Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area, Lucas Co., northwest. Ohio, continues to be a good spot for shorebirds and other waterbirds. Most of the main unit has been drawn down (and I understand it won't be refilled until mid-August), but south of the dike that separates the marsh from Lake Erie there remains a large body of shallow water with extensive mudflats along the far edge; this is best viewed by walking out the dike that runs southeast from the parking lot, and looking across with a telescope. I was there at midday today (Thursday 5/31) and failed to see the Laughing Gull or White-faced Ibis that were there two days earlier, but I did see a Stilt Sandpiper in almost full breeding plumage, a rare bird for spring and the second one at Metzger this year. Also there among the shorebirds were five Black-bellied Plovers, 25 Ruddy Turnstones, and two White-rumped Sandpipers. The resting flock of gulls and terns at midday today included two one-year-old Bonaparte's Gulls, the first I'd seen locally in more than three weeks, as well as several subadult Forster's Terns. A single unidentified dark ibis flew over, and later a single Glossy Ibis came in and was foraging along the edge of the flats. There have been a few Glossy Ibises around the area continuously since late April, but for a while I was missing them repeatedly, and they showed up at Metzger only when I wasn't there. Hugh Rose and Judy Kolo-Rose had a standing joke that I was an ibis jinx, and that the best way for birders to see ibises was to go someplace where I wasn't going! But I guess the jinx has been broken. At any rate, birders who are coming to n.w. Ohio for the tail end of the spring migration should consider bringing a scope and stopping at Metzger.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
This spring there have been numerous reports of Glossy Ibises around the state, but I'm also aware of a couple of reports of White-faced Ibis, including one at Metzger Marsh on April 26 and one in the Killbuck Marsh area on May 11. This evening (Tuesday May 29) I found one White-faced and one Glossy Ibis at Metzger Marsh, n.w. Ohio. The two birds were foraging together along the edge of the extensive flats south of the dike that runs east from the parking lot at the end of the road. Like most of the other birds present, the ibises were some distance away from the dike. Through the telescope it was easy to see the Glossy's dark slaty facial skin with narrow border of pale blue skin, and the White-faced Ibis's red facial skin with a smeary surrounding area of white feathers. Without a scope, though, it would have been impossible to identify these two birds with certainty. Glossy Ibis has been recorded far more often in Ohio than White-faced, but clearly we can't just assume that dark ibises are Glossies unless they're seen well enough to prove that identification.
Also at Metzger this evening was an adult Laughing Gull. It was resting on the edge of the flats with a group that included about 50 Ring-billed Gulls (mostly subadults), 20 Herring Gulls (all adults), 35 Common Terns, 7 Forster's Terns, 2 Black Terns, and 3 Caspian Terns. Those are maximum counts for each, because there was continuous turnover in the birds present. Turnover seems to be a constant at Metzger right now. This evening I saw only three Black-bellied Plovers (but Kim and I had seen 64 there yesterday) and no Red Knots (five yesterday). Numbers of Ruddy Turnstones and Dunlins also had dropped substantially, but this evening I had one Sanderling, three Least Sandpipers, and two White-rumped Sandpipers, all missed yesterday.
Clearly, Metzger is worth a look for anyone birding the area over the next couple of weeks, but do bring a telescope if you can.
Monday, May 28, 2007
This weekend (May 26 and 27), the area of Magee Marsh and nearby hot spots in n.w. Ohio had unsettled weather, with winds and intermittent rain, but with good birding in between storms. Today (Monday May 28) was startlingly calm by contrast, and was clear after the morning fog lifted.
Kim and I spent a couple of hours at Metzger Marsh and about three hours at the Magee Marsh boardwalk today to get a sense of the state of migration. Numbers of migrants had definitely dropped a lot since Friday, but there was still a fair amount of variety. Wilson's Warblers and especially American Redstarts were obvious at both locations, most of the latter being young males, actively singing. Other classic late migrants included multiples of Canada and Mourning Warblers, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, and Red-eyed Vireos. We also saw numbers of Magnolia Warblers, plus Bay-breasted, Ovenbird, and others, but no Connecticut Warbler for us today. All five species of Empidonax flycatchers were at the Magee boardwalk, with only one Least but multiples of the others; two singing Acadians were something of a surprise. An Olive-sided Flycatcher was there as well. There apparently had been an influx of thrushes again: even though we were at Magee in the heat of the afternoon, we saw 7 Swainson's Thrushes, 4 Gray-cheeked, and a Veery. Having such a high ratio of Gray-cheekeds was a pleasant surprise; but since this species breeds farther north, on average, than any of our other brown thrushes, perhaps it makes sense for it to be a late migrant.
The extensive mudflats at Metzger Marsh (northwest of Magee) continue to see frequent turnover. Highlights there at midday today included five Red Knots (four in breeding plumage), 64 Black-bellied Plovers, and 70-plus Ruddy Turnstones. The resting flock of ratty subadult Ring-billed Gulls was joined off and on by up to 25-plus Common Terns as well as one Forster's, three Caspian, and two Black Terns.
At this point I don't expect any more big fallouts of migrants, but the woodlots at Magee, Ottawa NWR, Metzger, and elsewhere along the lakeshore should have an interesting variety of late migrants for the next week or so, including sought-after species like Yellow-bellied, Alder, and Olive-sided Flycatchers, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Mourning and Connecticut Warblers, and perhaps some surprising strays. Shorebird migration should continue to make Metzger Marsh worth checking for another couple of weeks at least.
Friday, May 25, 2007
For the last three nights (Tuesday through Thursday) the winds were southerly, and the last three days (Wednesday through Friday, May 23 - 25) saw excellent numbers and substantial turnover of late-season migrants in the area of Magee Marsh, n.w. Ohio. Today, Friday 5/25, there were good numbers of migrants at all the spots in this immediate area: the Magee Marsh boardwalk, the woodlots at Ottawa NWR main unit, the Black Swamp Bird Observatory banding station (on the Navarre Unit of Ottawa NWR, about five miles east of Magee), and the woodlot at Metzger Marsh, to the west of Magee. The makeup of the flight was about as expected for late May: lots of Empidonax flycatchers of all five species, with Yellow-bellied Flycatcher especially numerous today; both cuckoos in good numbers, especially Yellow-billed; very large numbers of Swainson's Thrushes but also a decent number of Gray-cheeked Thrushes today; many Blackpoll Warblers and American Redstarts, but also fair numbers of Canada and Mourning Warblers and a fair scattering of at least 15 other warbler species. This evening we saw at least one Connecticut Warbler, possibly two, in the area of the tower at the west end of the Magee boardwalk, and I heard that one was seen earlier in the woodlot at Metzger.
The mudflats at Metzger Marsh continue to see rapid turnover in the birds present. I was there today just before a heavy rain hit in the early afternoon, and went back an hour later after the rain ceased, and even in that time there was turnover, with two Black-bellied Plovers and an American Golden-Plover before the rain, many Forster's Terns and a lone Bonaparte's Gull after the rain. There are still impressive numbers of Ruddy Turnstones. Two American Pipits here seemed to be getting a bit late.
With the weather conditions tonight, I would expect that not many of the current migrants would leave, and numbers and variety should be excellent for the weekend.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
In the area of Magee Marsh, n.w. Ohio, today (Wednesday May 23) it was evident that umbers of migrants had picked up since Monday. Winds had been oddly variable Monday night but by Tuesday night they were more consistently out of the south, and many birds apparently came in overnight. This morning I had good numbers of Empidonax flycatchers at Magee, with all five species represented during four hours on the east beach and the boardwalk: 5 Yellow-bellied, 2 Acadian, 3 Alder, 6 Willow, 4 Least, and another 15 unidentified Empidonax that were silent or seen too briefly (mostly Willow/Alder types). This was the first good influx of Alder and Yellow-bellied that I had encountered this year, but these are notoriously late migrants anyway.
Diversity of warblers is starting to drop off a bit, but there were still good numbers of some things, especially American Redstarts (I saw at least 50, mostly females and young males). Blackpoll, Wilson's, and Canada Warblers were also present in good numbers. A lone Palm Warbler on the east beach was getting a little late. One Kentucky Warbler was a surprise (and I heard of sightings of two others). Everyone I met on the boardwalk was looking for Connecticut Warblers, but I didn't talk to anyone who had seen one. However, at least one was heard singing at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory's main banding site, about five miles east of Magee, this morning.
Notable among other migrants were at least 25 Swainson's Thrushes, at least 7 Lincoln's Sparrows, and at least 2 Philadelphia Vireos. Also interesting to me was a substantial flight of Blue Jays. During a couple of hours in mid-morning I saw at least 400 Blue Jays, in flocks of 3 or 4 up to 20 or 25, all moving silently east-southeast paralleling the lake shore. The May migration here is a well-known phenomenon, described in some detail in The Birds of Ohio (Bruce Peterjohn) and mentioned in Birds of the Toledo Area (Matt Anderson et al.) and Birds of the Cleveland Region (Larry Rosche). But I grew up thinking of this species as a cold-hardy permanent resident, and it's still startling to me to be out in late May, with foliage looking like summer and temperatures in the 80s, seeing flocks of Blue Jays still engaged in spring migration.
Current predictions are for southerly winds to continue for the next couple of nights, so I expect there will be continued turnover and bigger numbers for the next couple of days, and then decent numbers of migrants grounded on the lake shore over the weekend.
Monday, May 21, 2007
We were sorry to miss the OOS conference this weekend, which sounds like it was another excellent event. But Kim and I admittedly were having an outrageously good time on Saturday the 19th, taking part in another tradition: the North Coast Open, an annual big day competition sponsored by the Toledo Naturalists' Association. The event is limited to just five counties in northwestern Ohio (Lucas, Ottawa, Erie, Sandusky, and Wood), no one is allowed to use tapes, the count runs just from midnight to 9 p.m., and everyone on a team must see or hear a bird for it to count, so it's more restrictive than American Birding Association rules. Kim and I were lucky enough to get to team up with Greg Links and John Chadwick, two top-notch birders who know every bird location in this part of the world. Thanks to their expertise, we wound up with a total of 158 species for the 21-hour event. All teams combined had a cumulative total of 199 species, reflecting just how good the birding is in this part of the state.
It was actually kind of a rough day for birding, with cold morning temps and overcast keeping birdsong to a minimum, and then intermittent rain and wind for the rest of the day, or totals would have been even higher. Anyway, a few highlights just from our team's experience: two Glossy Ibises at Pipe Creek Wildlife Area, Sandusky, adding to the impression that there are a lot of these birds around. A lingering Ring-necked Duck also at Pipe Creek.
Two King Rails actively calling at Mallard Club Marsh -- possibly two rival males, rather than two members of a pair (although a pair was seen here previously by Jen Brumfield). Good numbers of shorebirds at Metzger Marsh at the end of the day -- there seems to be a lot of turnover here in the evenings, and we had a Willet flying around and actually doing a burst of its breeding-grounds "song," but our best shorebird here was a beautiful Stilt Sandpiper in breeding plumage, a rare bird for spring. One Olive-sided Flycatcher on Girdham Road in the Oak Openings. Summer Tanagers -- in addition to birds on territory as expected in the Oak Openings, we also had a young male on the east beach at Magee Marsh. Somewhat late were a Hermit Thrush and an Orange-crowned Warbler at Magee.
The Toledo Naturalists' Association has been around for almost 75 years, and they're not just about birds -- their membership includes experts on all aspects of natural history. But as they proved once again on Saturday, they sure know how to go birding!
Friday, May 18, 2007
Discussing the state of migration in n.w. Ohio, just last night I wrote that I didn't expect any south winds to bring in waves of migrants before next week. Well, around here, the weather predictions change as often as the weather, which is saying a lot. They're now calling for the winds to switch around to the southwest tonight (Friday May 18) and stay southwest or west-southwest through Saturday and Saturday night. So I expect there will be a lot of turnover -- the birds that have been here for several days may leave, but I expect there will be new ones coming in as well. Today I was still finding things like Tennessee Warbler and Veery scattered at small woodlots well inland, but I would guess that tomorrow the migrants may be
more concentrated close to the lake.
Discussing the state of migration in northwest Ohio, just last night I wrote that I didn't expect any south winds to bring in waves of migrants before next week. Well, around here, the weather predictions change as often as the weather, which is saying a lot. They're now calling for the winds to switch around to the southwest tonight (Friday May 18) and stay southwest or west-southwest through Saturday and Saturday night. So I expect there will be a lot of turnover -- the birds that have been here for several days may leave, but I expect there will be new ones coming in as well. Today I was still finding things like Tennessee Warbler and Veery scattered at small woodlots well inland, but I would guess that tomorrow the migrants may be more concentrated close to the lake.
Kudos to Ben Warner for finding a Connecticut Warbler in the woods at Ottawa NWR, and thanks for the thorough and helpful report on what was happening there and at Magee Marsh. I haven't been to Magee for the last two days, but based on what I've seen elsewhere, there are migrants all over in the Western Lake Erie Marsh region. Today (Thursday May 17), for example, I was at East Harbor State Park, just east of Port Clinton, and in just an hour on the trails south of the east beach I had 18 warbler species, including Cape May, Blackpoll, Tennessee, Canada, Ovenbird, and N Parula. Greg Links checked a woodlot inside Sandusky city limits and had 20 warbler species in a short visit. Yesterday, the 16th, Kim and I had Tennessee, Magnolia, and other warblers in small patches of trees near Medusa Marsh, and we found flocks of warblers (including Yellow-rumped, Palm, and Black-throated Green) just back in the woods at the Resthaven Wildlife Area, near Castalia. The main banding station of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, located about 5 miles east of Magee, has handled hundreds of migrants for the last three days. As of today, they're up to over 1,000 Magnolia Warblers for the spring!
We haven't had south winds to bring in new waves since Tuesday, and it doesn't appear that we'll have any more before next week, but the birds are here anyway. It may be that the recent heavy rains put them down where they were, so that any sizeable woodlot within miles of Lake Erie has a good concentration of birds. The point is that there are a LOT of migrants around, and you should get out tomorrow and this weekend if you get the chance -- don't wait for it to look like "perfect" migration weather.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
As predicted, there were strong winds from the southwest last night and this morning, and many new migrants were evident this morning (Tuesday May 15) in the vicinity of the boardwalk at Magee Marsh, n.w. Ohio. The influx was most obvious to those of us who started off the morning along the north edge of the woods, on the edge of the parking lot and access road, where the first sunlight was hitting the trees and where there was more shelter from the wind. Birders who arrived and immediately took the boardwalk straight into the woods were generally less impressed with today's numbers. But it seemed clear to me that at least some species were more abundant than yesterday.
Conspicuous among the birds moving on the outer edge in the morning were Blue Jays (50-plus, in flocks moving over), Cedar Waxwing (about 50), and Indigo Bunting (15). About the same warbler species were present today as yesterday, but there were distinct changes in relative abundance, with a lot more Blackpoll Warblers (I saw/heard 10 today, 1 yesterday), Tennessees (8 today, 1 yesterday), Black-throated Blues (18 today, 8 yesterday), and American Redstarts (40 today, 20 yesterday). Chestnut-sided (15), Magnolia (20), and Bay-breasted (12) were still common, but less so than they had been. I had at least 20 Red-eyed Vireos and 3 Philadelphia Vireos, but not a single Ruby-crowned Kinglet today. Those are just my personal numbers from four hours on the boardwalk and vicinity, to give a sense of relative abundance, not any attempt for a complete number. The strong wind made it hard to detect birds by sight or sound and I probably found fewer than I would have under calm conditions.
An interesting note on the differences between perceived and actual bird numbers. Kim was at the main banding site for the Black Swamp Bird Observatory early in the morning before coming to join me on the boardwalk in late morning, and she pointed out that on very windy days, the total catch at the banding station seems to be reduced. Evidently the wind makes it easier for birds to see and avoid the mist nets. Also, some of the birds that were evident at the boardwalk today, such as Blue Jays and Cedar Waxwings, are high fliers that don't wind up in the banders' nets very often. So, while the banding station totals are more standardized than counts taken from field observation, they're not immune to being skewed by outside forces. All the more evidence of the fact that it takes serious attention and thought to really detect what's going on with bird numbers.
This evening there were strong storms that came through the area after 7 p.m., with near-tornadic conditions in our little burg of Rocky Ridge, and the wind shifted abruptly to the northwest. It has since shifted back to the WSW, but I expect consistent northwest winds by morning, with cooler temperatures. I doubt that many birds left tonight, aside from those that were blown right off their perches and into the lake! Numbers should still be decent tomorrow but I plan to go look at water areas to see if any odd migrant waterbirds might have been put down by the storms.
Monday, May 14, 2007
In the area of Magee Marsh and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, northwest Ohio, on Sunday May 13, the status of migration was about as expected: numbers continued to drop gradually from the big influx last Tuesday and Wednesday, but variety continued to be very good, especially for warblers. On Sunday the east-northeast winds kept most of the birds low and inside the woods, and the crowds of birders on the Magee boardwalk were treated to eye-level views. It was great to see so many new birders there, many of them having their first real warbler encounters, enjoying a situation where they could see the birds well and get I.D. tips from more experienced birders. Indeed, I find the helpful atmosphere among the birders on the boardwalk to be almost as inspiring as the birds.
During the night Sunday night the wind shifted around to the southeast and then the south, and Monday May 14 brought a moderate number of new birds. It was actually more turnover than I had expected, given how late in the evening the wind shifted here. There was a fresh influx of thrushes and White-throated Sparrows, which had mostly cleared out before Sunday, and numbers of flycatchers picked up, with more Eastern Wood-Pewees and Least Flycatchers plus Willow and Acadian. Magnolia Warbler and American Redstart appeared to be the most numerous warblers on the boardwalk, but numbers of Canada Warblers definitely increased, and Mourning and Wilson's were around in numbers. I had the first Hooded Warbler and Philadelphia Vireo that I'd seen in a few days. Kim was at the main banding station of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory during the morning, about 5 miles east of Magee, and reported a fair influx of birds there also, with good numbers of flycatchers, thrushes, Magnolia Warblers, and others. Four Orange-crowned Warblers were banded today, a notable number any time and especially this late, since the Orange-crown tends to be an early migrant.
An interesting feature was an apparent arrival of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. Late in the day (after 6 p.m.) I saw or (mostly) heard more than a dozen Ruby-throats near the boardwalk and adjacent beach, in areas where I'd only had one earlier in the day. These are daytime migrants, and I assume these came in on today's south winds, stopping when they hit the barrier of Lake Erie.
Southwest winds are supposed to continue through tonight and tomorrow, shifting to west tomorrow night with some possible storms. My best guess is that there should be a lot of birds arriving overnight tonight, for good numbers Tuesday morning, and that the shift in the weather may then keep them around for a couple of days. The long-range forecast is always uncertain, but currently they're calling for south winds again Friday night.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
In the area of Magee Marsh, northwest Ohio, the status of migration on Friday and Saturday (5/11 and 5/12) was about as predicted, with numbers of songbird migrants continuing to diminish gradually from the peak last Wednesday, but with good variety continuing. On Saturday the winds were fairly strong (and chilly!) out of the north, so in the area of the Magee Marsh boardwalk, there were very few birds out on the north edge of the woods adjacent to the parking lot. That outer edge is often excellent birding, but it wasn't productive under Saturday's conditions. Instead, the birds were concentrated inside the woods and toward the southern edge, meaning they were visible mainly from the boardwalk itself. With the throngs of birders who had come out for Int'l Migratory Bird Day, the boardwalk itself was extremely crowded! But those who were patient enough to move along the boardwalk were treated to great views of various warblers foraging low and close. Magnolia and Chestnut-sided Warblers continued to be very numerous, with a fair number of Bay-breasted Warblers and a generous sprinkling of others. Despite unfavorable winds for migration the last couple of days, numbers of Mourning Warblers seem to be picking up, while most of the thrushes and White-throated Sparrows seemed to have departed for the moment.
The auto tour route at Ottawa NWR was open Saturday but I didn't get over there -- spent the whole day between the boardwalk and the BSBO nature center area. Ottawa is supposed to be open this Sunday also, 9 to 4. I heard that Black Tern, Sedge Wren, and Yellow-headed Blackbird were all seen on the refuge on Saturday, while just a little farther west at Metzger Marsh, up to seven Glossy Ibises continue to be seen.
Weather predictions now call for the winds to shift around to the south again from Sunday night through Monday night, so there may be another arrival of migrants on Monday and Tuesday mornings, but I would guess that it won't be as big as the flight last Tuesday and Wednesday. But of course the overall variety should remain fairly good from now through the end of May.
Friday, May 11, 2007
This is just a note about Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, the main unit of which lies immediately to the west of the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area / Crane Creek State Park complex in n.w. Ohio. The whole staff at Ottawa has been insanely busy recently, preparing for the grand opening of their new visitors' center this weekend. I don't know if anyone there will find time to post something official to the listserve, but I wanted to "unofficially" mention that the auto tour route at Ottawa NWR is supposed to be open this weekend, from 8 to 5 on Saturday and from 9 to 4 on Sunday. (This info is from the Ottawa NWR Association, a membership group that helps support the refuge; Kim and I are members, of course.)
As for birding at Ottawa, remember that it's not just about water birds. The woods near the beginning of the auto tour can be excellent for migrant songbirds -- birds are not as concentrated there as they are on the immediate lake shore but they may stay longer. In between "waves" of arriving migrants, I've sometimes had more birds there than at the Magee boardwalk. This week, on the walking trails through those woods at Ottawa, I've seen a wide variety of warblers, including Kentucky, Hooded, and Orange-crowned, plus all the brown thrushes and many other migrants.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
In the area of the boardwalk at Magee Marsh, plus nearby areas of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, the status of the migration today (Thursday May 10) was about as expected: numbers had dropped from yesterday's huge peak, but there was still excellent variety. I was mostly birding other areas this morning so I was only at the boardwalk itself for a little over an hour, but I saw or heard 23 warbler species there and heard solid reports of five others. There was some turnover evident, with fewer thrushes and White-throated Sparrows around but more Wilson's Warblers than yesterday; but otherwise the species composition seemed similar, with very large numbers of Magnolia and Chestnut-sided Warblers and somewhat fewer Bay-breasted Warblers, and a good sprinkling of other things. More Eastern Kingbirds and other flycatchers seemed to have come in, and I saw a number of Black-billed and Yellow-billed Cuckoos in the general area.
It appears that the winds will be light out of the northeast or north for the next few days so I don't expect another big influx of migrants soon. The numbers at the lakeshore migrant traps will probably drop off some more before the weekend. However, I hope this won't discourage anyone from coming out! The "leftovers" from this wave should linger, and should make for excellent variety and wonderful birding for the next several days.
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Earlier I posted some information about the state of migration at the boardwalk at Magee Marsh, Lucas Co., northwest Ohio, for today (Wednesday May 9). In that post I stated that numbers seemed higher than the previous day, but that I was waiting to hear results from the Black Swamp Bird Observatory' s main banding station, located on the Navarre Unit of the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Ottawa Co., about 5 miles east of Magee Marsh.
Results from the BSBO banding station suggest that numbers were indeed higher today at Navarre, and I suspect that mirrors what was happening at Magee. Yesterday, May 8, the station banded over 800 birds, a very large total for there. Today they banded over 1100, the second-highest single-day banding total in the Observatory's history! The species composition at Navarre seems to have been about the same as that at Magee, with 28 species of warblers. Magnolia Warbler was the most numerous at both places. My wife Kim spent the entire day just banding Magnolias -- of the 1100-plus birds banded, 391 were Magnolia Warblers! Kim reported that a very high percentage of these were second-year males, so the species must have had a successful breeding season in 2006. Very significant to me was the fact that the banding station had few recaptures of birds from the previous day, suggesting that there was a substantial amount of turnover, with a lot of birds leaving and even more arriving. That was my impression at the boardwalk at Magee as well, where today there appeared to be more Magnolia, Bay-breasted, and Chestnut-sided Warblers than the day before, but fewer Blackburnians and Cape Mays. Those are just impressions, though, and the banding operation gives a much clearer picture. For details from the banding station, visit Black Swamp Bird Observatory and go to Research Projects : Passerine Migration Monitoring : 2007 Navarre Marsh Spring Migration.
At the moment there is overcast and scattered light rain over northwest Ohio so I doubt that many birds will be migrating tonight, and there shouldn't be as much turnover between today and tomorrow. Winds are going to shift around to the north and northeast for the next few days. Numbers of individuals will probably drop somewhat on the immediate lake front, as birds from this "wave" disperse or move on, but variety should stay excellent through the weekend.
Yesterday (Tuesday 5/8), as I posted earlier, had been the biggest day of the spring, so far, for variety and numbers of migrants at the northwest Ohio migrant traps (Magee Marsh, Ottawa Natl Wildlife Refuge, and associated areas). With south winds continuing last night, the question was whether today would be slower, with a lot of the birds having moved out. Short answer: no, today is not slower. The boardwalk at Magee Marsh had just as much variety as yesterday, and it was my impression that today's numbers of individuals were slightly higher. At least 27 species of warblers had been reliably reported by midday. Magnolia Warbler was the most abundant, as it often is here in big May flights, but Bay-breasted and Chestnut-sided were also impressively numerous; in five hours (so far!) on the boardwalk and along the edges I estimated 300 Magnolias, 150 Bay-breasteds, and 120 Chestnut-sideds. Also common but in smaller numbers than the above were Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Black-throated Blue, Ovenbird, and Yellow Warbler, while Black-and-white, American Redstart, Nashville, Yellow-rumped (mostly females), and Palm Warblers were fairly common. Blackpoll Warblers and Northern Parulas seemed more numerous than yesterday, while Cape Mays were relatively scarce. Multiple Mourning and Canada Warblers were present and visible from the boardwalk, and at least one Kentucky Warbler was a crowd-pleaser.
Numbers of other migrants here seemed comparable to those of the day before. All five brown thrushes again were present, with Veery, Swainson's, and Gray-cheeked all in good numbers. Least Flycatchers were fairly common, I had at least two Willow Flycatchers, and might have heard one Acadian. Lincoln's Sparrows were fairly numerous along with the abundant White-throats in the understory.
Again, my sense that numbers were higher today was only an impression. It will be interesting to see how today's numbers compare to yesterday's at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory banding station. I heard from Kim earlier in the day that they were banding very large numbers of birds again today but I haven't heard final tallies.
Right now (early afternoon 5/9) there appears to be some thunderstorm activity to the northwest of us. The winds are supposed to shift to the west tonight and tomorrow, and then to the northwest Thursday night. Numbers of birds in the lake shore migrant traps may not be as high by the weekend but I suspect the weather will hold a lot of them in place, and variety should be excellent for International Migratory Bird Day this Saturday.
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
This is a mid-day progress report from migrant traps on the lake shore in n.w. Ohio: Magee Marsh boardwalk (Lucas Co.) and the main banding station of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO), located about 5 miles east of Magee on the Navarre Unit of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Ottawa County. As predicted, the south winds last night brought in a huge influx of migrants today, making this the biggest day of the spring so far. Small numbers and moderate variety had been on the boardwalk at Magee on Monday evening, May 7, but this morning there were great numbers and excellent variety. I was able to confirm 27 warbler species present on the boardwalk, and heard possible reports of three others; highlights included large numbers of Blackburnians, Magnolias, and Chestnut-sideds, an influx of Tennessees and Northern Parulas, a few of the classic late-spring migrants such as Blackpoll, Canada, and Wilson's Warblers, and some "southern" warblers such as small numbers of Hooded, Worm-eating, and Prothonotary. I just heard from Kim that the BSBO banding station at Navarre also banded 27 species of warblers today, with large numbers of Blackburnians, Magnolias, and Black-and-whites; notable warblers there included Orange-crowned, Prothonotary, Worm-eating, Mourning, Hooded, Wilson's, and Canada.
On the non-warbler front, the boardwalk had its first big influx of Red-eyed Vireos today, and in fact all six of our regularly occurring vireos were there, although I only heard of one Philadelphia and didn't see it myself (yet! -- I'm headed back out there). The banding station at Navarre also had one Philadelphia Vireo. Baltimore Orioles were very numerous at both sites, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Scarlet Tanagers were conspicuous at both, and Cedar Waxwings arrived at both sites also. Empidonax flycatchers had a major arrival, with BSBO banding lots of Leasts plus a few Willow/Alders and Acadians. All five brown thrushes were seen at both the boardwalk and the banding station, with Swainson's especially numerous.
At this time of year, obviously, the people who work on the BSBO banding operation are extremely busy, but eventually all the daily totals will be available on the BSBO website at www.bsbobird.org . This research project has been going on seven days a week, spring and fall, for the last 15 years, with a very consistent degree of effort, so it gives a very accurate reading of what is really happening with the migration. Kim tells me that the station banded over 800 birds today, making it one of their larger days ever and attesting to the magnitude of today's fallout.
The south winds are supposed to continue tonight. I don't know if tomorrow's numbers will be smaller (because so many birds will leave on the south winds) or bigger (because even more will arrive), but I suspect that diversity will be excellent at all the migrant traps in n.w. Ohio at least through Thursday.
Saturday, May 5, 2007
The winds haven't seemed to favor migration the last few days, but even so, there was obvious turnover in the migrants present today (Saturday May 5) at the Magee Marsh boardwalk (Lucas Co., n.w. Ohio). I was leading a group that was focused on warbler I.D. so we moved pretty slowly, concentrating on looking closely at individuals rather than trying to rack up a big list, and we spent most of our time near the west end of the boardwalk and inside the woods, out of the strong east-northeast winds. Warblers that hadn't been evident earlier in the week included Black-throated Blue (at least 4 males), Am. Redstart (at least 1 male), and Magnolia (at least 2 males, although I know one was reported a couple of days ago). There were at least 6 to 8 Ovenbirds around, suggesting that a wave of them had arrived (or maybe a micro-wave). Black-and-white Warblers seemed scarce compared to earlier in the week. Cape May Warblers are still present in good numbers (we saw at least 6), there are still a few Pine Warblers including a singing male, and male Black-throated Greens are still foraging near the boardwalk. The four most common warbler species today were Nashville, Yellow, Yellow-rumped, and Palm.
Numbers of Ruby-crowned Kinglets had dropped dramatically from earlier in the week (we saw dozens, but not hundreds), numbers of White-throated Sparrows were reduced, and thrushes were virtually absent. Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Baltimore Oriole are around in numbers (at least 10 of each). Stragglers well past the peak of their migration for here included a Brown Creeper and a few Rusty Blackbirds.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
This morning (Wednesday 5/2) I took a brief look at the boardwalk at Magee Marsh (Lucas Co., n.w. Ohio). The overall species composition was similar to what I had reported the previous day, and many of the notable individuals (such as Cape May, Blackburnian, and Bay-breasted Warbler males) seemed to be in the same places. The numbers of Yellow-rumped Warblers and Hermit Thrushes had dropped considerably from what had been there Tuesday, but Palm Warblers, Nashville Warblers, Black-and-white Warblers, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets were still present in about the same abundance as before. New for me today were Lincoln's Sparrow and Scarlet Tanager (but I know that at least Lincoln's Sparrow had been seen by others yesterday). Interesting to think that Yellow-rumped Warbler and Hermit Thrush might have migrated out in last night's conditions while many other species stayed put. The only noticeable increases for me were Pine Warbler (I saw four today and only one yesterday) and White-crowned Sparrow (big influx at the east end of the boardwalk, as well as to the south at the headquarters of Black Swamp Bird Observatory, just off Route 2). I couldn't relocate yesterday's Clay-colored Sparrow. Among diurnal migrants, a number of Sharp-shinned Hawks came by paralleling the beach, and there were some big flights of Blue Jays going over.
The Little Blue Heron adult was along the causeway through Magee Marsh again today, just north of the obvious big pump on the west side of the road.
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
The wind direction has changed so many times in the last couple of days, along with temperature fluctuations and passing storms, that it's hard to summarize what the weather's impact on migration might have been. But this afternoon (May 1) there were pleasing numbers and variety of migrants in the vicinity of the Magee Marsh boardwalk (Lucas Co., n.w. Ohio). I personally saw a dozen warbler species, and heard about one other being present. To give a rough idea of relative abundance of the warblers today, these are just my own personal numbers from three hours on the boardwalk: Nashville 20, Yellow 15 (but there were many more in areas where they breed south of the boardwalk and away from the lake), Cape May 3 males, Yellow-rumped 180, Black-throated Green 12, Blackburnian 1 male, Pine 1, Palm 50, Bay-breasted 1 or 2 males, Black-and-white 20, Northern Waterthrush 2, Common Yellowthroat 2 (plus more in the marsh south of the boardwalk). Again, these are just my own numbers to indicate relative abundance, not an attempt at the total numbers present, since I didn't even cover the whole boardwalk. Greg Miller and others also reported an Orange-crowned along the boardwalk, but I didn't see it myself. A Cerulean was present the preceding day.
Hermit Thrushes were common: I saw at least 30, along with 10 Veeries, 4 Swainson's Thrushes, and 2 Wood Thrushes. Ruby-crowned Kinglets were abundant -- I saw at least 170, often there were 5 or 6 visible at once, and the total numbers present in the area must have been staggering. White-throated Sparrows were numerous (80-plus), and one Fox Sparrow seemed a bit late. Other migrants seen included Baltimore Oriole 5, Rose-breasted Grosbeak 2, Great Crested Flycatcher 5, Least Flycatcher 2, and Whip-poor-will 1 (a roosting bird that had been pointed out to me and many others by the helpful birding community on the Magee boardwalk). The only rarity that I saw was at the end of the afternoon, about 5:15, just before the rain started: at the east end of the parking lot, near the east end of the boardwalk, a Clay-colored Sparrow was loosely associating with a lone White-crowned Sparrow.