Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Magee boardwalk April 30 and coming days

The area of Magee Marsh had unsettled (and cold!) weather this week, which did not seem to produce any big arrivals of birds. But not many departed, either. On the boardwalk at Magee Marsh many of the same birds from Sunday and Monday were still there today, Wednesday, April 30, creating a satisfying amount of action for the birders who were there. At least 16 species of warblers were seen on the boardwalk today, with some of the notables being at least two Worm-eating Warblers (between numbers 5 and 10 on the boardwalk -- Hugh Rose reports that the birds were singing and easily seen during the morning), Yellow-breasted Chat (near number 30), a very cooperative Hooded Warbler (around no. 5), two active singing N. Parulas (no. 3 to 7), and a male Pine Warbler (no. 21). White-throated Sparrows and Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers were still abundant, Swamp Sparrow numbers were increasing, and a couple of White-eyed Vireos were singing and foraging conspicuously near numbers 4-8 on the boardwalk. Some individual Swainson's and Wood Thrushes and Veeries appear to have been in exactly the same spots since Sunday.

Tonight (Wednesday night) the winds locally are mostly from the east, but the larger weather maps show that there is a major air flow out of the south coming from far to the south of us and into this general area. This overall flow looks like it will continue through Friday at least. I'm predicting that a lot of birds will be riding this system and will move into the general area of northwest Ohio over the next few days, but it's hard to say whether the biggest migration day will be Thursday, Friday, or Saturday (May 1, 2, or 3). They might all be good days. A lot will depend on what happens with local rain and where the migrants get put down by inclement weather. Scattered showers are predicted for Friday and Saturday but I don't think they'll prevent the migrants from getting here.

If you're in the area on Saturday, don't forget that there will be a free bird-banding demonstration at the BSBO nature center (just north of Rt. 2 at the entrance to Crane Creek / Magee Marsh) starting at 10 a.m. and running until 11:30. And the BSBO hotdog stand and snack bar will be open during the middle of the day, in case you need to pause and refuel during your own migration!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Magee Marsh April 28

As predicted, Saturday (April 26 -- Audubon's birthday) was the best migration day of the spring so far in the Magee area. Numbers and variety were both excellent, with more than 20 species of warblers present, including southern "overflight" species like Worm-eating and Prairie and some that typically come later, such as multiple Blackpoll Warblers. Most of the vireos and thrushes were recorded, with a lot of Veeries and Swainson's Thrushes. Gray Catbirds and Yellow Warblers arrived in force, and White-throated Sparrows and Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers were again abundant.

As usual after this kind of big influx, the birding continued to be quite good on following days, with the numbers and variety falling off gradually. There were still a lot of birds on Sunday and good numbers today, Monday 4/28.

Today I didn't go to the Magee boardwalk until late afternoon and it certainly seemed that the birding was getting better later in the evening, perhaps because of birds filtering in from other areas. After 7 p.m. there was a huge amount of activity near the west end of the boardwalk, even though it was cold and threatening to rain. At one point I had a dozen Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, 30-odd warblers (Palm and Yellow-rumped), and at least 25 White-throated Sparrows around me, I was watching a Hooded Warbler and a Black-and-white Warbler while a Northern Parula and an Orchard Oriole were singing overhead, and I looked up to see an Osprey flying over carrying a fish. Lots of action! Of course the boardwalk is wonderful early in the morning, but it's worth remembering that it can also be very productive late in the day if that's the only time you can get there.

For some of today's birds that are likely to be around tomorrow as well -- the area near number 16 on the boardwalk had a lot of activity, including several Northern Waterthrushes. There are still a couple of Rusty Blackbirds near number 14 and a Winter Wren near number 4. Hooded Warbler and Blackpoll Warbler are being conspicuous between numbers 7 and 16. At least 3 Swainson's Thrushes were out working the north edge (beach side) of the west parking lot.

Tonight and Tuesday (4/29) are supposed to be fairly cold, with northerly winds and with rain tonight. The migrants that are currently in the area probably won't leave tonight, and on the basis of current weather predictions, I don't expect many to arrive before Thursday. We may get lucky again with the conditions setting things up for excellent birding again next weekend. But in the meantime there are enough birds around that it's worth getting out to any of the lakeshore migrant traps or any wooded areas if you get the chance during the week.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Weekend of April 26-27

Weather conditions seemed all wrong Thursday night (4/24), with winds mainly out of the east, but still there was a substantial arrival of migrants in the area overnight and a lot of birds around on Friday 4/25. Among the highlights reported were a Prairie Warbler at the woodlot at Metzger Marsh (Rick Nirschl and others) and a Worm-eating Warbler at the Magee boardwalk (observer?), plus more than a dozen other warbler species. There was also a good flight of Broad-winged Hawks during the day.

It looks like this weekend, April 26 and 27, should be excellent. There is still a strong wind flow out of the south but there is a weather front moving this way from the west; it appears the front will get here around dawn on Saturday, with rain and cooler temperatures, so any migrants that have gotten this far should be put down and should stay around.

Kim and I won't be there -- we're going over to the North Coast Nature Festival at Rocky River Reservation, put on by Cleveland Metroparks. (And the birding will be good there, too, of course!) If anyone is coming to Magee and wants some help finding birds, there's a guided birdwalk on Saturday morning put on by the Friends of Magee Marsh (meet at the west end of the boardwalk at 8:30) and one on Sunday sponsored by BSBO (meet at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory center at 8:00). These are free events. If you're birding the area on your own, don't forget that we have maps available for the Magee general area, for the boardwalk, and for Metzger Marsh, all of which can be downloaded if you follow the links to the right for Birding Hotspots.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Magee migrants April 24 and next weekend

After Wednesday's big arrival of migrants, today (Thursday 4/24) was a lot quieter on the boardwalk. Many of the White-throated Sparrows and Hermit Thrushes seem to have departed overnight. There were still decent numbers of Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers, lots of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and a scattering of other warblers like Pine, Nashville, and Black-throated Green Warblers, but it was definitely slower than the day before. The migrants may be spread out over areas south of the lakeshore; Kim K. found a Gray Catbird 8 miles south of the lake this morning, which isn't exceptionally early, but I hadn't seen any at the boardwalk yet this spring.

Local summer resident birds are continuing to build up in numbers. Yellow Warblers are becoming common along the road in to Magee Marsh, singing from all the willow thickets, even though there still aren't many migrant Yellows showing up in the lakeshore migrant traps themselves. On a day like today when the boardwalk isn't overly productive, it's worthwhile to go check out areas a little away from the lake, like the woodlots at Ottawa Natl Wildlife Refuge, or the Gallagher Trail or the Magee Walking Trail (to see the map for the Magee area, follow our link for birding hotspots).

Weather looks like it will be unsettled over the next few days. If the predictions hold, the wind will be some variation on easterly through tonight, shifting around to the south on Friday April 25. There may be strong south to southwest winds Friday night, possibly shifting around to west on Saturday and bringing thunderstorm activity. If the birds can dodge the storms, the next big arrival may be this Saturday, April 26.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Magee boardwalk active 4/23

Although the weather this morning didn't match the predictions, conditions overnight apparently were right and there was a big arrival of birds at the Magee boardwalk this morning. Big numbers of White-throated Sparrows, Palm Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Hermit Thrushes evidently arrived overnight, with a handful of other expected early migrants like Black-throated Green, Yellow, Black-and-white, and Nashville Warblers. More surprising was a scattering of individuals of species expected later in the spring. I found a Least Flycatcher near the west end of the boardwalk (ranging around numbers 4-5), a female Scarlet Tanager was working the area between numbers 8 and 16, and Rick Nirschl found a Great Crested Flycatcher and a Red-eyed Vireo farther east along the boardwalk. Birds seemed to be arriving in the area as the morning went on, so I expect there will be more species by later in the day.

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.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Magee and Metzger, April 17-18

The last several days have featured warm temperatures and winds with a strong southerly component, and a lot of migrants have been riding that train north into our area, with large numbers of arrivals the last three days. At least 14 species of warblers were reliably reported from the Magee boardwalk on April 17 - 18. The most surprising was probably the very early American Redstart found by Rick Nirschl. Others were all species expected in the early part of the migration, including multiple singing N. Parulas, Black-throated Greens, Pines, and Nashvilles, and scores of Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warblers. "Overshooting" southern warblers were represented by Hooded and Prothonotary (although the latter could have been a local breeder) and a Louisiana Waterthrush, found in the same area as a Northern Waterthrush near the west end of the boardwalk. The diversity of warblers present is quite good for this early date, undoubtedly just reflecting the very favorable flight conditions of the last few days and nights; as recently as a couple of weeks ago, the migration seemed to be behind schedule.
Other migrants present at Magee included very large numbers of Hermit Thrushes (I probably saw 60+ in a few hours on 4/18) and increasing numbers of White-throated Sparrows. Ruby-crowned Kinglets now far outnumber Golden-crowned. On 4/18 I saw one Blue-headed Vireo, two House Wrens, at least 10 Winter Wrens, and at least 20 Rusty Blackbirds. A push of Field Sparrows came in this week but by 4/18 I could find only one American Tree Sparrow where there had been many a few days earlier.

At both Magee Marsh and Metzger Marsh I heard Soras, Virginia Rails, and singing Swamp Sparrows. The water in Metzger is still very high, with no shorebird habitat evident yet, but on 4/17 I saw 16 species of ducks there.

Some fields on Krause and Stange Roads (between Magee and Metzger) have been burned recently, and these would be worth watching for American Golden-Plovers over the next couple of weeks. On 4/17 I saw a male Yellow-headed Blackbird with a mixed blackbird flock in a corn stubble field on Krause Road.

The forecast calls for cooler temperatures this weekend and a good chance of rain, but the southerly wind flow looks likely to continue for a few more days. There is turnover every day now, so the individuals present at migrant traps on the lakeshore will probably change, but I expect the diversity to continue to be good (for this early in the season) throughout the weekend.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Magee Marsh, April 14

Kim and I just got back from 11 days out of town. Of course I headed out to Magee for spring migrants, and of course I was not disappointed.

The marsh along the causeway still has numbers of ducks, especially Gadwall, Blue-winged Teal, and Ring-necked Duck, while Lake Erie off the Crane Creek beach hosted hundreds of Ruddy Ducks (many coming into breeding plumage), Greater and Lesser Scaup, and Bonaparte’s Gulls. Along the Magee boardwalk and on the Magee walking trail (see my map at for clarification) I saw most of the expected mid-April migrants: flickers, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Hermit Thrushes, both kinglet species, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Winter Wren, Fox Sparrow. Myrtle (Yellow-rumped) Warblers are now very common, and on this early date most are adult males molting into beautiful plumage; I also saw one Palm Warbler and two beautiful male Pine Warblers. I talked to birders who reported having seen Ovenbird and Black-throated Green Warbler, so a few other early warblers are trickling in. American Tree Sparrows have disappeared from areas a few miles farther south where they wintered, but there were groups of apparent migrants near the lakeshore. White-throated Sparrows are picking up but they’re nowhere near peak numbers yet; birders farther south in Ohio may consider this mostly a "winter" bird, but here it is most common as a migrant, and it can be abundant in early May. Apparently there are no longer hundreds of Rusty Blackbirds around as there were two weeks ago, but there are still dozens.

Local weather predictions call for SW winds on Tuesday April 15, continuing through the night and into Wednesday. There should be some kind of hawk movement during the day both days, and an influx of new songbird migrants, especially on Wednesday.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Big weekend coming

We're actually out of state right now (in Texas) but I've been watching the reports and the weather in Ohio, and it appears that this coming weekend (April 12-13) should offer great birding along the lakeshore in northwest Ohio. Friday April 11 should bring a relative heat wave, more rain, and south winds, with cooler temps Saturday but still winds from the southwest. Places like the boardwalk and trails at Magee Marsh should continue to have big numbers of Yellow-rumped Warblers, Hermit Thrushes, and both kinglet species, and observers who watch closely for the more elusive birds should have good views of Winter Wren, Fox Sparrow, and Rusty Blackbird. (At Magee, the favored habitat for Winter Wren is under the boardwalk -- watch for these little gnomes zipping in for shelter ahead of you.) Louisiana Waterthrush continues to be a good possibility this weekend. I also halfway expect something really odd to show up -- some very early individual or some out-of-the-way stray that wouldn't normally be this far north. With big numbers of ducks still around and with new arrivals possible every day, this is a great time to be out. Those attending WingWatch in Huron this weekend should have a good time in the field as well as in the indoor sessions.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Delayed Migration -- catch-up time

As recently as four days ago (March 31), the migration appeared to be seriously behind normal schedule in our area, with many of the typical early spring arrivals either absent or in low numbers. This week the weather and wind direction have changed multiple times, but there has been enough of a strong southerly wind flow (and warm temperatures) to help bring in a lot of birds and help us catch up to a considerable degree.

The last few days, from what I saw and heard about, brought in numbers of Fox Sparrows and Hermit Thrushes and a smattering of others like Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Brown Thrasher, and Golden-crowned Kinglet. A Louisiana Waterthrush was reported, apparently in the woods near the Sportsmen's Migratory Bird Center on the road in to Crane Creek / Magee Marsh.

This weekend (April 4-6) ought to be excellent for enjoying good numbers of early migrants. The forecast now calls for SW winds on Saturday, SE winds Saturday night, and ESE winds Sunday. If that prediction holds, there should be a decent hawk flight on Saturday and the number of land bird migrants present should be good on Saturday, better on Sunday. This is still a good time to see lots of Rusty Blackbirds and there are still a lot of waterfowl in area marshes like Magee and Metzger.

This early in the spring, temperatures along the immediate lakeshore may be colder than they are just half a mile inland. If you check woodlots on the shoreline and don't find good numbers of migrants there, try going to the next woods southward. On the Crane Creek / Magee road, for example, the woods along the boardwalk might not have as many birds as the woods along the walking trail near the Sportsmen's Center. That pattern will change from day to day and it will be reversed in a few weeks, but it's a possibility to keep in mind for now.

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