Thursday, May 29, 2008

Migrants May 29 and next weekend

By now the spring migration is winding down, of course, but there were still good numbers of migrants today on the Magee boardwalk and on the Wildlife Beach area to the east. Wilson's Warbler was the most conspicuous migrant, with Canada and Blackpoll Warblers, American Redstart, and Swainson's Thrush also present in some numbers. For birders with a serious interest in field identification, this is an excellent time of year to study flycatchers, especially the challenging Empidonax flycatchers. I actually saw all five species of eastern Empidonax in a couple of hours today. Alder Flycatcher was the most numerous. It can't be separated visually from Willow Flycatcher, and only a few of today's birds were singing, but the callnotes are also diagnostic: Alder's odd, flat kep note sounds notably different from the sharp fwhit! of Willow Flycatcher. (One way to think of it is that the accent in Alder's callnote is at the beginning, while Willow's is accented at the end.) There were also fair numbers of Yellow-bellied and Willow Flycatchers, a few Leasts, and I was a little surprised to find an Acadian in an area of the Wildlife Beach where the habitat is fairly open. Willow Flycatchers are common breeding birds in the general area of Magee Marsh so they'll be around for the summer.

Winds have been light and variable today but they're supposed to be southerly tonight and Friday. Some of today's birds will probably move out, but I expect that the weekend will still be good for studying flycatchers (and come Sunday, it's always interesting to see how many migrants we can find on June 1st). For anyone who is in the area on Saturday, remember that we'll have a public bird-banding demonstration at the BSBO nature center from 10 to 11:30.

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