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This one's for the birds

John Benson • May 12, 2015 at 6:11 PM

Want to go?

• WHAT: Bird Festival

• WHEN: May 19-21

• WHERE: Long Point, Kelleys Island

• COST: Free

• INFO: 419-746-2258

• WHAT: International Migratory Bird Day

• WHEN: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. May 14

• WHERE: 13229 W. St. Rt. 2, Magee Marsh, Oak Harbor

• COST: Free

• INFO: 419-898-0960, ext. 31

Apparently in the world of bird lovers, warblers are just as popular as vocal group The Warblers from popular television show “Glee.”

Just ask Kelleys Island Audubon President Pat Hayes, whose organization is sponsoring its 18th annual free Bird Festival May 19 through 21 at Long Point.

“The warblers are the largest family that comes through at that time,” Hayes said. “The warblers (are) almost like escaped cage bird(s) this time of the year. There are about 25 different (species) that come through the island, and that’s what’s so very attractive to the birders world because of their beautiful colors. They only come through in the spring.  They come from South America, Central America and Mexico going to their breeding grounds in Ohio and Canada.”

While the festival includes meetings and guided walks on May 19 and 20, it’s the bird banding that proves to be quite the enticement for lovers of the feathered creatures.

“The bird banding has been going on for a while,” Hayes said. “This is the capturing and banding of tropical warblers and other birds for scientific research to learn about their habits and trends in population studies and where the birds are going. We put numbered bands on birds’ legs. That gives information like the make and model of the bird.”

As for catching the small and quick birds, special nets are used to catch the little flying critters, with volunteers freeing the warblers and taking them to the banding station.

“During the course of the day, we’ve had 100 to 250 people depending on the weather,” Hayes said. “People come from all over — Illinois, Tennessee, Texas — for the event. It’s pretty big.”

Another Northwest Ohio venue that has become the epicenter of warbler love during this time of the year is Magee Marsh, which this year is hosting International Migratory Bird Day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 14 in Oak Harbor.

“International Migratory Bird Day occurs every year,” said Ohio Division of Natural Resources Naturalist Mary Warren. “People across the globe are celebrating the spring migration of birds. For us, a lot has to do with the geographical location. We’re right on the lake and these birds are reluctant to cross the lake. We’re kind of like a giant rest stop. They just pile up here to rest and feed for a while, and depending on the weather they’re here for a few days and then they’re on their way. They’re going farther north to breed and nest. So on this day we do some special events, and it’s actually our biggest day of the year. We could have 5,000 people here if the weather is decent.”

The day’s events include bird banding, guided walks, food and more. Over the decades, Magee Marsh has become quite the springtime tourist destination for bird lovers. Considering exactly a year ago over 50,000 came through the park to watch the bird migration, Warren said officials have created a new event called Walk on the Wild Side. The enticement to get involved — people can raise money to help the wildflower effort, as well as help pull the weeds  — is that visitors will be able to see parts of the marsh that are not normally open to the public. The walk requires a $10 minimum donation per person.

“It’s a national program put on by the Environment for the Americas as part of Migratory Bird Day,” Warren said. “Other people across the country are doing one as well. There are two different walks, a one and a two-mile walk — neither one of them is too much of a hike. The proceeds of that event are going to a project called Weeds to Wildflowers, which will be replacing some invasive plants, mainly garlic mustard, with some native plants like wild columbine and others.”

She added, “It’s a family event, and everyone who signs up gets a free Magee Marsh t-shirt. There will be a couple of educational stops along the way to point out things.”

For more information about the Bird Festival at Long Point on Kelleys Island, call 419-746-2258. For more information about International Migratory Bird Day and Walk on the Wild Side at Magee Marsh in Oak Harbor, call 419-898-0960, ext. 31.

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