Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Magee Marsh area, April 20-21

Despite the continued southerly air flow, around the Magee boardwalk and nearby areas the diversity of migrants dropped off with the cooler temperatures this weekend. Today (Monday April 21) the wind was light out of the east-northeast and it’s going to be more or less easterly tonight, gradually shifting around to south-southeast by Tuesday night. We may get an influx of migrants during the night Tuesday night if they can get here before the wind shifts again to northerly with rain, as it's possibly going to do on Wednesday morning.

Of course, there are still plenty of birds to look at. I sometimes get impatient for the arrival of the explosive full-on excitement of May migration and I have to remind myself to enjoy this time of anticipation. There aren’t many species of warblers yet but there aren’t many leaves, either, so it’s easy to see what’s around. At other times of year, like late fall, we may get used to having hordes of drab Yellow-rumped Warblers around, but right now is a good time to appreciate just how gorgeous the adult male of this species can be in full breeding plumage. It’s a good time for studying Palm Warblers and for listening to the freaky little song of Ruby-crowned Kinglets.

At Magee yesterday and today (4/20, 4/21) I was impressed with the differences between the boardwalk area and the east beach (wildlife beach) thickets. Around the boardwalk, most of the activity was near the west end: mostly Yellow-rumped Warblers, a few Palms, 2 Pines, 1 Yellow, 1 Nashville, 1 Orange-crowned on 4/21, a pair of Prothonotaries and a Black-and-white on 4/20. The area also has lots of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a few Golden-crowneds still, and a few Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. By 4/21 there had been a considerable arrival of House Wrens, starting to outnumber the Winter Wrens. On the wildlife beach I saw no warblers in a brief afternoon visit on 4/21 but I saw 2 Fox Sparrows, 4 Am. Tree Sparrows, and 3 Eastern Towhees, and the sparrows at least seem to be gone from the boardwalk by now. (The wildlife beach seems to be a good place to find "late" birds; for example, I’ve seen Palm Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets there in mid to late May when they had pretty much disappeared from the boardwalk.)

Swamp Sparrows are singing in the marsh along the causeway although they don’t seem to be up to full numbers yet. In the meantime, a big arrival of migrants is under way, with the birds stopping over in many kinds of dense thickets and wet woods, not just in marshes, often loosely associated with White-throated Sparrows.

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