We love to travel to find new birds and participate in a lot of bird counts. We also created a Guide to Birding Field Guides and host a collection of over 200 birding links from all over the globe.


While our main focus continues to be birds, we promote other areas of conservation as well. Conserving land not only benefits wildlife, but is hugely beneficial to people as well.

Year of the Young Birder

2013 is officially The Year of the Young Birder! We plan on spending the whole year promoting young birder clubs and sharing ideas on how to help student naturalists become lifelong conservationists.

Ohio | Illinois | Iowa | Michigan | Indiana
Minnesota | New York

Check out the Book Review Library!

Biggest Week in American Birding – Imagine Art

May 16, 2014
Article in: Birding, Product Reviews

One of the best things about attending the Biggest Week in American Birding has to be all of the wonderful new people you meet. Sometimes, a person really touches your life. While working at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory‘s Information booth some of the Birdfreaks met an artist named Kami Brough.


If you visited the BSBO, you may have met her at her Imagine Art booth. She was selling art but this was no ordinary work. All the pieces were created by adults with developmental disabilities from Riverview Industries in nearby Oak Harbor, Ohio. This local business helps people with disabilities find work and receive fair wages for their abilities.

The purpose of RVI, Inc. is to provide a meaningful work experience and quality of life for the benefit of adults with developmental disabilities.

Kami Brough – Imagine Art

Kami is an amazing person. Her face lit up as she described teaching and working with these adults to create sellable pieces of art. I think art is very therapeutic and believe that Imagine Art is a perfect way to help these adults express themselves and be creative. I sincerely hope she will be back next year to promote local business, people with disabilities and BIRDS!

Baltimore Oriole, barn quilt style!

A beautiful Blue Jay

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Biggest Week in American Birding – Start your Birding Engines!

May 5, 2014
Article in: Birding

The Biggest Week in American Birding is ready to begin! Tuesday May 6th kicks off the fifth annual event and the Birdfreaks are so proud to be able to help volunteer again. We had the opportunity Sunday to help set up the registration area at Maumee Bay Lodge and Conference Center and things are looking great. There is definitely a “bee buzz buzz buzz” in the air!

Hosted by the Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) this ten day festival is going to be better than ever. Online registration is closed but everyone is still welcome so please come. I encourage you to register at the BSBO or at Maumee Bay Lodge but birding the area does not require it. There is SO much to do and see, mainly BIRDS and lots of them!

Just a few extra things we suggest if you aren’t already booked up for the week:

Songbird Banding Demonstrations
The Black Swamp does a ton of birding research. They have long-term research projects spanning more than 20 years: this is absolutely critical for the study and conservation of birds.

Songbird banding programs will be held at the BSBO every Saturday in May at 10 a.m. This is a wonderful way to get an up close an personal look at different birds as well as communicate with banding experts.

Golden-winged Warbler

2nd Annual Biggest Week Bird Tattoo Contest
That’s right, a tattoo contest! This event last year was really fun and we found out a lot of birders carry their love for birds right on their skin! Winners get pretty cool prizes and it’s a great time! This year the contest will be held on Wednesday, May 14 at 6:00 PM in the Maumee Bay Lodge and Conference Center. Click HERE for more information.

Bird Shopping!
There will be a lot of cool bird and nature-related merchandise at the Biggest Week this year. Maumee Bay Lodge will have vendors in the lobby as well as a silent auction for conservation. They also have their own gift shop. Ottawa NWR and the BSBO gift shop will have all their awesome bird gifts, including Birds and Beans coffee and Biggest Week T-shirts. Punk Rock Big Year’s PRBY Apparel will have awesome shirts for sale at both the BSBO and the Maumee Bay Lodge. We are big fans of their Birds Rule design!

PRBY Apparel is selling one of the coolest birding shirts!

There are so many places to bird in the area. Migration time is the best! If we had to pick one thing to recommend any festival goer it would be to walk the boardwalk at Magee Marsh. It’s a mile long and more than possible to see thirty warblers in thirty minutes or less! Experts hang about and there are free walks available to all registrants. Migrant watching is better than any TV show this time of year.

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In Fine Feather: Birds, Art & Science

April 30, 2014
Article in: Birding

Attention all art enthusiasts, birders and science lovers! Especially those attending the Biggest Week in American Birding! You might want to consider a side trip this year to Toledo for an awesome exhibition!

Between April 25th and July 6th this year the Toledo Museum of Art will be highlighting the mix of science and art in identifying and describing BIRDS. The exhibition is called “In Fine Feather: Birds, Art & Science and admission is absolutely FREE.

There will feature works from noted bird artists including John James Audubon and Roger Tory Peterson.

Be sure to check out their other exhibitions while you are there and see you at the Biggest Week!

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Biggest Week in American Birding – A Different Kind of Crowd

April 15, 2014
Article in: Birding

The Biggest Week in American Birding is one of the most popular birding festivals in the United States. It’s been growing every year and is wildly popular! It is also absolute proof that birders spend tourism dollars. So with 50 to 75 thousand people from all over the U.S. and other countries and millions of tourism dollars being spent is there room for serenity and peaceful birding?


In one word: ABSOLUTELY! Not everyone agrees. They would rather have the birding areas to themselves. Or think crowds are irritating and damaging. I hope to prove them wrong and to encourage more people than ever to attend the Biggest Week!

Although I love solitary birding – Magee Marsh is a special place that needs a birding crowd. More importantly, the birds need these crowds! What better way to help birds than to share how awesome they really are: IF YOU LOVE BIRDS, YOU WILL WANT TO CONSERVE THEM. The birds don’t care about the crowds: they are busy eating and resting. The boardwalk and paths show clearly the safe places to walk and there are many volunteers to help ensure the birds’ safety. It is seriously the most respectful and amazing crowd of people who attend this festival. The best thing: it is PERFECT for any age and level of birding.

So I will give you my account of the first time I was at the Biggest Week in American Birding. I am not good in crowds so I think this account will reassure anyone who might feel like this event is too big for them.

My first time at the Biggest Week:
I parked in the large parking lot – there were a lot of cars but still plenty of room – and began to walk towards the boardwalk. I balked when I saw that between me and the boardwalk was a large group of about 30 people all facing a tree in the parking lot. I noticed big cameras, fancy birding vests, Swarovski bins and felt nervous. Walking towards them I saw a couple young boys, some women with just jeans and t-shirts, a guy in a Pink Floyd sweatshirt. I stopped just behind the group and looked up. A man suddenly turned to me and whispered, “Cape May” and turned back to his giant camera. I scanned the tree and found the gorgeous migrant, calmly eating and flitting about. He paid absolutely no attention to any of us. Amazed at this group of collective bird watchers, I realized I was in a different crowd than the type that made me feel anxious and claustrophobic. I decided to head to the boardwalk. It wasn’t so packed you couldn’t get through, but there were people everywhere. What first hit me was the lack of noise. People talked and walked and made noise but it was muted and the air was buzzing with excitement. I had expected to be overwhelmed by all these people but – everywhere I turned I received a smile or saw someone enraptured by a Black-throated Green Warbler. A man walked by with a sound recorder and talked to me for a moment. Cameras clicked and a girl gasped as she found a bird in her bins. I smiled and realized the power of this event and how it could help conservation.

This was just one of many awesome experiences I’ve had at the Biggest Week festival. I really encourage you to come and try it out. You will be amazed at the people and birds – it’s way cooler in person!


There is so much to do at the Biggest Week: talks, guided walks, night events and even a special screening of the movie “A Birder’s Guide to Everything” which I strongly encourage you to see! (100% of the proceeds will benefit songbird habitat conservation!)

Check out the Biggest Week Visitor Guide HERE (PDF) and HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE AMONGST THE BIRDING CROWDS

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Biggest Week in American Birding: Hoo’s In?

February 28, 2014
Article in: Birding

It’s finally time!
Registration is now open for the Biggest Week in American Birding May 6th through May 15th, 2014!


This year will be bigger and better than ever and the birds benefit as much as the humans who get to watch them! Want to help save the Golden-winged Warbler? Right at registration, thanks to the American Bird Conservancy and the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, you can donate ten dollars (completely optional!) to help support the creation of a wintering habitat corridor in Nicaragua. This project will also help other overwintering migrants near El Jaguar, Nicaragua (such as the Wood Thrush).

Now Who wants to see a Prothonotary Warbler this May?


Returning for the second year is a unique even to the Biggest Week: the 2nd Annual Bird Tattoo Contest.

Last Year’s Winner!


Please check out the Registration Page and make some early May vacation plans. You will NOT be disappointed! There is not a better place to see migratory songbirds or a better place to meet awesome birders just like us! New birders are treated so well and experts are loved and appreciated. If you are a Black Swamp Bird Observatory member: the general registration is only $20. Nonmembers are only $35 and students over 13 only $10! Bring all your little ones under 13 for free. Workshops and field trips have separate costs but are optional and there is a complete list of all activities on the Registration Page.

Birders are Great People!



We really hope to see everyone there this May!


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Review: The Unfeathered Bird

February 19, 2014
Article in: Book Reviews

The Unfeathered Bird
Katrina van Grouw
Princeton University Press

My early anticipation of The Unfeathered Bird was that of a large book of beautiful works of art; a wonderful treat to page through in visual awe. The author’s background as “curator of the ornithological collections at London’s Natural History Museum” along with her expertise at taxidermy form the foundation for the book. Her ability to draw with minute and precise detail make the birds come to life, despite them being mostly skeletal.

The visual appeal of The Unfeathered Bird is immense: 385 illustrations of birds without their conventional beauty. Yet the book shows just how spectacular birds are and how their structure forms the basis for what we see in the field. “In fact, this is really a book about the outside of birds. About how their appearance, posture, and behavior influence, and are influenced by, their internal structure.”

I spent a great deal of time paging through the artwork and that alone makes this book valuable for birders. But the explanations of the “generic” bird parts along with sections specifically focusing on families of birds, makes The Unfeathered Bird an incredible learning tool.

I’ve often taken for granted why a certain bird behaves a certain way, hunts a certain way, or just lives a certain way. But Katrina deconstructs the birds in a poetic way with both prose and picture, that anyone with an interest in birds can read and understand the way avian creatures work. You won’t be bogged down with confusing terms but instead will eagerly flip to the next page or next family of birds.

The Unfeathered Bird belongs as an aid to anyone studying ornithology, biology, evolution, or art. And while the book is oversized, it isn’t some coffee-table book destined for periodic browsing. It beckons to be read in detail and studied intently.

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Snowy Owls in the Yard

February 7, 2014
Article in: Backyard Birding

This has been a wild winter and it isn’t over yet. We’ve had countless days of below zero temperatures and well above-average snowfall totals. The snow drifts along our driveway are deep enough to get lost in.

This cold weather, while limiting my birding, brought a wonderful surprise to our yard: Snowy Owls!

Yes, Snowy, and yes owls plural.

After hearing repeated reports of Snowy Owl sightings not too far from where we live, I was delighted to see one land in the “mailbox snow pile”. He blended in so well it would have been impossible to have seen him if I wasn’t already looking.

I took numerous shots from inside and then ventured out into the 35 mph winds to get a few more. He had moved to a perch on the power line pole.

Then, less than a week later, we were visited by a second Snowy Owl, a darker one that I assume is an immature female.

Unfortunately, she flew when a box truck rumbled down our usually quite road.

Here is a comparison shot of the two birds.

We have but a few new trees and are waiting until spring to plant a yard (and more) so our yard list is pretty sparse.

But with yard birds like this, I’m not complaining.

Please note: Flickr, where we keep a lot of our photos, has changed a bunch so hopefully these images show up all right. Feel free to click on them for a larger view.


The Upcoming 14th Annual Shreve Spring Migration Sensation

January 29, 2014
Article in: Birding, Take Kids Birding, Travel

This year the Ohio Birdfreaks (Dakota and Jennie) will be attending the 14th Annual Shreve Migration Sensation with a few Illinois Birdfreaks (Susie, Sammie and Allison)! We are super excited!

This is the best Ohio event to show off migratory waterfowl and is perfect for all ages and every skill level of birder.

Shreve, Ohio has held this event for fourteen years now and it just keeps getting better. The cost is low, only 15 dollars a person or 20 for the entire family and includes six workshops, all events and a lot of cool birds!

Everyone Loves a Redhead!

Inside Events
Free maps are available when you register at Shreve Elementary School, where the workshops are held. The Birder’s Marketplace is located there – a wealth of all kinds of wonderful bird merchandise including optics and gorgeous artwork and groups like the Greater Mohican Audubon Society. There is an activity area, live birds from the Medina Rapter Center and a Wilderness Center Exploration Area.

This year’s speakers include celebrity author, bird experts and exceptional conservationists Kenn and Kim Kaufman (the most wonderful friends anyone could ever have), Jim McCormac author of the blog Ohio Birds and Biodiversity, Chuck Jakubchak and Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist, Cheryl Harner the co-founder of Flora-Quest and Lisa Rainsong, a Music Theory faculty member of the Cleveland Institue of Music and writer of the blog Listening in Nature.

Outdoor Events
Ohio’s largest inland wetlands complex Killbuck Wildlife Area is located here and it’s the perfect time to see migrating waterfowl! Covering 5,671 acres there have been rare sightings such as the Red-throated Loon and White-winged Scoter. There are over 133 typical bird species on the list of typical birds you may see near the end of March.

What’s new in 2014?
This year there will be a Storywalk at Wright Marsh. It’s a family event where you follow a story page-by-page along the path and at the end you will have the opportunity to search for waterfowl with other birders.

We really recommend this event if you can make the trip. It’s always a good time. Hope to see you there and we look forward to sharing our experiences there!

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