Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Migration Forecast May 19-22

Alder Flycatcher: a migrant worth seeking in late May
Tuesday, May 19: Beginning last Friday, the 15th, the past weekend has brought songbird numbers expected at this point in migration. However, with southerly winds every night since Friday, the volume of birds has declined, resulting in limited amounts of each species still present today, Tuesday the 19th. Although, regardless of how many birds departed each night and how many replaced them, no one walked away from a day of birding without having seen at least one American Redstart, if not a dozen or more. Along with the plethora of redstarts and Magnolia Warblers, many other non-warbler species such as Black-billed and Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Warbling and Red-eyed Vireo, and Eastern Wood-Pewee added their (sometimes unnoticed) songs to most habitats. 

Other notable species over the past week included Ruddy Turnstone, White-faced and Glossy Ibis, and Marbled and Hudsonian Godwit seen in or near Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area. One of the biggest surprises last week was the always-sought-after Kirtland's Warbler found Wednesday the 13th in Oak Openings Preserve.

As for the next three days, expect a series of slow days with fewer migrating songbirds, as a high pressure system over the area brings northerly winds. Many birds departed last night, Monday the 18th, riding the last of the southerly winds that had prevailed since the past weekend. Very little turnover occurred last night, but observations today (Tuesday the 19th) still produced many warbler species such as Tennessee, Canada, Wilson's, Chestnut-sided, and Cape May, predominantly females.

Northerly winds are forecast to continue until at least the weekend, so most of these migrants should be in the area for a few days building up fat reserves and waiting for southerly winds again. With daytime highs in the 60s and nighttime lows reaching the 40s, most birds should be foraging fairly low, providing excellent views and photo opportunities.

Once again, with winds coming from the north off Lake Erie, try searching suitable habitat a mile or so inland as the birds will typically move away from the lake shore. But a trip to the Magee Marsh boardwalk can always prove contrary to this thought, and it's always worth checking out the downwind side of the woods.

The Biggest Week in American Birding may be over, but migration is still going on. It's too early to know exactly which day the weather will turn back around, but it looks as if the shift will occur later in the upcoming weekend or early next week, bringing up the next wave of migrating songbirds. The third wave usually occurs around Memorial Day and is dominated by female Magnolia Warbler and female American Redstart, but also Cedar Waxwing, Red-eyed Vireo, and the Empidonax flycatchers. 

With a slow week expected, this would be a good time to prepare for the confusion of those Empids. Songs and calls are by far the best way to decipher the various species -- especially Willow and Alder Flycatchers -- but also study wing bar patterns, eye ring presence and color, bill size, and overall coloring for each species.  

Update: As of tonight, Friday the 22nd, weather predictions are still showing favorable conditions during Monday and Tuesday, the 25 and 26, for the arrival of the next wave of migrating songbirds. Over the weekend, winds will be coming from the south -- which will move any birds that have been held up along the shoreline this past week, out of the area. However, these southerly winds will be coming off of the Atlantic Ocean and are not expected to bring any new birds into the area on Saturday or Sunday. Winds are predicted to shift to a more direct southerly origin (from the Southern US rather than the Atlantic) on Sunday night, and thus should begin to bring in new birds by Monday. 

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