In the early evening of Friday May 10th word reached various Biggest Week in American Birding participants, gathered in the lobby of the Maumee Bay Lodge for the evening social hour, that a Townsend’s Warbler had been found somewhere nearby. It was not a formal announcement and details were sketchy at best, but spread like wildfire.
My husband Townsend picked up this intriguing yet vague report and immediately came to find me in the crowd at the social. He only had to whisper Townsends Warbler and in no time, adrenaline pumping, we ran out the door headed to the trails on the grounds.
As the word spread hasty, unorganized departures were made from the Maumee Bay lodge, and individuals and small groups caravanned by foot and automobile to the site of the sighting on the boardwalk in the wooded swamp natural area of the State Park. Initially details were sketchy, but as we approached the parking lot for the boardwalk, the pieces began to come together. Yes there was a Townsend’s Warbler and it was still being seen out on the boardwalk.
As we proceeded out onto the narrow wooden boardwalk with no handrails, we passed people who had seen it and were leaving, and we were passed by others hurrying for their look. We saw it in the waning daylight, around 7:30pm; we were in an excited crowd of fellow birders, many of whom declared that this was a life bird and/or state bird. The buzz of a shared rare life bird sparked many conversations with complete strangers.
What was the big deal? After all it was just another migrant warbler seen during the Biggest Week of American Birding, which eventually turned up multiple Kirtland’s and a Connecticut Warbler and over 30 other species in a two-week period. What makes the Townsend’s special is the fact that this is one migrant not expected at all in Ohio in the spring or any time of year.
The Townsend’s is considered a vagrant. The Warbler winters in two groups, one along the Pacific Coast of NA and second group in SE USA, Mexico, and N. Central America. Most vagrant Townsend’s are found in the east coast in the fall, fewer vagrants are found mid continent at any time. Spring migration brings the warblers to breeding areas in the mountains of Pacific NW, which is approximately 1800 miles west of Maumee Bay, OH.
Finding this warbler is classic example of the Patagonia Picnic Table effect, the more eyes on birds the more different birds will be found. Best of all, the warbler was found by a group of young birders who were not too tired to keep birding.
And so it was that Travis K initially spotted the odd looking bird and yelled out it’s a TW. The sighting was confirmed by others in the group of five Ohio Young Birders. They had found a Townsend’s Warbler in NW Ohio on the grounds and trails of Maumee State Park Lodge & Conference Center by doing what good birders do, keep going and keep searching and question every sighting.
The unsung bird hero award should go to our friend Eric Bruhnke, a selfless VENT Bird Guide who kept his eagle eyes focused on the bird as it flitted around the canopy, and helped an army of newly arrived birders locate the desired quarry. It was not an easy bird to see or track. It stayed high in swampy trees with other foraging migrant and was intermittently lit by the last rays of the setting sun that grazed the treetops with alternate bursts of light and deep shadows.
NOTE: Thanks to Townsend P. Dickinson & Mardi W. Dickinson for the use of photographs in this post are solely used for this specific BirdCallsRadio™ Blog Post: ©Courtsey Townsend P. Dickinson & Mardi W. Dickinson, All Rights Reserved. Photographs and Video may not be used in any form without written permission. Please respect the wishes of the copyright holders.
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