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Warbler Fallout on Lake Erie: Celebrate the Biggest Week in American Birding

May 6, 2010

Each spring, warblers migrate to the shores of the Great Lakes, where they ‘fall out’ in large numbers, blanket the trees and voraciously consume the season’s fresh crop of insects. After a few days of fattening, the birds will mount enough energetic reserves to fuel their last big flight over the lake and into their northerly breeding grounds.

Several fallout zones occur along the Great Lakes, but one of my favorites is the Lake Erie Marsh region located in northwest Ohio. In my youth, I spent many halcyon summer days watching Lake Erie waves lap against the shore. That was long before I understood this area’s ecological significance to birds.

The Lake Erie Marshes are heralded as one of the Warbler Capitals of the World. The warbler experience here in western Lake Erie is truly exceptional, and can be observed at several birding sites along the shore including Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Oak Openings Preserve, and Kelleys Island, to name just a few.

The Biggest Week in American Birding, to be held from May 7 – 16th, is a celebration this grand migration spectacle. The event kicks off this weekend, just in time for International Migratory Bird Day. There will be loads of birder friendly activities and programs, including professionally guided field trips (including family and beginner guided walks), workshops (birding by ear, shorebird ID, digiscoping, nature photography, etc.), and fascinating programs presented by naturalists, world birders, and professional guides. In addition, Kenn Kaufman, who now makes northwest Ohio his home, will deliver several insightful presentations.

One of the most exciting things about migration is that you never know what will show up. During my last autumn visit to this area, I was one of the many birders graced with good looks at the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler a bird whose population numbers range in the vicinity of 1,700 singing males. Kirtland’s Warblers show up here from time to time, mostly in spring. Who will see this warbler this year? I can’t wait to find out.

Somehow, with all the time I’ve spent in western shore of Lake Erie, I have never experienced this spring warbler fallout first hand. Luckily, by the time you are reading this, I will have packed up my van with binoculars, tripod, and camera and migrated from New York to western Ohio to experience the warbler sensation for the first time. I hope to see you there. But if it isn’t in your travel plans, think about it for next year.

More information about the Lake Erie Marshes and The Biggest Week In American Birding can be found at

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