Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tundra Swans, Dunlins, and other birds in the area in late November

This could be of interest to birders who are out in n.w. Ohio this holiday weekend. If you have even a short amount of time to swing in to Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, there have been good numbers of Tundra Swans on the "Entrance Pool." If you turn in to the refuge from Route 2 and go north toward the old parking lot, not west toward the new visitors' center, the Entrance Pool is all along the east side of this short road. On Tuesday Nov. 24 at noon there were over 100 Tundra Swans on this pond; if you stay in your car they won't be spooked, and you can get good studies. Sometimes there are also Trumpeter Swans here, for a good comparison, but I saw none on Tuesday; I did have good looks at a couple of Tundra Swans that completely lacked the yellow spot in front of the eye -- tricky! Fortunately they were right next to other Tundra Swans, so I could see that they were exactly the same size and shape.

Also present on the Entrance Pool on Nov. 24 were a number of American Black Ducks along with lots of Mallards, and at least three Mallard X Am Black Duck hybrids, always interesting to study. There were also Green-winged Teal, Killdeers, a couple of Gadwalls, and a lot of Canada Geese that looked like migrants from the north, not resident birds. If you find anything unusual there, of course, remember the courtesy of stopping at the refuge visitors' center and telling the staff there what you've seen.

The Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO), half a mile east of Ottawa NWR at the entrance to Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, will be open every weekend through the end of the year, Friday - Saturday - Sunday from 11 to 5. This is another great place to find out what's being seen or to report what you have found. At the feeders and water feature outside the "window on wildlife" at BSBO, recent birds have included Fox Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, and American Tree Sparrow, while Pine Siskin and Rusty Blackbird have been heard in the immediate area. Even if you don't see rare birds at BSBO, you can make some rare finds in the gift shop, including perfect holiday gifts for the birders and naturalists and conservationists on your list.

Two miles east of the entrance to Ottawa NWR or 1.5 miles east of BSBO, Lemon Road runs south from Route 2. Just barely over a mile south of Rt 2, Lemon Road crosses Turtle Creek; just before you get to the creek, there's a good place to pull off on the east side of the road. A loop of Turtle Creek just east of here often has exposed mudflats. On Tuesday Nov. 24, in addition to hundreds of Ring-billed Gulls, these flats had 83 Dunlins, a good number for so late in the fall in northern Ohio. The only other shorebird with them was a single Least Sandpiper. But this spot will continue to be worth checking for the odd things that might turn up.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Birds to watch for in early November

At this point in the fall, in early November, the warbler migration is essentially over and most of the shorebird migration has gone past. But we can still look forward to new arrivals over the next month or so. The main waterfowl migration still hasn't arrived, and we can anticipate big numbers of ducks, geese, and swans appearing in the next few weeks. Tundra Swans have been seen in passage over northern Ohio during the last few days, and these fly-by flocks could be seen anywhere. Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge is particularly good for numbers of Tundra Swans in early winter, and flocks of Snow Geese should be stopping off there as well. Along the Lake Erie shoreline we can still expect big numbers of scaup, Common Goldeneyes, and Common and Red-breasted Mergansers to show up soon, along with decent numbers of various other diving ducks.

Raptors are still moving, and Rough-legged Hawks should be arriving in northern Ohio about now. Areas to the north of us have been reporting fair numbers of Northern Goshawks, and this might be the season to find one of these big northern hunters in our area.

Some of our wintering sparrows and related birds have not yet moved into northern Ohio in full numbers, so we can still expect a major influx of American Tree Sparrows, Lapland Longspurs, Snow Buntings, and others.

This winter is not likely to see anything like last winter's invasion of White-winged Crossbills -- that species may not appear here at all this year. But just in the last few days there have been scattered Pine Siskins around, so we may have an "echo flight" of those.

There is still a lot of bird movement going on across the continent, so there is always the chance of something really unusual showing up. Strays from the west often are found in late fall, after most of the regular migrants have cleared out. But even without rarities, there are plenty of birds to seek right now.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Magee Marsh update, Toussaint River gulls

From now through November 28, the road in to Magee Marsh Wildlife Area will be closed beyond the Sportsmen's Migratory Bird Center on weekdays and on Saturday mornings. The road will be open on Saturday afternoons and all day Sunday. The area around Black Swamp Bird Observatory, and the trails around the Sportsmen's Center, will be open all week.

On Saturday, Oct. 24, I spent a couple of hours at the wildlife (east) beach and at the west end of the boardwalk. With the strong southwest winds that prevailed, the birds were concentrated on the lee side of the trees, i.e. in more sheltered areas of the beach and along the south edge of the parking lot (north edge of the woods) at the boardwalk. The most unusual bird was a juvenile Eastern Wood-Pewee hanging around near the platform by the west entrance to the boardwalk. It was doing some subsong and it was a well-marked, typical individual, so I didn't have to entertain any thoughts of Western Wood-Pewee. This is not a record-late Eastern -- in fact, I had one at Metzger Marsh on Oct. 31, 2006 -- but it's still exceptionally late for northern Ohio. "Birds of the Toledo Area" by Anderson et al. (2002) lists October 14 as the late date for this region.

Between the east beach and the boardwalk I had about eight Fox Sparrows and about 40 Rusty Blackbirds, representing the two signature migrant species of late fall and early spring at Magee. White-throated Sparrow, Myrtle (Yellow-rumped) Warbler, both kinglet species, and Dark-eyed Juncos were numerous at both areas, with lesser numbers of Hermit Thrush, Winter Wren, White-crowned Sparrow, and Brown Creeper. One Palm Warbler at the boardwalk was the only non-Yellow-rumped warbler I could find.

There were very few gulls along the edge of Lake Erie here. A little southeast of Magee, however -- where State Route 19 crosses the Toussaint River, south of SR 2 and north of Oak Harbor -- there were hundreds of Ring-billed and Bonaparte's gulls today. I stopped and scanned through them a couple of times without finding anything unusual, but birds were coming and going constantly so something else could show up. (Incidentally, if you're visiting the area, don't slow down on SR 19 -- there's a pulloff on the west side just north of the river, with a sign marked "Toussaint Area," and this is the safest place to stop and scan the water.)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Terns and gulls at East Harbor SP and Port Clinton

In past years, a good place to see terns and gulls in mid to late fall has been the north end of the beach area at East Harbor State Park (Ottawa Co., a short distance east of Port Clinton). I checked this area on Thursday, Oct. 8, and found a good selection of birds there, on the beach and on the small rocky islands just offshore. Among the birds present were at least 19 Caspian Terns, more than 40 Forster's Terns, good numbers of Bonaparte's, Ring-billed, and Herring Gulls, and my first local Great Black-backed Gull of the fall. In mid-September, there were two Lesser Black-backed Gulls at this spot. This is always a good place to check if you're in the area; I never go into the park without making a point of checking the north end of the beach.

Another good area is the immediate beach front in Port Clinton itself. A good vantage point for scanning the area is the base of the municipal pier (reached from the east edge of the "downtown" area). From there you get a good view of the boat channel, the lake, and east along the beach. Hundreds of birds were visible from that point on Thursday, and although they didn't include anything unusual, this is another place where I've seen Lesser Black-backed and Glaucous Gulls in the past.

Incidentally, the photo above shows an adult Caspian Tern in winter (basic) plumage in October. Note the blackish tip on its bill. When the Midwest Birding Symposium was in town last month, some birders questioned the MBS logo because it showed a Caspian Tern with a black bill tip ... and that detail didn't show up in their field guides. But it's common to see this mark on adult Caspians in fall.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Warbler wave, Sept. 27-30

Despite the very strong winds of September 28-29, there have been large numbers of warblers and other migrants in the woodlots close to Lake Erie. The BSBO main banding station (at the Navarre unit of Ottawa Natl Wildlife Refuge, about five miles east of Magee Marsh) had 16 species of warblers on Monday, Sept. 28, with Blackpoll, Cape May, and American Redstart leading the charge. Species composition was similar on Tuesday; the unsettled weather of Monday night probably prevented many birds from leaving. At this point it appears that the numbers of birds present on Wednesday, Sept. 30, should be good as well, and with the winds diminishing, they should be easier to see.

At this season, as I've mentioned before, it's essential to find the little mixed flocks of birds. On Sunday Sept. 27, when I visited the west end of the Magee Marsh boardwalk, I spent 20 minutes not seeing or hearing a single migrant -- and then suddenly I was surrounded by a flock that contained at least 17 Blackpoll Warblers, 4 Cape May Warblers, 2 Nashville Warblers, a Yellow-throated Vireo, and various other migrants. If I had given up after the first 15 minutes, I might have thought there were no birds there at all.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lots of migrants Sept. 22

Just a quick heads up for anyone who's close to the lake in northwest Ohio. I'm stuck in meetings today but I just talked to Kim over at Black Swamp Bird Observatory, and she told me there are a LOT of migrants in that area today (Tuesday Sept. 22). Just outside BSBO's window on wildlife in the last few hours there have been more than a dozen species of warblers (BT Blue, BT Green, Blackpoll, Bay-breasted, Nashville, Magnolia, etc.), plus Philadelphia Vireo, Gray-cheeked and Swainson's Thrushes, Am. Woodcock, and many more birds. I would guess that all the woodlots in that general area (Magee Marsh, Ottawa Natl Wildlife Refuge, etc.) would be good this afternoon for anyone who can get out. And tonight's weather prediction suggests it may be a bit unsettled, so today's birds may stick around for Wednesday as well.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Kirtland's Warbler at East Harbor State Park

One side-effect of having 700 birders in the area for the Midwest Birding Symposium is that there's a lot of birding coverage right now. So it was almost expected that something rare would appear, but we didn't expect the Kirtland's Warbler found today (Friday Sept. 18) at East Harbor State Park.

The bird was found during the morning and seen several more times (I saw it about 2 p.m.). To find the bird, go to East Harbor State Park, drive in the entrance, and take the first left/north (after about 100 yards) signed for Lockwood Picnic Area. From the parking lot for Lockwood, walk back south almost to the stop sign and take the trail entrance signed for the Meadow Trail. (There are three entrances for for Meadow Trail, this is the southernmost one.) Walk in (west) on the Meadow Trail for about 20-30 yards and turn right at the first fork; walk another 20-30 yards right (north) and watch the trees off to your right. The last tall tree off to the right is a locust (feathery foliage) and beyond that it's all shorter dogwood scrub. The Kirtland's was hanging around this locust, occasionally foraging up quite high and being fairly easy to see, then moving down into the lower cover and becoming more difficult to find.

There's no way to predict whether the bird will still be there on Saturday. Weather tonight won't prevent it from leaving, but fall migrants of other species often stop over for several days in this area.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Current Conditions at Local Birding Sites

Updated 5 p.m. Sept. 18: More on Ottawa and Magee
Updated 10 p.m. Sept. 16: More information on Ottawa NWR

For anyone birding in northwestern Ohio the weekend of Sept. 17-20, and particularly for those visiting from out of the area for the Midwest Birding Symposium, here are updates on current birding conditions at some key sites. This posting will be updated through the weekend as new information becomes available.

It appears that weather will be good throughout the weekend, with moderate temperatures and little chance of rain until Monday. There are not likely to be any major fallouts of migrant birds, but there should be decent numbers just about everywhere. Note that mosquitoes are common at most local birding sites, and can be pretty fierce at dawn and dusk, so be sure to carry repellant everywhere.

For "BSBO birding maps" referenced here, go to and follow the links for "Birding hotspots: directions and maps."

In these notes, the sites are listed in order roughly from west to east; they include a couple that are not "official" sites for the Midwest Birding Symposium (MBS).

Maumee Bay State Park (not an MBS site) -- The whole park can be good for birding, but when I have limited time for a visit, I go out to the beach (to the left from the main entrance road) and check both the Lake Erie beach and the small inland beach just to the south of it. Often there will be a handful of interesting shorebirds there, as well as good concentrations of gulls and terns. A juvenile Red Knot spent a week there recently, and there are often Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones, and others, even on days when there are a lot of people on the beach.

Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area (not an MBS site) -- See our BSBO birding map. The small woodlot at the end of the road often has an interesting selection of songbird migrants, and gulls and terns hang around the breakwater. Water is high in the marsh now, so there are no shorebird flats to speak of, but this is a good place to look for Common Moorhen and other marsh birds. Least Bitterns nest here (and some are still around through September), and occasionally can be seen flying low over the marsh.

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge -- Note that the birding possibilities here differ between Friday and Saturday. On Friday Sept. 18, the best areas to visit are the woods behind the visitors’ center and the trails in the east section of the refuge (see the BSBO birding map of the trails). On Saturday Sept. 19, the auto tour through the entire refuge will be open. In observance of the MBS, the auto tour will be opening early this Saturday, at 6:30 a.m., and it will be open through 4 p.m. (see the BSBO birding map of the auto tour).

Update on the walking trails: In late afternoon on Sept. 16, Pool 2b held good numbers and variety of birds. Exposed mudflats, mostly on the west side and in the northernmost section of this pool (see BSBO birding map of the trails section of the refuge), held 12 species of shorebirds, including 1 juv. Baird's Sandpiper, 1 adult White-rumped Sandpiper, 3 juv. Western Sandpipers, 9 juv. Long-billed Dowitchers, and larger numbers of both yellowlegs plus Least, Semipalmated, and Pectoral Sandpipers. The adjacent east edge of Pool 2a had 2 juv. Short-billed Dowitchers associating with 1 juv. Long-billed, 8 juv. Stilt Sandpipers, and several yellowlegs. Pool 2b also had 23 Snowy Egrets and several species of ducks. It is at least a mile's walk from the parking lot to the southwest corner of Pool 2b, and a spotting scope is almost essential for decent views here, so be prepared for a substantial hike. There are likely to be other shorebirds along the auto tour, open only on Saturday.

update on the Auto Tour: The best numbers of shorebirds seem to be on Unit MS 3 (see our birding map), toward the north side. From the road paralleling the north side of this impoundment you can see into the area, but it's a bit of a challenge because there's a channel and a dike between the road and the impoundment. Watch where you are, and try to climb up on top of your car when you're across from the northeast corner of MS 3. Looking south into the impoundment from there, with a scope, you may be able to see Buff-breasted Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Stilt Sandpiper, or various other shorebirds that have been there during the last few days.

Magee Marsh Wildlife Area -- The boardwalk at Magee is the most famous birding site in Ohio, and even though it’s not quite as spectacular in fall as in spring, most birders will probably want to drop by to pay their respects and see some warblers. (See the BSBO birding maps of the boardwalk and of the general Magee area.)

Seeing fall warblers requires a different strategy from spring birding, with special attention to flocks (see the posting on "Finding Fall Warblers" on our birding pages on Sept. 13). The warblers and other migrants may be less concentrated near the lake shore at this season, more generally distributed in the mile or two of lake plain south of the shoreline itself. The walking trails behind the Sportsmen’s Migratory Bird Center and Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) are worth checking, especially if the boardwalk doesn’t produce. I’ve seen good diversity of warblers and others recently, just looking out the Window on Wildlife at BSBO.

At BSBO (just north of Route 2 at the entrance to Magee Marsh) there will be free public demonstrations of bird-banding on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 18 and 19, from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

Note that there is construction on the Magee Marsh entrance road, so it may take a little extra time to drive in. The road is supposed to be open through the weekend, but closed on Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 21 and 22.

update from Friday Sept. 18: good numbers of thrushes were in the area, especially around BSBO, where Gray-cheeked, Swainson's, and Wood Thrushes were all present in the morning. Numbers of warblers on the boardwalk were not notable today, but some were present, and Ethan Kistler saw two Philadelphia Vireos along with other migrants.

Toussaint Wildlife Area -- This MBS site is seriously under-birded, so I don’t want to discourage you from going; there may be fabulous rarities lurking there, waiting to be discovered. When I checked the area on Sept. 15, it was fairly quiet. There are currently no good shorebird flats on the area, and few waterfowl aside from Wood Ducks and a family of Trumpeter Swans. I saw a few small flocks of migrants, and fair numbers of Swamp Sparrows, but I couldn’t find Nelson’s or Le Conte’s Sparrows, which might be expected to occur here.

East Harbor State Park -- The area of the swimming beach had good numbers of gulls, including two Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a few days ago. The woods to the south of the southernmost beach parking lot are often very good for fall migrants, but not after strong east winds; I saw very few birds in that area in such conditions last week. If those woods fail to produce warblers and other migrants, check the area north and east of the Lockwood Picnic Area (east of the "frisbee golf" course) near the park exit on the west side.

Pipe Creek Wildlife Area -- Recently removed from the list of MBS field trip sites, because it’s currently closed except for those with special use permits. It may be open to the public again after Sept. 20, so it might be worth checking, for those who are around after the weekend.

Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve -- This site just east of Sandusky can be excellent for warblers (I saw 15 species there last Saturday) and other songbird migrants. Note that we have a brand new BSBO birding map for this site -- more detailed than anything else available on the web. If you’re considering a trip east to Sheldon, be sure to consult our map by going to the main birding pages ( ) and following the links for "birding hotspots: directions and maps."

Monday, September 14, 2009

Migration Prediction, Sept. 15 to 20

So far this fall season, conditions have not been ripe for a major fallout of migrants in northwestern Ohio. Good numbers of birds are passing through, but no days so far have produced exceptional numbers. As far as I can tell from the weather forecasts, that general situation will continue through this next weekend.

Tonight (Monday night, Sept. 14) may be the best conditions for bringing a strong flight, with winds out of the northwest for at least part of the night, so there may be a good influx of migrants right along the Lake Erie shoreline on Tuesday morning. After that, most of the forecasts suggest that the wind will be light and variable out of the east or northeast for most of the week. There will still be a lot of migrants around, but they’re likely to be in scattered flocks within two or three miles of the lake shore, not concentrated in woodlots on the lake shore itself. So the key to successful birding will be to cover a variety of areas, and to keep moving until you find a concentration of migrants.

Of course, weather forecasts can change, and I’ll be watching to see if conditions seem to favor a big arrival of birds on a particular day. And even on a slow day, as I've pointed out before, there are more migrants to be seen here than in most areas of North America.

Access to local birding sites

With many birders coming into northwest Ohio now for fall migration, and especially for the Midwest Birding Symposium scheduled for Sept. 17-20, here are a couple of notes about access to birding sites.

Pipe Creek Wildlife Area (on the east edge of Sandusky) is closed at the moment except for those with special use permits. It will probably be open again after September 20, but I don’t have confirmation of this.

At Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, there is currently some construction along the entrance road. (Please note, the timing is an unfortunate coincidence, and not the fault of the Division of Wildlife, which is making sure that the road stays open through this coming weekend.) You may have to plan a couple of extra minutes for driving back to the Sportsmen’s Migratory Bird Center, the Wildlife Beach, or the Boardwalk, but these areas will remain accessible through September 20. The road will be closed at its junction with State Route 2 on Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 21 and 22, so those would be good days to bird other sites. The trails at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge or the woodlot at Metzger Marsh would be good alternate sites in the same immediate area to look for songbird migrants.

For those visiting before Sept. 21, note that BSBO’s Window on Wildlife and the trail behind the observatory (just north of SR 2 at the entrance to Magee Marsh)have had a lot of action during the last few days, with birds like Cape May, Magnolia, and Wilson’s Warblers, Ovenbird, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Yellow-throated Vireo, et cetera. With northerly winds, the birds seem to be well dispersed through woods a short distance south of the lake, and not concentrated in the woodlots on the immediate lake shore.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Finding Fall Warblers: the importance of flocks

A Blackpoll Warbler in typical fall plumage, lurking among the leaves

Woodlots along the Lake Erie shoreline in northwest Ohio hold excellent numbers of migrant warblers in fall as well as in spring, but fall is more challenging and requires a different strategy. In spring, you can find many warblers just by wandering along the Magee Marsh boardwalk and stopping wherever you see clusters of birders. In fall, birders are less numerous and the warblers and other birds are less conspicuous.

In fall, even more than in spring, there is a strong tendency for the warblers to be in flocks. These flocks may be only loosely organized, but there may be anywhere from three or four to thirty or forty birds traveling in the same general area. So if you see one warbler, it is a good idea to stop and look around very carefully for others. Chances are you’ll find more nearby.

These individuals and flocks tend to be inconspicuous, so you need to watch for movement and listen for chip notes. Often the warblers will be associated with Black-capped Chickadees or sometimes with Downy Woodpeckers, so if you see or hear those species, again, it’s a good idea to check the surrounding area, even spending a couple of minutes scanning and waiting for warblers to appear. And when you do find warblers, stick with the flock for a while, until you’re sure that you’re seeing every individual bird for at least the second time.

In fall, in between flocks, things can seem extremely quiet -- almost scary-quiet. Spring warblers may be concentrated in flocks as well, but between flocks in spring we have other birds, resident birds, actively singing on territory. With those lacking in fall, the woods can seem dead until we find a flock. It takes a certain amount of resolve to keep going and searching when the woods seem absolutely birdless. But with persistence, practically any day in fall along the lake shore, we’ll eventually find those roving flocks to make the effort worthwhile.

Friday, September 11, 2009

East Harbor State Park, Sept. 11

Late this afternoon (Friday Sept. 11) I checked out several areas in East Harbor State Park, just east of Port Clinton. In the area of the swimming beach and around the small offshore islands there were good numbers of Ring-billed, Herring, and Bonaparte's Gulls, plus two Lesser Black-backed Gulls (both in second-cycle plumages). There didn't seem to be any other small gulls associated with the approximately 100 Bonaparte's, but this would be a logical time and place to look for Little Gull.

The area south of the southernmost beach parking lot has extensive trails through the woods, and in the past I've often found this area to be very good for fall migrants. Today it was surprisingly quiet, with few birds of any kind and almost no migrants. The wind was strong out of the east and it has been that way a lot recently, so this rather exposed eastern edge of the park may have had the birds blown out. With a shift in wind direction, of course, it could be excellent again sometime in the next few days.

Checking other areas in the park, I found a couple of mixed flocks of warblers in the thickets of dogwood and other trees around the edge of the "frisbee golf" course, northeast of the Lockwood picnic area near the park exit. Most interesting were two Mourning Warblers, only loosely associated with the other warblers. As usual at this season, I noticed them first by their odd "thick" chipnote, and managed to pish them up out of the thickets. Notable among the larger birds were three Bald Eagles overhead and more than 50 Wood Ducks on the sheltered bays.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Migration prediction, Sept. 8 to 12

Over the Labor Day weekend that just ended, numbers of songbird migrants were fairly low in the woodlots along the Lake Erie shoreline. Most of the expected species were around, but it took some digging to find them.

Looking at the weather predictions for the next few days (Tuesday through Saturday, Sept. 8 to 12), I don’t expect any major arrival of warblers and other songbirds before the weekend. A few will probably slip in between rain showers overnight Monday night and probably a few more Tuesday night, on east-northeast winds, so there may be modest turnover and fair variety in the migrant traps on Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 8 - 9. After that, the winds are supposed to be strong out of the east and southeast for several days and nights, not good conditions for bringing in more migrants. Determined birders still will be able to find a decent variety but not without some effort.

I don’t have a lot of faith in the weather predictions beyond Saturday, and things may change before then anyway, but the current forecast is for winds to stay mostly east or southeast through the middle of next week. If that happened and then the winds switched to northwest, there COULD be a huge influx of migrants around September 17th -- just in time for the Midwest Birding Symposium. That would be a sweet deal for all the visiting birders.

Of course, there’s a good chance that the weather forecast will change, as it often does! But we’ll be watching the weather maps closely to try to predict when the next big arrival of migrants will be. In the meantime, remember that there are great possibilities for birds here even on a "slow" day, so it’s always worthwhile to get out and look around.

Red Knot at Maumee Bay State Park

A juvenile Red Knot was found at Maumee Bay State Park, on the inland beach just 100 yards south of the Lake Erie beach, several days ago. I expected that it would be driven away by all the weekend crowds going to the state park over Labor Day weekend, but the bird was seen all three days of the weekend, Saturday through Monday, Sept. 5 through 7, so there's a fair chance that it will stick around for a few days more. Apparently it has become habituated to the presence of people so it is unusually approachable. This is a good chance for local birders to get a close look at this striking plumage, with the sharp scalloping on the gray feathers of the back, scapulars, and wing coverts.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Magee boardwalk migrants 8/28

Early fall birding at the boardwalk at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area has a very different feel from birding there in spring. In mid-April, you can traverse the boardwalk and feel pretty certain that you're seeing every warbler there, even if it's only four or five species. In early fall there are a lot more individuals and a LOT more variety, but you can't even hope to see every bird. The vegetation is just so thick that it's a challenge to see birds. But you can tell that there are a lot of them around, so it's sort of like reaching into a grab bag to see what selection you can come up with.

Between rain showers today (Friday, August 28 -- it would have been Roger Tory Peterson's 101st birthday) I made a quick check of the west end of the boardwalk. As expected at this season, migrants are strongly clustered in small flocks, with essentially no birds in between flocks. Still, in a short visit I was able to find a couple of mixed flocks and a good diversity of migrants. The two good concentrations were near number 6 on the boardwalk and between numbers 8 and 9. For the locations of these numbers, go to our birding pages and follow the links for "birding hotspots: maps and directions."

It was interesting to see five Veeries and no other brown thrushes; Veery is quite an early migrant in fall. Three Yellow-bellied Flycatchers were of interest also, and migrant warblers included three Chestnut-sided, three Tennessee, two Nashville, one Wilson's, one Black-and-white, and one Black-throated Blue. I also saw one Prothonotary Warbler, something of a surprise; Prothonotaries nest here, but the species is such an early fall migrant that it's quite possible that the local nesters have left already and that this was a stray from elsewhere. A Philadelphia Vireo and several Warbling Vireos were feeding on the conspicuous whitish fruits of Roughleaf Dogwood (Cornus drummondii), as were two of the Veeries, several Cedar Waxwings, and a couple of Downy Woodpeckers. The most anomalous sighting was of a single Red-breasted Nuthatch in the cypress trees near no. 6 on the boardwalk ... I'm not sure what it was doing here at this season.

Be advised that there are a lot of mosquitoes in the woods at Magee now, enough that I actually used repellant, which I seldom do. Be sure to carry repellant if you want to have an enjoyable birding experience there in the next few days. Also note that some fallen leaves have accumulated on the boardwalk, and these can be extremely slippery, especially when they're wet.

At the Black Swamp Bird Observatory (just north of Ohio State Route 2 at the entrance to Magee Marsh), Karen Zach saw several migrants this afternoon visiting the water feature outside the Window on Wildlife, the most notable being a Mourning Warbler. BSBO will be open 11 to 5 both days this weekend, August 29 and 30.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Shorebirds at Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area

Today I spent about two and a half hours in early evening at Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area, Sandusky Co., concentrating on one impoundment that has been most productive recently (see below for directions). The highlight was the presence of two Red Knots, juveniles in beautiful fresh plumage, silvery gray with fine dark subterminal scalloping on the scapulars and coverts. Red Knots are very uncommon migrants in Ohio and this is on the early side of the migration for juveniles; the reports I'd heard so far for this fall, elsewhere near Lake Erie, had been of adults.

These two Red Knots were present the whole time I was there, but there was a marked amount of turnover in the species composition and numbers of other shorebirds. Most of the birds seemed flighty, flushing repeatedly (often for no obvious reason) and flying around before settling again, thus "shuffling the deck" in terms of which birds were located where.

This is a very interesting time of the fall to be looking at shorebirds, because of the mix of adults and juveniles. Although it's fairly consistent for the peak migration of adults to be earlier than the peak migration of juveniles, the ratio of ages on a given date will vary by species. So today, in late August, I was seeing no adult Short-billed Dowitchers (they've mostly gone farther south or at least to the coast by now) and I was seeing no juvenile White-rumped Sandpipers (they probably won't show up here until September).

Other notables on the evening of the 24th included:
Hudsonian Godwit: one molting adult, undoubtedly the same individual that was here last week. This bird didn't appear until I had been there for almost two hours, and after Sheryl Young had also been there for half an hour; we looked up from our scopes and the godwit was out in an obvious spot in the open. I assume that it flew in silently while we were glued to our scopes.
Western Sandpiper: one brightly patterned juvenile was present when I first arrived, but then I didn't see it again.
Baird's Sandpiper: one juvenile was flying around calling for a while, then landed for a few minutes, then left.
White-rumped Sandpiper: up to eight present at once, a good number. All were adults.
Pectoral Sandpiper: up to 50 present, still mostly adults, but with a few juveniles mixed in.
Semipalmated Sandpiper (at least 100) and Least Sandpiper (at least 20): almost all juveniles now, just a few adult Semis.
Lesser Yellowlegs: still a mix of ages, mostly juveniles but a few adults.
Short-billed Dowitcher: five juveniles. No Long-billeds were present.
Interesting (and further evidence of the turnover here) was the absence of Stilt Sandpipers; observers last week were finding good numbers of these.

Aside from shorebirds, other interesting birds included several flocks of Bobolinks (possibly coming into the marshes to roost for the night) and a migrant Northern Waterthrush in the small woodlot.

For those who haven't been there, Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area is well marked with signs along U.S. Highway 6 between Fremont and Sandusky, and the easiest way to find the exact spot is to find the observation deck on the north side of Route 6, about 8 miles east-northeast of Fremont. From the the observation deck, drive a couple of hundred yards east to where a canal runs straight north from the highway, and pull in and park in the large dirt parking area on the east side of this canal. Then walk north a quarter mile on the road that follows the canal, past a small woodlot, and look in the large impoundment just north of this woodlot. The best view is looking east from up along the west side, so the light is best in the afternoon, and a scope is essential for decent views. I didn't check the impoundment just north of the observation deck, but it had good numbers of birds reported last week.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Shorebirds at Ottawa NWR

The auto tour at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge will be open on Saturday, August 15. I was at the refuge today (Friday the 14th), and found that the best shorebirding along the auto tour route was at MS 3. (To see where this is located, follow the links from the BSBO birding pages for "Birding Hotspots: maps and directions"). To see the birds on MS 3, the best approach is to park near the southeast corner of this impoundment and walk 10 or 20 yards north to a vantage point between the southeast corner of MS 3 and the southwest corner of MS 4. A telescope will be almost essential here.

Shorebirds on this impoundment today included one American Golden-Plover, several Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers, Solitary Sandpiper, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitcher, Wilson's Snipe, Pectoral Sandpipers, a few Semipalmated Sandpipers, and large numbers of Least Sandpipers, almost all of the latter being juveniles in beautiful fresh plumage. A Peregrine buzzed the shorebirds here at least once. A few Snowy Egrets were far back on the impoundment with the more numerous Great Egrets, and several Bald Eagles were seen in the area.

Elsewhere on the refuge, I heard Sedge Wrens singing at Stange Prairie at first light, but they were silent when I checked the area again near midday. At least 30 Black-crowned Night-Herons were along the north-south causeway between MS 4 and MS 5. Along the walking trails (away from the auto tour) there are still some shorebirds on Pool 2a, but conditions are becoming less favorable there.

In terms of shorebirds that avoid the shore -- just after noon on the 14th, an American Woodcock was preening out in the open just outside the Window on Wildlife at BSBO. No guarantees that it will show up there again soon, but the observatory will be open on both Saturday and Sunday this weekend.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sedge Wrens at Ottawa NWR

Sedge Wren is an uncommon and local breeding bird in northwest Ohio, with its locations often changing from year to year, so it can be a tough species for birders to catch up with. Right now there are a number of singing males at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, in the Stange Prairie in the southwestern part of the main unit of the refuge. (See our maps of the refuge, available through the BSBO birding pages under "birding hotspots: directions and maps" for clarification.) On Thursday June 18 there were at least five singing males on the prairie, possibly more. They were singing frequently, and they would often perch up on a stalk above the top of the grass for a minute or two at a time while singing. The birds are far enough out in the grass that you'll need a telescope for good views. The birds might be visible any time from the observation platform on Stange Road just south of Krause Road. Or if you take the Ottawa auto tour (open Saturday June 20, from 9 to 4) you can see them by looking south from the road just across from MS 7. In this area you can actually listen to Marsh Wrens singing from the cattails on the north side of the road, Sedge Wrens singing from the field on the south side.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Migration update 5/29

Today (Friday May 29) I spent most of the day at my desk -- toward the end of May Madness, here in Migration Wonderland in n.w. Ohio, I’m so far behind on work that it’s ridiculous -- but I did get out for a couple of hours to see what was happening with the migration. In just a couple of hours at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, split between the wildlife beach and the eastern part of the boardwalk, I saw plenty of typical late-season migrants that don’t nest in this immediate area. Highlights were 2 Alder Flycatchers, 1 Philadelphia Vireo, at least 8 Swainson’s Thrushes (including 4 singing), 1 Tennessee Warbler, 4 Magnolia Warblers, 1 Black-throated Blue Warbler, 2 Black-throated Green Warblers (including a singing male), 10 American Redstarts (all females and young males), 1 Ovenbird, 2 Mourning Warblers, 3 Wilson’s Warblers, and 4 Canada Warblers (including 2 singing males). The local nesting warblers (Prothonotary, Yellow, Com Yellowthroat) put on a good show also. I didn’t go to the west end of the boardwalk so I don’t know what was seen there, but I know that at least one Connecticut Warbler was at the BSBO banding station east of Magee Marsh.

Looking at the weather tonight, I don't expect a big push of migrants to come in for the weekend. Winds are likely to be west or northwest for most of the night. Saturday's selection of birds will likely be similar to what was around today. Of course everyone is hoping that a cooperative Connecticut Warbler will be found along the boardwalk at Magee. There are certainly some in the general area; the trick is to find one that's actually viewable.

Tomorrow (Saturday May 30) there will be a public bird-banding demonstration at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, just north of Rt. 2 at the entrance to Magee Marsh, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. No guarantees on what birds might be around, but at this late date in May there’s a good chance that a few tricky Empidonax flycatchers might show up to be examined.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Multiple Connecticut Warblers 5/27

Phil Chaon tells me that the main BSBO banding station (on the Navarre Unit of Ottawa NWR, just east of Magee Marsh) had five Connecticut Warblers this morning, Wednesday May 27. In addition, Rick Nirchl saw two at the Magee boardwalk this morning (or one, twice, at separate locations). This obviously means there are some around today, despite all the rugged weather that prevailed to the south of us last night. Weather looks dicey for the rest of this afternoon and tonight, and I'm guessing that some of these birds will be around tomorrow as well, when viewing conditions may be a little drier. Thursday morning's weather is supposed to be heavily overcast, but probably not raining at first.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Migration forecast May 26-29

Last year, on May 26, 2008, I saw two Connecticut Warblers and ten Mourning Warblers along the boardwalk at Magee, plus many other warbler species, Philadelphia Vireo, Black-billed Cuckoo, etc., for a fine birding experience. Last year on May 29 I saw all five species of eastern Empidonax flycatchers, good numbers of Wilson’s, Canada, and Blackpoll Warblers, and various other migrants. I duplicated that mix the previous year on May 28, 2007, with four Gray-cheeked Thrushes for good measure. So based on past experience, I certainly don’t consider the migration to be "over" as early as today, May 25th.

For the last few days, though, the birding has been slow (by local standards) in the Magee / Ottawa area. There are still more than a dozen warbler species being seen each day, decent numbers of Swainson’s Thrushes, lots of Red-eyed Vireos and the occasional Philadelphia, etc., and this would seem like a lot of migrants in the interior of the state, but for this area it’s slow compared to the typical spring day. And looking ahead at the weather forecasts, it’s hard to say when things will change. Tuesday the 26th looks like it will have a lot of rain. There should be an air flow from the south on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, but there may be a lot of rain to the south of us, discouraging any migrants that remain in that area from moving. If the weather south of us is not as wet as predicted, we could have a decent arrival of birds on Wednesday May 27 or especially Thursday May 28, but at the moment I don’t expect those to be very big days. Winds out of the north, predicted for Thursday night, would keep things in place here, so if Thursday turns out to be a good morning then those birds would stick around for a while.

Beyond Thursday the weather predictions become even more vague. I could see a possible scenario where Sunday May 31 and especially Monday June 1 could have a very good push of migrants. The first few days of June are well within the normal migration period for the majority of our spring transients, so there’s nothing far-fetched about such an idea. But the weather forecast is likely to change, so I’m not making any strong predictions for the moment.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Updated weekend forecast: May 23-24

Last night (Thursday night, May 21), as predicted, the wind was out of the southwest until about dawn on Friday and then abruptly swung around to the northeast. Friday was much cooler than the couple of preceding days in birding sites along the Lake Erie shore.

In the woods of the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, there were good numbers of birds Friday but they were mostly not easy to see. Blackpoll Warblers, Magnolia Warblers, Red-eyed Vireos, and Swainson’s Thrushes were numerous. Young male American Redstarts (like females, but more orange-tinged and with spots of black on the face, and singing) seemed to be everywhere. Various other species were scattered through the woods, including Canada, Wilson’s, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Black-and-white, and Yellow Warblers, Scarlet Tanager, Black-billed Cuckoo, and White-crowned Sparrow. I had all five of the expected species of Empidonax, including an Alder Flycatcher singing persistently near no. 19 on the boardwalk in the afternoon and a single Acadian near no. 12. Most surprising was a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker near the west end of the boardwalk (around no. 3), an exceptionally late migrant here, the first one I’d seen since April. You never know what odd thing is going to turn up at Magee!

The wind is supposed to continue more or less out of the northeast for the next two nights and days, perhaps veering more to the east at times. It’s hard to predict what this will do to the migration. Numbers of birds seemed a bit higher at Magee on Friday than on Thursday. It may be that birds moving gradually north will pause longer at Magee and other lakeshore sites if there are unfavorable winds at night, so the numbers of migrants here may build up over the weekend. We have arrived at prime dates for Connecticut Warbler but so far we haven’t had a cooperative and viewable individual for everyone to enjoy, and we hope that one will turn up this weekend.

A couple of tantalizing birds have been briefly present the last couple of days. Rick Nirschl had a Kirtland’s Warbler singing along the Magee boardwalk (near no. 14) early Thursday morning; it moved off and as far as I know it hasn’t been found since, but might still be in the general area. Iain Campbell found a Ruff on Friday morning at Ottawa NWR, on Pool 2a (see our map of the refuge walking trails); he was able to show it to a group, but birders who looked for it at midday and early afternoon couldn’t find it. This is likely the same bird found Tuesday in a closed area of the refuge, so it may be shifting around, and undoubtedly some birders will check Pool 2a for it again over the weekend.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Weekend Migration Forecast: May 22-24

The last few days (Tuesday - Thursday, May 19 - 21) have been hard to interpret in terms of the migrants that we’re seeing on the ground. Bird numbers seemed lower than I had expected on Wednesday and Thursday. During the preceding two nights there had been favorable winds from the south, and the radar picture late at night had shown large numbers of birds on the move from well to the south of us, but the numbers of migrants along the Lake Erie shoreline -- particularly in the woods at the Magee boardwalk -- have seemed low.

I talked to Mark Shieldcastle (Research Director for BSBO), who has been looking at weather and migration in this area essentially every day in spring for the last 30 years, and asked for his perspective. Mark felt that we were seeing a migration on a very broad front, the birds filtering north, not forming large concentrations anywhere. He also pointed out that there have been large hatches of midges recently in the marsh region, so the birds can feed heavily without having to move very far, and since the woods and thickets are now fully leafed out, the birds are less conspicuous. The diversity in the area is still excellent -- the BSBO banding operation has had more than 20 species of warblers every day this week, with goodies like Connecticut, Mourning, Orange-crowned, and Hooded -- but birders are having to work a little harder now to find these birds.

(Incidentally, as I’ve mentioned before, you can find fascinating info by checking the BSBO website for the latest data from the banding station, and for Julie Shieldcastle’s “Bander’s Blog.”)

I was out checking various spots today (Thursday May 21) and found relatively few birds near the west end of the Magee boardwalk, probably at least partly because of strong winds from the west-southwest. On the Wildlife Beach I found a lot of warblers (mostly Am Redstarts, Wilson’s, and Blackpolls), but mostly just east of the dike at the west end, where the thickets are more protected from the wind. I had a much higher density of migrants in the woods at Ottawa NWR in a brief check there. Again I was concentrating on areas sheltered from the wind, on the north and east sides of the wooded areas (see our map of the walking trails at Ottawa for a better idea of how the woodlots are arranged).

Tonight (Thursday night) the winds are supposed to continue more or less from the southwest all night, but right around dawn, a cool front is supposed to pass through and shift the winds abruptly so they’ll be coming from the northwest. If the timing of this is just right, it could make for a better concentration of birds in the migrant traps along the lakeshore. I think the best bet on Friday morning will be to check the standard lakeshore areas (like the Magee boardwalk area, Metzger, etc.), and then if there aren’t a great number of birds there, go to check areas of woods just to the south. The wooded areas at Ottawa NWR are excellent on some “off” days for the boardwalk. Along the Ottawa trails there are a lot of areas that look perfect for Connecticut Warbler. I’m sure there have been a few in there this week; it’s just a matter of finding them.

Sedge Wren, Wood Thrushes

A couple of brief notes. Tom Johnson, ace birder from Ithaca, NY, found a Sedge Wren singing along the Magee Marsh causeway on Wednesday May 20. I heard the bird sing a few times on the morning of May 21. The location was about 100 yards north of the first pulloff on the causeway as you start north from the woods toward the beach. Sedge Wrens in May are often just lone migrants passing through, but it would be worth checking to see if this bird sticks around.

There have been a few Snowy Egrets seen consistently along the Magee causeway also. These birds nest on West Sister Island out in the lake and come to the mainland to feed. The Magee causeway is one of the best and easiest places in the state to see this species.

There will be migrant Swainson's and Gray-cheeked Thrushes around for another week or more, and a few Swainson's through the first week of June, but Wood Thrushes have mostly passed through the migrant traps -- they're not being seen now in the woods at the Magee boardwalk, for example. A good place to see Wood Thrushes now is along the trails at Ottawa NWR. See our map of the refuge trails (through "hotspots: directions and maps" on the BSBO birding pages). If you take the boardwalk behind the visitors' center, and then go east on the dirt trail from the northeast corner of the boardwalk, you'll soon pass through territories of a couple of pairs of Wood Thrushes that apparently will be nesting here. This area can be great for seeing migrant thrushes, vireos, warblers, and others as well.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Strong overnight movement May 19-20

Just in case anyone is reading at this hour -- at a little after midnight Tuesday night, May 19 (or 12:15 a.m. on Wednesday, May 20) the radar picture appears to show a huge amount of bird movement in the Midwest. There has been some obvious departure from northern Ohio with birds heading north across Lake Erie, but there is also a much larger movement of birds well to the south of us, in southern and southwestern Ohio and central Kentucky, of birds headed this direction. I'm guessing that the timing is such that large numbers will be reaching the latitude of the lake around dawn. We don't have any rain or other weather predicted that would put them down so I don't think areas away from the lake will see big concentrations, but there should be at least a few new migrants virtually everywhere. In the migrant traps right along the Lake Erie shoreline there should be very obvious turnover and a lot of new birds on Wednesday morning. A good day to check out any habitat that you have close at hand.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Migration Forecast May 19 - 21

Yesterday morning (Sunday May 17), with much cooler temperatures and winds out of the north, migrants were still present in good variety and fair numbers at the migrant traps along the Lake Erie shoreline. Of course, with the wind shift, they were not quite as concentrated along the north edge of the woods as they had been on Saturday, so they weren’t quite as convenient for photography along the edge of the parking lot at Magee Marsh. But there was plenty of variety to be found inside the woods.

Sunday’s highlight was the Kirtland’s Warbler found by Andy Johnson and then relocated twice by guides from Tropical Birding and shown to at least a hundred lucky birders. So far today (Monday May 18, about 11 a.m.) the bird has not been refound. See previous post for more info.

A high-pressure system over us now is moving toward to east more slowly than expected, so as of late morning Monday the winds are still light out of the north. Numbers of birds are still decent although not exceptional in the migrant traps along the lake shore.

After the high passes us and moves east, the winds are supposed to shift to southeast sometime late Monday afternoon and then southerly for the rest of the evening and night. Based on current weather forecasts, I think that Tuesday, May 19, could have a very good arrival of birds. After that the picture is less certain, because the forecast calls for rapidly changing wind directions overnight Tuesday night, so it’s hard to say what the birding will be like on Wednesday (aside from warm, relatively calm and pleasant conditions). Thursday, though, has good potential, after southerly winds Wednesday night.

Good flights at this time of month should include an excellent variety of warblers, with Wilson’s, Mourning, and Canada becoming more numerous, and Connecticut Warbler becoming more likely as we get closer to May 25th. Flycatchers are increasing in numbers and variety: Yellow-bellied showed up in good numbers for the first time on Saturday May 16, and there will be more of them through the end of the month, along with lots of Alder and Willow Flycatchers and a few Olive-sided Flycatchers. Swainson’s Thrush will continue to be numerous, and Gray-cheeked Thrush will be easier to find now in the latter part of May. Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos put in their best showing in late May, and this is also a good time for uncommon migrants like Philadelphia Vireo.

At this point I can’t predict what’s going to happen the weekend of May 23-24. It’s well within the migration timing for all the birds mentioned in the paragraph above, but at the moment I’m getting contradictory weather predictions for Friday and the weekend so it’s too soon to tell what the numbers of birds will be like. Still, if weekends are your only available birding times, and if you’re after Connecticut Warbler, the next two weekends would be your best possibilities of the year.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Kirtland's Warbler: detailed directions

On Sunday, May 17, a Kirtland's Warbler was found at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. Originally found, identified, and photographed by Andy Johnson, a very sharp teenaged birder from Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Kirtland's proved elusive, but was seen for a while by many birders around 3 p.m. and then rediscovered by Iain Campbell and watched for another period by several birders between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m.
With cool temperatures and light north winds prevailing tonight (Sunday night), it's possible that this rare migrant will still be in the area tomorrow. The map below shows where the bird was seen, on trails behind the Sportsmen's Migratory Bird Center. Andy Johnson found it first near the observation blind on the trail (right-hand letter "X") and the two later observations were farther west on the trail (left-hand "X"). During the later observations, it was foraging very quietly and inconspicuously within the conifers along the trail (pines and spruces surrounded by deciduous trees), and it could disappear for minutes at a time within a dense tree before reappearing on the edge.

For those unfamiliar with the general area, below is a low-resolution copy of our overview map of Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, to clarify the location of the Sportsmen's Center and the trails behind the center. This map is available through the BSBO website for free downloading and printing; go to the main birding pages and follow the links for "Birding hotspots: directions and maps."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Update: migration May 14-16

With the rough weather that prevailed this morning, I was sweating my prediction that the birding would be good today, wondering if the migrants had made it through. But they had: the birding was spectacular at Magee Marsh and other nearby areas. From what I saw or heard about, there were at least 27 warbler species in the area. But of course, the number of species doesn’t tell the whole story; what was more impressive was the number of individuals, the excellent overall variety (that is, there was no single species that dominated -- we saw lots of most species), and the fact that the warblers were foraging very low along the north edge of the woods at Magee, probably to be out of the strong southwest winds. Many species qualified as common today: Bay-breasted, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Am. Redstart, Ovenbird, etc., while some earlier migrants like Black-throated Green were in reduced numbers but still easy to find. The sheer visibility of these warblers is amazing to people who visit for the first time -- or even for some of us who have been here a lot. This would be hard to prove, but I’d be willing to bet that more than 30,000 warbler photos were taken at Magee today.

The winds are now shifting to west-northwest, and by morning (Friday morning, May 15) they’re supposed to be more north-northwest. Probably there won’t be nearly as much bird movement tonight as there was last night. I assume that there will be somewhat fewer birds in the lakeshore migrant traps on Friday, but even with reduced numbers it should still be good birding. Friday night the winds are supposed to go to the south again, so probably we’ll have another big influx on Saturday morning, the 16th, undoubtedly with a fair amount of turnover.

Near the east end of the boardwalk this morning was the first (that I’ve heard of) Connecticut Warbler for the season. If you’re keen to see the species, though, don’t worry about rushing over to try to find this individual; the peak migration for this species typically is later, closer to May 25, so your best chance would be late in the month.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Update: Migration May 13-16

Last night there were strong winds out of the south, and a look at the radar picture late at night showed what appeared to be very large numbers of birds crossing Lake Erie. Today (Wednesday May 13) there was obvious turnover in the migrant traps along the lake shore. At the Magee Marsh boardwalk, there were many more Swainson’s Thrushes and Cedar Waxwings than the day before, a modest influx of Scarlet Tanagers and Baltimore Orioles, and seemingly fewer Yellow-rumped Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Warblers were present again in excellent variety. I was only there for a short time this morning so I don’t know the total number of warbler species present (I only saw / heard 20 species), but what I saw included two male Mourning Warblers in separate areas near the west end of the parking lot. Mourning is a classic late-May migrant and I had heard of only one individual at the boardwalk before today.

Tonight (Wednesday night), between the high pressure center that’s moved off to the east and a low-pressure center sitting to our northwest, we’ll have a strong flow of warm air coming up all the way from the western Gulf Coast, and a huge number of migrants should be riding that train northward. It’s not a sure thing that they’ll actually reach us, because there will be a lot of rain in the area locally, and the migrants may be put down before they get anywhere near the lake shore. But if they do happen to get through, Thursday could be a very good day all along the south and north shores of Lake Erie -- that is, Magee and Point Pelee could get equal shares of the wealth.

Following tonight’s and tomorrow morning’s weather, a low pressure area will move past us to the north and winds will probably shift to the north Thursday night, shutting down migration, so Friday probably won’t see any influx of new migrants. But with the rapidly changing weather of this season, the wind is supposed to shift around to the south again Friday night, probably bringing, again, another wave of migrants on Saturday. At this point it’s hard to say whether Thursday or Saturday will be the bigger day -- Thursday has greater potential, but it could be partly shut down by overnight rain. One way or another, there should be a lot of migrants around for birders who visit this coming weekend.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Migration forecast May 12 - 16

In the migrant traps near the Lake Erie shoreline, the fine birding continued through today (Monday, May 11), with very large numbers and excellent variety of warblers and other migrants present. Despite the lack of favorable winds for migration, there was some turnover evident; for example, on Monday there seemed to be more Northern Parulas and fewer Blackpoll Warblers than there had been on Sunday in the area of Magee Marsh. But the birders on the boardwalk continued to be thrilled with extreme closeup views of warblers and other choice migrants.

In terms of weather, the week ahead looks like an active one, and the forecasts keep changing to some extent. On the basis of current forecasts, it appears we’ll have a strong air flow from the south both Tuesday and Wednesday nights. There could be a very good arrival of migrants near the lake shore on the morning of Wednesday, May 13 (and a lot of the migrants that are here currently will probably be gone that morning as well). There could be an even better fallout of migrants on Thursday morning, or it could be a bust. What makes this hard to predict is the question of what’s going to happen with major rain storms that could move through the area. They could hold the migrants back, or they could put them down right on top of us. This is just a guess, but I think the rains could be positioned right to produce a good fallout not only here, but across the lake from us at Point Pelee, on Thursday.

Looking farther ahead, the forecast is for the wind to go back to the north with the passage of a minor cold front on Thursday night, so Friday may not produce a lot of migrants. But the wind is supposed to go back to the south on Friday and through Friday night, and another good influx of migrants should come in Saturday morning, May 16. There are likely to be scattered showers on Saturday, but the birding should be good anyway for those Toledo Naturalists’ Association members taking part in the North Coast Open, and for Ohio Ornithological Society members attending the conference in Perrysburg.

A few notes for birders visiting the Magee boardwalk in the near future: a couple of pairs of Prothonotary Warblers seem to be on territory along the boardwalk, with a very obliging male singing close to the boardwalk around number 3. Also, there are still a few Rusty Blackbirds present. That species passes through this area in large numbers in late March and early April, so most are gone by now, but a couple have been foraging in shallow water near number 7A and near number 13. On Sunday, several birders passed these off as Common Grackles at first. Certainly there are plenty of grackles around, but if you see a lone individual foraging in shallow water, it’s worth a second look. Also, if you go out the spur of the boardwalk near number 10, listen for the low hooting chuckling note of Least Bittern out in the marsh there.

For numbers on the boardwalk, see our map available through the main birding page (follow the links for "birding hotspots: maps and directions").

Sunday, May 10, 2009

May 9-10: Major migration wave continues

Friday, May 8, was a major day at Magee Marsh, Ottawa NWR, and nearby areas on the lake shore of n.w. Ohio, as already reported. Saturday was another huge day; numbers were somewhat reduced from Friday (partly because a lot of White-throated Sparrows departed) but variety was still great, with many more Blackpoll Warblers and others apparently having arrived overnight. During the day Saturday the wind shifted to the west and the temperature dropped. The north edge of the woods (south edge of the parking lot) at Magee was outstanding all afternoon, with many, many warblers feeding very low, apparently resorting to that area to be out of the wind.

Early indications today (Sunday May 10) are that numbers and variety are still excellent: the northwest winds overnight apparently kept yesterday's hordes of warblers and other migrants from departing. With the cooler temperatures today, the birds are still feeding low, for excellent views.

Numbers will probably continue to be fairly good through Monday, then drop off Tuesday and Wednesday. Right now it appears that Thursday, May 14, may be the next big day, but I haven't taken a detailed look at the weather yet and I may have to revise that prediction.

Friday, May 8, 2009

May 8: Big migrant fallout

This morning (Friday May 8th) we're having an excellent movement of migrants in the vicinity of Magee Marsh, Ottawa NWR, and nearby areas. Total numbers are hard to convey, of course, but while standing in just ONE spot near the entrance to the boardwalk at Magee this morning for just 20 minutes I saw 13 species of warblers (well over 100 individuals) plus Orchard Orioles, Scarlet Tanagers, Veery, Lincoln's Sparrow, dozens of White-throated Sparrows, et cetera. In the space of a couple of hours of wandering around, I was never in a spot with no migrants visible, and I saw / heard more than 20 warbler species and a few thousand individual migrants. In addition to the birds that had arrived overnight, there was a good diurnal movement going on as well, with hundreds of Blue Jays and smaller numbers of waxwings, goldfinches, Bobolinks, etc., plus a couple of flyover Red-headed Woodpeckers.

It will be many hours before we know the total diversity present today, but I wanted to get the word out that things were happening, in case anyone can take advantage of the news.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Migration update May 7 - 9

As usual, the weather forecast continues to change slightly, and with it the outlook for the next big arrival of migrants. There are probably a lot of birds arriving here within the next few days, but it’s still hard to pinpoint when they’ll get here.

Of course, a lot of migrants are here already. In the lakeshore migrant traps there are hundreds of warblers of at least a couple of dozen species, and there are also many migrants scattered through the wooded patches well south of the lake. Some birds (such as White-crowned Sparrow and Rose-breasted Grosbeak) seem to be more common away from the lakeshore at the moment. But it’s clear that the second major wave has not come in yet. "Early" warblers such as Yellow-rumped, Palm, Black-throated Green, Nashville, etc., are still dominant, and the huge influx of Magnolia, Chestnut-sided, Bay-breasted, and other "mid-season" warblers has not arrived in force.

The current weather prediction (Wednesday May 6, mid-afternoon) suggests that the current southerly winds will shift to northeast tonight as a minor low-pressure area passes, and then shift back to the southwest after midnight. After that, the winds are supposed to have a strong southwesterly component through Thursday and Friday, May 7 and 8, before swinging back around to the northwest sometime Saturday morning.

On the basis of the wind patterns, there should be migrants arriving the next three mornings, Thursday through Saturday, May 7 - 9. Because of the shifting winds tonight and the amount of rain to the south of us, I don’t think that Thursday will be the big arrival. What shows up on Friday and Saturday will be partly dependent on the amount of rain in our area and to the south of us -- the forecast is for scattered showers, but a lot depends on just where those showers fall, and when. Still, it looks like there’s a good chance for a major influx of migrants on Friday and Saturday.

Additional notes: Phil Chaon found a calling King Rail at Mallard Club Marsh Wildlife Area (east of Maumee Bay State Park). The species has been present at this location the last couple of years also. American Golden-Plovers have been seen several times recently at the northwest end of Ottawa NWR (on unit MS 2, visible from the east end of Veler Road).

Monday, May 4, 2009

Migration forecast May 4 - 12

Right now (Monday May 4) in the Magee / Crane Creek region we have a great variety of migrants, although not huge numbers, and the warblers and other forest songbirds are spread through all the area’s woodlots, not just concentrated along the immediate lake shore. Birders are finding good concentrations of migrants even in forest patches several miles south of the lake. The key to variety right now is to check a variety of spots rather than just concentrating on the Magee boardwalk or any other single hotspot.

A high-pressure center is passing to the north of us, and northerly winds have shifted to easterly winds which will probably continue Tuesday May 5, but by Wednesday May 6 there should be a good flow of air from the south. On that basis, I expect a good arrival of birds on Thursday May 7. There may be a lot of rain in areas to the south of us on Wednesday night, which could limit the number of birds coming from a long distance, so Thursday probably won’t be a massive fallout, but it could be pretty good.

Some more migrants will probably show up Friday morning, but it’s uncertain what will happen later on Friday. The forecast is for a low-pressure center to pass right over this area sometime Friday night. Depending on the timing of this, and the location of associated rain showers (if it happens at all -- the weather prediction could change a lot before then) we could have a really major fallout of migrants on Saturday May 9 or we could have relatively few. Regardless, Saturday should be a good day for birding, with moderate temperatures and not too windy. Sunday is likely to have most of the same birds as Saturday, although perhaps in smaller numbers, as northwest winds overnight will probably keep most of these birds in place.

Looking farther ahead, current weather predictions lead me to guess that we could have another major arrival of birds on Monday May 11 or especially on Tuesday May 12, but of course the weather forecast that far out is prone to revision! We’ll have to wait and see how the forecast changes. But there’s a possibility that the 11th or 12th could be very good days.

Visitors to the area should be aware that the hotspots near the Lake Erie shoreline will have good numbers of birds literally every day from now through the end of May. In spring, these spots are not totally dependent on fallout conditions, as some migrant traps are; birds moving north will pause at the lake shore, so even on a "bad" day in May there will be a lot of birds around. People who have seen the Magee boardwalk on a fabulous day may be disappointed when it’s only moderately good, but still, even on a poor day, we can see more migrant warblers here than we could at most places on the continent.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Migration forecast April 30 - May 3

The spectacular arrival of spring migrants that kicked into high gear last Friday, April 24, has filled all the local woods and fields and marshes with a rich variety of birds. There is daily turnover now, but the shift to cooler temperatures and rain means that many of the birds are lingering, and not just in the migrant traps along the lake shore: there are also a lot of migrants in woodlots several miles away from the lake. So birders in northwest Ohio who have time to get out just briefly (for example, over lunch hour or after work) during the next couple of days may find it worthwhile to spend that time checking out their local habitat patch rather than making a long drive to the lake shore.

Current weather predictions call for some rain on Thursday April 30 and Friday May 1, but there will be some air flow from the south during that time, so some migrants will probably continue to slip between the storms and move into the area. On Friday night, according to current predictions, a low pressure area will have passed by us to the north and the wind will shift to the northwest, so birds that are in the area late in the week will probably stay for the weekend. The numbers may not be huge but they should be fairly impressive, and there’s a lot of variety, with well over two dozen species of warblers present at the moment. The best bet for seeing a good mix of species this weekend would be to check a number of different spots -- in other words, don’t just go to the boardwalk, think about looking at other wooded areas such as the ones farther south on the Magee entrance road, the woods at Ottawa Nat’l Wildlife Refuge, end of the road at Metzger Marsh, woods at Maumee Bay State Park and East Harbor State Park, and so on. See our page on "Birding Hotspots: directions and maps" for information on these spots.

During this coming weekend, with clearer weather and a fairly strong wind flow out of the west, we might pick up some more individuals of some of the migrant species that tend to pass through to the west of here in spring, like more American Avocets, Black-necked Stilts, Hudsonian and Marbled Godwits, Franklin’s Gulls, Clay-colored Sparrows, et cetera. Most of those have been found in the area already this spring, but we may see more. At any rate, this weekend has great potential for numbers and variety of birds, and maybe some surprises.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

April 24-26: Next Migrant Wave

The unsettled weather and rain of the last couple of days have not stopped the movement of birds into the area. Probably these birds are moving only short distances, but their numbers in habitats near the Lake Erie shoreline have continued to increase since Saturday. On Monday, April 20, young ace birder Phil Chaon went exploring in the rain and found a couple of great species not far from BSBO. Around noon he saw two Franklin’s Gulls on Benton-Carroll Road, on the second pond south of State Route 2 (Benton-Carroll is less than half a mile east of BSBO and the entrance to Magee Marsh Wildlife Area). Late in the afternoon, on Stange Road (near the west edge of Ottawa NWR) half a mile south of Route 2, a flooded field held large numbers of Pectoral Sandpipers and American Golden-Plovers, and with them Phil found a Ruff -- a male molting into breeding plumage. I checked the spot this morning (Tuesday 4/21) and the birds had left, but they may still be somewhere in the area.

The weather is supposed to continue to be rainy, with variable winds, through much of Wednesday 4/22. But by Thursday, according to current forecasts, there will be a sustained air flow from the south or southwest, and it is predicted to continue for about three days. On the basis of current forecasts, I think that Friday, 4/24, will be the next big arrival of migrants in the woodlots and marshes along the Lake Erie shoreline, and there are likely to be more birds piling in on Saturday and Sunday, 4/25 - 4/26, probably with a lot of turnover.

This next wave should increase the variety of birds present as well as the numbers. The diversity of warbler species on the Magee Marsh boardwalk, currently stuck at three or four, should increase to at least ten or twelve over the weekend, with Black-throated Green, Palm, Nashville, and Black-and-white almost certain to show up, and a good chance for an Orange-crowned or two. This late April time frame usually produces a few male Scarlet Tanagers, looking oddly out of place among the still mostly leafless trees, and often big waves of White-throated, White-crowned, and Swamp Sparrows.

At any rate, unless the weather forecast changes (which is always possible!), Friday looks like the next big day on the lake shore.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Update 4/18

As predicted, there was a decent influx of temperate-zone migrants this morning in the area of Magee Marsh / Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. Most noticeable were Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and greatly increased numbers of Hermit Thrushes and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. In addition to the Yellow-rumps, there were at least a couple of Pine Warblers (including a very obliging singing male near the entrance to theMagee boardwalk), a Northern Parula (on the boardwalk), and a Northern Waterthrush (along the north edge of the woods at Magee). I was particularly surprised to see this bird; as early as April 18th, I would say that Louisiana Waterthrush would be more likely here than Northern. There were also a few Purple Finches actively moving through this morning, as well as Northern Flickers and small flocks of Cedar Waxwings.

Along the auto tour at Ottawa NWR there was an impressively wide variety of duck species for so late in the spring, the first Common Moorhens that I've seen locally this spring, and a male Northern Harrier performing territorial/courtship displays, suggesting that the species might nest here this year. Flyover shorebirds included both yellowlegs, 50 American Golden-Plovers, Dunlins, Pectoral Sandpipers, and Wilson's Snipe. All of these species were also seen on the ground at the northwest end of the auto tour (east end of Veler Road) but they were quite distant, even in the telescope. A good hawk flight developed by late morning, with decent numbers of Broad-winged, Cooper's, and others passing over the refuge toward the west-northwest.

The current weather forecast calls for showers tomorrow (Sunday the 19th). For anyone who wasn't able to get out today, if you can get out tomorrow between showers, it should still be good for the songbirds and waterbirds (although probably not for hawks).

Friday, April 17, 2009

Big migration expected 4/18

Friday update: Last night (Thursday night, April 16) the winds were essentially calm overnight. So while they weren't exactly helping to push migrants north, the winds weren't holding them back, either, and a fair number of short-distance migrant birds arrived in northwest Ohio overnight. I just now (Friday morning the 17th) talked to Mark Shieldcastle, who is out at the main BSBO banding station, a few miles east of Magee Marsh. Mark said that there was an evident increase in numbers of Hermit Thrushes, Song Sparrows, and others. The Hermit Thrushes this morning were mostly adults, which tend to migrate north earlier in spring than the one-year-old birds, so it looks like we're still in early stages of that species' migration -- in other words, the scarcity so far doesn't mean they've slipped past us undetected, it means the bulk of them haven't arrived yet.

Mark also had looked at the weather pattern and said that it looks good for a lot more birds to arrive overnight tonight, so that Saturday could be quite a good day. We're still talking temperate-zone migrants, not arrivals from the tropics, but there could be a ton of kinglets around, a good mix of early migrant sparrows, possibly our first really big push of Yellow-rumped Warblers, and possibly some overshooting southern species like Yellow-throated Warbler or Louisiana Waterthrush. Early migrants like Fox Sparrow and Rusty Blackbird are likely to decrease in numbers after this weekend as they move on north.

At any rate, it looks like Saturday in particular will be a good day to get outside. We have to feel that fate is smiling on the birders when it happens that the big migration occurs on a weekend!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Update predictions for April 17-19

Despite the lack of favorable winds, there have been some more arrivals this week. On Wednesday the 15th, Kim Kaufman noted an influx of Hermit Thrushes and Eastern Towhees at Magee Marsh W.A., and I saw my first good-sized flock of Dunlins for the year on unit MS 2 North at Ottawa NWR (east end of Veler Rd.).

A couple of states to the west of us, in the Mississippi Valley, there has been a very strong southerly air flow for the last couple of days, with major numbers of birds moving north. It now appears that a diminished version of this same pattern will reach us by late Friday afternoon, the 17th, and I expect a good arrival of migrants overnight, so that Saturday morning the 18th could be quite good. Saturday is supposed to be quite warm (possibly up to 70 and mostly sunny), so it could be a fine day to be outside, and we could have a significant arrival of Yellow-rumped Warblers and other migrants that currently seem a bit overdue. There also might be a moderate hawk flight during the day if the west-southwest winds hold. Sunday is predicted to be not as warm and possibly rainy, but there should still be good numbers of birds around.

On Saturday, the auto tour at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge will be open from 9 to 4. Please note that we now have a set of birding maps available for the refuge; go to our main birding page and follow the link for "Birding Hotspots: Directions and Maps." There are actually three maps available there for free downloading: one giving an overview of the refuge, one focusing on the auto tour in the central and western parts of the refuge, and one giving a closeup of the walking trails that are open every day in the eastern section and near the Visitors' Center. Each of these maps has a page of additional notes, so you may want to print map and notes as a two-sided document. Major thanks to the refuge staff, especially Rebecca Hinkle and Ron Huffman, for providing me with a lot of information while I was drawing these maps. Any errors are my doing; please leave a comment if you have any problems with the maps.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Predictions for migration, April 15-19

Right now (Tuesday April 14) the songbird migration seems to have stalled. The expected species for this point in early spring are all here (for example, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, Fox Sparrow, Rusty Blackbird), in decent numbers but not in large numbers. Persistent northerly winds, cool temperatures, and occasional rain seem to be holding back the migration to some extent.

I don’t expect many songbird migrants to show up for the next couple of days, but temperatures are supposed to warm up this week, and by Thursday night (April 16th) the wind is predicted to shift to the south. If that happens, I think that woodlots near the Lake Erie shoreline will see an arrival of migrants on Friday the 17th and more on Saturday the 18th. This weekend may produce the first big arrival of Yellow-rumped Warblers and possibly some other early warblers like Pine, Black-throated Green, Black-and-white, or Northern Parula. This is a good time to start looking for "southern" warblers that overshoot their breeding ranges: Louisiana Waterthrush is particularly likely, and Yellow-throated, Worm-eating, and others are possible.

Magee Marsh Wildlife Area is a good place to look for all of these migrants, of course, and so are wooded areas at other lakeshore spots like Maumee Bay State Park and East Harbor State Park. This Saturday, the 18th, the Auto Tour at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge should be open. Our brand-new BSBO birding maps for the refuge may be available before the 18th; check the "birding hotspots" page on our website closer to the weekend to see if the maps are posted yet. Wooded areas on the refuge, such as the woods behind the Visitors’ Center, are excellent places to look for songbird migrants. In addition, shorebird migration is now really picking up, and there may be ten or more species present by this weekend.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Golden-plovers at Ottawa NWR, scaup concentration at Maumee Bay

The new shallow wetland at the northwest end of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge continues to be productive. From Ohio State Route 2 just a mile southeast of the small village of Bono (or one-half mile south of the entrance to Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area), turn east on Veler Road and drive less than half a mile east to where the road ends at the refuge gate. There’s room to park here (although keep in mind that this space may serve as a school bus turnaround, which could be an issue at certain times of day). From Veler Rd you can look south into the wetland. The light here will be best in the afternoon, or on overcast days. Many of the birds are distant enough that a scope is necessary.

On the afternoon of April 11, the highlight here was three American Golden-Plovers, still in basic (winter) plumage. Also present were Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpipers, and a remarkable total of more than 100 Wilson’s Snipe. Ducks on the wetland included good numbers of Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, and Northern Pintail. Purple Martins (just recently returned) were overhead, along with Barn and Tree Swallows. I heard Sandhill Cranes calling several times from somewhere to the east; didn't see them, but they're worth watching for while birding in this area.

Late in the afternoon of April 11, from the beach at Maumee Bay State Park, I estimated 9,300 scaup out on the lake. I spent a considerable time scoping through this concentration and it was indeed essentially all scaup, with just two Buffleheads mixed in. Studying head shape and bill shape on the closer scaup, and watching wing pattern on more distant flying birds, it was clear that the overwhelming majority of the birds were Lesser Scaup. I identified just seven Greater Scaup. Of course, thousands of the birds were too far away to be called anything but scaup sp., but still I don’t think that Greaters made up more than one or two percent of the flock.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Birding forecast for Easter weekend

As of mid-afternoon Thursday, April 9, weather conditions over the southern U.S. feature a very strong low-pressure area centered over western Oklahoma and a high-pressure area centered over Florida. Between these pressure centers, there is strong northward air flow over the central Gulf states. This pattern may well propel some notably early birds into our area, but after that the local migration may shut down for a few days, with occasional rain and north or northeast winds predicted.

As a result, the weekend of April 11-12 may not see any big arrivals of birds, but the migrants that are in the area will probably stay around. This is the best time of year in northwest Ohio for seeing large numbers of Fox Sparrows and Rusty Blackbirds. Both of these species are present in good numbers in the woods near the boardwalk and near the Sportsmen’s Center at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, and in wooded areas on Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. These areas (or brushy spots nearby) also have decent numbers of other early migrants such as Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Eastern Phoebe, Hermit Thrush, Brown Thrasher, Winter Wren, Eastern Towhee, and Field Sparrow.

For Easter weekend, birders visiting the area will probably want to go look for the Mountain Bluebird just west of Toledo (which was still being seen as of Thursday morning; see for updates) and perhaps spend some time birding in the beautiful Oak Openings area immediately to the south. Then if you come to the lakeshore area, you’ll find a good variety of the early migrants mentioned above, plus lots of waterfowl in the marshes, by visiting Magee Marsh, Ottawa NWR, Maumee Bay State Park, East Harbor State Park, and other traditional local birding areas. And it’s possible that you’ll find some isolated odd bird that has arrived well ahead of schedule, or some unexpected southern species, courtesy of the weather conditions that prevail right now, two days before the weekend.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Predictions for beginning of April

As of the evening of Tuesday, March 31, there are showers passing through the area, and there probably won't be much movement of nocturnal migrants overnight despite the south winds. But on Wednesday, April 1, winds are supposed to be strong out of the southwest, and there's likely to be a good movement of diurnal migrants in areas near the Lake Erie shoreline. Turkey Vultures are moving now, as well as Bald Eagles, Red-shouldered Hawks, and others. We're near the end of the migration for Rough-legged Hawk but they're still possible, and we're getting into a decent time to watch for Golden Eagle and Merlin. The winds may make it uncomfortable to stay out on the observation tower at Magee Marsh or the sledding hill at Maumee Bay State Park for long periods, but especially after the day warms up, observers might be rewarded with a good movement of birds.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Continuing Northern Shrikes at Magee

As of today (Monday, March 23) there are two Northern Shrikes along the causeway at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. One was south of the first (southernmost) pulloff along the causeway, working the brush on both sides of the road, but spending much of its time out of sight. The other was west of the third (northernmost) pulloff (the one with the duck identification sign). (For clarification of these directions, go to the main BSBO birding pages and follow the link for "Birding hotspots: maps and directions.") The latter bird has been exceptionally easy to see for the last couple of weeks. It spends much of its time perched on a large multiflora rose tangle off to the west-northwest of the third pulloff. Part of the time it is down inside this tangle, or down in the vegetation elsewhere in the immediate area, but I have seen it each of the last five times that I have stopped and spent any time looking. This bird will probably leave for the north sometime in the next couple of weeks, but right now it is being unusually visible and reliable.

Seen again today were two Sandhill Cranes flying east across the causeway. Four were seen yesterday on Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, just west of Magee Marsh, and two more just west of Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area. This is the season when they could just be migrating through, but it's likely that a pair or two will set up summer territories in the extensive marshes of this region.

Also notable today in the Magee Marsh area was a sharp increase in the number of Double-crested Cormorants flying over (still not anywhere near summer numbers) and an influx of Bonaparte's Gulls. Rusty Blackbirds are now common in all the wooded areas along the road in to Magee, and many are in with the mixed blackbird flocks in agricultural fields south of Route 2 in the general area.

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