BSBO cancels Biggest Week in Birding, closes Magee Marsh

Apr 1, 2020 | Featured | 0 comments

Migrating birds and birdwatchers are flocking to Ottawa County and Northwest Ohio, a traditional spring area where they can get together. Bald eagles are plentiful right now, and magnificent trumpet and tundra swans are also making the scene. Birders, though, must maintain physical distance and from one another and not congregate in groups of 10 or more, a Gov. Mike DeWine mandate to help prevent contracting the coronavirus during the present pandemic. (Photo by D’Arcy Egan)

Dooming months of hard work, Executive Director Kimberly Kaufman and her staff at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) canceled the “Biggest Week in American Birding” last week. There were still many weeks to plot and plan the May 8-17 event, but Kaufman said the coronavirus pandemic forecasts were far too grim.

The crowds of birders in recent weeks were also getting too big with the coronavirus pandemic a major threat.

“We were already seeing unacceptable crowds of birders at the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area,” said Kaufman, BSBO’s home base in Ottawa County. There was a lack of social distancing and too many groups of people, as mandated by Gov. Mike DeWine.

Tundra SwansKaufman contacted the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which manages Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, and asked them to close the wildlife area and blockade the area’s entrance road.

The BSBO board agreed with Kaufman that they must cancel the Biggest Week in American Birding, a popular event that attracts about 100,000 birders each year.

“We’ve known in our minds what we must do. But our hearts were having a hard time letting go,” said Kaufman. “Even while we’re all trying to individually remain as isolated as possible, people have come together to support Black Swamp Bird Observatory.

“Our hardest working and most dedicated volunteers didn’t bat an eye. They simply said they’d be ready to rock for 2021,” said Kaufman.

Her voice trembling during a conference call last week with the Lake Erie Shores & Islands board, Kaufman said it has been an emotional week for her and the staff. Sponsors are already being reimbursed, she said, and the staff is working to make the 2021 edition of the “Biggest Week in American Birding” the best in its 11-year history.

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