Friday, May 29, 2009

Migration update 5/29

Today (Friday May 29) I spent most of the day at my desk -- toward the end of May Madness, here in Migration Wonderland in n.w. Ohio, I’m so far behind on work that it’s ridiculous -- but I did get out for a couple of hours to see what was happening with the migration. In just a couple of hours at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, split between the wildlife beach and the eastern part of the boardwalk, I saw plenty of typical late-season migrants that don’t nest in this immediate area. Highlights were 2 Alder Flycatchers, 1 Philadelphia Vireo, at least 8 Swainson’s Thrushes (including 4 singing), 1 Tennessee Warbler, 4 Magnolia Warblers, 1 Black-throated Blue Warbler, 2 Black-throated Green Warblers (including a singing male), 10 American Redstarts (all females and young males), 1 Ovenbird, 2 Mourning Warblers, 3 Wilson’s Warblers, and 4 Canada Warblers (including 2 singing males). The local nesting warblers (Prothonotary, Yellow, Com Yellowthroat) put on a good show also. I didn’t go to the west end of the boardwalk so I don’t know what was seen there, but I know that at least one Connecticut Warbler was at the BSBO banding station east of Magee Marsh.

Looking at the weather tonight, I don't expect a big push of migrants to come in for the weekend. Winds are likely to be west or northwest for most of the night. Saturday's selection of birds will likely be similar to what was around today. Of course everyone is hoping that a cooperative Connecticut Warbler will be found along the boardwalk at Magee. There are certainly some in the general area; the trick is to find one that's actually viewable.

Tomorrow (Saturday May 30) there will be a public bird-banding demonstration at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, just north of Rt. 2 at the entrance to Magee Marsh, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. No guarantees on what birds might be around, but at this late date in May there’s a good chance that a few tricky Empidonax flycatchers might show up to be examined.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Multiple Connecticut Warblers 5/27

Phil Chaon tells me that the main BSBO banding station (on the Navarre Unit of Ottawa NWR, just east of Magee Marsh) had five Connecticut Warblers this morning, Wednesday May 27. In addition, Rick Nirchl saw two at the Magee boardwalk this morning (or one, twice, at separate locations). This obviously means there are some around today, despite all the rugged weather that prevailed to the south of us last night. Weather looks dicey for the rest of this afternoon and tonight, and I'm guessing that some of these birds will be around tomorrow as well, when viewing conditions may be a little drier. Thursday morning's weather is supposed to be heavily overcast, but probably not raining at first.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Migration forecast May 26-29

Last year, on May 26, 2008, I saw two Connecticut Warblers and ten Mourning Warblers along the boardwalk at Magee, plus many other warbler species, Philadelphia Vireo, Black-billed Cuckoo, etc., for a fine birding experience. Last year on May 29 I saw all five species of eastern Empidonax flycatchers, good numbers of Wilson’s, Canada, and Blackpoll Warblers, and various other migrants. I duplicated that mix the previous year on May 28, 2007, with four Gray-cheeked Thrushes for good measure. So based on past experience, I certainly don’t consider the migration to be "over" as early as today, May 25th.

For the last few days, though, the birding has been slow (by local standards) in the Magee / Ottawa area. There are still more than a dozen warbler species being seen each day, decent numbers of Swainson’s Thrushes, lots of Red-eyed Vireos and the occasional Philadelphia, etc., and this would seem like a lot of migrants in the interior of the state, but for this area it’s slow compared to the typical spring day. And looking ahead at the weather forecasts, it’s hard to say when things will change. Tuesday the 26th looks like it will have a lot of rain. There should be an air flow from the south on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, but there may be a lot of rain to the south of us, discouraging any migrants that remain in that area from moving. If the weather south of us is not as wet as predicted, we could have a decent arrival of birds on Wednesday May 27 or especially Thursday May 28, but at the moment I don’t expect those to be very big days. Winds out of the north, predicted for Thursday night, would keep things in place here, so if Thursday turns out to be a good morning then those birds would stick around for a while.

Beyond Thursday the weather predictions become even more vague. I could see a possible scenario where Sunday May 31 and especially Monday June 1 could have a very good push of migrants. The first few days of June are well within the normal migration period for the majority of our spring transients, so there’s nothing far-fetched about such an idea. But the weather forecast is likely to change, so I’m not making any strong predictions for the moment.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Updated weekend forecast: May 23-24

Last night (Thursday night, May 21), as predicted, the wind was out of the southwest until about dawn on Friday and then abruptly swung around to the northeast. Friday was much cooler than the couple of preceding days in birding sites along the Lake Erie shore.

In the woods of the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, there were good numbers of birds Friday but they were mostly not easy to see. Blackpoll Warblers, Magnolia Warblers, Red-eyed Vireos, and Swainson’s Thrushes were numerous. Young male American Redstarts (like females, but more orange-tinged and with spots of black on the face, and singing) seemed to be everywhere. Various other species were scattered through the woods, including Canada, Wilson’s, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Black-and-white, and Yellow Warblers, Scarlet Tanager, Black-billed Cuckoo, and White-crowned Sparrow. I had all five of the expected species of Empidonax, including an Alder Flycatcher singing persistently near no. 19 on the boardwalk in the afternoon and a single Acadian near no. 12. Most surprising was a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker near the west end of the boardwalk (around no. 3), an exceptionally late migrant here, the first one I’d seen since April. You never know what odd thing is going to turn up at Magee!

The wind is supposed to continue more or less out of the northeast for the next two nights and days, perhaps veering more to the east at times. It’s hard to predict what this will do to the migration. Numbers of birds seemed a bit higher at Magee on Friday than on Thursday. It may be that birds moving gradually north will pause longer at Magee and other lakeshore sites if there are unfavorable winds at night, so the numbers of migrants here may build up over the weekend. We have arrived at prime dates for Connecticut Warbler but so far we haven’t had a cooperative and viewable individual for everyone to enjoy, and we hope that one will turn up this weekend.

A couple of tantalizing birds have been briefly present the last couple of days. Rick Nirschl had a Kirtland’s Warbler singing along the Magee boardwalk (near no. 14) early Thursday morning; it moved off and as far as I know it hasn’t been found since, but might still be in the general area. Iain Campbell found a Ruff on Friday morning at Ottawa NWR, on Pool 2a (see our map of the refuge walking trails); he was able to show it to a group, but birders who looked for it at midday and early afternoon couldn’t find it. This is likely the same bird found Tuesday in a closed area of the refuge, so it may be shifting around, and undoubtedly some birders will check Pool 2a for it again over the weekend.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Weekend Migration Forecast: May 22-24

The last few days (Tuesday - Thursday, May 19 - 21) have been hard to interpret in terms of the migrants that we’re seeing on the ground. Bird numbers seemed lower than I had expected on Wednesday and Thursday. During the preceding two nights there had been favorable winds from the south, and the radar picture late at night had shown large numbers of birds on the move from well to the south of us, but the numbers of migrants along the Lake Erie shoreline -- particularly in the woods at the Magee boardwalk -- have seemed low.

I talked to Mark Shieldcastle (Research Director for BSBO), who has been looking at weather and migration in this area essentially every day in spring for the last 30 years, and asked for his perspective. Mark felt that we were seeing a migration on a very broad front, the birds filtering north, not forming large concentrations anywhere. He also pointed out that there have been large hatches of midges recently in the marsh region, so the birds can feed heavily without having to move very far, and since the woods and thickets are now fully leafed out, the birds are less conspicuous. The diversity in the area is still excellent -- the BSBO banding operation has had more than 20 species of warblers every day this week, with goodies like Connecticut, Mourning, Orange-crowned, and Hooded -- but birders are having to work a little harder now to find these birds.

(Incidentally, as I’ve mentioned before, you can find fascinating info by checking the BSBO website for the latest data from the banding station, and for Julie Shieldcastle’s “Bander’s Blog.”)

I was out checking various spots today (Thursday May 21) and found relatively few birds near the west end of the Magee boardwalk, probably at least partly because of strong winds from the west-southwest. On the Wildlife Beach I found a lot of warblers (mostly Am Redstarts, Wilson’s, and Blackpolls), but mostly just east of the dike at the west end, where the thickets are more protected from the wind. I had a much higher density of migrants in the woods at Ottawa NWR in a brief check there. Again I was concentrating on areas sheltered from the wind, on the north and east sides of the wooded areas (see our map of the walking trails at Ottawa for a better idea of how the woodlots are arranged).

Tonight (Thursday night) the winds are supposed to continue more or less from the southwest all night, but right around dawn, a cool front is supposed to pass through and shift the winds abruptly so they’ll be coming from the northwest. If the timing of this is just right, it could make for a better concentration of birds in the migrant traps along the lakeshore. I think the best bet on Friday morning will be to check the standard lakeshore areas (like the Magee boardwalk area, Metzger, etc.), and then if there aren’t a great number of birds there, go to check areas of woods just to the south. The wooded areas at Ottawa NWR are excellent on some “off” days for the boardwalk. Along the Ottawa trails there are a lot of areas that look perfect for Connecticut Warbler. I’m sure there have been a few in there this week; it’s just a matter of finding them.

Sedge Wren, Wood Thrushes

A couple of brief notes. Tom Johnson, ace birder from Ithaca, NY, found a Sedge Wren singing along the Magee Marsh causeway on Wednesday May 20. I heard the bird sing a few times on the morning of May 21. The location was about 100 yards north of the first pulloff on the causeway as you start north from the woods toward the beach. Sedge Wrens in May are often just lone migrants passing through, but it would be worth checking to see if this bird sticks around.

There have been a few Snowy Egrets seen consistently along the Magee causeway also. These birds nest on West Sister Island out in the lake and come to the mainland to feed. The Magee causeway is one of the best and easiest places in the state to see this species.

There will be migrant Swainson's and Gray-cheeked Thrushes around for another week or more, and a few Swainson's through the first week of June, but Wood Thrushes have mostly passed through the migrant traps -- they're not being seen now in the woods at the Magee boardwalk, for example. A good place to see Wood Thrushes now is along the trails at Ottawa NWR. See our map of the refuge trails (through "hotspots: directions and maps" on the BSBO birding pages). If you take the boardwalk behind the visitors' center, and then go east on the dirt trail from the northeast corner of the boardwalk, you'll soon pass through territories of a couple of pairs of Wood Thrushes that apparently will be nesting here. This area can be great for seeing migrant thrushes, vireos, warblers, and others as well.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Strong overnight movement May 19-20

Just in case anyone is reading at this hour -- at a little after midnight Tuesday night, May 19 (or 12:15 a.m. on Wednesday, May 20) the radar picture appears to show a huge amount of bird movement in the Midwest. There has been some obvious departure from northern Ohio with birds heading north across Lake Erie, but there is also a much larger movement of birds well to the south of us, in southern and southwestern Ohio and central Kentucky, of birds headed this direction. I'm guessing that the timing is such that large numbers will be reaching the latitude of the lake around dawn. We don't have any rain or other weather predicted that would put them down so I don't think areas away from the lake will see big concentrations, but there should be at least a few new migrants virtually everywhere. In the migrant traps right along the Lake Erie shoreline there should be very obvious turnover and a lot of new birds on Wednesday morning. A good day to check out any habitat that you have close at hand.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Migration Forecast May 19 - 21

Yesterday morning (Sunday May 17), with much cooler temperatures and winds out of the north, migrants were still present in good variety and fair numbers at the migrant traps along the Lake Erie shoreline. Of course, with the wind shift, they were not quite as concentrated along the north edge of the woods as they had been on Saturday, so they weren’t quite as convenient for photography along the edge of the parking lot at Magee Marsh. But there was plenty of variety to be found inside the woods.

Sunday’s highlight was the Kirtland’s Warbler found by Andy Johnson and then relocated twice by guides from Tropical Birding and shown to at least a hundred lucky birders. So far today (Monday May 18, about 11 a.m.) the bird has not been refound. See previous post for more info.

A high-pressure system over us now is moving toward to east more slowly than expected, so as of late morning Monday the winds are still light out of the north. Numbers of birds are still decent although not exceptional in the migrant traps along the lake shore.

After the high passes us and moves east, the winds are supposed to shift to southeast sometime late Monday afternoon and then southerly for the rest of the evening and night. Based on current weather forecasts, I think that Tuesday, May 19, could have a very good arrival of birds. After that the picture is less certain, because the forecast calls for rapidly changing wind directions overnight Tuesday night, so it’s hard to say what the birding will be like on Wednesday (aside from warm, relatively calm and pleasant conditions). Thursday, though, has good potential, after southerly winds Wednesday night.

Good flights at this time of month should include an excellent variety of warblers, with Wilson’s, Mourning, and Canada becoming more numerous, and Connecticut Warbler becoming more likely as we get closer to May 25th. Flycatchers are increasing in numbers and variety: Yellow-bellied showed up in good numbers for the first time on Saturday May 16, and there will be more of them through the end of the month, along with lots of Alder and Willow Flycatchers and a few Olive-sided Flycatchers. Swainson’s Thrush will continue to be numerous, and Gray-cheeked Thrush will be easier to find now in the latter part of May. Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos put in their best showing in late May, and this is also a good time for uncommon migrants like Philadelphia Vireo.

At this point I can’t predict what’s going to happen the weekend of May 23-24. It’s well within the migration timing for all the birds mentioned in the paragraph above, but at the moment I’m getting contradictory weather predictions for Friday and the weekend so it’s too soon to tell what the numbers of birds will be like. Still, if weekends are your only available birding times, and if you’re after Connecticut Warbler, the next two weekends would be your best possibilities of the year.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Kirtland's Warbler: detailed directions

On Sunday, May 17, a Kirtland's Warbler was found at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. Originally found, identified, and photographed by Andy Johnson, a very sharp teenaged birder from Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Kirtland's proved elusive, but was seen for a while by many birders around 3 p.m. and then rediscovered by Iain Campbell and watched for another period by several birders between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m.
With cool temperatures and light north winds prevailing tonight (Sunday night), it's possible that this rare migrant will still be in the area tomorrow. The map below shows where the bird was seen, on trails behind the Sportsmen's Migratory Bird Center. Andy Johnson found it first near the observation blind on the trail (right-hand letter "X") and the two later observations were farther west on the trail (left-hand "X"). During the later observations, it was foraging very quietly and inconspicuously within the conifers along the trail (pines and spruces surrounded by deciduous trees), and it could disappear for minutes at a time within a dense tree before reappearing on the edge.

For those unfamiliar with the general area, below is a low-resolution copy of our overview map of Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, to clarify the location of the Sportsmen's Center and the trails behind the center. This map is available through the BSBO website for free downloading and printing; go to the main birding pages and follow the links for "Birding hotspots: directions and maps."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Update: migration May 14-16

With the rough weather that prevailed this morning, I was sweating my prediction that the birding would be good today, wondering if the migrants had made it through. But they had: the birding was spectacular at Magee Marsh and other nearby areas. From what I saw or heard about, there were at least 27 warbler species in the area. But of course, the number of species doesn’t tell the whole story; what was more impressive was the number of individuals, the excellent overall variety (that is, there was no single species that dominated -- we saw lots of most species), and the fact that the warblers were foraging very low along the north edge of the woods at Magee, probably to be out of the strong southwest winds. Many species qualified as common today: Bay-breasted, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Am. Redstart, Ovenbird, etc., while some earlier migrants like Black-throated Green were in reduced numbers but still easy to find. The sheer visibility of these warblers is amazing to people who visit for the first time -- or even for some of us who have been here a lot. This would be hard to prove, but I’d be willing to bet that more than 30,000 warbler photos were taken at Magee today.

The winds are now shifting to west-northwest, and by morning (Friday morning, May 15) they’re supposed to be more north-northwest. Probably there won’t be nearly as much bird movement tonight as there was last night. I assume that there will be somewhat fewer birds in the lakeshore migrant traps on Friday, but even with reduced numbers it should still be good birding. Friday night the winds are supposed to go to the south again, so probably we’ll have another big influx on Saturday morning, the 16th, undoubtedly with a fair amount of turnover.

Near the east end of the boardwalk this morning was the first (that I’ve heard of) Connecticut Warbler for the season. If you’re keen to see the species, though, don’t worry about rushing over to try to find this individual; the peak migration for this species typically is later, closer to May 25, so your best chance would be late in the month.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Update: Migration May 13-16

Last night there were strong winds out of the south, and a look at the radar picture late at night showed what appeared to be very large numbers of birds crossing Lake Erie. Today (Wednesday May 13) there was obvious turnover in the migrant traps along the lake shore. At the Magee Marsh boardwalk, there were many more Swainson’s Thrushes and Cedar Waxwings than the day before, a modest influx of Scarlet Tanagers and Baltimore Orioles, and seemingly fewer Yellow-rumped Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Warblers were present again in excellent variety. I was only there for a short time this morning so I don’t know the total number of warbler species present (I only saw / heard 20 species), but what I saw included two male Mourning Warblers in separate areas near the west end of the parking lot. Mourning is a classic late-May migrant and I had heard of only one individual at the boardwalk before today.

Tonight (Wednesday night), between the high pressure center that’s moved off to the east and a low-pressure center sitting to our northwest, we’ll have a strong flow of warm air coming up all the way from the western Gulf Coast, and a huge number of migrants should be riding that train northward. It’s not a sure thing that they’ll actually reach us, because there will be a lot of rain in the area locally, and the migrants may be put down before they get anywhere near the lake shore. But if they do happen to get through, Thursday could be a very good day all along the south and north shores of Lake Erie -- that is, Magee and Point Pelee could get equal shares of the wealth.

Following tonight’s and tomorrow morning’s weather, a low pressure area will move past us to the north and winds will probably shift to the north Thursday night, shutting down migration, so Friday probably won’t see any influx of new migrants. But with the rapidly changing weather of this season, the wind is supposed to shift around to the south again Friday night, probably bringing, again, another wave of migrants on Saturday. At this point it’s hard to say whether Thursday or Saturday will be the bigger day -- Thursday has greater potential, but it could be partly shut down by overnight rain. One way or another, there should be a lot of migrants around for birders who visit this coming weekend.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Migration forecast May 12 - 16

In the migrant traps near the Lake Erie shoreline, the fine birding continued through today (Monday, May 11), with very large numbers and excellent variety of warblers and other migrants present. Despite the lack of favorable winds for migration, there was some turnover evident; for example, on Monday there seemed to be more Northern Parulas and fewer Blackpoll Warblers than there had been on Sunday in the area of Magee Marsh. But the birders on the boardwalk continued to be thrilled with extreme closeup views of warblers and other choice migrants.

In terms of weather, the week ahead looks like an active one, and the forecasts keep changing to some extent. On the basis of current forecasts, it appears we’ll have a strong air flow from the south both Tuesday and Wednesday nights. There could be a very good arrival of migrants near the lake shore on the morning of Wednesday, May 13 (and a lot of the migrants that are here currently will probably be gone that morning as well). There could be an even better fallout of migrants on Thursday morning, or it could be a bust. What makes this hard to predict is the question of what’s going to happen with major rain storms that could move through the area. They could hold the migrants back, or they could put them down right on top of us. This is just a guess, but I think the rains could be positioned right to produce a good fallout not only here, but across the lake from us at Point Pelee, on Thursday.

Looking farther ahead, the forecast is for the wind to go back to the north with the passage of a minor cold front on Thursday night, so Friday may not produce a lot of migrants. But the wind is supposed to go back to the south on Friday and through Friday night, and another good influx of migrants should come in Saturday morning, May 16. There are likely to be scattered showers on Saturday, but the birding should be good anyway for those Toledo Naturalists’ Association members taking part in the North Coast Open, and for Ohio Ornithological Society members attending the conference in Perrysburg.

A few notes for birders visiting the Magee boardwalk in the near future: a couple of pairs of Prothonotary Warblers seem to be on territory along the boardwalk, with a very obliging male singing close to the boardwalk around number 3. Also, there are still a few Rusty Blackbirds present. That species passes through this area in large numbers in late March and early April, so most are gone by now, but a couple have been foraging in shallow water near number 7A and near number 13. On Sunday, several birders passed these off as Common Grackles at first. Certainly there are plenty of grackles around, but if you see a lone individual foraging in shallow water, it’s worth a second look. Also, if you go out the spur of the boardwalk near number 10, listen for the low hooting chuckling note of Least Bittern out in the marsh there.

For numbers on the boardwalk, see our map available through the main birding page (follow the links for "birding hotspots: maps and directions").

Sunday, May 10, 2009

May 9-10: Major migration wave continues

Friday, May 8, was a major day at Magee Marsh, Ottawa NWR, and nearby areas on the lake shore of n.w. Ohio, as already reported. Saturday was another huge day; numbers were somewhat reduced from Friday (partly because a lot of White-throated Sparrows departed) but variety was still great, with many more Blackpoll Warblers and others apparently having arrived overnight. During the day Saturday the wind shifted to the west and the temperature dropped. The north edge of the woods (south edge of the parking lot) at Magee was outstanding all afternoon, with many, many warblers feeding very low, apparently resorting to that area to be out of the wind.

Early indications today (Sunday May 10) are that numbers and variety are still excellent: the northwest winds overnight apparently kept yesterday's hordes of warblers and other migrants from departing. With the cooler temperatures today, the birds are still feeding low, for excellent views.

Numbers will probably continue to be fairly good through Monday, then drop off Tuesday and Wednesday. Right now it appears that Thursday, May 14, may be the next big day, but I haven't taken a detailed look at the weather yet and I may have to revise that prediction.

Friday, May 8, 2009

May 8: Big migrant fallout

This morning (Friday May 8th) we're having an excellent movement of migrants in the vicinity of Magee Marsh, Ottawa NWR, and nearby areas. Total numbers are hard to convey, of course, but while standing in just ONE spot near the entrance to the boardwalk at Magee this morning for just 20 minutes I saw 13 species of warblers (well over 100 individuals) plus Orchard Orioles, Scarlet Tanagers, Veery, Lincoln's Sparrow, dozens of White-throated Sparrows, et cetera. In the space of a couple of hours of wandering around, I was never in a spot with no migrants visible, and I saw / heard more than 20 warbler species and a few thousand individual migrants. In addition to the birds that had arrived overnight, there was a good diurnal movement going on as well, with hundreds of Blue Jays and smaller numbers of waxwings, goldfinches, Bobolinks, etc., plus a couple of flyover Red-headed Woodpeckers.

It will be many hours before we know the total diversity present today, but I wanted to get the word out that things were happening, in case anyone can take advantage of the news.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Migration update May 7 - 9

As usual, the weather forecast continues to change slightly, and with it the outlook for the next big arrival of migrants. There are probably a lot of birds arriving here within the next few days, but it’s still hard to pinpoint when they’ll get here.

Of course, a lot of migrants are here already. In the lakeshore migrant traps there are hundreds of warblers of at least a couple of dozen species, and there are also many migrants scattered through the wooded patches well south of the lake. Some birds (such as White-crowned Sparrow and Rose-breasted Grosbeak) seem to be more common away from the lakeshore at the moment. But it’s clear that the second major wave has not come in yet. "Early" warblers such as Yellow-rumped, Palm, Black-throated Green, Nashville, etc., are still dominant, and the huge influx of Magnolia, Chestnut-sided, Bay-breasted, and other "mid-season" warblers has not arrived in force.

The current weather prediction (Wednesday May 6, mid-afternoon) suggests that the current southerly winds will shift to northeast tonight as a minor low-pressure area passes, and then shift back to the southwest after midnight. After that, the winds are supposed to have a strong southwesterly component through Thursday and Friday, May 7 and 8, before swinging back around to the northwest sometime Saturday morning.

On the basis of the wind patterns, there should be migrants arriving the next three mornings, Thursday through Saturday, May 7 - 9. Because of the shifting winds tonight and the amount of rain to the south of us, I don’t think that Thursday will be the big arrival. What shows up on Friday and Saturday will be partly dependent on the amount of rain in our area and to the south of us -- the forecast is for scattered showers, but a lot depends on just where those showers fall, and when. Still, it looks like there’s a good chance for a major influx of migrants on Friday and Saturday.

Additional notes: Phil Chaon found a calling King Rail at Mallard Club Marsh Wildlife Area (east of Maumee Bay State Park). The species has been present at this location the last couple of years also. American Golden-Plovers have been seen several times recently at the northwest end of Ottawa NWR (on unit MS 2, visible from the east end of Veler Road).

Monday, May 4, 2009

Migration forecast May 4 - 12

Right now (Monday May 4) in the Magee / Crane Creek region we have a great variety of migrants, although not huge numbers, and the warblers and other forest songbirds are spread through all the area’s woodlots, not just concentrated along the immediate lake shore. Birders are finding good concentrations of migrants even in forest patches several miles south of the lake. The key to variety right now is to check a variety of spots rather than just concentrating on the Magee boardwalk or any other single hotspot.

A high-pressure center is passing to the north of us, and northerly winds have shifted to easterly winds which will probably continue Tuesday May 5, but by Wednesday May 6 there should be a good flow of air from the south. On that basis, I expect a good arrival of birds on Thursday May 7. There may be a lot of rain in areas to the south of us on Wednesday night, which could limit the number of birds coming from a long distance, so Thursday probably won’t be a massive fallout, but it could be pretty good.

Some more migrants will probably show up Friday morning, but it’s uncertain what will happen later on Friday. The forecast is for a low-pressure center to pass right over this area sometime Friday night. Depending on the timing of this, and the location of associated rain showers (if it happens at all -- the weather prediction could change a lot before then) we could have a really major fallout of migrants on Saturday May 9 or we could have relatively few. Regardless, Saturday should be a good day for birding, with moderate temperatures and not too windy. Sunday is likely to have most of the same birds as Saturday, although perhaps in smaller numbers, as northwest winds overnight will probably keep most of these birds in place.

Looking farther ahead, current weather predictions lead me to guess that we could have another major arrival of birds on Monday May 11 or especially on Tuesday May 12, but of course the weather forecast that far out is prone to revision! We’ll have to wait and see how the forecast changes. But there’s a possibility that the 11th or 12th could be very good days.

Visitors to the area should be aware that the hotspots near the Lake Erie shoreline will have good numbers of birds literally every day from now through the end of May. In spring, these spots are not totally dependent on fallout conditions, as some migrant traps are; birds moving north will pause at the lake shore, so even on a "bad" day in May there will be a lot of birds around. People who have seen the Magee boardwalk on a fabulous day may be disappointed when it’s only moderately good, but still, even on a poor day, we can see more migrant warblers here than we could at most places on the continent.

Nature Blog Network