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LOOKING BACK: THE BIGGEST WEEK IN AMERICAN BIRDING

 

In my last blog, I wrote about the magic of the upcoming Biggest Week in American Birding festival. Looking back over that ten day span, it was a very big week indeed! From front to back it was an exciting, fun, and exhausting ten days.

Wildside Booth at the Biggest Week in American Birding

 

While the Biggest Week in American Birding has a clear meaning as one of the largest birding festivals around, focused on the massive movement of billions of spring migrants moving through the area, I can think of a few personal reasons to put more meaning to the “Biggest” part of the festival’s name.

Common Grackle

 

The festival marks the “Biggest” gathering of Wildside Nature Tours guides and employees throughout the year. Guides from all areas of the world come together to lead tour groups, educate, and enjoy birds. It’s a major part of what we love most about this festival. The connections made here often last a lifetime, which leads to my next “Biggest” piece.

The Wildside Team. (Minus a few!)

 

This festival also represents the “Biggest” gathering of friends and family in one place, for many folks, all year round. It’s such a wonderful atmosphere to be a part of! Leading trips with fellow guides and friends make for wonderful days, and the social events that bring all parts of this industry together in one place. It’s certainly one of the brightest points in my year, and I’d wager it is for many of our other Wildside guides as well!

Magee Marsh Boardwalk

The first day of the festival was arguably one of the roughest days weather wise of any Biggest Week start. It was only 40 degrees outside, with 30 mph winds and driving rain. The Wildside team lead free guided walks throughout the week twice each morning along the Magee Marsh Estuary Trail. No one showed up for the first walk, but four brave souls stood waiting for us as we arrived to lead our second walk. Opting for the relative safety of the boardwalk from the wind, we set out and actually got some great birds! Yellow-throated Vireo, Yellow Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Swainson’s Thrush were a few highlights.

Yellow Warbler

 

As the festival progressed, the weather vastly improved. Due to a heavy and lengthy wind from the north, many migrants were slow to arrive, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of many of the birders there to enjoy them! Each day brought a small but new wave of migrants, as well as a new wave of enthusiasm from the crowds there to see them. While leading the morning walks each day, many Wildside guides also lead day trips as well. From specific locations and routes to big day trips where anything goes, we were there. I co-lead a group to the Pickerel Creek area with Wildside guide Robert Straub, and it was such a wonderful experience. We had many great birds, including my “lifer” Clay-colored Sparrow! Orchard Orioles, Eastern Towhees, and many Bald Eagles also made appearances.

Orchard Oriole

 

The high point of my week was working with Wildside Owner Kevin Loughlin and guide Roger Neckles teaching and advising folks that were new to photography how to get the most out of their cameras in our “Intro to Nature Photography” workshop. We led two workshops and both were wonderful experiences in their own right. As a photographer dedicated to my craft, it made me so happy to assist others in the first parts of their journey with photography! And having the students excitedly approach me, sometimes days later, to show me their photos and how happy they were was one of the most satisfying feelings I’ve ever had.

Wildside Owner Kevin Loughlin teaching the “Introduction to Nature Photography” Workshop!

 

Another highlight was the contest that we ran for the festival. Entrants had the chance to really get interactive with all of the Wildside team. After entering, folks could get more chances to win a buy one get one trip to Belize by taking selfies with our team and sharing them to the pinned post on our Wildside Facebook Page. It was a hit, and the perfect way to have some fun with our clients and the friends we made throughout the week! Many people stopped guides for photos not only at the Maumee Bay State Park Lodge, but also along boardwalks, in parking lots, and on beaches. It was a free for all, and we’re so appreciative to all those that entered and stopped us for photos. We hope to see you on future trips!

A Chris Brown Contest Selfie Special!

 

What you’ve read so far is really such a small snapshot of such a HUGE ten days for not only myself, but the rest of the Wildside team. If I were to get reports from all of our guides of the goings on, I could most likely write a blog that would take you days to read! With that in mind, I’ll just sum up and attempt to put words to what this week meant for not only myself, but the rest of the team as well.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Female)

 

Festivals like the Biggest Week in American Birding give us a chance to see friends and loved ones, spend quality time with our clients, and to lead groups. We get to help educate folks while showing them some of the most beautiful creatures the world has to offer. We get to make direct and indirect contributions and impacts to conservation. We’re fortunate. I can’t tell you all, on a personal level, how much it means to me to have the opportunity to share what I love and am passionate about with others. There’s no better feeling in the world.

Smiling for a Biggest Week Contest selfie!

 

 

So from myself, and the rest of the Wildside team…THANK YOU! Without all of you many of us, myself included, would not be able to chase the passions and dreams that we do. Thank you for coming and visiting us, interacting with us, and doing your part to help save birds. We certainly had an unbelievably fun and memorable time spending it with everyone that crossed our paths!

Wildside Nature Tours Owner Kevin Loughlin and Wildside Senior Leader Adrian Binns stand next to the donors sign for the Magee Marsh Boardwalk reconstruction project. Wildside is proud to have donated to the cause!

 

As always, many thanks to all of you for following along. If you’d like to interact, keep up with our adventures, or chat with us please be sure to visit our Facebook, Instagram, or contact us through the Wildside Nature Tours Website!

LOOKING FORWARD : A VERY BIG WEEK

  In just a few days, birders from all over the world will converge on northwest Ohio. They will observe, photograph, and marvel over myriad spring migrants. Young and old alike will gleefully tick life birds off of their lists and share stories and photos of what they have seen.   The Biggest Week inContinue Reading

BRIGHTER THAN THE SUN: A STORY OF PROTHONOTARY WARBLERS

  With spring migration now well underway, I thought, what better subject for my next blog than the Prothonotary Warbler! One of the earliest of spring migrants, these bright yellow balls of awesomeness stole my heart years ago.     Magee Marsh and the black swamp hold a special place in my heart, as formativeContinue Reading

SPECIES SPOTLIGHT: YELLOW WARBLER

  Spring has sprung! As we shake off the cold and welcome in warmer weather, I thought I’d share a story and photos of one of my favorite neotropical springtime visitors. The Yellow Warbler!     Each year I visit The Biggest Week in American Birding Festival along the northwest shores of Lake Erie. ThisContinue Reading

SPECIES SPOTLIGHT: MEXICAN JAY

  As winter is leaving us, and we usher in spring, I am reminded of my trip to southeastern Arizona two years ago. I often long to go back to that area, as there were so many amazing things about it. One of my favorite birds throughout the entire trip, was the Mexican Jay!  Continue Reading

SPECIES SPOTLIGHT: EVENING GROSBEAK

  One of the most colorful denizens of the north woods, Evening Grosbeaks are on many a birder’s target lists when visiting northern locations, and they’re a favorite of the locals. I’ve made two trips up to Sax Zim Bog, and they were high on my list for each trip!   While it can beContinue Reading

SPECIES SPOTLIGHT: COMMON REDPOLL

  My father and I arrived at our first destination in northern Minnesota on a cold but sunny morning in mid February. Stopping in a church parking lot just east of Meadowlands Minnesota, we hopped out of the car to gear up as it was only 1 degree outside. Greeting us as we opened ourContinue Reading

SPECIES SPOTLIGHT: NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL

  Owls. There’s just something about owls. They are mystical birds that often capture the minds and hearts of all who behold them. They inspire a magical feeling within me, and while I am a nature lover in the most traditional sense, I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t have some favorites.Continue Reading

Into The Fold: How A Snowy Owl Captured The Heart Of A New Birder

  On a cold, dreary Saturday morning, my father and I awoke at 4 a.m. in preparation for a trip to the Lake Erie shoreline. Northwest Ohio can provide a plethora of birding opportunities year round, and we had a feeling that we would not be disappointed. There were reports of Northern Saw-whet Owls andContinue Reading

Species Spotlight: Razorbill

  This past August, I was fortunate enough to visit Machias Seal Island. While most come to observe the Atlantic Puffins, this island holds far more than just one bird. It’s also home to Arctic Terns, Common Terns, the occasional Northern Harrier that finds it’s way from the mainland to hunt, and the feature ofContinue Reading