Whether I’m out in nearby woods and marshes, the southern shore of Lake Erie or the shore of another Great Lake, my weekends are spent birding.
Peering through leaf-strewn marshland, harvested cornfields, bare shrub branches and leafed out tree canopies in cold, rainy, snowy, and sometimes sunny weather, I search for birds.
This weekend was no different from any previous weekend in 2019, but it was special because it was during the annual spring warbler migration in Michigan.
Tawas Point Birding Festival
I joined hundreds of other birders at Michigan Audubon’s annual Tawas Point Birding Festival in East Tawas, Michigan this weekend in my first trip of the year to Lake Huron.
Originally, I planned to go birding with the Oakland County Audubon Group.
But when I couldn’t find them, I joined the Macomb County Audubon group for a day of birding in wet, chilly, breezy, and finally, warmer weather.
The festival didn’t disappoint as I saw almost 60 bird species, including two rare birds discovered at Tawas Point State Park: the Little Gull and Kentucky Warbler.
The Little Gull was on an island, kind of a spit, off the shore of Lake Huron. Visible through a scope, but sadly, too far for me to capture a photo of him.
However, I managed to get two views of the Kentucky Warbler, a shy bird about six inches in size, that stays near or on the ground in swampy areas of deciduous forests.
My first view was fleeting.
I saw the bird on a trail leading off the main trail, brought my binoculars to my eyes for a closer look, and he was gone. Disappeared into the wet foliage of the dense shrubs at the point.
My second view: pure luck. About 20 minutes later, two birders told me they spotted him nearby, about 40 feet from the first sighting.
We all bent down on the ground, peering through the leaves and dark shadows, around thick vines and shrubs before we spotted him again, moving north parallel to the trail.
I caught some great looks as he foraged for food on the ground, deftly moving in and out of view between the branches, leaves, shadows, and water.
What Makes the Kentucky Warbler Special?
We get thousands of warblers migrating through Michigan. But not usually the Kentucky Warbler.
The northern range of the Kentucky Warbler during breeding season is mid to northern Ohio, mid-Indiana, mid-Illinois, and some portions of southern Wisconsin.
You can imagine everyone’s delight in having a Kentucky Warbler sighting, especially during the festival!
In past years, we’ve had occasional sightings of Kentucky Warblers in Michigan.
Which is why I was so excited to add the Kentucky Warbler to my life list. Number 270.