Thursday, April 28, 2016

Migration outlook: April 28 - May 2

Black-throated Green Warbler, one of the typical early migrants among the warblers. Photo / Kenn Kaufman.

Thursday, April 28: As predicted last week by Ryan Jacob, this Monday (the 25th) produced an excellent flight in habitats near the Lake Erie shoreline, and the good numbers and variety continued through Tuesday. The dominant migrants were White-throated Sparrow, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Palm Warbler, Hermit Thrush, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, all typical April birds. Warblers expected on the early side of the flight, aside from Yellow-rumped and Palm, include Pine, Nashville, Black-and-white, and Black-throated Green warblers, and multiples of all these were present. At least one Prothonotary Warbler had returned to the Magee Marsh boardwalk, and one or two Orange-crowned Warblers were being seen consistently near the boardwalk's west end; more than a dozen warbler species have been found here. A few Blue-headed and Warbling vireos and at least one White-eyed Vireo were among the other migrants at Magee. Throughout the area there were reports of returning House Wren, Gray Catbird, Baltimore Oriole, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Scarlet Tanager.

A wind shift and some rain during Monday night meant that nocturnal migrants were less concentrated on the immediate lake shore on Tuesday. But Tuesday and Wednesday brought major flights of migrating Blue Jays, with flocks cruising the lake shore and dozens swarming around some area bird feeders. 

Shorebird numbers have been good recently, although peak diversity will occur later in May. Water levels are high in many local impoundments, so shorebirds are concentrating around the edges and in adjacent fields. The Boss Unit of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (on Benton-Carroll Road south of Route 2, just east of the entrance to Magee Marsh) has high water mostly suitable for yellowlegs, but large flocks of American Golden-Plovers have been seen in the grass on the southwest side (a scope is essential for viewing from the observation platform). Other flocks have been seen in fields adjacent to Metzger Marsh. Metzger hosted a concentration of more than 60 Willets on Monday, April 25, in the marsh near the second pulloff, but they didn't linger. Incidentally, one area with lower water levels is along the causeway in to Magee Marsh; Solitary Sandpiper and other species have been there recently, and this will continue to be worth checking for shorebirds if the water stays low. 

Looking ahead: Based on current weather forecasts, we don't see any huge arrivals of migrants happening in the next five days. Temperatures will be on the cool side (40s and 50s) and winds mostly from the east and northeast. Some migrants will continue to arrive even without helpful winds, but conditions don't look right for producing any major wave. Tuesday May 3 or Wednesday May 4 may have better potential, but the long-range forecast is uncertain. However, the longer we wait for the next wave, the bigger it's likely to be when it does finally get here.

Birding in the counties along Lake Erie is still quite rewarding. Most of the migrants that arrived recently are still in the general area. Trees have barely begun to leaf out, so conditions for viewing (and photography) are excellent. If you visit on a day with northerly winds, remember that many of the migrants may be a mile or two south of the lake shore. Consider checking spots like the Gallagher Trail behind Black Swamp Bird Observatory, woods behind the visitors' center at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, sheltered spots at East Harbor State Park or Maumee Bay State Park, or trails at Pearson Metropark. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Migration Forecast: April 23-27

Pine Warbler
Saturday, April 23rd: As expected, a slight shift in wind direction to the south earlier this week carried away most of the waterfowl and Fox Sparrows lingering in the area. While there wasn't quite the boost in songbird numbers as was expected last Monday, there has been a trickle of birds streaming in throughout the week. Fairly calm winds over the past few nights have allowed for short-distance migrants to work their way into the marshes, with a noticeable increase in Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrushes, White-throated and Swamp Sparrows, House Wrens, and the first arrival of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Nearing the end of their stay in northwest Ohio, Rusty Blackbirds are still quite numerous along the boardwalk in Magee Marsh Wildlife Area and the woods surrounding Black Swamp Bird Observatory. 

Although we're still about a week away from seeing some serious warbler movement, individual birds including Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Palm Warbler, Northern Parula, Black-and-white Warbler, and Orange-crowned Warbler have made appearances in various locations. Yellow-rumped Warblers remain the dominant warbler species throughout much of the region and are becoming more numerous each day. Though not as numerous as the Yellow-rumped, and not that prolific in northwest Ohio, Pine Warblers (often two to three at a time) are being seen along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh and Maumee Bay State Park. Also, Wildwood Metropark saw the first arrival of Yellow-throated Warbler this week (uncommon for northwest Ohio), and Magee Marsh had the first Prothonotary Warbler of the season appear.

Also taking advantage of these calm nights, shorebirds have been on the rise. Increased numbers of Pectoral Sandpiper and Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs are are being found utilizing flooded fields and low areas in the marshes, as well as small flocks of Dunlin around Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area. A trip to the Boss Unit of the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Complex this week produced 40+ American Golden-Plover, with another 100+ birds in the fields around Metzger Marsh. Other birds that have made brief visits to the area this week include American Avocet, Marbled Godwit, Willet, and American White Pelican. These latter birds are difficult to predict when and where they will show up, so keep an eye out and expect the unexpected in suitable fields and marshes as shorebird migration ramps up.

Looking ahead: Saturday night should see some movement as winds begin to steadily shift from the southeast to the south overnight into Sunday. With this slight shift, Sunday should see more Ruby-throated Hummingbirds as well as an increase in warblers and thrushes. With southerly winds and higher temperatures on Sunday, raptors such as Broad-winged Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, and Osprey should show some decent movement throughout the day--utilizing a tailwind and thermals. But it appears that the best day--as of now--for migration and a new wave of birds will be Monday the 25th. With two Low pressure systems forming over the Mississippi, southwest winds from the Gulf of Mexico will be aimed at northwest Ohio Sunday night into Monday Morning. Accompanying these Lows will also be some rainfall, so be prepared to cover any equipment. By Tuesday, winds are predicted to shift back to a more northerly direction and hold through Wednesday, keeping any new arrivals in the area for at least a few days. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Migration Forecast April 14-18

Hermit Thrush: The earliest of the "brown" thrushes to move through northwest Ohio.

Thursday, April 14th: Despite a rather unwelcomed snowfall over the past weekend, a quick shift of winds to the south last Sunday night led to a noticeable bump in short-distance migrant numbers in the marshes on Monday. In one night there was an immediate boost in Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Hermit Thrushes, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Winter Wrens, Brown Creepers, and Brown Thrashers. These species and numbers continue to be present in northwest Ohio -- especially in areas such as the boardwalk at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area -- and can be expected to stick around while these northerly and easterly winds persist. Other passing species such as the Fox Sparrow can still be found in good numbers, but may take advantage of the next southerly wind and continue their journey northward.  

While we are mostly at the tail-end of waterfowl migration, areas along the causeway at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, the pools at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, and Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area have been holding good numbers of American Coot, Green-winged Teal, and Blue-winged Teal. Other dabblers and a few species of divers can still be found mixed in with the deluge of teals and coots, but these birds (like the Fox Sparrow) may soon be gone with the next favorable wind. 

With all of the recent rain and snowmelt, areas typically frequented by shorebirds have been too saturated for this group of birds to forage in. Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpiper, Dunlin, and Wilson's Snipe are present in the region, but are being found in fields accustomed to flooding such as the Boss Unit of the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Complex. 

Looking ahead: A persistent high pressure system is expected to move south along the Atlantic coast, driving northerly and easterly winds our way throughout most of the weekend. However, at some point during the night, winds from the south are predicted to arrive. But the exact night this shift will occur is unclear at this time. Conflicting weather maps are forecasting southerly winds Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday night (with each map predicting a different night). Although it's a fairly broad time period, at least one day this weekend (Saturday the 16th, Sunday the 17th, Monday the 18th) should see some movement. This movement may include the departure of waterfowl, Fox Sparrows, and Eastern Towhees, but may also include another boost in Hermit Thrushes, Yellow-rumped Warblers, kinglets, and the arrival of a few Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. 

Update: After checking multiple forecast maps this afternoon, the current consensus is that winds will briefly shift to the south Sunday night, meaning there could be some movement overnight into Monday the 18th. There still seems to be some uncertainty about the timing of this wind shift, so paying attention to overnight wind direction throughout the weekend could prove advantageous for a good day of birding.  

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Spring 2016: Will we have an early migration?

Excellent numbers of Fox Sparrows are now moving through habitats near the Lake Erie shoreline in northwestern Ohio. Photo / Kenn Kaufman.

Thursday, March 24: After an exceptionally mild winter in northwestern Ohio, we've had many questions about how the weather might affect the timing of migration in spring 2016. 

The short answer is that the mild season may alter the timing for a few species, but not for most. To understand the difference, it helps to think of migratory species in two categories, obligate migrants and facultative migrants. (These are really two ends of a spectrum, not two distinct categories, so these definitions are somewhat oversimplified.)

Most migratory birds, especially those going long distances, are obligate migrants. That is, the timing of their migration is instinctive and hard-wired. A Blackpoll Warbler that leaves Brazil in April to start moving north toward Canada is not responding to local weather anywhere; it is going on instinct. This is true for the vast majority of the warblers and other Neotropical migrants that create so much excitement in northwestern Ohio in late April and May. No matter how harsh or mild the winter might be in the U.S., it won't change the timing of their flights. At most, an extremely cold, late spring in the southern U.S. might delay the arrival of these birds in Ohio by a few days--that is, they might linger for a few extra days in the southern states if conditions are bad. But a warm, early spring in the south won't speed up their travel. 

Some short-distance travelers, especially those moving in early spring, are facultative migrants. Within general outlines of the season, they may move earlier or later, for greater or shorter distances, depending on what the weather is doing. This is true to some extent for many of the waterfowl in early spring. In a cold season, when northern waters may still be frozen solid, they may linger later at our latitudes. Sandhill Cranes are facultative migrants, and in recent years they have been moving later in fall and earlier in spring, and not going as far south for the winter as they formerly did. 

At this point in late March, the spring migration is well under way. In areas near Lake Erie, such as Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, and Maumee Bay State Park, recent days have produced good numbers of typical early migrants such as Wilson's Snipe, Eastern Phoebe, Tree Swallow, Winter Wren, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Fox Sparrow, and Rusty Blackbird. Eastern Towhees and Field Sparrows also have begun to appear (both species have been seen at the feeders at Black Swamp Bird Observatory). American Woodcocks have returned in force, and on calm evenings they can be heard performing their flight displays in damp meadows near woods. 

During the next week or so, we should continue to see more of the typical early birds. Pectoral Sandpiper, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Hermit Thrush, American Pipit, Vesper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, and Purple Martin are among the species to watch for. Some of the short-distance migrants might arrive earlier than usual. But as for those colorful warblers, tanagers, orioles, and the like, coming from the tropics, we should expect those to appear at their usual times in April and May. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Migration Forecast May 28-31

Thursday, May 28: As expected, the third wave of migrating songbirds began to move into the area this past week with the highest volume occurring Sunday (May 24). Numbers trickled down each day from Monday through Thursday but expected species for the third wave such as Eastern Wood-Pewee and the Empidonax flycatchers, Black-billed and Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Red-eyed Vireo, Cedar Waxwing, American Redstart, and Mourning Warbler were all present in suitable habitat (mostly limited to a handful of individuals of each species).

For those still coming up short on a Connecticut Warbler sighting there is still hope. A second pulse to this last wave is expected for this upcoming weekend, bringing in the last of the migrating songbirds. Steady easterly winds tonight should keep any birds still residing along the lake shore in place for Friday, but by Friday morning winds will begin to shift back to the south and hold throughout the night producing favorable southwest winds for migrants. This means that by Saturday morning, May 30, we should see a whole new group of birds in stopover habitat. The species in this pulse will remain the same -- flycatchers, waxwings, cuckoos, Red-eyed Vireo -- but late-migrating warblers will also be present (predominately females and some second-year males). This weekend could be one of the last opportunities this spring to see breeding plumage warblers such as Amreican Redstart, Blackpoll, Canada, Wilson's, Mourning, and the elusive Connecticut Warbler. 

Aside from passerines, the end of May is also the peak time for migrating White-rumped Sandpipers and one of the last opportunities to view other migrating shorebirds. This weekend and next week should bring in White-rumped as well as Semipalmated Sandpiper into suitable wetland habitat, mudflats, and flooded fields. An ideal place to check for these birds would be Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area adjacent to the road near the first and second pulloffs -- as these areas tend to be fairly muddy with low water levels. Also, walking around the pools at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and scanning the water along the causeway and walking the beach at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area could produce some shorebirds.

By mid-June mostly all shorebirds that are not breeding in Ohio will be gone until fall migration. Along with White-rumped and Semipalmated Sandpiper, this upcoming weekend and the first week of June will be the last time to potentially see any lingering individuals such as Semipalmated Plover, Least Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Dunlin, and Short-billed Dowitcher -- but there is always the possibility that a second-year bird that has failed to make the journey to its breeding grounds could hold out in the area until fall

Beginning Sunday night and continuing through Tuesday, winds are expected to shift back to the north and be fairly strong, keeping any new arrivals in the area for a few days. With temperatures in the low 60's and 70's and little chance of rain, it appears as if there will be a good string of days this weekend and upcoming week for catching the last bits of spring migration through Northwest Ohio -- until fall migration and the challenge of identifying fall female warblers begins! 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Finding Connecticut Warbler in late May

Connecticut Warbler. Photo by Kristin Mylecraine.

Saturday, May 23: The next few days, especially Monday May 25 and Tuesday May 26, should be a good time to seek Connecticut Warbler in n.w. Ohio. Below, we repeat and update some essential information that we published last year.

Connecticut Warbler is a highly sought-after migrant: It's uncommon, quiet, and secretive, and it migrates late in spring, after the peak of birding activity. In northwestern Ohio, May 20 to 30 is the best time to find it. 

This species forages mostly by walking slowly on the ground, occasionally jumping up onto a log or low branch. Males will sing from high perches on their breeding grounds in northern forest, but when they sing here in Ohio, they usually do so from just a few feet off the ground. So the birds are almost always very low or on the ground, inside forest or dense thickets, where they are hard to see. 

The best way to seek these elusive migrants is to get out at dawn and listen for their loud, distinctive song. You can search more area by walking quickly and quietly, or driving slowly, along the edge of good habitat. At this link, you can hear a good recording of the song from the Macaulay Library at Cornell. And at this link, you can hear several recordings from Xeno-Canto.

Migrants usually stop singing shortly after dawn. After they've fallen silent, the best way to search is to walk very slowly on boardwalks or trails, stopping to scan any place where you can actually see the ground inside the forest. The Connecticut will be walking very slowly and methodically, its colors looking surprisingly obscure in the forest shadows. With great luck, you might see one pop up onto a log as you're going past. On the Magee Marsh boardwalk, some consistent areas have been between numbers 3 and 6, near number 10, near number 16, at the west end of the west parking lot, and along the Estuary Trail to the west. (For a map of the boardwalk showing the locations of the numbers, see this link.)   But this is very much a needle-in-a-haystack kind of search, so it's best if you can be out early enough to locate one by sound. 

Where should you search? Greg Links, an ace birder with experience throughout this region, shared this list of specific places to look for Connecticut Warblers: 

"In no particular order:

1. Magee Marsh - no details necessary. 

2. Maumee Bay State Park - boardwalk behind the nature center, easternmost dike in the park that leads north from the parking area at the far east end of the cabin road. Also some of the grassy trails in the NW corner of the park.

3. Far east end of Cedar Point Road, at Decant Road. 

4. North end of Yondota Road at entrance gate area to Cedar Point NWR (no access to refuge, and area around belong to water treatment plant. Stay on road.)

If west of Toledo in Oak Openings area: 

1. Wolfinger Road, between Secor Metropark and Bancroft Road (accessed from either).

2. Irwin Road, especially between Wolfinger and Bancroft. 

3. Schwamberger Road between Bancroft and Old State Line Road.

4. In Oak Openings Park, Sager Road between just west of Wilkins and Girdham roads."

In addition to the places listed above by Greg Links, we have found Connecticut Warbler on the Gallagher Trail behind Black Swamp Bird Observatory; inside the woods behind the visitors' center at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge; and in the woods at East Harbor State Park, east of Port Clinton. 

So those are some places to look, and suggestions about how to look; the next few days are prime time for Connecticut Warbler. Best of luck to everyone who seeks this prized migrant!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Migration Forecast May 19-22

Alder Flycatcher: a migrant worth seeking in late May
Tuesday, May 19: Beginning last Friday, the 15th, the past weekend has brought songbird numbers expected at this point in migration. However, with southerly winds every night since Friday, the volume of birds has declined, resulting in limited amounts of each species still present today, Tuesday the 19th. Although, regardless of how many birds departed each night and how many replaced them, no one walked away from a day of birding without having seen at least one American Redstart, if not a dozen or more. Along with the plethora of redstarts and Magnolia Warblers, many other non-warbler species such as Black-billed and Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Warbling and Red-eyed Vireo, and Eastern Wood-Pewee added their (sometimes unnoticed) songs to most habitats. 

Other notable species over the past week included Ruddy Turnstone, White-faced and Glossy Ibis, and Marbled and Hudsonian Godwit seen in or near Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area. One of the biggest surprises last week was the always-sought-after Kirtland's Warbler found Wednesday the 13th in Oak Openings Preserve.

As for the next three days, expect a series of slow days with fewer migrating songbirds, as a high pressure system over the area brings northerly winds. Many birds departed last night, Monday the 18th, riding the last of the southerly winds that had prevailed since the past weekend. Very little turnover occurred last night, but observations today (Tuesday the 19th) still produced many warbler species such as Tennessee, Canada, Wilson's, Chestnut-sided, and Cape May, predominantly females.

Northerly winds are forecast to continue until at least the weekend, so most of these migrants should be in the area for a few days building up fat reserves and waiting for southerly winds again. With daytime highs in the 60s and nighttime lows reaching the 40s, most birds should be foraging fairly low, providing excellent views and photo opportunities.

Once again, with winds coming from the north off Lake Erie, try searching suitable habitat a mile or so inland as the birds will typically move away from the lake shore. But a trip to the Magee Marsh boardwalk can always prove contrary to this thought, and it's always worth checking out the downwind side of the woods.

The Biggest Week in American Birding may be over, but migration is still going on. It's too early to know exactly which day the weather will turn back around, but it looks as if the shift will occur later in the upcoming weekend or early next week, bringing up the next wave of migrating songbirds. The third wave usually occurs around Memorial Day and is dominated by female Magnolia Warbler and female American Redstart, but also Cedar Waxwing, Red-eyed Vireo, and the Empidonax flycatchers. 

With a slow week expected, this would be a good time to prepare for the confusion of those Empids. Songs and calls are by far the best way to decipher the various species -- especially Willow and Alder Flycatchers -- but also study wing bar patterns, eye ring presence and color, bill size, and overall coloring for each species.  

Update: As of tonight, Friday the 22nd, weather predictions are still showing favorable conditions during Monday and Tuesday, the 25 and 26, for the arrival of the next wave of migrating songbirds. Over the weekend, winds will be coming from the south -- which will move any birds that have been held up along the shoreline this past week, out of the area. However, these southerly winds will be coming off of the Atlantic Ocean and are not expected to bring any new birds into the area on Saturday or Sunday. Winds are predicted to shift to a more direct southerly origin (from the Southern US rather than the Atlantic) on Sunday night, and thus should begin to bring in new birds by Monday. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Migration Forecast May 12-15 plus 16-17 update: Looking forward to the weekend

Male Bay-breasted Warbler: Good numbers have been seen for the last few days.

Tuesday, May 12: The opening weekend for The Biggest Week in American Birding may not have seen quite the volume expected, however, diversity was ever present in most areas along Lake Erie. Finding close to (or over) twenty species of warbler over the past weekend wasn't too difficult a task as more species like Tennessee, Magnolia, Bay-breasted, Chestnut-sided, American Redstart, and Canada Warbler began to move into the marshes. Along with some of the "regular" migrants, many birders at the Magee Marsh boardwalk were fortunate enough to also observe Mourning Warbler, a Kentucky Warbler, and a few Hooded Warblers -- the latter two being overflight species that have flown too far north during migration.  

Other notable sightings from around the area include a few Summer Tanagers seen at both Magee Marsh and Oak Openings Preserve Metropark, a Chuck-will's-widow heard multiple nights in the campground at Maumee Bay State Park, and a Yellow-headed Blackbird seen during the auto-tour at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. And -- continuing the productivity it has had over the past couple of weeks -- Metzger Marsh has been host to upwards of 500 American Golden-Plovers, a few Black-bellied Plovers, two Black-necked Stilts, a Marbled Godwit, a few American White Pelicans, and even a rare-in-spring Hudsonian Godwit.

Bird activity during the upcoming week will mostly be affected by wind direction Tuesday night. With a cold front advancing towards the east, many birds may try to ride ahead with the receding southwest winds and cross Lake Erie. But the volume of remaining migrants on Wednesday and Thursday will mostly be determined by the timing of the shift from southerly winds to northerly winds on Tuesday night, May 12. 

If winds shift late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning, many birds will be gone on Wednesday and Thursday -- as songbirds travel at night, riding a tailwind from the south. But if winds shift early enough Tuesday night as forecast, many birds that have recently arrived should stick around for the next couple of days while winds continue from the north. On days with northerly winds most birds will move away from the shoreline, so these will be good days to explore areas a mile or so away from the lake such as Pearson Metropark, the trail behind BSBO, and the woods behind/north of the visitor's center at Ottawa NWR. 

This temperature and wind shift will be caused by a high pressure system that is expected to cover much of the eastern U.S. until Thursday night. But by Friday, when a new low pressure system is expected to move and winds shift back to the south, we could see the departure of any birds that were held up during the week and potentially the arrival of a few new birds. The good news with this high pressure system holding over the area throughout Wednesday and Thursday is that many migrating birds still heading north could become trapped in the southern U.S. waiting for the winds to change. So, by Saturday and Sunday (but most likely Saturday assuming favorable conditions) the second pulse of the second wave of migrants -- which is dominated by male Magnolia Warblers and usually has the largest volume of birds -- could bring a high number of birds into the area. If this back up does occur, there is also the potential that signs of the third wave may be present as well, bringing more flycatchers into the area. 

With the way the weather has been changing, it may be too early at this point to say that Saturday will be a big day. Further monitoring of the weather and radar over the next few days should reveal a clearer picture by the weekend and an update will be posted with any changes and new predictions. But for the moment, expect a moderately slow week picking up by Friday May 15, hopefully leading up to a big weekend.   

Update: Per tonight's forecast, conditions still look good for a high volume of birds -- as expected at this point during migration -- to move into the area this weekend. Late tonight (Friday the 15th) winds will begin to shift to the southwest, bringing high temperatures again and also some rain. Depending on the time and place this rain hits, many birds could be forced to land along the shoreline or be dispersed throughout the surrounding area -- only Saturday and Sunday morning observations will confirm where the majority of birds are being seen.

Be prepared to cover any equipment as scattered thunderstorms and a chance for rain are predicted throughout the day for both Saturday and Sunday, May 16 and 17. Check the weather periodically while out, as birding should be excellent when a break in the rain does occur. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Big Weekend for Biggest Week: Migration forecast for May 7 - 11

Chestnut-sided Warbler: a major player in the second wave.

Wednesday, May 6th: The first real push of migrating songbirds appeared on Monday, as we had predicted. With a delayed shift to northerly winds on Monday night, much turnover of birds was seen on Tuesday (especially an increase in Yellow-rumped Warblers and a decrease in White-throated Sparrows). Northerly and easterly winds did dominate on Tuesday night, but even so, a big movement of birds came in overnight. The BSBO main banding station at Navarre Marsh (east of Magee Marsh) had their biggest day of the spring so far today, the 6th, with even more birds than on Monday. The reasons for this are obscure, since the weather patterns didn't seem conducive to a large flight. At any rate, excellent numbers and variety of birds are in the area. And conditions look good for a great start for The Biggest Week in American Birding festival on Friday, May 8th.

The current mix of birds includes many nocturnal migrants, such as warblers, but also daytime migrants such as goldfinches and siskins. Despite the wind direction a surprising amount of Pine Siskins have moved into the area today, with counts of up to thirty birds at a time flocking to feeders. 
One of many Pine Siskins visiting the feeders at BSBO's window on wildlife.

Even though winds are expected to blow from the east tonight, they should be calm enough to allow for some movement and the arrival of some new birds by Thursday. But the best days to expect new (and more) birds will be Friday and Saturday, May 8th and 9th. With two low pressure systems hovering near the Gulf and over the central U.S., southwest winds will be pushing directly towards NW Ohio bringing warm tropical air and migrants. 

With this next flight, we should be experiencing the second wave of migrating songbirds, which provides the greatest species diversity. Numerically, this wave is dominated by White-throated Sparrow, Swainson's Thrush, female Yellow-rumped Warbler, female Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and male Magnolia Warbler. From a birding standpoint, this wave is notable for the big increase in diversity of warblers, with Chestnut-sided and Bay-breasted both becoming numerous, and for the first notable arrival of thrushes, flycatchers, and other migrants.

Along with birds, these days will also bring an increase in temperature and precipitation. Forecasts show that Friday, Saturday, and Sunday will exceed 80 degrees so remember to dress for the weather and stay hydrated. The other thing to expect with warm days and low pressure from the Gulf is rain. Thunderstorms and rain are expected on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with the most rain expected during the evening on Saturday and Sunday. Keep an eye on the weather and be prepared to cover any electronic equipment and camera lenses. 

Many birds may move along through the weekend with the continuing southerly winds, but there is a slight chance for rain both Saturday and Sunday night which may help keep some birds in place.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Good arrival of migrants

Palm Warbler at the Magee Marsh boardwalk: Things are looking up. Photo by Kenn Kaufman.

Posted by Ryan Jacob and Kenn Kaufman on Monday, May 4: As predicted in our last post, the birding situation has improved tremendously since the end of last week. A decent trickle of migrants arrived Saturday, many more on Sunday, and today was the best day so far this spring in the Magee Marsh area.

According to our observations and conversations, at least 27 species of warblers were confirmed between the Magee Marsh and Metzger Marsh Wildlife Areas today. Yellow-rumped Warblers were still the most numerous by far, with good numbers of Palm, Black-throated Green, Nashville, Yellow, and others, plus a good sprinkling of other species. Highlights included Canada and Hooded Warblers at Metzger, and Kentucky and Golden-winged Warblers at Magee. Many orioles and Scarlet Tanagers were in evidence. A major flight of Pine Siskins developed over the last two days, with flocks moving along the lake shore and small groups visiting feeders in the area. 

Birding should continue to be good this afternoon between rain showers. Winds are supposed to shift around to the north late tonight, and to stay northerly through at least midday Wednesday, so we probably won't see many migrants arriving during the next couple of days. Most of the birds that are here should stick around, though. And even with a lot of rain in the forecast, the birding should be excellent in between showers. 

A tip for birding the area when the wind shifts to the north or northeast: areas right along the lake, such as the woodlot at Metzger Marsh and the parking lot edge at Magee, won't be as good in these conditions. Some of the migrants seem to filter inland, so birding might be better just a little south of the lake. Try the woods at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge or the Gallagher Trail behind Black Swamp Bird Observatory. 

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