Bird migration: New book shines national spotlight on Northwest Ohio

Jasmine Cupp

Soon after moving to northwestern Ohio in 2005, Kenn Kaufman started to think of writing a book about the phenomenal passage of migratory birds through this region.
That idea became a reality this spring. Kaufman’s latest book, A Season on the Wind: Inside the World of Spring Migration, was published in April by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Company of Boston.
A Season on the Wind brings in anecdotes from places as diverse as New York’s Central Park and the coast of China, but most of the story takes place along the Lake Erie shoreline from Toledo east to Sandusky Bay, centered on the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. This region hosts dazzling numbers of migratory songbirds in May, attracting bird watchers from all over the world and leading up to “The Biggest Week in American Birding,” one of the largest bird festivals anywhere.
“Most people who live here have heard about the migration, and tens of thousands of avid birders from out of state have visited during the peak of the flight,” Kaufman says. “But I wanted to tell the whole amazing story of the migration, in a way that would be accessible for everyone, whether or not they have any prior knowledge of birds or of northwestern Ohio.”
Kaufman sketches out the history of the former Great Black Swamp and the western Lake Erie marshes. He doesn’t skimp on describing how the best remaining wildlife habitats were saved from destruction by sportsmen who bought these prime parcels, in the 1850s and later, and turned them into duck-hunting clubs.
He also reveals that “spring” migration is a long process, beginning in mid-February and continuing into June. By detailing the local landscape in midwinter and then describing the gradual changes that follow, he invites the reader to feel the excitement of spring building to a peak in May.
The Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO), headquartered in Oak Harbor, Ohio, plays a prominent role in the book. BSBO has conducted research on bird migration in this region for many years, and results of that research gave Kaufman much of the scientific material for his book. The observatory’s work in conservation and hosting the Biggest Week in American Birding festival are also featured in the story.
Kenn Kaufman has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books, including his own series of Kaufman Field Guides, such as Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America and Kaufman Field Guide to Nature of the Midwest.  A memoir, Kingbird Highway, published 22 years ago and still in print, has been officially designated a “Classic” by the National Outdoor Book Awards.
In its first month, A Season on the Wind has had an enthusiastic reception, with positive reviews in such national media as the Wall Street Journal and public radio’s “Living on Earth.” Kaufman says he hopes his new volume “will help convey some of the science and magic of bird migration. It should also spread the word that northwestern Ohio is a fantastic region for anyone who loves birds and nature.”
The book is currently available at bookstores and nature shops throughout the United States, as well as all the usual online sources.


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