Friday, September 1, 2006

Notes on fall migrant concentrations

The boardwalk at Magee Marsh is justly famous as a concentration point for migrant songbirds in spring and fall. The boardwalk runs through a prime section of woods on the beach ridge between the marshes and Lake Erie, and on a typical day in migration season the beach ridge will have a relatively high concentration of birds compared to areas away from the lake. But that isn't the case every day, even in peak season.

Case in point, based on my own observations and those of various other people that I talked to. Yesterday (Thursday Aug. 31) the boardwalk was very slow for migrants, and this morning (Friday Sept. 1) there was only a moderate amount of activity there. But on both days there were good numbers of migrants just a short distance to the south, only one to two miles south of the lake front. In trees around the BSBO headquarters (just north of Route 2 on the road in to Crane Creek / Magee Marsh), Kim and I saw numerous warblers including Wilson's, Blackpoll, and Blackburnian, plus Philadelphia Vireo, Veery, and various other migrants. At Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, at the parking area for the old office and hiking trails, there's an excellent little swampy woodlot just west of the parking lot. In a short visit this morning I saw a good variety of warblers including Black-throated Blue, Canada, Tennessee, Wilson's, Bay-breasted, Mourning, and lots of Magnolias, as well as Gray-cheeked and Swainson's Thrushes and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. On both days, I think I would have been disappointed if I had confined my birding to the boardwalk.

It may be that the very strong northeast winds on Thursday pushed birds away from the lake. The point of this post is just to advise anyone who makes a long drive to bird at the Magee boardwalk: if it's unexpectedly slow, it doesn't mean you should turn around and go home. It's worth checking other spots just a mile or two south of the lake shore to see if the concentrations might be temporarily shifted inland.

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