Warblers and welcomes – Everyone has fun on the boardwalk during the Biggest Week

May 14, 2024 | Featured, Ottawa Outdoors | 0 comments

Birders with binoculars, cameras and the naked eye spot warblers on the Magee Marsh boardwalk. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)


Suzanne Zuckerman drove from her home in Blue Ridge, Georgia, last week and picked up her friend, Wendy Ambrefe in Cincinnati. Together, they drove to Oak Harbor for the Biggest Week in American Birding. It was the third time they attended the annual event, which was held on May 3-12 this year.

“I love it. I love the birds, and I love our little hot spots here,” Zuckerman said. “And I love the people. Everyone’s so friendly here.”

Zuckerman and Ambrefe travel around the world to bird, and, when they are in Northwest Ohio, they visit key birding spots around the area.

“I love the little townships. They offer easy access to everything,” Zuckerman said. “But my favorite place is the Oak Harbor area.”

From left, Libbey Leininger, Stephanie Rohrbach, Joy Torres, Michelle McClure and Kelly Wills don matching “Bird Nerd” outfits on the Magee Marsh boardwalk. All but McClure are sisters. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

After spending time at the Magee Marsh boardwalk, the two were traveling back to Oak Harbor on State Route 19 when they spotted a group of pelicans soaring overhead. They pulled into Toussaint Creek Wildlife Area, where Zuckerman caught a photo of the pelicans flying with an American Eagle. It was a great surprise catch.

“We’ve been chasing the Connecticut (warbler) today but didn’t get it,” Zuckerman said. “The highlight today was the Bay-Breasted Warbler. The warblers have been stunning, and we also saw a Gray-cheek (thrush) and a Willow Flycatcher.”

Out on the Magee Marsh boardwalk, four sisters and a sister-like friend were sporting matching “Bird Nerd” t-shirts and hats. They traveled from their homes across the state to spend a girls’ birding weekend together.

Wendy Ambrefe in Cincinnati and Suzanne Zuckerman of Blue Ridge, Georgia, traveled to Oak Harbor for the Biggest Week. Among Zuckerman’s favorite finds was the Alder Flycatcher. “I have searched for this bird all week. I was tickled pink when I first heard him and then found him,” she said. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

In the group were sisters Libbey Leininger of Piqua, Stephanie Rohrbach of Piqua, Joy Torres of Bowling Green and Kelley Wills of Northwood. With them was friend, Michelle McClure of Bowling Green.

Last year, the ladies arrived with little knowledge of the area. They planned to join a free guided tour, and nearly crashed a fee-required Audubon Society tour for experienced birders.

“We thought it was the free tour, but everyone there had expensive equipment and we realized we were in the wrong place,” Wills said.

Moments after saying she would like to see an American While Pelican, Suzanne Zuckerman from Georgia spotted five of them flying overhead. She photographed them along with an American Eagle. (Photo by Suzanne Zuckerman)

“There we were with our matching Bird Nerd shirts, and none of the tour guides wanted to claim us,” Leininger said.

Lots of people claimed them as friends on the boardwalk, where birders find as much pleasure in sharing a find as they do in the find itself. Often, a few clicks of a camera will be followed by a quiet shout of, “Look what I found.”

“Everyone is so welcoming around here,” Leininger said. “A lot of people were very helpful.”

Along with their matching outfits and binoculars, the ladies also brought snacks for the trip. They packed chicken and biscuits, sunflower seeds and gummy words.

“You know, human suet,” Torres said.

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May 2024

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