Black Swamp Bird Observatory is headquartered in a small, unassuming and fairly forgettable building. If you drive into Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, you might not notice it. But in the birding and conservation world, BSBO is big—California condor big.
And it really is the biggest week in American birding: estimates indicate that in April and May each year, more than 90,000 people visit the area to check out their feathered friends, with an economic impact in the region in excess of $40 million. Folks travel from all 50 states, 50-plus nations and every continent for the spring warbler migration.
The 10-day event, which started Friday, May 3, is based at Maumee Bay State Park, on the shores of Lake Erie in Lucas County. It features more than 150 trips, walks, seminars, gatherings and adventures. This year marks the event’s 10th anniversary. But registered attendance isn’t required for anyone interested in catching a glance of the spring migration.
But registered attendance isn’t required for anyone interested in catching a glance of the spring migration. The main draw, migrating warblers, are everywhere along Lake Erie’s south shore come early May and, more often than not, throughout the entire month.
The warblers are migrating north to Michigan, Ontario and far beyond. Some weigh less than a nickel, most fly only at night and most also fly solo. The tiny, colorful songbirds travel from the Caribbean, southern U.S., Central America and South America each year to breed. They’ll make the return flight south again later in the year.
If you go, keep your eyes peeled for the prothonotary, cerulean, blackburnian, black-throated green, yellow-rumped and worm-eating warblers. There are dozens of others, too, all with long, color-based names.
But there are plenty of other birds that attendees will be able to find as well, including osprey, hawks, herons, egrets, shorebirds, hummingbirds, bobolinks, buntings and flycatchers.
Quick tips for attending the Biggest Week in American Birding
- The two main locations for getting up-close and personal with warblers and their other flying friends on easy-access boardwalks are Maumee Bay and Magee Marsh. But all along Ohio’s Lake Erie coastline are other prime locations for birding.
- Don’t know much about birds? No binoculars or bird book? Not a problem. Hang out near folks on any of the boardwalks and you’ll likely be lent a book, optics and an earful of helpful information on what you’re looking at or looking for.
- Don’t worry about the dates, May 3 – 12. The birds follow their own schedule and are heading through northwest Ohio woods and marshes from April through the entire month of May.
Check out this map for great locations around Ohio where you can get a good glimpse at the birds: