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Alex Green • May 10, 2014 at 12:40 PM

Mary Sullinger had never been to the “Biggest Week in American Birding” until this week.

   She drove up from Columbia, Mo., with her husband, Daniel, and their friends, Kurt and Maggie Winchester, who are bird-week pros.

   For the Winchesters, this was their third time experiencing the feathered fury.

   “I didn’t know a dang thing about birds before then,” Kurt said. “Now I can tell you all kinds of fun facts”

   The Sullingers rode up with their Midwest companions after hearing the rave reviews of years past.

   A good move, Mary said.

   “I would have never expected Ohio to be such a wildlife paradise — no offense” she said. “It (is a very) relaxing experience”   The group has been enjoying all the amenities included in the $35 ticket for non-members. Members of the Black Swamp Observatory can purchase tickets for $20 apiece.

   Even though the festival began Tuesday, a ticket is still well worth it, the birders said. “The daily tours are a great way to start the day,” Mary said. “It’s good exercise and they take you through some beautiful places”

   The number and variety of birds they’ve seen is uncountable, they said. They each have a few birds they particularly enjoy spotting.

   For Maggie it’s the great blue heron.

   “They’re just a unique-looking creature” she said. “I don’t think we’ll be seeing many back in Missouri”

   The group of Missourians have enjoyed it all — the guided tours, the presentations and the evening socials at Maumee Bay Lodge.

   And as they enjoy what the area has to offer, the community is profiting significantly. Past birding weeks have generated up to $37 million in local economic activity, said Larry Fletcher, executive director of Lake Erie Shores and Islands West.

   “People often stay for extended periods of time” Fletcher said.

   He expects this year’s event to also generate millions of dollars in tourist spending.

   The Sullingers and Winchesters are staying four nights at Bollin’s Beds and Birds, while consistently eating at local restaurants and visiting other attractions in Ottawa County.

   “It’s a great place up here, really,” Kurt said.

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