The Magic of Magee Marsh: A Biggest Week in American Birding Festival Report

Back in January, a friend of mine invited me to join her at the Biggest Week in American Birding Festival. I of course agreed with gusto before I noticed that it was in Ohio. Ohio? Really? Are there even birds in Ohio? Just kidding of course, but every time I think of Ohio I think of politics and bad Mexican food. The idea that there might be great birds to be had there was not something I ever entertained… but boy was I proven wrong!

Black-Throated Gray warbler perches on willow branches at Magee Marsh – © 2023 Heather Valey

The Biggest Week in American Birding Festival (BWIAB), is an annual 10 day birding festival in northern Ohio and has become a celebrated gathering for birders around the world. The first festival took flight in 2010, and since then, it has grown in popularity and significance. Over 2000 birders participated in the festival this year (2023). The festival offers a really cool opportunity to observe a array of migrating bird species including warblers, raptors and waterfowl. This event also serves up education, conservation, and community engagement, which fosters a deeper appreciation for birds and their habitats.

Birders strain for a better look at migratory birds high in the trees at Cedar Creeks Preserve – © 2023 Heather Valey

We went to a few of the field trips at some of the nearby parks. They were good, but exactly the kind of birding I don’t like. Peering high up at 70 foot trees for a feathered critter a little bit bigger than a golf ball.

The entrance to Magee Marsh – © 2023 Heather Valey

The most popular place to bird during the festival was at Magee Marsh. Magee Marsh really does live up to the hype.

Magee Marsh, is a remarkable natural area that has become well known in bird conservation and ecotourism. It is a result of some amazing conservation efforts undertaken by the Ohio Division of Wildlife, the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. They all played pivotal roles in creating and preserving this gem of a wetland remnant. It is a haven for migratory birds and offers critical stopover habitat during their long arduous journeys. The marsh’s importance plays a key role in the migratory bird flyway, providing food, shelter and breeding grounds for numerous species of birds… and the birding is spectacular!

The charm of Magee Marsh is that you get to see bird species up close that usually are skulking in underbrush or high up in the tree tops.

Here are a few choice songbirds I got to see and photograph at the marsh.

The festival was a great amount of fun. The field trip leaders were knowledgeable and there were guides available on the Magee Marsh Boardwalk to help you ID birds. People were friendly and would often tell you if they saw a hard to find bird and help you locate it so you could see it as well.

Perhaps the only thing that could have been better was the food available nearby. Eating vegetarian was a bit challenging at times as you can see from the menu below. Ah well, its all part of the adventure right?

If you are into birding or bird photography this festival is definitely worth the trip!

Ohio vegetarian cuisine at a local restaurant – © 2023 Heather Valey

Want to Learn More?

Biggest Week in American Birding

Magee Marsh Wildlife Area

BWIAB Conservation Initiatives

A Breif History of Magee Marsh

Birding Magee Marsh

Black Swamp Bird Observatory

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Heather Valey is an award winning conservation photographer, writer and passionate naturalist. For information on licensing images please reach out to Heather via email- Heather's photography site is:

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