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.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Magee Marsh: Northern Shrike, Sandhill Cranes

This week (specifically March 17 and 18) there have been good numbers of waterfowl visible from the causeway north to the beach across Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. Most of the readily visible birds are to the west of the causeway; they have included good numbers of Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mallard, and Ring-necked Duck, and lesser numbers of American Black Duck, Redhead, Hooded Merganser, and several other species. Also seen on both the 17th and 18th was a Northern Shrike, probably the same individual that has been here all winter. On both days it was just to the west of the third (northernmost) pullout along the causeway (the one with the duck identification sign). The shrike was perching on large bushes out in the marsh. It spends part of its time perched conspicuously up on top, but at other times it is down out of sight in the dense thickets; if you don't see it at first, either wait a while or arrange to come back to this spot later. The shrike may leave for the north any day now, but it could remain through the first week of April.

Also seen here on March 18 was a pair of Sandhill Cranes flying across the causeway, headed west. These could be just passage migrants, but last year at least one pair spent the summer on Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, just to the west of Magee Marsh, so this could be a returning pair of summer residents.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Metzger Marsh: Eurasian Wigeon, Red-necked Grebe

Today (Tuesday March 17) the main impoundment at Metzger Marsh (Lucas County, just north of Rt. 2 and just east of Bono) held at least 3000 waterbirds, mostly ducks and American Coots, with a couple of rarities thrown in: a male Eurasian Wigeon and a Red-necked Grebe in winter plumage.

The Eurasian Wigeon was well to the south of the main road that runs east-northeast along the north side of the impoundment. It was associating with American Wigeon. Through the telescope it was a good view, but it would have been tough to pick out with binoculars.

The Red-necked Grebe was farther east, most easily seen from the parking area at the boat launch near the end of the road. From that point the bird was off to the southeast, in the same general area as many ducks and coots. (If you're unfamiliar with the layout of Metzger Marsh, you can find a detailed map by going to the BSBO birding pages and following the links for "Birding hotspots: directions and maps".)

Among the regularly occurring birds, Redheads were the most numerous ducks, with roughly 1300 present. There were also large numbers of Gadwalls, Ring-necked Ducks, Mallards, American Wigeon, and Lesser Scaup. Many of the birds were far enough from the road that a telescope was necessary to identify them.

Metzger Marsh should remain productive for large numbers of waterfowl through the end of March at least.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Migrants coming: Raptors 3/17, others 3/18

This morning (Monday March 16), just back from Idaho, I was looking at weather maps before heading out to check on today's birds, and it appears that the next two days should be good in northwest Ohio.

Right now the winds are light out of the northeast, but they should swing around to the south by about 2 a.m. tonight. If the prediction holds, by morning the winds will be light out of the south and should gradually increase during the day, shifting to south-southwest by afternoon. These conditions should create a fair hawk flight along the Lake Erie shoreline in the first part of the afternoon on Tuesday, March 17. It's supposed to warm up to the 60s as well, so it won't be the frigid experience that sometimes accompanies March hawkwatching in this region! A couple of good sites for observing migrating raptors would be the observation tower ("hawk watch tower") near the Sportsmen's Migratory Bird Center at Magee Marsh, and the "sledding hill" near the beach at Maumee Bay State Park.

Winds should continue to have a strong southerly component through the night Tuesday night, which should favor movement by nocturnal migrants. The current prediction is for scattered showers on the morning of Wednesday March 18, but anyone who gets out between showers should see a good arrival of early landbird migrants. These could include numbers of Rusty Blackbirds, Fox Sparrows and other sparrows, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrushes, and perhaps a few surprises. Waterfowl migration is in full force now, so even if the other migrant arrivals fail to materialize, there will be flocks of ducks, geese, and swans to enjoy.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Waterfowl, Rusty Blackbirds, and other early migrants

Northern Pintails flying along the edge of Lake Erie

By now, at the beginning of the second week in March, spring migration is in full swing in northwestern Ohio. Waterfowl are moving through the area in large numbers. With the recent rains and warmer temperatures, the marshes and the lakeshore areas are mostly ice-free. Many ducks and swans are visible from the causeway at Magee Marsh, and Wood Ducks are being seen on the causeway and at the small ponds back by the Magee boardwalk. Metzger Marsh had large numbers of waterfowl today (Monday March 9), with 17 species present. Redhead was the most numerous species, but there were also good numbers of American Wigeon, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, and Lesser Scaup. Hooded Mergansers were concentrated in the canal that parallels the road, not out on the marsh, and the male Hoodeds were actively displaying. (See our map under "Birding hotspots: directions and maps" on the BSBO birding pages.)

American Woodcocks have returned and may be heard doing their flight displays at dusk at many sites in the area. The John Gallagher Memorial Trail, behind BSBO, is a good place to hear them. Other good spots include open fields at Maumee Bay State Park and Mallard Club Marsh.

Large flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles have arrived, and flocks of Rusty Blackbirds are just now becoming widespread. At least 200 Rusties were in the swampy woods near BSBO today, according to Kim Kaufman. I saw about 80 in a woodlot on Stange Road just south of its intersection with Krause Road (just west of Ottawa NWR) and about 30 on the way in to Metzger Marsh. Look for this species in any kind of swampy woods, or sometimes mixed with other blackbirds feeding in open fields.

Raptor migration is under way as well, with Red-shouldered Hawks moving through the area. I saw one over the town of Oak Harbor today and another near Metzger Marsh. Mark Shieldcastle counted at least 20 passing over a site west of BSBO and just south of Route 2 today. At this time of year, we can expect to see migrating Red-shoulders anywhere near the lake shore, especially on days with a southwest wind.

The big waves of warblers are still more than a month away, but there's a lot happening now. Northwest Ohio will be hopping with migrants for the next three months!

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