American Herring Gull against an Erie sunrise at Lakeside OH

DESCRIBED AS THE ‘WORLD’S FRIENDLIEST BIRDING EVENT’, the 2013 MidWest Birding Symposium held at Lakeside Ohio certainly lived up to its billing. Although I was mostly chained to the Birdquest and Wild Images booth and couldn’t take part in many of the numerous events I still got to meet a lot of enthusiastic attendees that also included friends from the US festival circuit as well as some of Ohio’s keenest birders. There was a real buzz around the quaint little former Methodist community of Lakeside as it was taken over by the birders for the event. Gail, a lady staying at the same place as me was so impressed by Alvaro Jaramillo’s talk about gull identification she was busily trying to track him down to book on one of his tours. Anyone who can stimulate such interest in the usually low-key topic of gull id deserves a medal the size of a bin lid! The hotel receptionist, a non-birder, was looking forward to Jen Brumfield’s Lake Eerie pelagics presentation. Even the warblers couldn’t keep away with an amazing circa 15 species seen in the trees around the vendor area at the South Auditorium following a perfectly-timed mini fall out of migrants along the Marblehead Peninsula. A big thank you to Bill Thompson III and his amazing team for making it all happen!

Blackpoll Warbler, Magee Marsh boardwalk (Mike Watson) 

 I spent my free time at one of my favourite birding hangouts just along the lakeshore to the west – the World famous Magee Marsh boardwalk, where I was very happy to wander slowly over the boards in search of warblers to point my camera lens at. Catbirds scolded from the shadows and from time to time small feeding flocks of migrant wood warblers would pass by, calling as they went.  This was in contrast to their spring behavior when they often seem to stick to a small, almost territorial area of the damp woodland, feeding up before they push on northwards. They were mostly Blackpoll Warblers, feasting on invertebrates amongst the leaves, or stuffing their faces with little dogwood berries but there was also the occasional flash of lime green of a Chestnut-sided or a black-and-white ‘mint humbug’ and I managed a quite respectable 17 species over the course of my stay. First prize went to an ultra smart Golden-winged Warbler that hung around long enough for a few other folks to get some looks at it and a Brown Creeper and one of the first Winter Wrens of the autumn were also of interest to me at least. Any time spent with these precious wood warblers is special for me when I think how far we are prepared to travel for a single one of them back on my own side of the pond! 

Black-and-white Warbler, Magee Marsh (Mike Watson)