In 2016, birders celebrated the centennial of the signing of the United States’ Migratory Bird Treaty. In 1918, the resulting legislation became one of the country’s first major pieces of environmental law. Today birders reap the benefits of the act, which barred, among other things, the hunting of migratory birds during nesting and mating seasons.
In Nature Conservancy magazine’s most recent issue, TNC’s migratory birding program director, Dave Mehlman, wrote about the importance of the act and a few key birding sites. Here are 10 more places he likes to visit that have benefited from the Migratory Bird Act.
Devil’s Den, Connecticut
Visitors to the Conservancy’s largest contiguous Connecticut preserve, Devil’s Den, will see the greatest diversity of birds during the area’s peak migratory season: April to June. Look for migrants with such colorful names as the yellow-throated vireo, the worm-eating warbler and the rose-breasted grosbeak.
Disney Wilderness Preserve, Florida
Each spring, hundreds of endangered wood storks arrive at the preserve in central Florida where they flock to the bald cypresses to roost. Scientists closely study these pairs to help gather information to further protect the species. Other birds found there include sandhill cranes, Florida scrub-jays, and the reintroduced red-cockaded woodpeckers.
Grand Isle, Louisiana
In 2016, 168 species of birds came through Grand Isle, Louisiana, on their way north for the summer. Each year in April birders celebrate the barrier island’s role as a crucial stopover point for songbirds flying over the Gulf of Mexico. While there, meet other birders at annual spring festival.
Port Susan Bay, Washington
Each spring, birds traveling up the Pacific Flyway stop at bays like Port Susan Bay and nearby Skagit Bay to rest and refuel among the marshes and mudflats. See snow geese, bald eagles, western sandpipers and short-eared owls are here at different times of the year.
Baxter’s Hollow, Wisconsin
In spring, visitors flock to Baxter’s Hollow to see its wildflowers, but birders can also find more than 40 species of breeding birds there, such as the worm-eating warbler and the hooded warbler. For the casual birder, check out tips for birding from your car before you go.
Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, Arizona
As many as 15 hummingbird species migrate through Ramsey Canyon Preserve and nearby Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve near the Arizona border with Mexico. Mehlman suggests visiting in August for the best chance to see migratory birds. Mark off birds on the Patagonia-Sonoita birding checklist as you go.
Great Egret Marsh, Ohio
The birds for which Great Egret Marsh Preserve is named can be seen wading the shallows there in summer. A 1.2-mile trail loops through the marsh to give visitors a peek at birds like the great blue heron and spotted sandpipers.
Pascagoula River Watershed, Mississippi and Louisiana
Mehlman suggests visiting the Pascagoula River watershed in Mississippi and Louisiana in September to see migrating swallow-tailed kites. The Conservancy owns five preserves in the nearby Pearl River basin that help protect habitat for the migrating raptors.
Block Island, Rhode Island
See raptors including peregrine falcons and double-crested cormorants pass over Block Island, where the Conservancy has worked for more than a generation. The Biodiversity Research Institute has an ongoing multi-year project studying the birds of prey as they pass through Rhode Island.
Cosumnes River Preserve, California
Travel south from Sacramento to visit Cosumnes River Preserve to see birds like northern pintails, northern shovelers, American wigeons, American coots and, one of the area’s most popular visitors, sandhill cranes, as they winter over in the preserve’s grasslands, forests and wetlands. Keep an eye out for scheduled photo walks and bird surveys, and review the preserve’s tips for seeing the cranes here. — NCM