Friday, May 9, 2008

IMBD weekend, May 10 & 11

The way the weather predictions are looking now, we won’t have another big arrival of birds before or during the big weekend of International Migratory Bird Day (May 10 -11). But there shouldn’t be birds leaving before then, either, and there are a lot of species and individuals around right now. Almost all the migrant species have appeared. So this general area (Magee Marsh / Ottawa Natl Wildlife Refuge and nearby spots) currently holds most of the vireos and thrushes, about 30 species of warblers, and a wide variety of other migrants.

The winds have shifted around to northerly and they’re supposed to be some variation on north for the next few days. In these conditions you can still see a lot of birds but it will require a different strategy from what works when south winds bring in a big fallout. On a fallout day you can pick your spot close to the lake (like the Magee Boardwalk or the woodlot at Metzger) and just watch the parade go by. With these northerly winds, some of the birds in the area will move back away from the lakeshore, so to see a big variety you’ll need to visit more spots. Here are some suggestions (directions / maps for most of these can be found on the BSBO birding pages):

1. The woodlots at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge offer good shelter and often hold migrants for days. From the refuge entrance, if you go straight north to the old parking lot, the woods west and southwest of that lot are excellent. The auto tour at the refuge will be open both Saturday and Sunday and this is a great opportunity to look at superb habitat for marsh birds and waterbirds. If you haven’t seen the new (in 2007) visitors’ center, be sure to stop in.

2. The woods at the Magee Walking Trail (at the Sportsmen’s Migratory Bird Center) often have a lot of birds even on days when the Magee Boardwalk is relatively quiet because of north winds. The Gallagher Trail behind the BSBO nature center is also worth checking.

3. The woods at Maumee Bay State Park (boardwalk and trail behind the nature center) don’t seem to get huge fallouts of migrants but there are always some migrants there, and on non-fallout days they can be better than some of the famous migrant traps.

4. East Harbor State Park (just northeast of Port Clinton) is overlooked as a migrant trap but it is often excellent, and the woods there are extensive enough to hold birds for days. This can be very good for warblers and thrushes. One of my favorite areas is along the wooded trails south of the East Beach, and the beach and adjacent bay often have some interesting gulls, terns, or ducks.

5. If it rains, you can always go check flooded fields for shorebirds. But DO NOT PARK ON THE SHOULDER OF ROUTE 2 unless you are POSITIVE that you’re in a legal spot. Seriously, people are being ticketed for parking in unsafe places. Better to find a place on a side road, and even there, you need to be completely off the road. Recently there have been shorebirds on the south side of Route 2 just west of Russell Road (near the Wild Wings store and marina) but if you stop there, you’d best park down on Russell and walk back. The water in Metzger Marsh is still too high for most shorebirds, but it’s worth going out and looking at the beach for turnstones or others (and there are still diving ducks offshore there). Benton-Carroll Road south of Route 2 has been quiet recently, but Krause and Stange Roads (see directions on our birding pages) have been productive. The observation deck on Stange just south of Krause has yielded sightings of Wilson’s Phalarope and other shorebirds (you’ll need a scope here – or look near the southwest end of the Ottawa Refuge auto tour) and Yellow-headed Blackbirds are still being seen on Krause.

If you’re visiting from out of the area, we hope you’ll have a great time here. Please pick up one of our local bird checklists (or download a copy from our website) and if you see something that’s listed as "rare" or "very rare," please let someone know about it. At the BSBO nature center, the Sportsmen’s Migratory Bird Center, the Ottawa Natl Wildlife Refuge visitors’ center, and the Maumee Bay State Park nature center, you’ll find people who are keenly interested in birds and eager to give and receive information about sightings.

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