Saturday, November 29, 2008

Magee Marsh for Northern Shrike(s)

Most birders who cover this area regularly are aware that the causeway north across Magee Marsh to the beach and boardwalk is closed for part of the fall season. This year the road was closed most days from October 13 to November 29, open only on Sundays and on Saturday afternoons. During this period, birders with flexible schedules may get out of the habit of visiting. But this is November 29th, so as of noon today the road should be open all week once again.

I went to check it out this afternoon and saw at least one Northern Shrike, possibly two. Around 2:10 - 2:30 pm I watched an adult foraging in the area west of the first (southernmost) pullout on the causeway. About an hour later I went back to the area with Ron and Ryan Steiner; we spent a considerable amount of time scanning from the first and second pullouts, and after we'd been at the third one for several minutes, Ryan spotted a shrike perched up high, far to the west. We had very good looks in scopes but it would have been less satisfying in binoculars, so that's something to keep in mind. Because of differences in distance and lighting, I couldn't be positive, but my impression was that this was a different individual than the first one I'd seen.

Hugh Rose tells me that there had been other sightings near this third pullout during recent weekends. The third pullout is the northernmost one, closest to the beach. This was a good vantage point last winter as well. But the shrike(s) can show up anywhere along the causeway, especially if I'm correct about there being more than one bird.

Also present today were good numbers of waterfowl flying around (including both Tundra and Trumpeter Swans, plus good numbers of Wood Ducks and American Black Ducks). At one point there were five Bald Eagles overhead at the same time.
Later in the season there are likely to be a lot of Common Goldeneyes and other diving ducks offshore, but today there were very few birds off the beach, just a few gulls.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Snowy alert

There have been several reports of Snowy Owls in northern Ohio during the last few days, including a couple in our immediate area, although neither of the latter two birds could be refound. Reports from nearby states and nearby areas of southern Canada indicate that this year's southward flight of Snowy Owls will be much larger than usual. The causes are still being debated -- it's possible that there was a high population of lemmings in the eastern Canadian Arctic this summer and that the population crashed abruptly during the fall; generally it's hunger that forces these big Arctic predators southward.

Whatever the reason, it's a good idea to keep an eye out for these birds. This is a species of open country, and in our area it's usually in farm areas or along the lakeshore, not in forested patches. If you find one, please let other birders know, but please remember that the owl is probably stressed by lack of food -- we should watch from a respectful distance rather than trying to approach too closely.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Bridges of Ottawa County

In Ottawa Co., where State Route 19 crosses the wide Toussaint River (about 2 miles south of Rt 2 and 4 miles north of Oak Harbor), there have been hundreds of Bonaparte's Gulls for the last few days -- almost all adults. On Thursday Nov. 6 they were joined by hundreds of Ring-billed Gulls and a few Herring Gulls, again mostly adults. A fair number of Great Blue Herons are present, and a few lingering Great Egrets. So far I haven't seen anything unusual among this concentration, but it would be worth a check for anyone who's birding in the area. The best place to park is on the north side of the river and west side of Rt 19, where there's a pulloff leading into the Toussaint Wildlife Area. From here you can scope the west side and walk across to scope the east side.

Not far away as the gull flies, Turtle Creek crosses Lemon Road about a mile south of Rt 2 and just north of Duff Washa Road (yeah, that's really the name). Turtle Creek was very low on Thursday Nov. 6, and had extensive exposed mudflats just east of Lemon Road. About 400 Ring-billed Gulls were in the area, but the flats also attracted 41 Killdeer and 17 Pectoral Sandpipers -- a good number of Pecs for so late in the season, considering that they'll mostly go to southern South America for the brief winter and still be back this way by March. The best viewing is from Duff Washa Rd but it's not safe to stop there; best to park up around the corner on Lemon Road and walk back to view the flats.

Anywhere in this general area, keep a keen eye out for Snowy Owls. There have been a couple of reports from just a few miles farther west within the last week. The birds are still on the move and might show up anywhere in open country.

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