Sunday, May 18, 2008

Migration update 5/18 and predictions for next week

The last couple of migrant waves came in about as predicted, with big-but-not-huge arrivals on May 14 and 17. Essentially all of the late-season migrants have appeared by now, with good numbers of Connecticut, Canada, Mourning, and Wilson’s Warblers, Gray-cheeked Thrush, both cuckoos, and Yellow-bellied, Alder, and Willow Flycatchers. Today, May 18, the birding was excellent in between showers. There were a couple of relatively cooperative Connecticut Warblers at the Magee boardwalk, with one in particular just inside the woods on the south side of the middle parking lot and another near 20B on the boardwalk itself. Mourning Warblers were seen at several spots including near no. 2 and near no. 31 (see our map of the boardwalk under hotspots and directions).

The weather predictions for the next week show a continued (and unusual) predominance of northerly winds. Migrants will continue to move into (and out of) the area, because this late in the season they just have to get north even if it isn’t easy for them, so I expect there will continue to be very good variety of birds in most of the lakeshore spots for the next week. Tiny woodlots on the edge of the lake, like the one at Metzger, may not hold birds very long, especially on windy days; but the larger woods, such as at Ottawa Natl Wildlife Refuge, Magee Marsh, Maumee Bay State Park, and East Harbor State Park, should have good variety of birds throughout the next few days. In these periods between big waves of arrivals, most migrant species are concentrated in mixed flocks, so you might walk for several minutes without finding anything at all before you run across a flock with half a dozen warbler species and others. (Note, however, that the highly sought-after Connecticut Warbler is not as sociable as most warblers in migration, and you might find it quietly walking on the forest floor in an area away from all other warbler flocks.)

Based on long-range weather forecasts, the next really big arrival of migrants COULD be next Monday and Tuesday, May 26 & 27. However, obviously, weather predictions are very uncertain that far ahead, so migrant predictions are more so! It’s possible that the fronts will move faster than predicted, so that the wave could arrive on Saturday or Sunday, May 24 – 25. Even without the wave, if weekends are your best time to get out birding, this coming weekend is probably the best time to look for Connecticut Warbler, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, and Alder Flycatcher, as well as a variety of other species in the migrant traps along the lakeshore.

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