Sunday, May 15, 2016

Migration update: May 15-17

Philadelphia Vireo foraging at eye level along the Magee Marsh boardwalk during chilly conditions on May 15. Photo / Kenn Kaufman.

Sunday, May 15, 2016: The overall timing of migration continues to be somewhat delayed, but excellent numbers of birds arrived in northwestern Ohio on Wednesday and Thursday and the birding continued to be superb through Saturday and this morning. A Kirtland's Warbler was seen very well by large numbers of birders on Thursday, May 12, near the east entrance to the Magee Marsh boardwalk. Also on May 12, Steve Jones discovered a Curlew Sandpiper just west of Toledo, one of very few ever recorded in Ohio. Some energetic birders had the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing both these rarities on the same day. The Kirtland's was not seen again after Thursday, but the Curlew Sandpiper is still being seen this morning, May 15th. 

On Wednesday through Friday, the boardwalk at Magee Marsh was productive as expected, with good variety and fair numbers, but other local spots were also hopping. The woods at Maumee Bay State Park produced Cerulean, Worm-eating, Kentucky, and Prairie warblers among many other species, and Pearson Metropark (on Rt. 2 in the town of Oregon) had good warbler concentrations. Spots in eastern Ottawa County had large numbers of migrants, including another Kentucky Warbler at Marblehead Lighthouse State Park and many migrants at East Harbor State Park and Meadowbrook Marsh. Farther east, Pipe Creek Wildlife Area in Erie County produced Orange-crowned and Mourning Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chat, and many other migrants. So there were numerous birding opportunities throughout the area. 

On Friday night a major cold front came through, and Saturday brought very chilly temperatures, wind, and occasional rain. The birding was challenging but outstanding, as all the migrants were foraging very low, and numbers of some species had picked up considerably. Good numbers of thrushes finally were being seen, Philadelphia Vireos were showing off at multiple sites, and a wide variety of warblers continued to please the birders and photographers. Places like Maumee Bay and Pearson parks continued to have outstanding variety. The key in every spot was to find a place sheltered from the wind, and look for the birds foraging low. 

Looking ahead: The wind is expect to shift to the southwest tonight (Sunday May 15) but we don't know how many of the current crop of migrants will depart, because it will continue to be quite cold overnight. On Monday May 16 it will be warmer (at least up to the mid 60s), and with southwest winds overnight, we'll probably see a lot of turnover on Tuesday May 17. Numbers may drop off in the latter part of the week, but there should still be swarms of birds around, because the peak passage has not yet arrived for many of the common migrants. Weather patterns are uncertain beyond that point, but we'll try to update within a few days. 

Curlew Sandpiper: We heard a report that the bird had disappeared around 9 a.m. Sunday morning, and as of 10:30 we haven't heard that it has returned. Check the Biggest Week twitter feed (at this link) for updates before driving out there. The site is on Raab Road just north of Angola Road, a large flooded field on the east side of the road. This is in western Lucas County, Ohio, a couple of miles north of the Ohio Turnpike and a couple of miles south of US 20 / Central Avenue. Thanks to Jacob Roalef for these coordinates, in case you want to plug them into a GPS: 41°37'47.7"N 83°49'02.2"W  - The site has also hosted a couple of Wilson's Phalaropes, a few White-rumped Sandpipers, and many other shorebirds. But again, as I'm writing this, the bird has been missing for a while, so check for updates before you make a long drive. 


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