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.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

May 7 Update

A male Kirtland's Warbler pauses at a private residence at Curtice, Ohio, near Howard Marsh Metropark, on May 6, 2019. Photo: Jeff Bouton.

Tuesday, May 7: Ryan Jacob writes: As predicted, a new shift of winds to the south Sunday night produced some new arrivals Monday morning, May 6. It was a tough call to gauge how large of a push of second wave migrants would occur, but as suspected, diversity definitely increased with only a mild rise in numbers. While southerly winds were definitely beneficial for nocturnal movement, much of this air was also mixed with cold northerly air around the lakeshore region. Regardless, the marshes were alive with great new arrivals!

Before we delve into these arrivals and departures, probably the greatest sighting yesterday was of not one, but TWO Kirtland’s Warblers; one on the Estuary Trail at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (accessed from the west end of the parking lot at the Magee Marsh boardwalk) and another at a private residence near Howard Marsh (in addition to at least three other birds reported in the region recently). At this point, more Kirtland’s have been seen in the region than Bay-breasted Warbler! This has been not only a great opportunity for birders to see this chunky, jack-pine-loving warbler, but is a great correlation to the repopulation success of the species, and an indicator of the importance of lakeshore habitat.

As stated, Sunday’s wind did not bring in a massive number of birds, but there were new arrivals. Black-throated Green Warbler, Nashville, Ovenbird, Cape May, and Black-and-white have become more prevalent, as well as additions of American Redstart, Chestnut-sided Warbler, and Blackpoll. Surprisingly, new thrush arrival was not evident from field observations or from Black Swamp Bird Observatory’s research station. But, Gray Catbirds experienced a good surge, as well as a slight uptick in Lincoln’s and White-crowned Sparrow, Scarlet Tanager, and Red-eyed, Warbling, and Blue-headed Vireo.

Recent arrivals from last week and over the weekend – particularly Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Baltimore Oriole – that were quite numerous, all but disappeared going into Monday, with a lesser number appearing again today, Tuesday, May 7. Slowly dwindling down to single digit sightings, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Palm and Yellow-rumped Warbler, Hermit Thrush, and White-throated Sparrow have nearly all departed and this week could be the last we see of these species until fall.

Looking ahead: As forecast and suspected a few days ago, Thursday, May 9, still appears that it will see a new and large influx of birds. With a line of low pressure systems along the central US, warm southerly winds will be headed along the Mississippi River through Ohio Wednesday night into Thursday. Of course, with a low pressure system, rain and clouds are sure to come with this new air. Wind speeds are expected to be moderate with areas in southern Ohio experiencing a low of only 70 degrees – making for good flying conditions – and rain is not predicted to come until right around sunrise. If this timing stays the same, rain could force arriving (and departing) birds to hunker down in the lakeshore marshes rather than attempting to cross the lake. While rain is expected throughout the rest of the day, any break in the precipitation will be a great opportunity to get out and start searching the local hotspots.

Being that weather is weather, and can always change, an alternative day or even possibly an extension of this Thursday push can be expected for Friday, May 10, as well, with continued southwest winds overnight and a low in the mid 60’s. If the forecast remains the same, the afternoon of Friday will clear up, allowing for sunshine to appear and heighten bird activity as they chase down insect prey.

Continuing along with Monday’s arrivals, we can expect to see more warblers and variety including Magnolia Warbler and Nashville; as well as Baltimore Oriole, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Swainson’s Thrush, and Veery. While we’re still too early for the arrival of most flycatchers, we can expect to see more Great Crested Flycatcher and Least Flycatcher, wheeping and chebeking amongst the warbler songs. 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Migration and Weather Update, May 5

A male Black-throated Blue Warbler foraging among the tangles along the Magee Marsh boardwalk. Photo: Nate Koszycki.

Sunday, May 5: Ryan Jacob writes: Despite temperatures that have felt more like mid-April, the last few days have seen a good migration push of the kind that we've been looking forward to. Beginning Wednesday, May 1, bird numbers throughout the region steadily began to climb, crescendoing to Friday, May 3 (the start of Black Swamp Bird Observatory’s Biggest Week in American Birding) when conditions in the area were almost “fallout” in nature. First wave migrants including Yellow, Yellow-rumped, and Palm Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, White-throated Sparrow, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak invaded the region, and with cold temperatures and misty conditions, a large number of birds were forced down into available habitat. This offered great low views of numerous birds, as well as some sightings of fairly rare birds such as Kirtland’s and Kentucky Warbler at the Magee Marsh Boardwalk, and Clay-colored Sparrow at Metzger Marsh.

Weather conditions remained the same throughout much of Saturday May 4 and then gradually warmed on Sunday May 5, with bird numbers steadily falling as migrants continued north, and only mild northerly winds standing between them and Canada. While Ruby-crowned Kinglets are still slowly winding down, Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers have seemingly disappeared within one night; while other recent arrivals such as Black-throated Blue Warbler, Nashville Warbler, and Baltimore Oriole only being seen in single digits in many areas.

Much of northwest Ohio remains flooded – creating ample foraging for shorebirds, but a challenge for birders – birds of the shore are appearing throughout the area (including roving Franklin’s Gulls) and in mudflats at Howard Marsh which has been holding Black-necked Stilt, Least Sandpiper, Dunlin, and both Yellowlegs. (Yellow-headed Blackbird is also being seen frequently at Howard Marsh). Another area to check as migration progresses is the field behind Barnside Creamery on Rt 2 and OH-19, which is quite saturated and has been known in the past to attract shorebirds such as godwits and plovers (it’s also a quick place to grab lunch and some ice cream).

Looking ahead: For spring migration, we are always looking for warm southwest winds overnight to bring new migrants into the region. However, the weather doesn’t always cooperate with what “we’d like to see” for a good push of birds. Looking into the upcoming week, tonight going into Monday, May 6, is looking like the next (or at least most optimal) day for migrants. With winds shifting to southwest Sunday into Monday, new arrivals of warblers (including Magnolia, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, and Bay-breasted), vireos, flycatchers, and thrushes should be hitting the lakeshore. These winds don’t appear to be carrying warm tropical air that we would look for with a big push, but any wind direction other than north will benefit incoming arrivals. This date also lines up with the second wave of migration in northwest Ohio which typically occurs between May 7 and 10.

Looking even farther ahead, if Monday does not see the movement we are expecting, keep an eye out for weather conditions on Thursday, May 9. Going into the morning of Thursday, winds are expected to be from the southwest, with a low of only 60 degrees. While these conditions are certainly great for migration, they also bring thunderstorms and rain. If precipitation is light going into Thursday, this could also be an alternate day to look forward to for the next big push of migrants. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

May 1 Migrant Update and Outlook

Baltimore Orioles were among the migrants flooding into the region today. Photo: Matt Sanders

Wednesday May 1, 2019: Ryan Jacob writes: Well, migration really feels like it has finally kicked off in the marshes of northwest Ohio. For what seems like weeks, the area has been blasted by northerly cold winds, allowing for very minor bird movement. However today, May 1, winds in the morning shifted just enough to the south to allow for some great bird movement. Many new warblers entered the area including more Yellow Warblers, Black-throated Green, Nashville, and Prothonotary, and southern overshoots such as Hooded and Prairie. Also accompanying the “stars of migration,” Baltimore Orioles and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks invaded the area, with lesser appearances by Veery, Swainson’s Thrush, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and Gray Catbird.

But most spectacular of all, Blue Jays were on the move today in great numbers. Being diurnal migrants, Blue Jays are hesitant to cross Lake Erie, making a decision to travel either west or east along its shoreline, and allowing for easy views of migration in process (something we don’t get to observe from nocturnal migrants). Just from Black Swamp Bird Observatory’s Navarre Marsh Banding Station, an estimated 2,000 jays were recorded traversing the lakeshore from 8am until noon. 

Another group of diurnal migrants on the move today were Broad-winged Hawks. Again, as with other migrants this season, we have not seen the biggest raptor push through the area due to northerly winds. Along with scant numbers of Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawk, Broad-wings were observed heading northwest near the lakeshore. The next shift to southerly winds could still see some excellent raptor movement near the lake, and it will be worth keeping an on the sky between occasional looks for warblers.

If you haven’t been to northwest Ohio recently, then you might be surprised to learn (or maybe not) that the region has experienced a massive amount of flooding. This is good and bad. Good for shorebirds searching for shallow fields to forage in. Bad for birders hoping for views of said shorebirds. Flooded fields throughout the area have provided many opportunities for migrating shorebirds, reducing the concentration of birds when local water levels are lower. However, already living up to its inaugural reputation, Howard Marsh Metropark has provided some accessible mudflats for shorebirds and has recently hosted Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Dunlin, and even the occasional Yellow-headed Blackbird.

Along with the birds that have come in, the marshes are seeing some of the last “winter birds.” Golden-crowned Kinglet are very few and far between, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets are now making their last push through the region with mainly females being seen. Fox Sparrows have not been spotted for a couple of weeks or so, and White-throated Sparrow and Hermit Thrush seem to be making their last push.

Looking ahead: A few days ago, it appeared that tomorrow, Thursday May 2, would be the first really good day for migration. However, forecasts have changed and winds are expected to come from the west to northwest. Low pressure systems are developing in the central US which should be great for warm air and birds traveling into northern regions. But this unclear weather direction along the lakeshore could make for some great birding tomorrow, or keep recently arrived birds along the lakeshore. Either way, tomorrow should be a good day for birding. Woodlots along the lakeshore will be worth checking, especially Magee Marsh Wildlife Area and the woodlot at Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area (which can hold quite a variety of migrants in the right conditions). If winds are coming from the north, areas such as Pearson Metropark and the woods surrounding Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge’s visitor center could be good alternate birding locations.

As these pressure systems make their way to the east, cold northern air is expected to hit the region on Friday and Saturday, May 3 and 4. While a jacket may be necessary for outdoor excursions, this can be an excellent opportunity to see birds foraging lower than normal, following the insect activity closer to the ground. Combined with bouts of rain, birds in this weather should be right near eye-level while in areas such as the Magee Marsh Boardwalk.

While predicting anything past a couple of days is difficult (even for the professional meteorologists), it currently appears that our next wave of migration could come in Tuesday May 7, when winds again shift to the south and warm air infiltrates overnight. This lines right up with the second wave of migration, when the biggest push of neotropical migrants descend upon the region. Again, the timing of this push won’t be clear until we head farther into the week.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Update: Changing forecast and migration outlook May 12 - 16

A female Bay-breasted Warbler pauses along the Estuary Trail at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Ohio. Photo by Kenn Kaufman. 

Friday May 11, 2018: Three days ago, based on the weather forecast at the time, we predicted that tomorrow (Saturday the 12th) could see a major arrival of migrants. The weather pattern has changed since then. Tonight (Friday night) there will still be strong winds from the south, all the way from the Gulf of Mexico to the Midwest, but apparently they won't reach northern Ohio. A high-pressure area over southern Ontario will block that system, so here along the Lake Erie shoreline, we're supposed to get cool temperatures, east-northeast winds, and probably scattered thunderstorms during the night. Saturday and Sunday will continue to be relatively cool, with northeasterly winds and probably with scattered thunderstorms on Saturday. 

What does that mean for birding? While we probably won't see many new birds arriving, most of the migrants that are here now should stick around. Excellent numbers and variety of warblers and other migrants have been seen in all the usual spots along and near Lake Erie during the last couple of days, and that good birding continued this morning. When we get a cold spell in mid-May, it usually brings many migrants down to forage at lower levels, since fewer insects are active in the treetops in the chilly breeze. Under these conditions, photography can be excellent. But be sure to carry good waterproof covering for your camera gear in case of sudden downpours. 

When migrants are grounded here by northerly winds, the best strategy for birders is to check multiple spots instead of continuing to work the same areas. During their stopovers, some migrants move around but others stay in the same spot for several days, so it's good to visit more different places to find different individuals. At this link you can find directions to many excellent birding sites. 

A slow migration day might be the perfect time to visit the Oak Openings area, a short distance away on the west side of Toledo. Lark Sparrow, Blue Grosbeak, Red-headed Woodpecker, and Henslow's Sparrow are being seen near the south end of Girdham Road, and Red Crossbills are in the pines near the Lodge at the south end of Wilkins Road; see this map for directions. 

Looking ahead: The winds are supposed to shift to southeasterly sometime Sunday night, and depending on when that happens, we could see some turnover on Monday, the 14th. Tuesday May 15 and especially Wednesday May 16 should produce more new birds after southwesterly winds overnight. At the moment it doesn't appear that these will be huge flight days, just fairly good ones; but as we've seen, weather forecasts can change quickly! We should at least start to see better numbers of flycatchers and of typical late migrants like Canada Warbler and Red-eyed Vireo. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

May 9 - 13: Two more waves incoming

A Northern Parula launches from a twig at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Ohio, in early May 2018. Photo by Kenn Kaufman.

Tuesday May 8, 2018: After a very slow migration up through April 30th, the birding has been outstanding locally in the week since, making for a great start to The Biggest Week in American Birding. Large numbers of migrants came in overnight on several nights, and rain helped to put birds down in local habitats around May 3rd and 4th. Numbers of new arrivals haven't been as large for the last couple of days, but warblers, thrushes, and other migratory songbirds have remained numerous in woodlots near the Lake Erie shore, as they rest and feed to build strength for the next leg of their journey. 

At Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, a Neotropic Cormorant (very rare in Ohio) was along the auto tour May 5 and 6. It was near the northeasternmost corner of the auto tour route (identified on refuge maps as the corner of Trumpeter Trail and N. Estuary Avenue) but it would be worth watching for anywhere at Ottawa, Metzger Marsh, or Magee Marsh. A Rough-legged Hawk (common here in winter but very rare in May) lingered through this morning along Stange Road north of State Route 2, on the southwest edge of Ottawa NWR.

The new Howard Marsh Metropark (off Howard Road north of State Route 2, west of Metzger Marsh) has been outstanding for shorebirds this week. Big flocks of American Golden-Plovers have been consistent, with sightings of Black-necked Stilt, Ruddy Turnstone, Wilson's Phalarope, and others. American Pipits and Horned Larks have been in open areas along the entrance road. 

Looking ahead, winds are expected to be light and variable tonight (Tuesday night) under clear skies, so some migrants will be moving, but we don't expect a big arrival Wednesday morning. However, winds are supposed to shift to the south on Wednesday and to be strong out of the south and southwest that night, with scattered thunderstorms, so Thursday morning should see a widespread arrival of migrants, at inland sites as well as along the lake shore. Northerly winds on Thursday should keep birds grounded here. Then a strong flow on Friday night, bringing southwest winds all the way from the Gulf of Mexico, should usher in another major arrival of migrants on Saturday, as long as the forecast doesn't change too much. 

The wave of birds that arrived last week included an interesting mix of species that usually push through in late April (like Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers) with species more typical of the second wave in May (like Bay-breasted, Chestnut-sided, and Blackpoll Warblers). Some of the typical later migrants are still scarce or absent. Very few flycatchers have arrived, and very few of the late warblers like Mourning, Wilson's, and Canada. If the weather forecast holds up, we should start to see more of such birds by this weekend. 

To recap, we expect very good birding to continue through the next six days. We should see a moderate arrival of new migrants on Thursday May 10 and potentially a bigger wave on Saturday May 12.  Conditions for the 12th should bring migrants to all good habitats along the lake shore, so if you're concerned about potential crowds at the Magee Marsh boardwalk on a big Saturday, there are several great alternatives, such as Maumee Bay State Park, Metzger Marsh woodlot, and all the woods at Ottawa NWR. Just east of Port Clinton, East Harbor State Park, Marblehead Lighthouse, and Meadowbrook Marsh are all excellent. Over in Erie County, Pipe Creek Wildlife Area and Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve can be outstanding on big flight days. You can find directions to these sites at this link. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Update: Current Conditions and Looking Ahead through May 7

This Kentucky Warbler entertained birders at the west entrance to the Magee Marsh boardwalk for hours on May 2nd. Photo by Kenn Kaufman.

Thursday, May 3, 2018: As predicted, after a very slow migration through the end of April, the floodgates opened this week. Numbers and variety of migrants in sites along Lake Erie increased dramatically on Tuesday May 1 and increased even more on Wednesday May 2. The number of warbler species in the area jumped from about six to more than 25. Between rain showers today (Thursday) the birding was still outstanding, with most of Wednesday's prizes still around. As The Biggest Week in American Birding launches tomorrow, we can be certain that there will be plenty of birds around each day, even though the flow of migration will vary from day to day.

A notable feature Wednesday was the arrival of some "overflight" species: birds that mostly nest farther south than this, evidently overshooting their intended destination. Such birds tend to be early spring migrants, and are most likely here at the end of April. Kentucky, Worm-eating, and Hooded Warblers are examples. All three were seen Wednesday and again Thursday at Magee Marsh.

Thunderstorms moved through the area on Wednesday night. When this happens, we can predict that migrants will be more widespread the next day, not just concentrated on the lake shore, because they stop wherever they are when they run into rain. So as expected, today (Thursday) birds like Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Baltimore Orioles were widespread, even in woods several miles from the lake. This can make for excellent birding at sites like Pearson Metropark and Oak Openings. 

Looking ahead, tonight (Thursday May 3) we're supposed to have continued southwest winds, with scattered thunderstorms moving through between midnight and dawn. So we may get more migrants arriving, but again they should be well dispersed through all good local habitats, and many of today's specialties are likely to stick around. With more variable winds over the weekend, we should continue to see some turnover through Saturday, but then new arrivals are likely to be fewer on Sunday May 6 and Monday May 7 after northerly winds set in.  

In that weather pattern you can still have great birding, but it takes a different strategy. Instead of just scouring one hotspot (like the Magee boardwalk or the Metzger Marsh woodlot), it works better to visit a variety of spots. There are many good migrant spots in northwestern Ohio, from Erie County sites like Sheldon Marsh and Pipe Creek to state parks like East Harbor and Maumee Bay and many of the Toledo Metroparks. See this link for more ideas about places to visit. 

The wildlife drive at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, always an outstanding route for birding, will be open every day from May 4 through 20. This provides access to some of the best waterbird habitat in Ohio. The woodlots at Ottawa, accessible from the visitors' center or from the parking lot straight north from the entrance, are also wonderful places for warblers and other migrants. 

And if you want to explore, check out the brand-new Howard Marsh Metropark -- on Howard Road just north of State Route 2, just west of the entrance to Metzger Marsh near the village of Bono. Howard Marsh has only been open to the public for about a week, and it has already produced sightings of American Avocet, Willet, and American Golden-Plover, among other species.

A couple of safety notes: The boardwalk at Magee Marsh can be extremely slippery after rains! Please step carefully if it's at all wet. Also, please do not stop on any of the area roads to look at birds. If you think you've spotted something outstanding, find a safe place to pull completely off the pavement. Thank you!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

April 30 to May 4: First Big Wave Coming

Black-throated Green Warbler, one of the migrant species that should show up in good numbers during the next few days. Photo by Kenn Kaufman.
Saturday, April 28, 2018: As of today migration still seems delayed. The warblers and other stars of The Biggest Week In American Birding - which begins in six days - haven't arrived in big numbers yet. Fortunately, at this season, migration is not a gradual thing: big pulses of movement happen when conditions are right. Conditions should be right in a couple of days. With many migrants undoubtedly dammed up to the south of us, we should have a major arrival of variety and numbers starting around Tuesday, May 1, and continuing through the week.

This last week in woods near Lake Erie, the selection of species seemed more typical of early April, featuring Golden-crowned Kinglets, Winter Wrens, and other early birds. On Thursday, April 26, a modest influx brought in many White-throated Sparrows and Yellow-rumped Warblers, plus a few other early warblers such as Palm, Pine, and Orange-crowned. But northerly winds and some overnight rains stopped the flow again by Friday night. 

For birding in northwest Ohio this weekend, April 28-29, diversity of migrants from the tropics is likely to remain low, but there are fair numbers of early species. Leaves on the trees are just budding out, so birds are easier to see (and photograph) than they will be later in the season after full leaf-out. Area marshes are still holding a fair variety of ducks and other water birds. Some low-water spots along the Magee Marsh causeway are attracting shorebirds; two Willets were there on Friday, the 27th. 

A high-pressure area will slide gradually eastward over us this weekend, with light or northerly winds, and nighttime temperatures down near freezing. But by sometime Monday, as the high moves on east and a low approaches from the west, winds should switch around strongly to the southwest, with daytime temperatures up to the high 60s on Monday and the 70s on following days. The sustained southwesterly air flow should bring large numbers and greatly increased variety of migrants. The number of warbler species along the Magee Marsh boardwalk, for example, should jump from the current 3 or 4 up to something like 10 to 20, along with an arrival of orioles, Scarlet Tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and others. We're overdue for a big daytime flight of Broad-winged Hawks, and that could happen as early as Monday, if the wind shifts early enough.

When will be the best birding this week? It's hard to pick a favorite because Tuesday May 1 through Friday May 4 all appear to have great potential. Based on current weather forecasts I expect each of those days to produce new birds that have arrived overnight. Thunderstorm activity beginning Wednesday afternoon may have the effect of putting more migrants down, depending on exactly when and where those storms move through. Anyway, regardless of questions about exact timing, migration is just about to kick into high gear. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Update: Weekend of April 14-15

Numbers of Purple Finches arrived in northwestern Ohio this week. Photo by Kenn Kaufman.

Friday, April 13, 2018:
At the time of our last post, the extended weather forecast made it sound as if this weekend could offer very good birding. Unfortunately, the forecast has changed considerably since then. The southerly winds of the last couple of days are ending tonight. Winds will shift around to the northeast, temperatures will drop, and we're predicted to get a lot of rain over the weekend in northwestern Ohio. 

The middle of this week did see a good arrival of early migrants, as predicted. Daytime flights brought a push of Sharp-shinned Hawks and some other raptors. Among the nocturnal migrants that appeared or increased this week were Yellow-rumped Warbler, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Chipping Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Hermit Thrush, Purple Finch, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. With the arrival of northerly winds and cooler temperatures, these birds are likely to stick around. So if you can get out between rain showers this weekend, and check the sheltered, downwind, edges of the woods, you may still find good birding. 

Looking ahead, we may have southerly winds and the chance for a good daytime flight on Wednesday, April 18. But overall the pattern looks like a return to cooler temperatures and winds mostly from the north, holding down the migration. 

While this weather forecast may seem a little discouraging, it's important to remember that some migrants will continue to filter into the region even if conditions aren't favorable. And when the weather does shift to bring warmer temps and southerly winds, there will be a huge backlog of migrants still south of us, waiting to move in this direction. We will keep an eye on the forecasts and try to update as soon as we have potential good news. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

April 11 to 15: More Migrants Incoming

The first major wave of Yellow-rumped Warblers should arrive in woodlots of northwestern Ohio within the next few days. Photo by Kenn Kaufman.

April 8, 2018: After a month of cool temperatures and relatively few days with south winds, some aspects of spring migration seem a little behind schedule in northwestern Ohio. As a result, large numbers of migrants are probably held up to the south of us, so we can expect to see substantial movements of birds whenever conditions improve. For example, winds shifted to the south and southwest on March 31, and a huge flight of Turkey Vultures moved through the region that day. 

Waterfowl migration peaked in March as expected. The thousands of Tundra Swans that passed through are now mostly gone, and numbers of most ducks are decreasing now, although a good variety of species will be around for another couple of weeks. Good numbers of Tree Swallows, Great Egrets, and American Coots have returned to area marshes.

In the woodlots near Lake Erie, we're seeing the songbird migrants expected at the beginning of April: Golden-crowned Kinglet, Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush, Brown Creeper, Fox Sparrow, Rusty Blackbird, and others. They're around in modest numbers so far, but things are likely to pick up soon. 

If current weather forecasts don't change too much, we should see a major arrival of migrants beginning Wednesday or Thursday. There's some uncertainty caused by a small low-pressure area that may move either north of here or right through here on Thursday, but overall, we're predicted to have warmer temperatures and southerly winds from Wednesday April 11 through Sunday April 15. If I had to guess right now I would say that Wednesday and Friday might have the best daytime movements (of Turkey Vultures, raptors, and others) while Thursday and Saturday may be better for numbers of nocturnal migrant songbirds that have arrived overnight. Of course, weather predictions at this season are notoriously changeable. But any time during the latter half of the week should offer a chance to see early migrants.

So far, only a few Yellow-rumped Warblers have arrived. There should be many more by late this week, along with Palm Warbler, and possibly a few others like Black-and-white Warbler and Pine Warbler. This is a good time to look for southern species "overshooting" their ranges, so Louisiana Waterthrush and Yellow-throated Warbler may show up at hotspots near the lake. 

Speaking of hotspots - many visiting birders gravitate to the boardwalk at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, and of course that's a wonderful place, but it's just one of many superb birding sites in the region. Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, right next door to Magee, can be spectacularly good, and the same is true for other spots such as Maumee Bay State Park, Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area, East Harbor State Park, Sheldon Marsh State Nature Reserve, and others. For ideas and directions on local birding, see this link on the Black Swamp Bird Observatory website. 

Nature Blog Network