Crane Creek Surprise

The boardwalk at Crane Creek / Magee Marsh on the shores of Lake Erie in NW Ohio is most renowned for the warblers one sees here. In spring many thousands of these tiny, brightly-colored, winged jewels can be found here and the boardwalk fills with many human observers appreciating them. With such a great concentration of birders, not much slips by undetected.

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We were just closing our booth to attend a Biggest Week in American Birding social sponsored by Kenn & Kim Kaufman, when we checked the live Twitter feed that attendees use to share bird sightings in real time, “American Bittern showing well on drive to boardwalk” and “Long-eared Owl on boardwalk near marker 15″ Both birds were new birds for the Traveling Trinovid and the latter can be difficult to get at times, so we left “Optics Alley” at Black Swamp Bird Observatory and began the short one mile drive. As promised, the Bittern was indeed right out in the open and we were easily able to spot it as we slowly drove past. “Make sure you look at it with Travis” I said to Rafael Galvez as we pulled by.

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Moments later we were parked at the East End of the boardwalk and hiking at a brisk pace toward the owl’s “tweeted” location. The numbers carved into the railing on the boardwalk dropped steadily as we closed in… 29, 28. 27… “Blackburnian Warbler”, 18, 17, 16…

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As expected, a large crowd had amassed here and it was obvious by following the collected birders’ gaze where the bird was hiding. “Tick” 2 more birds for the Traveling Trinovid’s big year list in mere moments. This was fun!

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The crowds slowly began to lighten as individual observers got their fill of Long-eared, making it easier to find one of the prime spots for a less obstructed view of the bird (partially hidden by leaved branches).

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Rafael found a low point from which to observe and sketch this lovely owl mostly out of the way of the birders amassed

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David La Puma and I set our minds toward digiscoping – David used his iPhone while I handheld the Leica V-lux 40 camera. A Fox Squirrel considered getting on the same branch, but the owl puffed up in an aggressive threat display that made the squirrel back down quickly. The very “wide-eyed” image above immediately followed that confrontation.

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Happily, for this sleepy nocturnal creature, the stress from this encounter passed quickly and it went straight back to dozing despite the hoards of birders still enjoying spotting scope views of this rarely seen migrant. Kim & Kenn, we’re sorry we (and so many others) missed your shindig, but being hardcore birders yourselves, we know you understand. I suspect you even secretly wished you could have been there with us! ;p