Thursday, March 23, 2017

Potential hawk flight Friday, March 24

Adult Red-shouldered Hawk over Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio, in March 2016. Photo / Kenn Kaufman.

Thursday, March 23:
With spring migration under way, we are watching the weather. Current forecasts call for the winds over this region of Ohio to shift around to the south tonight, and then to the south-southwest by Friday morning. Along with the wind shift will come warmer air, with temperatures expected to hit 70 by Friday afternoon -- quite a shift from lows in the 20s just the middle of this week!


At this season, southwest winds during the day are likely to produce a good flight of raptors and other diurnal migrants near the Lake Erie shoreline. These birds are moving north on a broad front across Ohio, and on an average day they may be so spread out that they pass unnoticed. However, southwest winds in this area will push them toward the lake shore. When they reach it they turn and move parallel to the shoreline, so their numbers become concentrated. Here in northwestern Ohio, the birds move west-northwest along the shore until they reach the Toledo area, and then turn north into Michigan to continue their northward journey. 

At this point in late March, raptors moving on such a day are likely to include Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Cooper's Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, and Turkey Vulture. The last Rough-legged Hawks should still be moving, and at this season there's a chance of Golden Eagle and maybe even a Northern Goshawk. There's also a possibility of an early Osprey at this time. 

Other daytime migrants that could be following the lake shore include American Crow, Horned Lark, Lapland Longspur, and many blackbirds, including Rusty Blackbird and Eastern Meadowlark

One classic spot for watching this daytime movement is the sledding hill at Maumee Bay State Park. But any spot near the lake shore with a good view of the sky would be worth checking. 

From about the center of Erie County eastward (between Huron and Lorain), the migrants are likely to turn east instead of west, following the lake shore east-northeast toward Pennsylvania and New York. So birders in the Cleveland area and elsewhere in north-central and northeastern Ohio could also see a good movement of birds on Friday. 

Looking at forecasts for the next week, only next Monday, the 27th, appears to have potential for southwest winds and a daytime flight. Of course, weather forecasts can change, so it's always wise to keep an eye on the weather. 

Currently there are no official hawkwatch sites in northwestern Ohio, but there are a few sites around the Great Lakes where official tallies of migrating raptors are kept every day. To see what birds are being reported at these locales, check out the information at hawkcount.org, sponsored by the Hawk Migration Association of North America. 

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