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.

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