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“The Cut” is a weekly reporters notebook-type essay by an Ideastream Public Media content creator, reflecting on the news and on life in Northeast Ohio. What exactly does “The Cut” mean? It's a throwback to the old days of using a razor blade to cut analog tape. In radio lingo, we refer to sound bites as “cuts.” So think of these behind-the-scene essays as “cuts” from Ideastream's producers.

Look, up in the sky, it's the Biggest Week in American Birding!

A group of bird watchers and photographers standing tightly together at Magee Marsh, some with cameras and binoculars pointed up at the sky.
Bird watchers and photographers watching North American warblers along their migration on May 11, 2023.

Calling all birdwatchers!

Friday kicks off the Biggest Week in American Birding, a perfect time to get out to Northwest Ohio and see warblers along their migration.

Each year around this time, the small town of Oak Harbor, Ohio becomes a bustling hub for warblers, small migratory birds making their way back to the state after spending the winter in places like Costa Rica, Panama and Venezuela.

The songbirds use Magee Marsh as a rest stop to stretch their legs and wings before continuing on their journey, giving birdwatchers — expert and novice alike — an opportunity to experience the beauty of their bird calls and flashy feathers for themselves.

The Black Swamp Bird Observatory is hosting a 10-day birdwatching festival, but you don't have to be an expert birdwatcher. The team has filled the festival with guided tours, workshops at the beginner, general and advanced levels, and 20 binoculars available for use for those who don't yet have their own.

I'll be heading out myself tomorrow morning to report a story about a cohort hosted by the Trust for Public Land. The organization has a special focus on bringing equitable outdoor access to low-income communities and people of color, and birding can often be a great way to get outdoors at little to no cost!

Stock image of four yellow-rumped warblers sitting on little branch.
Brian Woolman
Yellow-rumped Warblers perched on a branch. Yellow-rumped Warblers are one of may warbler species to be seen in Northwest Ohio during the migratory period.

Whether you're heading out to Biggest Week, visiting your local park or standing in your own back yard, here are a few birding tips I've picked up so far.

Bring binoculars! Using binoculars is a great way to see the birds close up from the ground when they're soaring through the sky or perched on a tree. Seasoned birders will likely have the high-tech stuff, but for novices like me, beginner's binoculars will be just fine.

Try not to make too much noise. Remember, these warblers are stopping in Magee Marsh for some much needed rest and relaxation. Too much noise — like excited cheers when you manage to spot one — could scare them off, disrupting the experience for birds and birdwatchers alike.

Try an app to track bird calls. The Cornell Lab has a phone application that's been recommended to me multiple times as the best one for deciphering bird calls. The Merlin Bird ID app can be helpful to figure out what birds are in the area if you're tracking a specific type of bird, or if you just want to see what birds are local to your area. I'm looking forward to trying it myself on our trip!

Stay tuned for our coverage of the birdwatching excursion. And who knows? Maybe it'll make a birder out of me!

Zaria Johnson is a reporter/producer at Ideastream Public Media covering the environment.