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.

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