Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Raptors & other migrants coming 3/17

Red-shouldered Hawk migrating over Magee Marsh during March. This is the best month for seeing this species near the Lake Erie shoreline.

Migration is in full swing, and it appears that Thursday, March 17, should be a good day for seeing migrants, especially birds of prey, in northwestern Ohio and nearby areas.

As of Wednesday afternoon, March 16, a high-pressure area is centered over the southeastern U.S., and the flow of air around that high is bringing in warm air from the southwest toward Ohio. That air flow should continue overnight, with skies at least partly clear, encouraging early migrants to move north. I expect traditional early birds like Tree Swallow and Eastern Phoebe to be around on 3/17. Numbers of migrant sparrows are already growing, with a big push of Song Sparrows during the last few days, and there should be many Fox Sparrows around for the next couple of weeks. Numbers of Rusty Blackbirds are increasing -- northwest Ohio represents one of the major stopover areas for this declining species, and we have a good opportunity to study it here. Hermit Thrush, Pectoral Sandpiper, and American Pipit are other birds to be watching for right now.

On Thursday 3/17, temperatures locally should climb into the 50s, with continuing south-southwest winds. This is a classic setup for a good flight of raptors (birds of prey) near the Lake Erie shoreline in northwest Ohio. We never get massive numbers of raptors, such as those sometimes seen in fall migration at the northwest corner of the lake; but by spending a while watching from a good vantage point, we can sometimes see a decent variety. One standard lookout is the "hawk watch tower" (observation tower) near the Sportsmens Migratory Bird Center on the way in to Magee Marsh Wildlife Area; another is the sledding hill at Maumee Bay State Park. But any open area with a good view of the sky, within a mile of the shoreline, may be a good vantage point.

Mid-March is a little before the peak of raptor migration but it still offers some good possibilities. Our healthy population of local nesting Bald Eagles is aumented by numbers of migrants passing through in early spring. March is the main month for migrating Red-shouldered Hawks. Northern Harriers, Rough-legged Hawks, and Cooper's Hawks may all be on the move. (By contrast, Broad-winged Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk mostly move later, in April.) Northern Goshawk is always extremely rare here, but conditions like those expected tomorrow could at least produce an outside chance.

If you get out to watch for passing raptors, you may spot other birds on the move as well. Sandhill Cranes are actively migrating now. Ace birder Karl Overman saw a Whooping Crane fly over Maumee Bay State Park on March 14, undoubtedly a bird from the reintroduced Wisconsin flock. Randy Kreager found a Yellow-headed Blackbird on Krause Road several days ago, and this bird is probably wandering the area with the mixed blackbird flocks. And with migration under way, there's no telling what else you might find.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Hi Kenn!
Me and the Doodles had a lone Tree Swallow flying north near Krause Road Sunday morning.
...still looking for that @*#$! Yellow-headed Blackbird. This year!

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