Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Migration outlook: May 4 to 8

Black-and-white Warbler. One of the characteristic early migrants among the warblers, and the logo bird for the Black Swamp Bird Observatory.
Tuesday, May 3. With the Biggest Week In American Birding just about to start, birders in northwest Ohio are still waiting for the first really massive "warbler wave" to arrive on the Lake Erie shoreline. On April 25-26 we had a major arrival of the expected early migrants, giving a huge boost to numbers of things like Yellow-rumped Warbler, Palm Warbler, and White-throated Sparrow, and increasing the variety of other species present. But in the week since, with winds consistently out of the northeast, conditions haven't been ideal for another major flight. 

The good news is that at this time of year, some birds will migrate even when conditions aren't ideal. On relatively calm nights, even without the help of tailwinds, some birds are moving, filtering north around rain storms and against mild headwinds. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks have been seen all over the region, and a number of observers saw their first Ruby-throated Hummingbirds of the season on April 30 and May 1. The Magee Marsh boardwalk and other sites along the lake shore have continued to produce new arrivals such as Veery, Least Flycatcher, and Eastern Kingbird. Migrating flocks of Willets, ordinarily scarce in the region, have put down in a number of places, including Medusa Marsh (Erie County), Metzger Marsh, Maumee Bay State Park, and even flooded fields in Ottawa County. 

On days without a major migration, the key to finding more species is to check more different spots. It may be tempting to just keep prowling the Magee boardwalk, hoping for different birds to show up, but on these quieter days you're much more likely to discover something new if you visit other sites. Go to this link for a list of suggested birding sites in the general area, with links to maps, directions, and other information. 

Looking ahead: With light southerly winds predicted for tonight, we should see a good arrival of birds on Wednesday May 4. It's not likely to be a huge day, because there's no major weather system behind these local winds, but it should be moderately good since there are so many migrants held up somewhere to the south of us. Rain is expected on Wednesday during the day, but between showers, the birding should be productive. 

By Wednesday night, winds are expected to go back to the north, so any new birds that have arrived should stay for a couple of days. After that, Friday night into Saturday looks like it may be a repeat of what we expect for Wednesday: mild southerly winds bringing a modest arrival, not a huge one, for Saturday May 7. Saturday may even bring a good daytime flight of hawks and other diurnal migrants near the Lake Erie shoreline, at least until thunderstorms arrive in the afternoon. Then the winds are forecast to go back to the north for a couple of days.

The long-range weather predictions aren't very reliable when we start looking a week ahead, but there's a chance that we may see a really big migrant flight on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 10 and 11. For the moment that's just conjecture, and we'll update as the time gets closer. In the meantime, expected smaller arrivals on May 4 and May 7 should provide plenty of variety, and at least some moderate numbers, to welcome birders to northwestern Ohio. 

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