Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Shorebirds at Metzger, June 13, 2007

By the time you get to June 13th, shorebird "migrants" at this latitude are starting to be problematic. Some that are around now may still in fact be on their way north to the breeding grounds, and they may still attempt to nest after they arrive there, but others are probably nonbreeders that won't go much farther north and they may just spend the summer here. By the beginning of July, of course, the first southbound migrants will show up -- perhaps birds that failed in their first nesting attempt and didn't have time (in the brief Arctic summer) to initiate a second. A lot of ink and electrons get wasted in attempting to define whether given individual shorebirds in mid to late June are northbound, southbound, or neither. But it's still interesting to see what shorebirds we can find at this time of year.

Kim and I visited Metzger Marsh, Lucas Co., this evening (Wednesday June 13) to check out the flats that had been so good for shorebirds this spring. We were not disappointed, with nine species seen. The Killdeers and Spotted Sandpipers are local breeders, but the other seven species certainly are not:

Black-bellied Plover 3 (all in "winter-like" plumage, undoubtedly young nonbreeders)
Ruddy Turnstone 1
Semipalmated Sandpiper 2
Western Sandpiper 1
Least Sandpiper 3
White-rumped Sandpiper 2
Dunlin 14

White-rumped Sandpiper is a classic late migrant so these birds were very likely still on their way to the Arctic. The most notable bird this evening was undoubtedly the Western Sandpiper. I've been looking at shorebirds closely for the last three years here and this was the first "spring" Western that I had seen in Ohio. According to what I've seen and read, the
species must be pretty rare here in spring, distinctly uncommon in fall, and not expected at all in mid-June. Fortunately this was a well-marked individual in breeding plumage with rusty on the cap and auriculars and scapulars, spotting / streaking on the sides, and very long bill, and we saw it in direct comparison to a Semi and several Dunlins.

Aside from the shorebirds we had no surprises. The resting flock of 40-plus Common Terns included only one Forster's while we were there and no other terns, and the only gulls seen were Herring and Ring-billed. Numbers of Mallards were flying around but we had no other ducks close enough to identify. Great Blue Heron (25), Great Egret (4), and Snowy Egret (1) were the only large waders.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Metzger Marsh update 5/31

Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area, Lucas Co., northwest. Ohio, continues to be a good spot for shorebirds and other waterbirds. Most of the main unit has been drawn down (and I understand it won't be refilled until mid-August), but south of the dike that separates the marsh from Lake Erie there remains a large body of shallow water with extensive mudflats along the far edge; this is best viewed by walking out the dike that runs southeast from the parking lot, and looking across with a telescope. I was there at midday today (Thursday 5/31) and failed to see the Laughing Gull or White-faced Ibis that were there two days earlier, but I did see a Stilt Sandpiper in almost full breeding plumage, a rare bird for spring and the second one at Metzger this year. Also there among the shorebirds were five Black-bellied Plovers, 25 Ruddy Turnstones, and two White-rumped Sandpipers. The resting flock of gulls and terns at midday today included two one-year-old Bonaparte's Gulls, the first I'd seen locally in more than three weeks, as well as several subadult Forster's Terns. A single unidentified dark ibis flew over, and later a single Glossy Ibis came in and was foraging along the edge of the flats. There have been a few Glossy Ibises around the area continuously since late April, but for a while I was missing them repeatedly, and they showed up at Metzger only when I wasn't there. Hugh Rose and Judy Kolo-Rose had a standing joke that I was an ibis jinx, and that the best way for birders to see ibises was to go someplace where I wasn't going! But I guess the jinx has been broken. At any rate, birders who are coming to n.w. Ohio for the tail end of the spring migration should consider bringing a scope and stopping at Metzger.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Metzger Marsh White-faced Ibis, Laughing Gull 5/29

This spring there have been numerous reports of Glossy Ibises around the state, but I'm also aware of a couple of reports of White-faced Ibis, including one at Metzger Marsh on April 26 and one in the Killbuck Marsh area on May 11. This evening (Tuesday May 29) I found one White-faced and one Glossy Ibis at Metzger Marsh, n.w. Ohio. The two birds were foraging together along the edge of the extensive flats south of the dike that runs east from the parking lot at the end of the road. Like most of the other birds present, the ibises were some distance away from the dike. Through the telescope it was easy to see the Glossy's dark slaty facial skin with narrow border of pale blue skin, and the White-faced Ibis's red facial skin with a smeary surrounding area of white feathers. Without a scope, though, it would have been impossible to identify these two birds with certainty. Glossy Ibis has been recorded far more often in Ohio than White-faced, but clearly we can't just assume that dark ibises are Glossies unless they're seen well enough to prove that identification.

Also at Metzger this evening was an adult Laughing Gull. It was resting on the edge of the flats with a group that included about 50 Ring-billed Gulls (mostly subadults), 20 Herring Gulls (all adults), 35 Common Terns, 7 Forster's Terns, 2 Black Terns, and 3 Caspian Terns. Those are maximum counts for each, because there was continuous turnover in the birds present. Turnover seems to be a constant at Metzger right now. This evening I saw only three Black-bellied Plovers (but Kim and I had seen 64 there yesterday) and no Red Knots (five yesterday). Numbers of Ruddy Turnstones and Dunlins also had dropped substantially, but this evening I had one Sanderling, three Least Sandpipers, and two White-rumped Sandpipers, all missed yesterday.

Clearly, Metzger is worth a look for anyone birding the area over the next couple of weeks, but do bring a telescope if you can.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Magee area migrants 5/28

This weekend (May 26 and 27), the area of Magee Marsh and nearby hot spots in n.w. Ohio had unsettled weather, with winds and intermittent rain, but with good birding in between storms. Today (Monday May 28) was startlingly calm by contrast, and was clear after the morning fog lifted.

Kim and I spent a couple of hours at Metzger Marsh and about three hours at the Magee Marsh boardwalk today to get a sense of the state of migration. Numbers of migrants had definitely dropped a lot since Friday, but there was still a fair amount of variety. Wilson's Warblers and especially American Redstarts were obvious at both locations, most of the latter being young males, actively singing. Other classic late migrants included multiples of Canada and Mourning Warblers, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, and Red-eyed Vireos. We also saw numbers of Magnolia Warblers, plus Bay-breasted, Ovenbird, and others, but no Connecticut Warbler for us today. All five species of Empidonax flycatchers were at the Magee boardwalk, with only one Least but multiples of the others; two singing Acadians were something of a surprise. An Olive-sided Flycatcher was there as well. There apparently had been an influx of thrushes again: even though we were at Magee in the heat of the afternoon, we saw 7 Swainson's Thrushes, 4 Gray-cheeked, and a Veery. Having such a high ratio of Gray-cheekeds was a pleasant surprise; but since this species breeds farther north, on average, than any of our other brown thrushes, perhaps it makes sense for it to be a late migrant.

The extensive mudflats at Metzger Marsh (northwest of Magee) continue to see frequent turnover. Highlights there at midday today included five Red Knots (four in breeding plumage), 64 Black-bellied Plovers, and 70-plus Ruddy Turnstones. The resting flock of ratty subadult Ring-billed Gulls was joined off and on by up to 25-plus Common Terns as well as one Forster's, three Caspian, and two Black Terns.

At this point I don't expect any more big fallouts of migrants, but the woodlots at Magee, Ottawa NWR, Metzger, and elsewhere along the lakeshore should have an interesting variety of late migrants for the next week or so, including sought-after species like Yellow-bellied, Alder, and Olive-sided Flycatchers, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Mourning and Connecticut Warblers, and perhaps some surprising strays. Shorebird migration should continue to make Metzger Marsh worth checking for another couple of weeks at least.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Magee area migration 5/25

For the last three nights (Tuesday through Thursday) the winds were southerly, and the last three days (Wednesday through Friday, May 23 - 25) saw excellent numbers and substantial turnover of late-season migrants in the area of Magee Marsh, n.w. Ohio. Today, Friday 5/25, there were good numbers of migrants at all the spots in this immediate area: the Magee Marsh boardwalk, the woodlots at Ottawa NWR main unit, the Black Swamp Bird Observatory banding station (on the Navarre Unit of Ottawa NWR, about five miles east of Magee), and the woodlot at Metzger Marsh, to the west of Magee. The makeup of the flight was about as expected for late May: lots of Empidonax flycatchers of all five species, with Yellow-bellied Flycatcher especially numerous today; both cuckoos in good numbers, especially Yellow-billed; very large numbers of Swainson's Thrushes but also a decent number of Gray-cheeked Thrushes today; many Blackpoll Warblers and American Redstarts, but also fair numbers of Canada and Mourning Warblers and a fair scattering of at least 15 other warbler species. This evening we saw at least one Connecticut Warbler, possibly two, in the area of the tower at the west end of the Magee boardwalk, and I heard that one was seen earlier in the woodlot at Metzger.

The mudflats at Metzger Marsh continue to see rapid turnover in the birds present. I was there today just before a heavy rain hit in the early afternoon, and went back an hour later after the rain ceased, and even in that time there was turnover, with two Black-bellied Plovers and an American Golden-Plover before the rain, many Forster's Terns and a lone Bonaparte's Gull after the rain. There are still impressive numbers of Ruddy Turnstones. Two American Pipits here seemed to be getting a bit late.

With the weather conditions tonight, I would expect that not many of the current migrants would leave, and numbers and variety should be excellent for the weekend.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Magee area migration 5/23

In the area of Magee Marsh, n.w. Ohio, today (Wednesday May 23) it was evident that umbers of migrants had picked up since Monday. Winds had been oddly variable Monday night but by Tuesday night they were more consistently out of the south, and many birds apparently came in overnight. This morning I had good numbers of Empidonax flycatchers at Magee, with all five species represented during four hours on the east beach and the boardwalk: 5 Yellow-bellied, 2 Acadian, 3 Alder, 6 Willow, 4 Least, and another 15 unidentified Empidonax that were silent or seen too briefly (mostly Willow/Alder types). This was the first good influx of Alder and Yellow-bellied that I had encountered this year, but these are notoriously late migrants anyway.

Diversity of warblers is starting to drop off a bit, but there were still good numbers of some things, especially American Redstarts (I saw at least 50, mostly females and young males). Blackpoll, Wilson's, and Canada Warblers were also present in good numbers. A lone Palm Warbler on the east beach was getting a little late. One Kentucky Warbler was a surprise (and I heard of sightings of two others). Everyone I met on the boardwalk was looking for Connecticut Warblers, but I didn't talk to anyone who had seen one. However, at least one was heard singing at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory's main banding site, about five miles east of Magee, this morning.

Notable among other migrants were at least 25 Swainson's Thrushes, at least 7 Lincoln's Sparrows, and at least 2 Philadelphia Vireos. Also interesting to me was a substantial flight of Blue Jays. During a couple of hours in mid-morning I saw at least 400 Blue Jays, in flocks of 3 or 4 up to 20 or 25, all moving silently east-southeast paralleling the lake shore. The May migration here is a well-known phenomenon, described in some detail in The Birds of Ohio (Bruce Peterjohn) and mentioned in Birds of the Toledo Area (Matt Anderson et al.) and Birds of the Cleveland Region (Larry Rosche). But I grew up thinking of this species as a cold-hardy permanent resident, and it's still startling to me to be out in late May, with foliage looking like summer and temperatures in the 80s, seeing flocks of Blue Jays still engaged in spring migration.

Current predictions are for southerly winds to continue for the next couple of nights, so I expect there will be continued turnover and bigger numbers for the next couple of days, and then decent numbers of migrants grounded on the lake shore over the weekend.

Monday, May 21, 2007

North Coast highlights 5/21

We were sorry to miss the OOS conference this weekend, which sounds like it was another excellent event. But Kim and I admittedly were having an outrageously good time on Saturday the 19th, taking part in another tradition: the North Coast Open, an annual big day competition sponsored by the Toledo Naturalists' Association. The event is limited to just five counties in northwestern Ohio (Lucas, Ottawa, Erie, Sandusky, and Wood), no one is allowed to use tapes, the count runs just from midnight to 9 p.m., and everyone on a team must see or hear a bird for it to count, so it's more restrictive than American Birding Association rules. Kim and I were lucky enough to get to team up with Greg Links and John Chadwick, two top-notch birders who know every bird location in this part of the world. Thanks to their expertise, we wound up with a total of 158 species for the 21-hour event. All teams combined had a cumulative total of 199 species, reflecting just how good the birding is in this part of the state.

It was actually kind of a rough day for birding, with cold morning temps and overcast keeping birdsong to a minimum, and then intermittent rain and wind for the rest of the day, or totals would have been even higher. Anyway, a few highlights just from our team's experience: two Glossy Ibises at Pipe Creek Wildlife Area, Sandusky, adding to the impression that there are a lot of these birds around. A lingering Ring-necked Duck also at Pipe Creek.

Two King Rails actively calling at Mallard Club Marsh -- possibly two rival males, rather than two members of a pair (although a pair was seen here previously by Jen Brumfield). Good numbers of shorebirds at Metzger Marsh at the end of the day -- there seems to be a lot of turnover here in the evenings, and we had a Willet flying around and actually doing a burst of its breeding-grounds "song," but our best shorebird here was a beautiful Stilt Sandpiper in breeding plumage, a rare bird for spring. One Olive-sided Flycatcher on Girdham Road in the Oak Openings. Summer Tanagers -- in addition to birds on territory as expected in the Oak Openings, we also had a young male on the east beach at Magee Marsh. Somewhat late were a Hermit Thrush and an Orange-crowned Warbler at Magee.

The Toledo Naturalists' Association has been around for almost 75 years, and they're not just about birds -- their membership includes experts on all aspects of natural history. But as they proved once again on Saturday, they sure know how to go birding!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Weather / migration update

Discussing the state of migration in n.w. Ohio, just last night I wrote that I didn't expect any south winds to bring in waves of migrants before next week. Well, around here, the weather predictions change as often as the weather, which is saying a lot. They're now calling for the winds to switch around to the southwest tonight (Friday May 18) and stay southwest or west-southwest through Saturday and Saturday night. So I expect there will be a lot of turnover -- the birds that have been here for several days may leave, but I expect there will be new ones coming in as well. Today I was still finding things like Tennessee Warbler and Veery scattered at small woodlots well inland, but I would guess that tomorrow the migrants may be
more concentrated close to the lake.

Weather / migration update 5/18

Discussing the state of migration in northwest Ohio, just last night I wrote that I didn't expect any south winds to bring in waves of migrants before next week. Well, around here, the weather predictions change as often as the weather, which is saying a lot. They're now calling for the winds to switch around to the southwest tonight (Friday May 18) and stay southwest or west-southwest through Saturday and Saturday night. So I expect there will be a lot of turnover -- the birds that have been here for several days may leave, but I expect there will be new ones coming in as well. Today I was still finding things like Tennessee Warbler and Veery scattered at small woodlots well inland, but I would guess that tomorrow the migrants may be more concentrated close to the lake.

Migrants everywhere in northwest Ohio

Kudos to Ben Warner for finding a Connecticut Warbler in the woods at Ottawa NWR, and thanks for the thorough and helpful report on what was happening there and at Magee Marsh. I haven't been to Magee for the last two days, but based on what I've seen elsewhere, there are migrants all over in the Western Lake Erie Marsh region. Today (Thursday May 17), for example, I was at East Harbor State Park, just east of Port Clinton, and in just an hour on the trails south of the east beach I had 18 warbler species, including Cape May, Blackpoll, Tennessee, Canada, Ovenbird, and N Parula. Greg Links checked a woodlot inside Sandusky city limits and had 20 warbler species in a short visit. Yesterday, the 16th, Kim and I had Tennessee, Magnolia, and other warblers in small patches of trees near Medusa Marsh, and we found flocks of warblers (including Yellow-rumped, Palm, and Black-throated Green) just back in the woods at the Resthaven Wildlife Area, near Castalia. The main banding station of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, located about 5 miles east of Magee, has handled hundreds of migrants for the last three days. As of today, they're up to over 1,000 Magnolia Warblers for the spring!

We haven't had south winds to bring in new waves since Tuesday, and it doesn't appear that we'll have any more before next week, but the birds are here anyway. It may be that the recent heavy rains put them down where they were, so that any sizeable woodlot within miles of Lake Erie has a good concentration of birds. The point is that there are a LOT of migrants around, and you should get out tomorrow and this weekend if you get the chance -- don't wait for it to look like "perfect" migration weather.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Magee area migration 5/15

As predicted, there were strong winds from the southwest last night and this morning, and many new migrants were evident this morning (Tuesday May 15) in the vicinity of the boardwalk at Magee Marsh, n.w. Ohio. The influx was most obvious to those of us who started off the morning along the north edge of the woods, on the edge of the parking lot and access road, where the first sunlight was hitting the trees and where there was more shelter from the wind. Birders who arrived and immediately took the boardwalk straight into the woods were generally less impressed with today's numbers. But it seemed clear to me that at least some species were more abundant than yesterday.

Conspicuous among the birds moving on the outer edge in the morning were Blue Jays (50-plus, in flocks moving over), Cedar Waxwing (about 50), and Indigo Bunting (15). About the same warbler species were present today as yesterday, but there were distinct changes in relative abundance, with a lot more Blackpoll Warblers (I saw/heard 10 today, 1 yesterday), Tennessees (8 today, 1 yesterday), Black-throated Blues (18 today, 8 yesterday), and American Redstarts (40 today, 20 yesterday). Chestnut-sided (15), Magnolia (20), and Bay-breasted (12) were still common, but less so than they had been. I had at least 20 Red-eyed Vireos and 3 Philadelphia Vireos, but not a single Ruby-crowned Kinglet today. Those are just my personal numbers from four hours on the boardwalk and vicinity, to give a sense of relative abundance, not any attempt for a complete number. The strong wind made it hard to detect birds by sight or sound and I probably found fewer than I would have under calm conditions.

An interesting note on the differences between perceived and actual bird numbers. Kim was at the main banding site for the Black Swamp Bird Observatory early in the morning before coming to join me on the boardwalk in late morning, and she pointed out that on very windy days, the total catch at the banding station seems to be reduced. Evidently the wind makes it easier for birds to see and avoid the mist nets. Also, some of the birds that were evident at the boardwalk today, such as Blue Jays and Cedar Waxwings, are high fliers that don't wind up in the banders' nets very often. So, while the banding station totals are more standardized than counts taken from field observation, they're not immune to being skewed by outside forces. All the more evidence of the fact that it takes serious attention and thought to really detect what's going on with bird numbers.

This evening there were strong storms that came through the area after 7 p.m., with near-tornadic conditions in our little burg of Rocky Ridge, and the wind shifted abruptly to the northwest. It has since shifted back to the WSW, but I expect consistent northwest winds by morning, with cooler temperatures. I doubt that many birds left tonight, aside from those that were blown right off their perches and into the lake! Numbers should still be decent tomorrow but I plan to go look at water areas to see if any odd migrant waterbirds might have been put down by the storms.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Magee area migration 5/13, 5/14

In the area of Magee Marsh and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, northwest Ohio, on Sunday May 13, the status of migration was about as expected: numbers continued to drop gradually from the big influx last Tuesday and Wednesday, but variety continued to be very good, especially for warblers. On Sunday the east-northeast winds kept most of the birds low and inside the woods, and the crowds of birders on the Magee boardwalk were treated to eye-level views. It was great to see so many new birders there, many of them having their first real warbler encounters, enjoying a situation where they could see the birds well and get I.D. tips from more experienced birders. Indeed, I find the helpful atmosphere among the birders on the boardwalk to be almost as inspiring as the birds.

During the night Sunday night the wind shifted around to the southeast and then the south, and Monday May 14 brought a moderate number of new birds. It was actually more turnover than I had expected, given how late in the evening the wind shifted here. There was a fresh influx of thrushes and White-throated Sparrows, which had mostly cleared out before Sunday, and numbers of flycatchers picked up, with more Eastern Wood-Pewees and Least Flycatchers plus Willow and Acadian. Magnolia Warbler and American Redstart appeared to be the most numerous warblers on the boardwalk, but numbers of Canada Warblers definitely increased, and Mourning and Wilson's were around in numbers. I had the first Hooded Warbler and Philadelphia Vireo that I'd seen in a few days. Kim was at the main banding station of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory during the morning, about 5 miles east of Magee, and reported a fair influx of birds there also, with good numbers of flycatchers, thrushes, Magnolia Warblers, and others. Four Orange-crowned Warblers were banded today, a notable number any time and especially this late, since the Orange-crown tends to be an early migrant.

An interesting feature was an apparent arrival of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. Late in the day (after 6 p.m.) I saw or (mostly) heard more than a dozen Ruby-throats near the boardwalk and adjacent beach, in areas where I'd only had one earlier in the day. These are daytime migrants, and I assume these came in on today's south winds, stopping when they hit the barrier of Lake Erie.

Southwest winds are supposed to continue through tonight and tomorrow, shifting to west tomorrow night with some possible storms. My best guess is that there should be a lot of birds arriving overnight tonight, for good numbers Tuesday morning, and that the shift in the weather may then keep them around for a couple of days. The long-range forecast is always uncertain, but currently they're calling for south winds again Friday night.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Magee area 5/11 and 5/12

In the area of Magee Marsh, northwest Ohio, the status of migration on Friday and Saturday (5/11 and 5/12) was about as predicted, with numbers of songbird migrants continuing to diminish gradually from the peak last Wednesday, but with good variety continuing. On Saturday the winds were fairly strong (and chilly!) out of the north, so in the area of the Magee Marsh boardwalk, there were very few birds out on the north edge of the woods adjacent to the parking lot. That outer edge is often excellent birding, but it wasn't productive under Saturday's conditions. Instead, the birds were concentrated inside the woods and toward the southern edge, meaning they were visible mainly from the boardwalk itself. With the throngs of birders who had come out for Int'l Migratory Bird Day, the boardwalk itself was extremely crowded! But those who were patient enough to move along the boardwalk were treated to great views of various warblers foraging low and close. Magnolia and Chestnut-sided Warblers continued to be very numerous, with a fair number of Bay-breasted Warblers and a generous sprinkling of others. Despite unfavorable winds for migration the last couple of days, numbers of Mourning Warblers seem to be picking up, while most of the thrushes and White-throated Sparrows seemed to have departed for the moment.

The auto tour route at Ottawa NWR was open Saturday but I didn't get over there -- spent the whole day between the boardwalk and the BSBO nature center area. Ottawa is supposed to be open this Sunday also, 9 to 4. I heard that Black Tern, Sedge Wren, and Yellow-headed Blackbird were all seen on the refuge on Saturday, while just a little farther west at Metzger Marsh, up to seven Glossy Ibises continue to be seen.

Weather predictions now call for the winds to shift around to the south again from Sunday night through Monday night, so there may be another arrival of migrants on Monday and Tuesday mornings, but I would guess that it won't be as big as the flight last Tuesday and Wednesday. But of course the overall variety should remain fairly good from now through the end of May.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Ottawa NWR this weekend

This is just a note about Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, the main unit of which lies immediately to the west of the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area / Crane Creek State Park complex in n.w. Ohio. The whole staff at Ottawa has been insanely busy recently, preparing for the grand opening of their new visitors' center this weekend. I don't know if anyone there will find time to post something official to the listserve, but I wanted to "unofficially" mention that the auto tour route at Ottawa NWR is supposed to be open this weekend, from 8 to 5 on Saturday and from 9 to 4 on Sunday. (This info is from the Ottawa NWR Association, a membership group that helps support the refuge; Kim and I are members, of course.)

As for birding at Ottawa, remember that it's not just about water birds. The woods near the beginning of the auto tour can be excellent for migrant songbirds -- birds are not as concentrated there as they are on the immediate lake shore but they may stay longer. In between "waves" of arriving migrants, I've sometimes had more birds there than at the Magee boardwalk. This week, on the walking trails through those woods at Ottawa, I've seen a wide variety of warblers, including Kentucky, Hooded, and Orange-crowned, plus all the brown thrushes and many other migrants.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Magee area migration 5/10

In the area of the boardwalk at Magee Marsh, plus nearby areas of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, the status of the migration today (Thursday May 10) was about as expected: numbers had dropped from yesterday's huge peak, but there was still excellent variety. I was mostly birding other areas this morning so I was only at the boardwalk itself for a little over an hour, but I saw or heard 23 warbler species there and heard solid reports of five others. There was some turnover evident, with fewer thrushes and White-throated Sparrows around but more Wilson's Warblers than yesterday; but otherwise the species composition seemed similar, with very large numbers of Magnolia and Chestnut-sided Warblers and somewhat fewer Bay-breasted Warblers, and a good sprinkling of other things. More Eastern Kingbirds and other flycatchers seemed to have come in, and I saw a number of Black-billed and Yellow-billed Cuckoos in the general area.

It appears that the winds will be light out of the northeast or north for the next few days so I don't expect another big influx of migrants soon. The numbers at the lakeshore migrant traps will probably drop off some more before the weekend. However, I hope this won't discourage anyone from coming out! The "leftovers" from this wave should linger, and should make for excellent variety and wonderful birding for the next several days.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Magee area 5/9 update

Earlier I posted some information about the state of migration at the boardwalk at Magee Marsh, Lucas Co., northwest Ohio, for today (Wednesday May 9). In that post I stated that numbers seemed higher than the previous day, but that I was waiting to hear results from the Black Swamp Bird Observatory' s main banding station, located on the Navarre Unit of the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Ottawa Co., about 5 miles east of Magee Marsh.

Results from the BSBO banding station suggest that numbers were indeed higher today at Navarre, and I suspect that mirrors what was happening at Magee. Yesterday, May 8, the station banded over 800 birds, a very large total for there. Today they banded over 1100, the second-highest single-day banding total in the Observatory's history! The species composition at Navarre seems to have been about the same as that at Magee, with 28 species of warblers. Magnolia Warbler was the most numerous at both places. My wife Kim spent the entire day just banding Magnolias -- of the 1100-plus birds banded, 391 were Magnolia Warblers! Kim reported that a very high percentage of these were second-year males, so the species must have had a successful breeding season in 2006. Very significant to me was the fact that the banding station had few recaptures of birds from the previous day, suggesting that there was a substantial amount of turnover, with a lot of birds leaving and even more arriving. That was my impression at the boardwalk at Magee as well, where today there appeared to be more Magnolia, Bay-breasted, and Chestnut-sided Warblers than the day before, but fewer Blackburnians and Cape Mays. Those are just impressions, though, and the banding operation gives a much clearer picture. For details from the banding station, visit Black Swamp Bird Observatory and go to Research Projects : Passerine Migration Monitoring : 2007 Navarre Marsh Spring Migration.

At the moment there is overcast and scattered light rain over northwest Ohio so I doubt that many birds will be migrating tonight, and there shouldn't be as much turnover between today and tomorrow. Winds are going to shift around to the north and northeast for the next few days. Numbers of individuals will probably drop somewhat on the immediate lake front, as birds from this "wave" disperse or move on, but variety should stay excellent through the weekend.

Magee area continues excellent 5/9

Yesterday (Tuesday 5/8), as I posted earlier, had been the biggest day of the spring, so far, for variety and numbers of migrants at the northwest Ohio migrant traps (Magee Marsh, Ottawa Natl Wildlife Refuge, and associated areas). With south winds continuing last night, the question was whether today would be slower, with a lot of the birds having moved out. Short answer: no, today is not slower. The boardwalk at Magee Marsh had just as much variety as yesterday, and it was my impression that today's numbers of individuals were slightly higher. At least 27 species of warblers had been reliably reported by midday. Magnolia Warbler was the most abundant, as it often is here in big May flights, but Bay-breasted and Chestnut-sided were also impressively numerous; in five hours (so far!) on the boardwalk and along the edges I estimated 300 Magnolias, 150 Bay-breasteds, and 120 Chestnut-sideds. Also common but in smaller numbers than the above were Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Black-throated Blue, Ovenbird, and Yellow Warbler, while Black-and-white, American Redstart, Nashville, Yellow-rumped (mostly females), and Palm Warblers were fairly common. Blackpoll Warblers and Northern Parulas seemed more numerous than yesterday, while Cape Mays were relatively scarce. Multiple Mourning and Canada Warblers were present and visible from the boardwalk, and at least one Kentucky Warbler was a crowd-pleaser.

Numbers of other migrants here seemed comparable to those of the day before. All five brown thrushes again were present, with Veery, Swainson's, and Gray-cheeked all in good numbers. Least Flycatchers were fairly common, I had at least two Willow Flycatchers, and might have heard one Acadian. Lincoln's Sparrows were fairly numerous along with the abundant White-throats in the understory.

Again, my sense that numbers were higher today was only an impression. It will be interesting to see how today's numbers compare to yesterday's at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory banding station. I heard from Kim earlier in the day that they were banding very large numbers of birds again today but I haven't heard final tallies.

Right now (early afternoon 5/9) there appears to be some thunderstorm activity to the northwest of us. The winds are supposed to shift to the west tonight and tomorrow, and then to the northwest Thursday night. Numbers of birds in the lake shore migrant traps may not be as high by the weekend but I suspect the weather will hold a lot of them in place, and variety should be excellent for International Migratory Bird Day this Saturday.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Magee area migrant fallout 5/8

This is a mid-day progress report from migrant traps on the lake shore in n.w. Ohio: Magee Marsh boardwalk (Lucas Co.) and the main banding station of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO), located about 5 miles east of Magee on the Navarre Unit of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Ottawa County. As predicted, the south winds last night brought in a huge influx of migrants today, making this the biggest day of the spring so far. Small numbers and moderate variety had been on the boardwalk at Magee on Monday evening, May 7, but this morning there were great numbers and excellent variety. I was able to confirm 27 warbler species present on the boardwalk, and heard possible reports of three others; highlights included large numbers of Blackburnians, Magnolias, and Chestnut-sideds, an influx of Tennessees and Northern Parulas, a few of the classic late-spring migrants such as Blackpoll, Canada, and Wilson's Warblers, and some "southern" warblers such as small numbers of Hooded, Worm-eating, and Prothonotary. I just heard from Kim that the BSBO banding station at Navarre also banded 27 species of warblers today, with large numbers of Blackburnians, Magnolias, and Black-and-whites; notable warblers there included Orange-crowned, Prothonotary, Worm-eating, Mourning, Hooded, Wilson's, and Canada.

On the non-warbler front, the boardwalk had its first big influx of Red-eyed Vireos today, and in fact all six of our regularly occurring vireos were there, although I only heard of one Philadelphia and didn't see it myself (yet! -- I'm headed back out there). The banding station at Navarre also had one Philadelphia Vireo. Baltimore Orioles were very numerous at both sites, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Scarlet Tanagers were conspicuous at both, and Cedar Waxwings arrived at both sites also. Empidonax flycatchers had a major arrival, with BSBO banding lots of Leasts plus a few Willow/Alders and Acadians. All five brown thrushes were seen at both the boardwalk and the banding station, with Swainson's especially numerous.

At this time of year, obviously, the people who work on the BSBO banding operation are extremely busy, but eventually all the daily totals will be available on the BSBO website at . This research project has been going on seven days a week, spring and fall, for the last 15 years, with a very consistent degree of effort, so it gives a very accurate reading of what is really happening with the migration. Kim tells me that the station banded over 800 birds today, making it one of their larger days ever and attesting to the magnitude of today's fallout.

The south winds are supposed to continue tonight. I don't know if tomorrow's numbers will be smaller (because so many birds will leave on the south winds) or bigger (because even more will arrive), but I suspect that diversity will be excellent at all the migrant traps in n.w. Ohio at least through Thursday.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Magee Marsh morning 5/5

The winds haven't seemed to favor migration the last few days, but even so, there was obvious turnover in the migrants present today (Saturday May 5) at the Magee Marsh boardwalk (Lucas Co., n.w. Ohio). I was leading a group that was focused on warbler I.D. so we moved pretty slowly, concentrating on looking closely at individuals rather than trying to rack up a big list, and we spent most of our time near the west end of the boardwalk and inside the woods, out of the strong east-northeast winds. Warblers that hadn't been evident earlier in the week included Black-throated Blue (at least 4 males), Am. Redstart (at least 1 male), and Magnolia (at least 2 males, although I know one was reported a couple of days ago). There were at least 6 to 8 Ovenbirds around, suggesting that a wave of them had arrived (or maybe a micro-wave). Black-and-white Warblers seemed scarce compared to earlier in the week. Cape May Warblers are still present in good numbers (we saw at least 6), there are still a few Pine Warblers including a singing male, and male Black-throated Greens are still foraging near the boardwalk. The four most common warbler species today were Nashville, Yellow, Yellow-rumped, and Palm.

Numbers of Ruby-crowned Kinglets had dropped dramatically from earlier in the week (we saw dozens, but not hundreds), numbers of White-throated Sparrows were reduced, and thrushes were virtually absent. Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Baltimore Oriole are around in numbers (at least 10 of each). Stragglers well past the peak of their migration for here included a Brown Creeper and a few Rusty Blackbirds.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Magee Marsh migrants 5/2

This morning (Wednesday 5/2) I took a brief look at the boardwalk at Magee Marsh (Lucas Co., n.w. Ohio). The overall species composition was similar to what I had reported the previous day, and many of the notable individuals (such as Cape May, Blackburnian, and Bay-breasted Warbler males) seemed to be in the same places. The numbers of Yellow-rumped Warblers and Hermit Thrushes had dropped considerably from what had been there Tuesday, but Palm Warblers, Nashville Warblers, Black-and-white Warblers, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets were still present in about the same abundance as before. New for me today were Lincoln's Sparrow and Scarlet Tanager (but I know that at least Lincoln's Sparrow had been seen by others yesterday). Interesting to think that Yellow-rumped Warbler and Hermit Thrush might have migrated out in last night's conditions while many other species stayed put. The only noticeable increases for me were Pine Warbler (I saw four today and only one yesterday) and White-crowned Sparrow (big influx at the east end of the boardwalk, as well as to the south at the headquarters of Black Swamp Bird Observatory, just off Route 2). I couldn't relocate yesterday's Clay-colored Sparrow. Among diurnal migrants, a number of Sharp-shinned Hawks came by paralleling the beach, and there were some big flights of Blue Jays going over.

The Little Blue Heron adult was along the causeway through Magee Marsh again today, just north of the obvious big pump on the west side of the road.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Magee Marsh migrants, Clay-colored Sparrow

The wind direction has changed so many times in the last couple of days, along with temperature fluctuations and passing storms, that it's hard to summarize what the weather's impact on migration might have been. But this afternoon (May 1) there were pleasing numbers and variety of migrants in the vicinity of the Magee Marsh boardwalk (Lucas Co., n.w. Ohio). I personally saw a dozen warbler species, and heard about one other being present. To give a rough idea of relative abundance of the warblers today, these are just my own personal numbers from three hours on the boardwalk: Nashville 20, Yellow 15 (but there were many more in areas where they breed south of the boardwalk and away from the lake), Cape May 3 males, Yellow-rumped 180, Black-throated Green 12, Blackburnian 1 male, Pine 1, Palm 50, Bay-breasted 1 or 2 males, Black-and-white 20, Northern Waterthrush 2, Common Yellowthroat 2 (plus more in the marsh south of the boardwalk). Again, these are just my own numbers to indicate relative abundance, not an attempt at the total numbers present, since I didn't even cover the whole boardwalk. Greg Miller and others also reported an Orange-crowned along the boardwalk, but I didn't see it myself. A Cerulean was present the preceding day.

Hermit Thrushes were common: I saw at least 30, along with 10 Veeries, 4 Swainson's Thrushes, and 2 Wood Thrushes. Ruby-crowned Kinglets were abundant -- I saw at least 170, often there were 5 or 6 visible at once, and the total numbers present in the area must have been staggering. White-throated Sparrows were numerous (80-plus), and one Fox Sparrow seemed a bit late. Other migrants seen included Baltimore Oriole 5, Rose-breasted Grosbeak 2, Great Crested Flycatcher 5, Least Flycatcher 2, and Whip-poor-will 1 (a roosting bird that had been pointed out to me and many others by the helpful birding community on the Magee boardwalk). The only rarity that I saw was at the end of the afternoon, about 5:15, just before the rain started: at the east end of the parking lot, near the east end of the boardwalk, a Clay-colored Sparrow was loosely associating with a lone White-crowned Sparrow.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Magee area overview 4/23

Mary Warren has already posted very useful and thorough lists of the bird species seen today at the Magee Marsh boardwalk, but some readers might be interested in an overview of today's migration in the general area. We have notes today from several hours at the boardwalk (Kenn K.); from the Black Swamp Bird Observatory's main banding site at the Navarre Unit of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, about five miles east of the turnoff to Crane Creek / Magee Marsh (Kim K., Julie Shieldcastle, and a team of wonderful volunteers); from the BSBO hawk watch, conducted from the tower next to the Sportsman's Migratory Bird Center at Magee Marsh, about halfway between Route 2 and the boardwalk (Dana Bollin and Lee Garling); and from the vicinity of the BSBO office, just north of Route 2 at the entrance to Crane Creek / Magee (Kim K. and others).

The numbers of migrants present today marked a dramatic increase from the end of last week. Yellow-rumped Warblers, White-throated Sparrows, and Hermit Thrushes were the three most numerous migrants at the boardwalk and at Navarre. Warbler variety was excellent, with at least 16 species seen at the boardwalk and a few others elsewhere. To give a sense of relative numbers, here are Kenn's counts from a total of five hours at the boardwalk: Orange-crowned 1, Nashville 4, Yellow 3, Yellow-rumped 500 (mostly adult males), Black-throated Green 12, Pine 5, Palm 45, Black-and-white 3, Worm-eating at least 1, Ovenbird 2, Northern Waterthrush 1, Louisiana Waterthrush 1. Seen by others here (presumably single birds) were Blue-winged, Yellow-throated, Hooded, and Common Yellowthroat. At the banding site at Navarre the overall species composition of warblers was similar, with the addition of a Chestnut-sided but with no Pine Warblers. Notable were two Worm-eating Warblers, at least two Hooded Warblers, and Louisiana Waterthrush (a record total of three were banded here the previous day). Additional warblers reported in the woodlot at the end of the road at Metzger Marsh were another Hooded, Northern Parula (John Sawvel), and a very early Blackpoll (Rick Nirschl).

In terms of non-warbler migrants, the abundance of Hermit Thrushes was notable, but the boardwalk also had at least 1 Wood Thrush and at least 2 Swainson's Thrushes (the Navarre site had Wood and Swainson's also). White-eyed, Red-eyed, and Warbling Vireos were all present in small numbers. The first Eastern Kingbird and first Bank Swallows (4) that we've had were along the beach at Magee, and at least three Lincoln's Sparrows were banded at Navarre. There were still a few Golden-crowned Kinglets but they were far outnumbered by Ruby-crowned Kinglets at both sites. Winter Wrens were still fairly numerous but we saw only one Rusty Blackbird today at the boardwalk, where there were still 30-plus last week. At Navarre, multiple Whip-poor-wills were calling pre-dawn.

There was a pronounced migration of Broad-winged Hawks but it was not evident out at the boardwalk or beach. Most of the birds were moving parallel to the lake shore but well inland, some passing south of the hawk watch tower and directly over the BSBO office, others seen south of Route 2. Ospreys and subadult Bald Eagles seemed to be moving on a broad front.

Eventually the numbers from the Navarre banding site and the hawk watch will be available on the BSBO web site ( ). At this season, understandably, it's a challenge for us to keep up with the data! But we hope that this summary will be helpful to people who are learning about the sequence of migration through this amazing region.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Magee, lots of migrants 4/23

The boardwalk at Magee Marsh, nw Ohio, had a lot of migrants this morning. I personally saw a dozen warbler species (so far!) and heard of others. Highlights included Worm-eating, Hooded, Orange-crowned, and LA Waterthrush. Non-warblers included Swainson's and Wood Thrushes, Eastern Kingbird, Warbling and White-eyed Vireos, Bank Swallow. Very large numbers of White-throated Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Hermit Thrushes. Little Blue Heron still in area where I reported it on 4/20. I had to leave to come inside for a radio interview, going back out to the boardwalk now, will report more details later.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Little Blue Heron at Magee

There was an adult Little Blue Heron at Magee Marsh (Ottawa / Lucas counties, n.w. Ohio) this afternoon (Friday April 20). It apparently was seen by other people during the day; when I saw it about 5:30 p.m., it was west of the causeway in the marsh, just north of the first (southernmost) pullout on the east side of the road (or, the first major pullout that you come to as you drive north across the marsh toward the beach and boardwalk). An American Bittern was calling repeatedly in the same general area, but I didn't see it. At least one Barn Swallow and a couple of Northern Rough-winged Swallows were seen with the Tree Swallows in the same area. Large numbers of Blue-winged Teal and both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs are present now.

Scanning the lake from the beach north of here, I saw at least a thousand Lesser Scaup but was unable to find any Greaters. A substantial minority of Greater Scaup accompanied the Lessers there as recently as a couple of weeks ago.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Re: Forster's Tern dates in Ohio

I'm grateful to Bill Whan and Vic Fazio for going to so much effort to confirm that I was correct in my comments about the timing of Forster's Tern arrival. To recap: they pointed out that there are a few records at the end of March (notably early) and more for the first week of April (on the early side), so that multiples in northwest Ohio on April 12th would be, as I wrote earlier, right on time.

As birders, we often have a tendency to focus on early and late records rather than on the normal timing of migration. These extreme records are more fun, but from a biological standpoint they're not as important. As an example of the "fun" aspect: last fall, as I reported on this listserve, I found a Yellow-billed Cuckoo at Metzger Marsh on October 31 (not Nov. 1, as reported in the Ohio Cardinal). That cuckoo was a very late bird. It didn't set a record -- the species has been found in Ohio in November a number of times -- but these occurrences notwithstanding, the important thing to note is that the vast majority of Yellow-billed Cuckoos have departed for the south before the middle of October. We know that because a lot of observers have gathered a lot of information over multiple years. This points up the great value of keeping notes and recording the numbers of individuals that we find each day, not just the extreme dates for each species, to try to get a picture of peak numbers and the actual span of the typical migration season for each bird.

When we talk about timing of migration, we have to avoid falling into the trap of making generalizations about the state of Ohio as a whole. There are substantial differences in timing in different regions of the state. In spring, some migrants have returned to southern Ohio in numbers before there's any hint of them in the northern tier of counties. But even at the
same latitudes, there can be differences. In looking at two local publications, Birds of the Cleveland Region (by Larry Rosche) and Birds of the Toledo Area (by Matt Anderson et al.), I frequently find that they give slightly different timing for the migration of a given species. Part of that may be coincidence, with the data skewed by a few odd records, but part of it may reflect genuine differences between northwestern and northeastern Ohio. And in an era of changing climate, the timing of migration may change in unpredictable ways in the future. It's always worthwhile for birders to keep detailed records on the occurrences of birds in their own area, and not just assume that the important stuff already has been determined elsewhere.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Forster's Terns, Ottawa Co

Right now there are large numbers of Bonaparte's Gulls in Ottawa County, northwest Ohio, over the agricultural fields as well as around bodies of water. Today (Thursday April 12) I stopped to look at about 100 Bonaparte's Gulls on the south edge of Oak Harbor, where Highway 19 crosses the Portage River, and saw two Forster's Terns foraging in the same area. These were the first I've seen locally this spring (although Sheryl Young had a probable Forster's over by East Harbor State Park, a few miles east of here, a couple of days ago). According to Birds of the Toledo Area by Matt Anderson et al., April 12 is the local early record for Forster's Tern, so these birds were seemingly right on time as arrivals. The two that I saw were full adults -- with complete black caps and uniformly silvery upper surface of the primaries -- which is what I would expect the first arrivals to be, based on experience elsewhere.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Metzger gnatcatchers and Gadwalls

With limited time this evening (Monday April 2) I ran out to the end of the road at Metzger Marsh (Lucas Co., east of Toledo). Saw a handful of expected migrants in the small woodlot there, such as 5 Yellow-rumped Warblers, 2 Brown Creepers, 1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 1 Winter Wren. Surprised to see two Blue-gray Gnatcatchers there, male and female, foraging more or less together. Matt Anderson et al. in "Birds of the Toledo Area" give the early record locally as April 3, while the early record listed by Larry Rosche in "Birds of the Cleveland Region" is March 31, so April 2nd seems about right for the very first migrants to appear -- possibly early overshoots, a week or two ahead of the main migration.

On the way out I scanned the open waters of the marsh for ducks. I had checked Metzger several times this spring in hopes of a Eurasian Wigeon, but even American Wigeons have seemed to be in low numbers. However, I was surprised (because I hadn't seen Vic Fazio's post yet) by the prevalence of Gadwalls. They were by far the most numerous waterfowl there, and when I did a careful sweep with the scope I came up with a conservative count of about 1320 Gadwalls, outnumbering all the other ducks combined. (When I checked the listserve later, I saw that Vic had estimated 850-plus here the day before, even without the benefit of a scope.) These are far higher numbers than what have been published in the past and I presume there's something unusual going on with the species this spring. Peterjohn's "The Birds of Ohio" mentions that aerial counts in November in the western Lake Erie marshes have had totals as high as 1700 Gadwalls, but these aerial surveys cover a lot of area, and to have 1300-plus visible from one spot on the ground implies that exceptional numbers are present.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Ottawa County Pectorals and others

In Ottawa County (n.w. Ohio), just east of the entrance to Crane Creek State Park and Magee Marsh Wildlife Area along Route 2, Benton-Carroll Road takes off to the south. Just south of Rt 2 on both sides of Benton-Carroll is an area that floods regularly and is often good for shorebirds and other waterbirds. Today (Monday March 26), in addition to various ducks (such as Hooded Merganser, not your typical flooded-field bird), there were five species of shorebirds: about 10 Killdeer, 2 Wilson's Snipe, 5 Greater Yellowlegs, 9 Lesser Yellowlegs, and 3 Pectoral Sandpipers. None of these is unexpected for the date, as all should be here by late March. Eastern Meadowlarks (at least 2) were calling from the adjacent fields. In a partially flooded field just to the south I saw at least 300 Rusty Blackbirds along with Red-wings and others. It seemed like a plausible spot to look for Brewer's Blackbird, but in a careful study I couldn't pull out even one Brewer's.

Pectoral Sandpiper merits an additional comment because it's in a different category from most of our early spring migrants. Across all groups of birds, most of the species that come north early are those that spend the winter relatively close to us: most ducks, geese, Killdeers, American Woodcocks, Eastern Phoebes, Tree Swallows, Red-winged and Rusty Blackbirds, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Hermit Thrushes, etc., etc., all are common in winter in the southeastern United States. For that matter, so are Wilson's Snipes and Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. Pectoral Sandpiper, on the other hand, doesn't winter regularly anywhere north of the Equator -- its main wintering range is in southern South America. It may show up in the same damp fields as Killdeer and snipe, but chances are it has come ten times as far to be here. The breeding range of Pectoral Sandpiper is mostly above the Arctic Circle, so it's hard to understand why it starts north so early. It's especially interesting to compare its timing to that of White-rumped Sandpiper, which has similar wintering and breeding ranges but migrates north much later; peak numbers of White-rumpeds here may occur in the first week of June! At any rate, among our early migrants, Pectoral Sandpipers (and the American Golden-Plovers that should follow shortly) deserve special credit as our first arrivals from truly southern latitudes.

Magee area Fox Sparrows

The Lake Erie shoreline in northwestern Ohio at the end of March has to be the best place and time in the world for seeing Fox Sparrows. Today (Monday March 26th), Rick Nirschl reported seeing or hearing about 70 Fox Sparrows along the bird trail at Magee Marsh. I only spent a brief time along the west end of the boardwalk so I only saw about 20 Fox Sparrows there, but I had another 50-plus in thickets along the Wildlife Beach, about a quarter-mile east of the east end of the boardwalk. So there are clearly a lot of individuals around. This kind of concentration would be considered quite unusual in most places; Fox Sparrow is usually uncommon everywhere, seen in small numbers, seldom more than a dozen in a day.

The last couple of springs at this time I've been interested to see how the migrating Fox Sparrows are concentrated along the immediate lake shore. Even a mile or two to the south, far fewer individuals are seen. These migrant birds seem quite shy, flushing well away from the boardwalk at Magee, so it takes some careful attention to even notice that they're around, but they're beautiful enough to be worth the effort. Today a number of the Fox Sparrows were doing partial versions of their musical, haunting song, even in what I could only describe as the heat of the afternoon.

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