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Thousands of tourists flock to Ohio's Magee Marsh
Birders says it's a major funnel for migratory songbirds.

Mark Urycki
Patrick DeChant of North Ridgeville (in yellow) and fellow birders on the boardwalk.
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In The Region:
This month thousands of people from around the world come to Ohio.  They’re not visiting the Pro Football Hall of Fame or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They head to a wildlife area on Lake Erie that you might call the Warbler Hall of Fame. Between Toledo and Sandusky lies Magee Marsh, a state wildlife area that experts call one of the best bird migration hotspots in North America.  WKSU’s Mark Urycki went to see what all the fuss is about
Birders explain why they come here

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About ten days ago, the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s Magee Marsh was wrapping up a festival called The Biggest Week in American Birding.  And that may not be an exaggeration.  Birders know two important migratory songbird funnels are Magee Marsh on the southern shore of Lake Erie and Pelee Point on the northern shore. Sue Evanoff of Massillon says "this whole area is full of birds this time of year.  If you're a birder, it's the place to be." 

In May, Oak Harbor, Ohio is home to as many as 36 species of warblers.  Noted birder Kenn Kaufman once speculated in Birding Magazine that more photographs of warblers are taken at Magee Marsh each May than in the rest of the country combined.  
The marsh is part of the Great Black Swamp that once covered an area the size of Connecticut. That land was drained by European settlers in the 1800's.  Perhaps the birds still collectively remember the giant swamp when they journey back here from South America each year. Now Magee Marsh Wildlife Area is surrounded by the Ottowa National Wildlife Refuge.  

On the Magee Marsh boardwalk Saturday we talked to birders from Milwaukee, Massillon, Columbus, North Ridgeville, Toledo, and Indianapolis.  John Lennon of Columbus said Magee Marsh is like Christmas for him. “This is a treasure. This is probably, to me, the primary nature center of the state if not the Midwest.”

Jeff Canada of Indianapolis goes further, “this marsh brings people from all over the world, some of the best birding locations in the world.”

Bowling Green professor Philip Xie studied the economic impact of Magee Marsh and five other birding spots in Ohio and determined that they generated $26 million from tourists and created 283 jobs in 2011.

In the spring, especially May, the birds stop at the marsh to rest and refuel before they make the long flight over Lake Erie to Canada.

While all of May is a peak month at the marsh, the birds will return here from Canada in fall.

(Click image for larger view.)

Listener Comments:

NPR article on bird migrations.

Posted by: Chris on June 8, 2013 7:06AM
Thanks for a great article. The birding is slowing down a little now, but Magee Marsh and Ottawa NWR are open year round and attact many species of birds. There are also many other events coming up throughout summer and fall for the whole family to enjoy. Check out the Friends of Magee Marsh website at: and also ONWR.
Happy Birding!

Posted by: Mary Warren (Magee Marsh) on May 25, 2013 12:05PM
We visited Magee Marsh and Ottawa NWR after spending the night at Maumee State Park Lodge. These are wonderful facilities. The visitor centers are full of amazing displays. We knew nothing of either of these before our visit. We plan to return.

Posted by: Bob (Jackson Twp) on May 24, 2013 9:05AM
Such a nice hobby,to bad young people can't quit texting, put down the Ipads and go outside and enjoy nature .

Posted by: John Ring (Barberton,Ohio) on May 24, 2013 9:05AM
Thanks for helping get the word out about this great resource. I've been going to Magee Marsh and surrounding area for many years. You see beautiful birds and meet such nice people.

Posted by: Janet (North Canton OH) on May 24, 2013 5:05AM
Thanks for sharing these bird pictures. I have seen warblers at Magee some years ago, which was a wonderful experience.

Posted by: Dorothy Lepp (Akron) on May 23, 2013 2:05AM
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