|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.