Sunday, May 12, 2019

Migration Update May 12

A male Scarlet Tanager foraging among boxelder along the Magee Marsh boardwalk. Photo: Ryan Jacob.

Sunday, May 12:  Ryan Jacob writes: Beginning Thursday, May 9, new winds from the south were able to overcome the northerly blasts, and the marsh region was renewed with fresh migrants. Leading up to International Migratory Bird Day on Saturday, May 11, birding in the area was quite exceptional. With cooler temperatures still accompanying these new winds, photography opportunities have been plentiful with most birds foraging low, and on days with rain, cuckoos have moved down from their typical canopy haunts.

With this turnover, a bump in diversity has definitely been noticeable with Magnolia, Cape May, Bay-breasted, Nashville, Chestnut-sided, and Tennessee Warblers all becoming more prevalent (albeit in scant numbers), with lesser numbers of Blackburnian and Blackpoll. Replacing the last of the Hermit Thrushes, Swainson’s Thrushes finally made their first push through the region on Thursday, with moderate numbers of Wood Thrushes and a handful of sightings of Gray-cheeked and Veery. However, leading to today (Sunday, May 12) thrushes have all but disappeared, with the next arrivals most likely held up in southern Ohio.

One of the greatest finds this week was of a Townsend’s Warbler, spotted by members of Black Swamp Bird Observatory’s Ohio Young Birders Club (OYBC) on the boardwalk at Maumee Bay State Park. This bird (seen the evening of Friday, May 10) represents one of only a handful of sightings of the species in the state of Ohio, but was made even more incredible by the fact that it was from the OYBC – an exceptionally bright and enthusiastic group of young naturalists.

As has been the case since March, the region is retaining a high degree of water, making typical shallow areas and mudflats too deep for migrating shorebirds. However, areas within Howard Marsh Metropark and the farm fields behind Barnside Creamery have been holding small groups of Dunlin, both yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, and the occasional dowitcher and Black-bellied Plover. The Boss Unit of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Complex (typically a great place for viewing shorebirds) has had an assortment of birds utilizing its waters, but they have been restricted to the far side of the unit, southwest of the viewing platform, where the water isn’t quite as deep. One benefit to the region-wide flooding though, has been the easy access to rail species. With most water high along dike roads and paths, Sora have been easily seen walking along marsh edges and along the south side of the big loop of the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area boardwalk and earlier last week a Black Rail was reported along the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge auto tour. Also, just to the north, a flock of four Whimbrels is still being reported today at Pointe Mouillee State Game Area in Monroe County, Michigan.

Looking ahead: The Biggest Week In American Birding may be over today, but there are many birds yet to come. Numbers are a little scant at the moment, but variety remains high. Anyone wanting to or with the only opportunity to go out Monday or Tuesday, should still experience some fair birding. The expected temperatures are a bit chilly for mid-May, but this provides an excellent opportunity to view and photograph birds foraging lower in the vegetation.

As of today’s check, the next push of migration can be expected for Wednesday, May 15. Winds are expected to shift from Tuesday into Wednesday to a southerly direction, and right now forecast maps are predicting a good setup of low pressure systems to drive warmer southerly winds towards northwest Ohio. As with any prediction, things can change; and as we draw closer to Wednesday, it will be beneficial to watch the overnight weather conditions. Right now, Wednesday looks like it should be the next good day for migration. However, if that changes or the wind shift is delayed, Thursday or Friday would be good alternate days. In particular, Friday, May 17, is calling for southwest winds and thunderstorms in the morning. With incoming thunderstorms, birds will be pushed ahead toward the lake and any associated rain may deter them from traversing the open waters.

This next push, known as the “big wave,” generally brings the highest volume of birds. And, if weather conditions are just right, there can be a massive number of neotropical migrants utilizing the lakeshore marshes. Associated with this movement is a much higher volume of Magnolia Warbler, as well as Nashville, Tennessee, Chestnut-sided, and Blackburnian. Along with a wide variety of warblers, look for a big push of Swainson’s Thrush with lesser numbers of Gray-cheeked and Veery; as well as orioles, tanagers, and more sightings of Red-eyed Vireo. While we’re still a little ways away from peak migration for the following species, this next push should also see more inklings of Empidonax flycatchers and cuckoos.


Anonymous said...

Any updates for a Memorial Day weekend? Just wondering if it would be worth the three hour drive...

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