The heyday of bird migration season is upon us.
While World Migratory Bird Day is celebrated on the second Saturday in May every year, spring officially began in the Northern hemisphere more than two months ago on the meteorological (March 1) and astronomical (March 20) calendars — it is bird migration season. In fact, I am a little late to the literary party, but that’s okay.
There are numerous places to go in the Lake Erie watershed to observe migrating birds along two major continental flyways over the western basin of Lake Erie and the Detroit River corridor known as the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways. Since the western basin of Lake Erie is so shallow, and has numerous islands and marshlands, it is the perfect stopover for migrating birds. Every year thousands of people come visit the area for an event called The Biggest Week in American Birding to observe nature and see what birds they can see.
When you think about birding, you might envision folks with binoculars and large floppy hats and safari vests and long checklists of which birds to observe. I, however, am more of a beach bum with a camera. I like to listen to the multitude of bird song while I wander the shore and feel the mud and water on my bare feet. I find the natural sounds to be quite soothing.
I am also reassured by listening to the birds, it alleviates the alarm I feel from the myriad existential crises humanity faces. A diverse bird population indicates ecological health in the bioregion. The establishment of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge helps sustain the natural ecosystem, as it preserves natural areas as wildlife habitat. This particular refuge is the first of its kind on the North American continent and exemplifies the international sustainability goal of preserving biodiversity and ecosystems. Progress!
I have confidence that if we can preserve these large lake systems of freshwater, we have a fighting chance to sustain the biosphere on Earth.
I imagine at some point I will write about the diversity of fish and healthy waters to support them, but that is for another day.
So again, more than anything, I like the solace bird song brings.
When I arrived at a Lake Erie beach on a Tuesday afternoon in May, several birds greeted me with their late afternoon chatter. The long beach was home to a few shorebirds, but it was more on the forested edges that I could hear the diversity of the bird community.
Later, I stopped at an Italian restaurant for dinner along the Maumee River, a major tributary into Lake Erie and central to Toledo, Ohio. As I walked in with camera and field book in hand, the hostess asked me if I had been out birding. She immediately went on to say she loves this time of year because she sees all kinds of different birds just in her backyard. We agreed it is one of the best perks of living in this region.
Having dinner on the patio near the Maumee River was a lovely conclusion to the day. I did not know until I was halfway to Toledo that it would become my destination. It was a bit of my own spontaneous traveling act.