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"Biggest Week" Event Brings a Flock of Birders to Northwest Ohio

Birders on the Magee Marsh boardwalk [Elizabeth Miller/ideastream]

It’s a special time of year for migratory birds.

Tired from their travels, they stop right on the coast of western Lake Erie and spend some time resting and refueling with some food – primarily insects. Nine years ago, Ohio non-profit Black Swamp Bird Observatory decided to capitalize on this event, drawing in thousands of birders from all 50 states, 52 countries, and 6 continents over the years.

A welcome sign at Black Swamp Bird Observatory [Elizabeth Miller/ideastream]

The 10-day festival is called the Biggest Week in American Birding.

“If you look at spring migration of songbirds, there are three general routes that birds take, but all three routes converge over northwest Ohio,” said Kimberly Kaufman, executive director of Black Swamp Bird Observatory.

Warblers are what Kaufman calls the “stars of the show”. During spring migration, one can expect to see more than 30 different kinds of warblers. 

Black Swamp Bird Observatory's Kimberly Kaufman [Elizabeth Miller/ideastream]

And that’s not all.

During last year’s Biggest Week, Kaufman says 230 different species of birds were spotted. 

The festival, now in its 9 th year, is about getting people invested in birding – and conservation.

“We want people to care more about habitat conservation,” said Kaufman. “The first step is getting them to love birds.”

A bird checklist for the 2018 event [Elizabeth Miller/ideastream]

 This year, the festival is featuring women in birding and conservation with 13 presentations and panels featuring female birders.

 Black Swamp Bird Observatory has also made efforts to get the local Toledo community, young people, and people of color involved in birding.  Kaufman says the group organized a trip for a local community center earlier this month, where five African American birders led a walk.

“40 or 50 people – families, came out,” said Kaufman.

Spring migration for these migratory birds doesn’t end when the Biggest Week ends. Kaufman says the birds will be passing through the area until the end of June.

Listen to the story above and watch the video to hear more from birders at Magee Marsh.