in both directions, KIRTLAND’S, KIRTLAND’S. In less than five-minutes hundreds of birder’s had laid their eyes on this rare jewel at Magee Marsh.