Saturday, October 24, 2009

Magee Marsh update, Toussaint River gulls

From now through November 28, the road in to Magee Marsh Wildlife Area will be closed beyond the Sportsmen's Migratory Bird Center on weekdays and on Saturday mornings. The road will be open on Saturday afternoons and all day Sunday. The area around Black Swamp Bird Observatory, and the trails around the Sportsmen's Center, will be open all week.

On Saturday, Oct. 24, I spent a couple of hours at the wildlife (east) beach and at the west end of the boardwalk. With the strong southwest winds that prevailed, the birds were concentrated on the lee side of the trees, i.e. in more sheltered areas of the beach and along the south edge of the parking lot (north edge of the woods) at the boardwalk. The most unusual bird was a juvenile Eastern Wood-Pewee hanging around near the platform by the west entrance to the boardwalk. It was doing some subsong and it was a well-marked, typical individual, so I didn't have to entertain any thoughts of Western Wood-Pewee. This is not a record-late Eastern -- in fact, I had one at Metzger Marsh on Oct. 31, 2006 -- but it's still exceptionally late for northern Ohio. "Birds of the Toledo Area" by Anderson et al. (2002) lists October 14 as the late date for this region.

Between the east beach and the boardwalk I had about eight Fox Sparrows and about 40 Rusty Blackbirds, representing the two signature migrant species of late fall and early spring at Magee. White-throated Sparrow, Myrtle (Yellow-rumped) Warbler, both kinglet species, and Dark-eyed Juncos were numerous at both areas, with lesser numbers of Hermit Thrush, Winter Wren, White-crowned Sparrow, and Brown Creeper. One Palm Warbler at the boardwalk was the only non-Yellow-rumped warbler I could find.

There were very few gulls along the edge of Lake Erie here. A little southeast of Magee, however -- where State Route 19 crosses the Toussaint River, south of SR 2 and north of Oak Harbor -- there were hundreds of Ring-billed and Bonaparte's gulls today. I stopped and scanned through them a couple of times without finding anything unusual, but birds were coming and going constantly so something else could show up. (Incidentally, if you're visiting the area, don't slow down on SR 19 -- there's a pulloff on the west side just north of the river, with a sign marked "Toussaint Area," and this is the safest place to stop and scan the water.)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Terns and gulls at East Harbor SP and Port Clinton

In past years, a good place to see terns and gulls in mid to late fall has been the north end of the beach area at East Harbor State Park (Ottawa Co., a short distance east of Port Clinton). I checked this area on Thursday, Oct. 8, and found a good selection of birds there, on the beach and on the small rocky islands just offshore. Among the birds present were at least 19 Caspian Terns, more than 40 Forster's Terns, good numbers of Bonaparte's, Ring-billed, and Herring Gulls, and my first local Great Black-backed Gull of the fall. In mid-September, there were two Lesser Black-backed Gulls at this spot. This is always a good place to check if you're in the area; I never go into the park without making a point of checking the north end of the beach.

Another good area is the immediate beach front in Port Clinton itself. A good vantage point for scanning the area is the base of the municipal pier (reached from the east edge of the "downtown" area). From there you get a good view of the boat channel, the lake, and east along the beach. Hundreds of birds were visible from that point on Thursday, and although they didn't include anything unusual, this is another place where I've seen Lesser Black-backed and Glaucous Gulls in the past.

Incidentally, the photo above shows an adult Caspian Tern in winter (basic) plumage in October. Note the blackish tip on its bill. When the Midwest Birding Symposium was in town last month, some birders questioned the MBS logo because it showed a Caspian Tern with a black bill tip ... and that detail didn't show up in their field guides. But it's common to see this mark on adult Caspians in fall.

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