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The Best Places for Birding in May with Tom Hallett

Editor’s Note:Tom Hallett of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is the field naturalist for Alpen Optics, the makers of fine spotting scopes and binoculars. Here are Hallett’s picks for the five-best places to go birding in May.

Number 1: Big Bend National Park, south of Marathon, Texas

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The month of May is all about migration. The warblers and the shore birds will be migrating from the South back to the North this month, and the number-one spot to view these magnificent birds will be Big Bend National Park in Texas. Big Bend is in the middle of the natural migration pattern of warblers, so just about every one of the North American warblers will be spotted in this area this month, as well as Worm-eating Warblers and many others. Since these migrating birds have just come across the Gulf of Mexico, they’ll be very tired and hungry. Their two main concerns will be resting and feeding, which means you can get really close to the birds and take great photos. The birds will be on the picnic grounds and on the grass searching for bugs. At other times of the year, these birds are typically at treetop level, making spotting them very difficult.

Number 2: Point Pelee National Park, just southeast of Detroit, Michigan

Later in the month of May, you’ll be able to see migrating warblers coming across Lake Erie at Point Pelee National Park. At this time of year, it will be the fallout warblers showing up in the area. They’re called fallout warblers because they have traveled so far and are so hungry that they almost seem to fall out of the sky to feed on the ground. Once again, you’ll see most of the warblers at this destination, except for a few of the western warblers.

Number 3: Ramsey Canyon Preserve, near Sierra Vista, Arizona

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The hummingbirds will return in May most anywhere in southern Arizona, close to the Mexican border. Many times, they’ll come across the mountains into southern Arizona, and that’s when you can observe them best. One of the most-productive places to spot these migrating hummingbirds is on a nature preserve with plenty of feeders, like the preserve located in Ramsey Canyon, where you’ll see numbers of unusual and unique hummingbirds during May.

Number 4: Cape May Point State Park, in Cape May, New Jersey

Here, you’ll have the opportunity to watch numbers of warblers, shore birds and huge flocks of Red Knots flying north. Migrating birds avoid mountains, if at all possible. They prefer to go around them instead of up and over them, so search for landmasses that create funnels, like Cape May does.

Number 5: St. Louis, Missouri

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The warbler fallout is most pronounced in the parks in St. Louis because it’s a massive city. As the warblers fly through the area, they’ll spot city parks and drop in to rest and feed. That’s why you’ll see numbers of migrating birds in metropolitan places like St. Louis, Mo., in May.