Friday, May 28: After the good numbers of migrants last weekend in the woodlots near Lake Erie, things were gradually trailing off from Monday through Thursday of this week, and then dropped off sharply today. The weather has been very warm all week, so even though the winds have not been favorable for migration, birds obviously have been continuing their northward trek.
Up through mid-week, there were still good numbers of such typical late migrants as Wilson's, Blackpoll, and Canada warblers, American Redstarts, Swainson's Thrushes, Red-eyed Vireos, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, and Least, Yellow-bellied, Willow, and Alder flycatchers. By today (Friday), only the cuckoos were really in evidence. This doesn't mean that the migration is over: some birds like Swainson's Thrush and Wilson's Warbler should still be passing through as late as June 5. But evidently a lot of birds left on Thursday night, and (perhaps because of thunderstorms that came through the area very late) no new birds came in to replace them.
The most sought-after migrant at this season is that elusive skulker, Connecticut Warbler. There were reliable reports each day this week, from the boardwalk at Magee Marsh or from the boardwalk behind the nature center at Maumee Bay State Park, but none of these birds proved cooperative for numbers of birders to see them. The only individual that I heard about today (Friday May 28) was along the Magee boardwalk near number 5.
Looking at the weather predictions for tonight and for the next few days, I don't see any conditions that would produce huge numbers of late migrants, although there undoubtedly will be some minor pushes of migrants during the next week or ten days. If you're in the area and want to look for Connecticut Warbler, my best advice is to walk quietly on trails inside the woods (like the Magee boardwalk, trails at Ottawa Natl Wildlife Refuge, Maumee Bay State Park) and keep watching wherever you can see the ground back in the deep shade. Connecticut Warbler walks slowly and deliberately on the ground, and you just might get lucky and spot one. If you're out early in the morning, you might hear a male singing its choppy song and you might be able to track it down by sound.
Shorebird migration will still be going on for another couple of weeks, if you can find a patch of good habitat. The entrance pool at Ottawa NWR is still worth checking -- Dan Sanders and Doreene Linzell found a Black-necked Stilt there on May 25 -- as is the area of Krause and Stange roads on the southwest edge of the refuge. The beaches at East Harbor State Park and Maumee Bay State Park get some interesting shorebirds, but on this holiday weekend you would have to arrive early before the crowds scare the birds away.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Friday, May 28: After the good numbers of migrants last weekend in the woodlots near Lake Erie, things were gradually trailing off from Monday through Thursday of this week, and then dropped off sharply today. The weather has been very warm all week, so even though the winds have not been favorable for migration, birds obviously have been continuing their northward trek.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Saturday May 22: Brief update on the current situation in the migrant traps on the Lake Erie shoreline in n.w. Ohio. The Kirtland's Warbler found on the east beach at Magee yesterday has not been refound today. (Incidentally, analysis of photos last night showed that the May 21 bird was definitely a different individual from the one found on May 14.) As of 2 p.m., there hasn't been a cooperative Connecticut Warbler in the area either, but there have been brief looks at a couple of spots, including near 20b and 24b on the Magee boardwalk (see the BSBO map of the boardwalk for specifics) and on the trail behind the Sportsmen's Migratory Bird Center. There are probably multiple individuals in the area, so it's just a matter of patient searching (and luck, of course). The best habitat is probably in the woods behind the visitors' center at Ottawa NWR.
Aside from these two specialty warblers, there has been a good movement of migrants in general in the area, including good numbers of Empidonax flycatchers, Yellow-billed and Black-billed cuckoos, and various late-season warblers like Mourning and Wilson's.
Illustrating the perils of trying to predict bird migration on the basis of weather, none of the weather forecasts for the last two days have turned out to be correct here in n.w. Ohio! The heavy rains predicted for last night failed to materialize, and right now the wind is from the west, even though it was supposed to be out of the south all day. So this should be taken with a grain of salt ... but if tonight's weather is as predicted, with light winds from a southerly direction all night, there should be a good arrival of birds on Sunday morning, May 23. Best bets for first thing in the morning would be the woodlots right along the lake shore, such as at Magee, Metzger Marsh, or East Harbor State Park, but later in the day there might be as much action a little farther inland, such as the interior woods at Ottawa NWR.
Incidentally, Jerry Jourdan saw a first-cycle Little Gull at Pt Mouillee in s.e. Michigan this morning, and it was last seen flying east over Lake Erie. If anyone is near the beach at Magee, Metzger Marsh, Maumee Bay State Park, etc., this weekend, it would be worthwhile to take a second look at any gatherings of gulls or terns.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Friday, May 21: Predictions for the migration can't be any more accurate than the weather forecasts, and of course sometimes the latter can be a little off. The heavy rain in n.w. Ohio this morning took us by surprise, as most forecasts hadn't predicted it. After the showers cleared off, birders found a few decent birds in the area of Magee Marsh. As mentioned in the previous post, a Kirtland's Warbler was found on the east beach (wildlife beach) in early afternoon; it was elusive part of the time, but part of the time it was allowing good views, even through late afternoon. It was being seen about 100 yards east from the entrance to the beach (see BSBO map of Magee for clarification). A Connecticut Warbler was found along the lakefront dike between the boardwalk parking lot and the east beach parking lot, and it skulked in that area, singing occasionally, for several hours midday. There were also reports of another Connecticut along the large eastern loop of the boardwalk.
Looking ahead at the weather forecast, it's hard to tell whether tomorrow (Saturday 5/22) will be a good day. There should be good southerly winds tonight, but there's also a strong chance of rain storms overnight, diminishing around dawn. Depending on just where the rains are located, they could pretty much shut down migration. There's also a chance that the rains will be less widespread than predicted now, and that a lot of migrants could come in from the south and got stopped right here, but that's a long shot. At any rate, rain is supposedly going to stop shortly after dawn, and southerly winds are supposed to continue through Saturday and all night Saturday night. With clear skies and light southerly winds Saturday night, there should be a strong movement of migrants, and there may be a lot of new arrivals on Sunday May 23. At this time of the season, such migrants should include flycatchers like Alder and Yellow-bellied, Red-eyed and Philadelphia vireos, Swainson's and Gray-cheeked thrushes, and Mourning, Canada, and Wilson's warblers -- and if we're lucky, more Connecticut Warblers.
So: hard to tell what the birding will be like on Saturday morning, but if you're really eager to see today's individual Kirtland's or Connecticut warblers, they may stick around for one more day. If you just want to see a different selection of birds, Sunday may have better possibilities. There are still a lot of individual migrants somewhere to the south of us, and they have to come through here (or over us) before too long.
Friday, May 21, at 1:50 pm: At Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, a Connecticut Warbler has been heard and occasionally seen during the last couple of hours, out along the lakefront dike northeast of the boardwalk's east parking lot. As of about 1 p.m., there was a Kirtland's Warbler on the east beach (wildlife beach) at Magee -- this is about a quarter-mile east of the boardwalk parking lot; see the BSBO birding map of Magee for clarification (through the BSBO main birding pages, follow the links for "birding hotspots -- directions and maps"). The Kirtland's was about 100 yards east along the beach from the point where the trail begins.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Wednesday, May 19: The hard-working guides from Tropical Birding were back out on the boardwalk at Magee Marsh today, finding a decent diversity of birds and more pleasant weather than the last couple of days. Golden-winged Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Black-billed Cuckoo were among their highlights. Jim Witter and Shane Roberts also did a census of Magee for the Division of Wildlife today, coming up with 21 warbler species including Orange-crowned, Mourning, and Canada, as well as Philadelphia Vireo and a good variety of flycatchers and thrushes. So there are certainly birds around for those who are willing to search, despite the northerly winds that have prevailed recently.
Tonight a high-pressure system will pass over the area and the wind will shift around during the night. A few new migrants will probably come in (and some of the current crop probably will leave) but I don't expect a big arrival of birds on Thursday, May 20. Friday and Saturday, May 21 and 22, are looking more promising. The weather forecasts are somewhat contradictory so I can't guess which of those two days will be best, but it appears the winds will be mostly southerly on Thursday and Friday nights and there should be at least moderate numbers of birds showing up on Friday and Saturday mornings. This may be the best weekend to find Connecticut Warbler in the migrant traps near Lake Erie. Numbers of the species could be even higher later in the month, but the adult males tend to be the first migrants to appear, and they are more likely to be singing (giving us a fighting chance to find these elusive skulkers).
Monday, May 17, 2010
Monday, May 17: Strong north winds for the last couple of nights seem to have shut down the migration temporarily. At the BSBO main banding station today, a high percentage of the migrants encountered were recaptures from previous days, so birds seem to be staging in the area and waiting for the weather and winds to change. Birders who were out on the trails of Magee Marsh and Ottawa NWR today did manage to find a fair diversity of migrants, including Mourning Warblers lurking in the undergrowth, but wind and rain put a damper on the action during the latter part of the afternoon.
It doesn't appear that Tuesday May 18 will be a good day for birding -- the weather forecast calls for more rain and more north winds. Wednesday the 19th should be more pleasant, as a high-pressure system should pass just to the north of us. The winds won't be right for more migrants to show up on Wednesday. Perhaps this would be a fine day for looking at local nesting birds out at Oak Openings, checking for shorebirds on the Ottawa NWR entrance pool or in the Stange Rd - Krause Rd area, or enjoying the Black Terns and other wetland birds at Metzger Marsh.
Sometime after Wednesday, however, the winds will shift and we'll have another big arrival of birds. I just talked to Mark Shieldcastle, Research Director at BSBO, and he's been looking at the long-term forecast also. We can't tell for sure when the wind is going to change. If the fronts accelerate, we might have south winds Wednesday night and a decent flight on Thursday, but at this point it looks more likely that Friday and Saturday will be the big days -- May 21 and 22. This weekend should be a good time for seeing sought-after flycatchers like Olive-sided, Yellow-bellied, and Alder, and numbers of some of the other late-spring migrants like Red-eyed Vireo and Mourning, Canada, and Wilson's warblers. The next two weeks represent the best time of year to find the elusive Connecticut Warbler, and with favorable flight conditions this coming weekend, we're almost sure to have a few found in this area. I'll keep watching the weather and will try to update the prediction as we get more information.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Saturday, May 15: With the breeze shifting around to the northwest near morning, and then to the north, many birds seemed to have stayed put from Friday. Unfortunately, yesterday's star bird -- the Kirtland's Warbler that had been viewed by over a thousand birders over a period of ten hours plus -- apparently left overnight, as no one could find it today.
Even without that rarity, however, there was a lot of variety in the area. Almost all the expected warblers were seen, including several Mourning Warblers. An Orange-crowned Warbler at Metzger Marsh was on the late side for this species, which usually trickles through here in late April and early May. A Connecticut Warbler was identified in flight over the east beach at Magee, but so far no Connecticuts have been found as viewable stakeouts on the ground. This late migrant is most expected here during the last week of May.
Shorebirds were good today, with Marbled Godwit seen again on the east side of Stange Road (south of the observation platform) and up to three Upland Sandpipers seen from the west side of Stange a little farther south. Other birds on the Stange-Krause roads loop included Black-bellied Plovers, Short-billed Dowitchers, Ruddy Turnstone, Dunlins, both yellowlegs, etc.
With the sky now lightly overcast and the breeze light out of the north, Sunday May 16 should have most of the same birds that were seen today -- that is, probably not many will leave or arrive. Of course, all of us from Black Swamp Bird Observatory, Tropical Birding, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, and Kaufman Field Guides will be out scouting around for last-minute rarities and good stakeouts, hoping to finish up the Biggest Week In American Birding on a high note.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Friday, May 14: It's never possible to predict big arrivals of migrants with absolute certainty, but the predictions for today turned out to be right on target. This was by far the biggest day of the spring so far in terms of numbers of migrants along the lake shore in n.w. Ohio.
For the last few days we'd been having modest numbers but very good diversity. Today the diversity went up a little and the numbers were at least ten times what they had been. I started off by going to the east beach at Magee Marsh (about half a mile east of the boardwalk; see the BSBO birding map of the Magee area for clarification). The low trees near the beach were hopping with American Redstarts, Gray Catbirds, Least Flycatchers, Magnolia Warblers, Baltimore Orioles, and many other birds. I saw my first good numbers of Indigo Buntings for the spring, several Scarlet Tanagers, and a lot of other migrants including Orchard Oriole, Lincoln's Sparrow, and Mourning and Wilson's Warblers. Diurnal migrants were streaming past: flocks of Eastern Kingbirds, Blue Jays, Cedar Waxwings, and all the expected species of swallows.
At about 9:15 a.m. I was lucky enough to find a male Kirtland's Warbler. I was luckier still that it stayed around: I sent out the word via Twitter and cell phone, hundreds of people arrived during the next four hours while I was there, and it was still being seen after 4:30 pm. The location was along the east (wildlife) beach about 300 yards east of the parking lot. The bird was feeding low for the entire time, sometimes hopping on the ground, sometimes foraging among low branches of sumacs or willows, or even among brush piles. Often it was amazingly easy to see, and several times it flew toward crowds of people and foraged unconcernedly within a few yards of its admirers. I'm sure it was seen by over a thousand birders, and undoubtedly tens of thousands of photos were taken; this is probably the most-photographed Kirtland's Warbler in history!
Of course it's impossible to say whether the bird will still be there Saturday morning, May 15, but I'm sure that people will go to look for it. I will try to get the word out early if it is seen Saturday.
Right now the winds are still out of the west-southwest, and they should be out of the west for most of Friday night, shifting to northwest sometime Saturday. My best guess is that Saturday will have somewhat fewer individual birds than today, but still very large numbers, and lots of variety.
Aside from the excitement of the Kirtland's: I heard about sightings of roughly 30 species of warblers in the general area. Several Mourning Warblers were found in the woods at Ottawa NWR and the Magee boardwalk, and Golden-winged and a "Brewster's" hybrid were found at the latter location. The first C0nnecticut Warblers of the season were found at the BSBO banding station (on a closed section of Ottawa NWR), so the species should show up soon at the Magee boardwalk.
Nine American White Pelicans circled over the Magee - Ottawa area around the middle of the day. A Marbled Godwit was being seen from the observation platform on Stange Road (southwest corner of Ottawa NWR -- see the BSBO map of the refuge) and at least two Yellow-headed Blackbirds were being seen a short distance west of there on Krause Road.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Well, we must be in northwest Ohio. The temperature has gone from near freezing a couple of days ago to near 80 right now (late afternoon Thursday May 13) -- there's a strong, hot wind out of the southwest, and Broad-winged Hawks have been passing over the Black Swamp Bird Observatory and other spots near the lake, the last of the raptor migrants making their push through the area. Blue Jays, too, have been blasting by along the lake shore. These diurnal migrants, riding the wind, probably foreshadow what's going to happen with the larger numbers of nocturnal migrants tonight.
There's still rain in the area, and thunderstorms are likely to roll through around 10 pm tonight. But it looks as if southwest or WSW winds will continue for much of the night, switching to west by morning, with chance of rain diminishing after dawn and temperatures cooling down to something moderate in the morning. The wind flow out of the southwest is coming from a long way south, and there are still a LOT of migrant songbirds that haven't made it here yet, so we could have a massive arrival on Friday morning. I know that a lot of us are going to be out there looking! And we'll report as soon as we have an idea of what's going on.
If you can't make it out to the migrant traps on Friday, it looks as if Saturday also could be quite good -- maybe some more arrivals overnight Friday night, with winds shifting around to northwest on Saturday to hold some things in place. And even if huge numbers don't materialize, the overall diversity of migrants in the area is good enough to make for good birding.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Wednesday May 12: We've reached that point in the spring when some migrants are going to push northward even if conditions for migrating are not favorable. That's the only explanation I can see for the fact that a number of new birds showed up today. Tuesday night there were heavy rains and cool temperatures, and only a brief period during the night when winds were southerly, but today it was obvious that many thrushes had come in overnight. In the woods at Ottawa NWR and Magee Marsh, all five brown thrushes were seen, with numbers of Veery and Swainson's Thrush especially noticeable. White-crowned Sparrows and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks also appeared to have increased in numbers. Once again, the numbers of individual warblers were only moderate, but the variety of warbler species was excellent.
As of late afternoon Wednesday, winds are from the northeast, it's raining to the south of us, and rain is very likely tonight and tomorrow. I don't expect that many migrants are going to come in tonight. On Thursday rain is likely for much of the day, especially late morning and afternoon, and the forecast calls for possibly severe storms in late afternoon and early evening. So the migrants that were around today are likely to still be here tomorrow, but if you're pursuing them, be prepared to dodge rain showers.
On Thursday evening, even though scattered showers will continue, temperatures will be warmer and winds are predicted to be out of the south for most of the night. Also, it appears that there won't be a lot of rain to the south of us, so migrants that have been dammed up to the south will probably be moving this direction. It's too early to say for sure, but this could be a setup for a big arrival of migrants on Friday, May 14. It will depend on exactly where the rain showers are located late at night on Thursday, but if we get lucky, we could have a major influx of the second wave of warblers and other neotropical migrants on Friday. Keep your fingers crossed!
Monday, May 10, 2010
Monday May 10: Once again, the woodlots in the area featured modest numbers of migrants but excellent variety, with well over 20 species of warblers, many allowing very close views. Today once again the best warbler spot was the boardwalk at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. Highlights reported from there by the guides from Tropical Birding included Golden-winged Warbler and Philadelphia Vireo (mostly near the small loop near numbers 7 and 7A), Pine Warbler (mostly near the west entrance to the boardwalk), Wilson's Warbler (near number 25), and two Mourning Warblers (in the vicinity of number 15 to 18). At the small spur jutting south near number 10, a Prothonotary Warbler appeared to be competing with a House Wren for a choice nest site, and the brilliant golden "swamp warbler" was affording fabulous views. For all of these locations on the boardwalk, see our map available through the main birding pages -- go to http://www.bsbo.org/Birding/ and follow the links for "birding hotspots -- directions and maps."
The last couple of days have been unseasonably chilly, with northerly winds keeping the migrants in place (and keeping them low, where they're easy to see). According to current weather forecasts, rain is supposed to move into the area very late Monday night, and on Tuesday it will almost certainly rain during the morning and perhaps into early afternoon before clearing up. (All the more reason to come to Ottawa NWR visitors' center at 11 a.m. to hear Paul Baicich, one of the country's top bird experts, talk about "The ten most important things you can do for birds and bird conservation.") By late afternoon, after the rain stops, the migrants in the woods at Ottawa NWR and Magee should be very active and very visible. Tuesday night the wind is supposed to shift to southerly for several hours before swinging around to the north again. If it does turn out that way, Wednesday morning will probably see some significant turnover in the migrant traps, and perhaps the first minor movement of the second major wave.
Monday, May 10: Some of the attention today shifted away from warblers and toward waterbirds. At Metzger Marsh, 9 American White Pelicans were being seen from the second pullout along the road. From the parking lot at the end of the road at Metzger, looking south from the dike, birders were seeing Black Terns and Yellow-headed Blackbirds.
Meanwhile, at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, the shorebirding was excellent at the Entrance Pool. To reach this site, turn in to the refuge main entrance from Route 2; and instead of going west to the visitors' center, loop around to go straight north. The Entrance Pool will be along the right (east) side of this road. It stretches for at least half a mile north, and today most of the shorebirds were in the northern part of the pool, where there is very shallow water and extensive exposed mudflats. Highlights included at least 3 White-rumped Sandpipers, 5 Pectoral Sandpipers, 1 Short-billed Dowitcher (of the prairie race, hendersoni, and in bright breeding plumage), at least 9 Solitary Sandpipers, 30 Lesser Yellowlegs, 60 Dunlins, 15 Least Sandpipers, 12 Semipalmated Plovers, etc. A telescope is very useful for birding this area, and the light is much better in the afternoon than in the morning when you're looking into the sun. But this spot seems to be having constant turnover now, so if you're birding in the area, it would be worthwhile to check it more than once.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Saturday, May 8: The birding turned out to be surprisingly good (considering the weather) in the wooded areas near the Lake Erie shoreline in n.w. Ohio today. Storms last night and very strong WSW winds today didn't make for an encouraging prospect, but birders who worked the interior and downwind sides of the woodlots wound up seeing very good variety of migrants. At the Magee Marsh boardwalk, numbers of migrants were modest but the diversity was excellent -- no one species predominated, so every time we raised our binoculars there was a good chance we'd be looking at something different. Excellent views of Golden-winged, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Black-throated Blue, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, and Nashville warblers, Northern Parula, Rusty Blackbird, Veery, Yellow-throated Vireo, etc., etc., were all crowd pleasers, and the action seemed to get better as the afternoon went along, with lots of happy birders still on the boardwalk after 6:30 pm.
The wetland areas on Ottawa NWR were a little slow, probably because of the effects of the high winds driving birds into hiding, but Sandhill Cranes were seen by many, and the wooded area behind the visitors' center produced many migrants. The woodlot at the end of the road at Metzger Marsh also held a number of migrants, including at least two more Golden-winged Warblers.
The winds tonight are diminishing but they have shifted around to west-northwest, not very good conditions for migrants to be on the move. By morning the winds should have died down to about 12 mph, but morning temperatures may dip below 40, so with the wind chill it's going to feel very cold at dawn. I suspect that most of the migrants that were around today will still be present on Sunday May 9. With the wind shift, they'll probably shift to more sheltered areas of the woods. At Ottawa NWR, the southeastern edges of the woodlots should become more productive. At Magee, there probably will be fewer birds along the edge of the parking lot, and more in the interior of the woods along the boardwalk, plus in woods near the Sportsmans Center and Black Swamp Bird Observatory. During the chilly part of the morning, if you can find a spot that's out of the wind but in the sunlight, warblers and other songbirds are likely to concentrate there.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Friday, May 7: At 9:20 a.m., the guides from Tropical Birding reported that a female Golden-winged Warbler was being seen at #5 on the Magee Marsh boardwalk.
The migration and the weather are both unusual right now. The diversity of warblers has been excellent for the last couple of days in the migrant traps near Lake Erie, and other migrants have been showing up in good variety also, but we still haven't seen the expected pulses of really big numbers. And it looks like those won't materialize in the next couple of days. The good news is that most of the diverse set of birds seen on Thursday will still be around Sunday, and we'll probably have some rare birds showing up as well.
According the current forecasts, a low pressure center will move right over n.w. Ohio tonight (Friday night), with some showers and shifting winds, and as that low moves off to the northeast, we'll have strong west winds developing. Saturday May 8 will probably have cool temperatures, scattered showers, and strong winds out of the west. The winds should diminish Saturday evening. Sunday morning will be quite chilly at first (with temperatures perhaps dipping below 40) but sunny, with light west-northwest winds, so as the day warms up it should be pleasant birding conditions.
I don't expect many songbird migrants to arrive under these conditions, but I don't expect most of the current crop to leave, either, so there should be a good diversity of warblers and others in the woods throughout the weekend. And in terms of larger birds or water birds, I expect the west winds to bring in something unusual. There already have been scattered Wilson's Phalaropes around, and we may see more of those -- or perhaps Franklin's Gull, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, White-faced Ibis, or other species that are usually more prevalent farther west.
So: unsettled weather on Saturday, chilly but calmer on Sunday; probably no big arrival of waves of migrants, but the total species list for the weekend should be very good. And looking ahead, there may be a very big arrival of migrant songbirds later in the week -- sometime between Wednesday and Friday. More info here as the weather forecasts become more detailed and believeable.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Thursday May 6: Yesterday turned out to be excellent for variety in the migrant traps near the Lake Erie shoreline. No fewer than 28 warbler species were found at the Magee Marsh boardwalk, and the total for the BSBO main banding site east of Magee was well over 20 warbler species.
Last night some heavy rain came through late in the afternoon, and winds shifted to northerly, so it appears that most of yesterday's birds are still around today. An early report from the BSBO banding site was that today was like yesterday but with more Tennessee and Black-and-white warblers. At the Magee boardwalk, a Kentucky Warbler was showing off well at the small loop (near number 7A), and Cape May Warbler and Black-billed Cuckoo were crowd-pleasers near the west entrance.
Dick Ashford, chair of the board of the American Birding Association, saw eight dark ibises fly over near the entrance to Ottawa Nat'l Wildlife Refuge yesterday evening, just before the storm hit. These are the first ibises I've heard of so far this spring. Ottawa NWR is the best place in Ohio to find these birds; Glossy Ibis occurs more often than White-faced Ibis, but both species have been found in recent years, and it takes a close look to distinguish them. Hopefully they'll be found along the refuge auto tour route this weekend.
The entrance pool at Ottawa NWR had an early White-rumped Sandpiper yesterday and a good selection of more common shorebirds today. This morning I had a female Wilson's Phalarope at Toussaint Wildlife Area, north of Oak Harbor; the bird was being harassed by Lesser Yellowlegs and eventually it left, but it's likely to show up at Ottawa also.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
No, it's not a "chase-able" bird, but it's interesting nonetheless. This morning -- Wednesday May 5 -- a man who lives in one of the small communities on the edge of Lake Erie, a few miles east of Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, found an injured Purple Gallinule wandering around in his yard. He brought it to Black Swamp Bird Observatory, where it was cared for and kept quiet for a short time until it could be transported to our friend Mona Rutger, the dedicated wildlife rehabilitator who runs Back To The Wild, of Castalia, Ohio.
Purple Gallinule is ordinarily a rare visitor to Ohio, averaging fewer than one record per year in the state. But amazingly, this makes four Purple Gallinules found in Ohio in the last few days: another injured bird found in Miami County, one that appeared briefly in a back yard in Medina County, the famous and now much-photographed bird in Lorain County, and the Ottawa County bird. This species occasionally stages odd northward "invasions," and something of the sort is clearly happening right now; if four individuals actually have been found, there may be dozens out there undetected. It would be worthwhile to actively look for Purple Gallinules during the next few days in wetland areas with lots of emergent or floating vegetation such as cattails and lily pads. Metzger Marsh, Ottawa NWR, and Toussaint Wildlife Area would all seem like good places to search.
Wednesday May 5: As of 9:30 this morning, the guides from Tropical Birding had already found 22 species of warblers at the boardwalk at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, and said they expected a warbler species total in the high 20s for the day. I was leading a birdwalk on private property farther east in Ottawa County first thing this morning, and although we weren't in prime warbler territory, there were a lot of migrants around including Orchard and Baltimore orioles, Eastern Kingbirds, Northern Waterthrushes, Tennessee Warblers, and scads of Yellow Warblers. So this looks like a significant day for migrants, if you can get to good habitat before the rain showers move in this afternoon (predicted for around 3:30 - 4 p.m.).
Solitary Sandpipers have been everywhere the last couple of days -- I've seen multiples in flooded fields, on the entrance pool at Ottawa NWR, along the causeway to the Magee boardwalk, etc. Usually these birds are seen only in small numbers (as their name would suggest) so it's startling to encounter so many. Watch for them around the edges of any kind of water, even very small ponds or streams.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Tuesday, May 4: As of this morning, numbers of individual birds are a little light but variety is excellent in the migrant traps along the Lake Erie shoreline. At the boardwalk at Magee Marsh, according to the guides from Tropical Birding, a Kentucky Warbler is present again (or still?). Other highlights there include Yellow-throated, Blue-headed, and White-eyed vireos, a number of warblers including Magnolia and Black-throated Blue, plus Summer and Scarlet tanagers and Rose-breasted Grosbeak.
Looking at the long-range weather forecast, I expect good numbers of birds to arrive overnight the next two nights, so there should be a lot of new arrivals on Wednesday and Thursday, May 5 and 6. After that, it appears that a major low-pressure system will pass by well to the north of us, and winds will shift to the west and then north, with some rain showers moving in over the weekend. That should mean that most of the birds present this Thursday should still be around over the weekend. Birders taking part in the International Migratory Bird Day festivities on Saturday, or in the Big Half-Day Bird Race on Sunday (see details at http://www.biggestweekinamericanbirding.com/ ), should see great variety but not huge numbers. Days with passing showers often produce great birding in the woodlots within a couple of miles of the lake: the birds often stay put, stay relatively low, and become very active and very visible in between showers. But on a day with no big fallout, the key is to keep moving, keep checking different spots, as individual birds may be settled in for the day in limited areas.
This is almost purely speculation at this point, since the weather predictions can change so much from day to day; but if current weather forecasts hold true, the biggest migration day of the season might turn out to be Friday, May 14. But don't quote me on that! A lot could change in the next ten days! I'll keep watching the weather and will try to update this prediction.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Sunday, May 2: In the area of the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area boardwalk, this was another day with only modest numbers of migrants but good variety. Among the highlights were Worm-eating, Prothonotary, and Hooded warblers, all showing off well near the west end of the boardwalk.
Tonight's weather looks very unsettled, with a lot of rain to the south of us and heavily overcast skies here. The wind is predicted to shift to more westerly (or even northwesterly) for part of the night. I think most of the birds that were around today will still be in the area tomorrow, and that not many new ones will come in. Monday May 3 is supposed to have fairly decent weather, so it should make for pleasant birding conditions. But I suspect there won't be much turnover, so if you were birding over the weekend and you'll be birding again on Monday, I'd suggest going to different sites if you want to see something different. Check out the page of "birding hotspots: directions and maps" from the main BSBO birding pages for ideas of other migrant traps nearby.
According to current predictions, southerly winds will continue Monday night and the weather will be more favorable for migrants, so I expect that a lot of new arrivals will show up on Tuesday. Again, it may not be a day for big numbers, but it should produce excellent diversity again.
With a strong westerly component to the winds recently, we expect some shifting of midwestern migrants in this direction. Reports of single Clay-colored Sparrows at various points in Ohio over the last couple of days may be a reflection of this. Flooded fields are likely to have flocks of American Golden-Plovers in addition to other shorebirds. A flock of about 50 golden-plovers was seen on both Saturday and Sunday south of Maumee Bay State Park: From State Route 2, go north on Curtice Road (the road that goes to MBSP) for one mile to Seaman Road, then turn east. The plovers were seen just east of this intersection on Saturday and I believe they were near the same spot on Sunday. If you stop to look at flooded fields in this area, be sure to find a spot where you can pull completely off the road and avoid blocking traffic.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Saturday, May 1: In the migrant traps on the Lake Erie shoreline, today was the biggest day of the year so far for sheer variety of species. As of mid-afternoon, a minimum of 26 warbler species had been reliably reported from the Magee Marsh boardwalk itself, with at least 29 for the area as a whole. The rarest bird at the Magee boardwalk itself by mid-afternoon was a Kentucky Warbler (probably the same individual moving between #16 on the boardwalk and the woods adjacent to the southwest corner of the East Parking Lot). Two Cerulean Warblers were near #17 on the boardwalk, and Greg Links found another individual at the "Wildlife Beach" east of the boardwalk. A female Hooded Warbler was near #6. A few Blackpoll Warblers were somewhat early, including one hanging around the west entrance to the boardwalk. All five brown thrushes were along the boardwalk -- in fact, individuals of all five were seen just north of #6, as well as elsewhere. Other noteworthy birds included a Black-billed Cuckoo near 7a, a Yellow-breasted Chat that moved around quite a bit, and at least four Summer Tanagers (possibly more). For a reference on the numbered spots along the boardwalk, see our detailed map available through the link for "birding hotspots: directions and maps" from the BSBO main birding pages.
Elsewhere in the area, the entrance pool at Ottawa NWR had at least three Solitary Sandpipers, as well as both yellowlegs species and Pectoral Sandpipers. At the woodlot at the end of the road at Metzger Marsh, Greg Links found a Prairie Warbler.
The theme for today was variety, not abundance. Most migrant species were present only in small numbers, but most birders who persisted in searching wound up seeing a lot of different species.
Okay, so what about tomorrow? For Sunday, May 2, I expect birding conditions to be similar. There's still a good flow of wind out of the south-southwest, but there is also (as of early evening) a lot of rain falling in southern Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, so I don't expect many birds to be coming from there tonight. Undoubtedly there will be some turnover, and some birds will continue to move into the better patches of habitat, but I think the overall numbers and variety on Sunday will be similar to today's. We'll probably see heavy showers moving through the area in the morning, but in between rain showers, bird activity should be intense. To see a lot of variety, visit multiple sites: check out the woods at Ottawa NWR, Metzger Marsh, and East Harbor State Park. Look at shorebird habitat at Ottawa and along the Magee causeway: numbers of shorebirds are still building up.
If you're in the area, be sure to stop by the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, just north of Route 2 at the entrance to Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. The observatory will be open every day in May from 10 to 6. We'll be glad to share the latest sightings and we'll be eager to hear what you've seen!