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In 1998, Greg zig-zagged 130,000 miles across the USA, while trying to hold down a full-time job, aspiring to reach at least 700 species of birds in one calendar year. "The Big Year," a novel by Mark Obmascik detailed his travails alongside two competitors. The book was later turned into a movie of the same title that starred Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson!

Ohio-West Virginia Days 1 & 2

West entrance to Magee Marsh Bird Trail
West entrance to Magee Marsh Bird Trail – Photo by Greg Miller


This is the fourth Big Year tour of 11 tours for the year I am doing with Wildside Nature Tours. The tour officially kicked off with a 30-minute drive to the famous Magee Marsh Bird Trail. This is the same boardwalk that gets so much attention in May during Biggest Week in American Birding.

Here we started out with over 50 species in a couple hours including Snowy Egret, Orange-crowned Warbler, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Pine Warbler, an early Northern Waterthrush, and Hermit Thrush.

We stopped in East Central Ohio in the heart of Amish Country for a hearty meal at Dutch Valley Restaurant. After all, riding along in a van is such hard work.

Dutch Valley Restaurant in Sugarcreek, OH - photo by Greg Miller
Dutch Valley Restaurant in Sugarcreek, OH – photo by Greg Miller


But we still had a long way to go. Over 400 miles total. In the rain…

wet highways in West Virginia
wet highways in West Virginia – photo by Greg Miller


We finally arrived at our hotel rather worn out. Only half of us made it to dinner. But it was yummy.

Dirty Ernie's BBQ
Dirty Ernie’s Rib Pit near Fayetteville, WV – photo by Greg Miller


Day 2 was very full. We birded several areas near New River Gorge National River. Our top target was seen and heard by all of us by 10am. Yes. We did it in the rain. Yes. It took lots of patience. But the reward was totally worth it. Swainson’s Warbler! Major CHA-CHING! No. I did not get a photo. It was r-a-i-n-i-n-g. And no, it was not close enough for my waterproof point-and-shoot. So just use your imagination. Ok?

Some of the other incidental birds we saw while looking for the Swainson’s Warbler included Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting, Yellow-throated Warbler, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Towhee, a hooting Barred Owl, and a singing Yellow-throated Vireo.

We left New River Gorge and headed north returning to Ohio again. We stopped at Huntington for a not-on-purpose long lunch before birding Crown City WMA in Gallia County in Southeast Ohio near the Ohio River. Was that enough prepositions for one sentence? Yes. Both eyes are a little glazed over this evening.

Crown City was good again with Henslow’s Sparrow, Orchard Oriole, Acadian Flycatcher, Broad-winged Hawk, Louisiana Waterthrush, Ovenbird, Cerulean, Blue-winged, Blackburnian, Hooded, and Kentucky Warblers, and Yellow-breasted Chat.

Our afternoon adventure was cut a bit short with rumbles of thunder. The dark skies flashed occasionally with lightning. It is probably just as well as I would be writing this blog an hour or two later.

We did our checklists for day 1 & 2 tonight at dinner. Our official tally for yesterday was 70 and today 68. Our trip total after a couple days of much driving stands at 109 species. My Big Year Tour total is now at 355 species.

Tomorrow promises to be an exciting day. We are headed to one of my favorite places in Ohio–Shawnee State Forest. And we will spend the entire day birding there.

Now it is time for this weary adventurer to recharge his batteries. Sleep is near.

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