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Courtesy of James P. Smith

Yet another fantastic Birdfinders tour to one of the most unlikely birding hotspots in North America. The reputation of Magee Marsh as a key site for observing migrant warblers continues to grow. News travels fast on the often-congested boardwalk at Magee and we had little trouble in seeing most of the key species during our prolonged stay in the area, and all of our party managed to catch up with the species that were of most interest to them – especially often aloof species such as Mourning Warbler! But the tour wasn’t all about Magee Marsh. Plenty of other good birding hotpots exist along the shores of Lake Erie and this year we saw Hudsonian and Marbled Godwits, red and grey morphs of Eastern Screech-owl, Kentucky Warbler and Henslow’s Sparrow all within comfortable driving distance of Port Clinton which provided our base for six nights. The journey north into Michigan was enlivened by a great stop for Cerulean and Blue-winged Warblers, and Acadian Flycatchers with Pine Warblers found much closer to our overnight stop in Grayling. The latter provided the stepping stone to a fabulous morning in the Huron National Forest for Kirtland’s Warblers – we saw them aplenty.

Indeed, it was Michigan that came up with the most surprises of the tour – a Red-headed Woodpecker in the parking lot of our hotel in East Tawas, a very late Rough-legged Hawk at Tuttle Marsh, Piping Plovers on the beach at Tawas Point, and the biggest prize of all – a stunning Snowy Owl at point blank range on a disused air force base just up the coast from Tawas Point. Had it not been for our friends Scott Surner and Val Miller we would have certainly missed that one! Indeed it proved to be a very social tour with great group camaraderie and banter throughout. We even bumped into fellow Birdfinders tour leader Martyn Kenefick and his friend Graham who’d come all the way from Trinidad to enjoy the migration at Lake Erie.

We ended the tour with 31 species of warbler recorded, the total matching our previous highs from 2013 and 2014. Ironically, the species composition was once again different to both of those years and this year we enjoyed adding Kentucky and Prairie Warblers to the ever-growing warbler list for the tour. Perhaps 2016 will be the year that we break the 31 species barrier!

Gracious thanks go to Ray Grace for his unflustered efforts in driving the second vehicle and to Helen Heyes for her remarkable knowledge of bird vocalizations which made a massive contribution to the trip.

James P. Smith, Northfield, Massachusetts, USA

Northern Bobwhite
Common Loon
Great Blue Heron Bald Eagle
Forster's Tern Eastern Screech-owl
Snowy Owl Common Nighthawk
Northern Flicker Philadelphia Vireo
Grey-cheeked Thrush American Pipit
Prothonotary Warbler Tennessee Warbler
Mourning Warbler Kentucky Warbler
Kirtland's Warbler Blackburnian Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler Black-throated Blue Warbler
Prairie Warbler Canada Warbler
Henslow's Sparrow Henslow's Sparrow
Eastern Fox Snake East Beach, Ottawa NWR
Birdfinders' group about to see Kirtland's Warbler
Birdfinders' group watching Snowy Owl
Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler