Friday, April 15, 2011

Weekend outlook, April 16-17

April 15: We are definitely into the season of full-on migration, with new species appearing practically every day. The birds arriving now are mostly those that winter in the southeastern U.S., but a few of the long-distance migrants from deep in the tropics are starting to show up.

The weather word for the next few days is "unsettled." A strong low-pressure area, currently centered over the Kansas City region, is expected to track toward the northeast, passing north of our area over the weekend. Local conditions over the weekend are likely to be windy (winds near 20 mph), with some periods of rain, and temperatures not rising past the mid-50s. But birders who get out and look are probably going to see a lot of early migrants and perhaps some rarities.

As of Friday morning, April 15, local winds are from the east or east-northeast. Winds should shift to the southeast during the night, and to the south or southwest for much of the day Saturday. Rain is very likely late Friday night and early Saturday morning. By early Saturday afternoon, with south winds and an end to the rain, we may see a moderate movement of birds of prey along the Lake Erie shoreline. Magee Marsh, Metzger Marsh, and Maumee Bay State Park would all be good vantage points. Saturday night will probably produce some more rain, and winds will shift more toward the west by Sunday morning, but Sunday should be mostly clear. Depending on exact wind direction on Sunday, it could also produce some raptor migration along the lake shore: more if the wind is more southwesterly, less if it's directly from the west, so check the wind before you decide to go hawkwatching.

The auto tour at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge will be open on Saturday, the 16th. Two American White Pelicans were seen at the refuge on April 13th (near the Crane Creek estuary) and a male Eurasian Wigeon was found on April 9-10 on MS 8b, which is the first major impoundment to your right as you begin the auto tour route. These birds may still be in the area, and Ottawa usually holds some surprises at this time of year.

Although I don't expect any big waves of songbird migrants to arrive over the next couple of days, there are already many birds in the area, and both days this weekend should provide good birding if you stick to the downwind sides of the woodlots. Sparrow numbers and variety are excellent. Seven sparrow species were at the feeders at Black Swamp Bird Observatory on April 14. There are still surprising numbers of Fox Sparrows around (mainly in thickets very close to the lake) and American Tree Sparrows are still widespread, while we're seeing a good arrival of Chipping, Field, and Swamp sparrows at the woods and marshes, and Savannah and Vesper sparrows in more open country.

Purple Finches have been widespread in the area during the last few days, and we're seeing a decent passage of Winter Wren, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Eastern Towhee, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Hermit Thrush, and other typical early migrants. Rusty Blackbirds are past their peak but still present. Both kinglet species are around, although they seem to be in surprisingly low numbers. Many local breeders are arriving back on territory, including Brown Thrasher, Barn and Northern Rough-winged swallows, and Purple Martins.

The warblers, the stars of the show in May, are just now appearing. At least 9 species have been reported in nw Ohio during the last week, mostly in very small numbers. In addition to Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warblers, of course, this early part of the migration is good for Pine and Palm warblers, and some others such as Black-and-white Warbler and Black-throated Green Warbler have shown up as scattered singles. The first Prothonotary Warblers should be here any day now. The latter part of April is the best time in spring to look for Orange-crowned Warbler. This is also the season for "overflight" species: warblers that nest to the south of us, which sometimes overshoot their nesting territories and show up here. Louisiana Waterthrush is annual in April in swampy spots along the Magee Marsh boardwalk, and other "southern" warblers such as Hooded, Worm-eating, Prairie, and Yellow-throated are worth watching for.

Finally, with all the unsettled weather and with winds shifting to the west by Sunday, it would be a good idea to check the lakeshore and open water areas for stray birds such as Franklin's Gull or American Avocet. Wherever you go, have a superb time, and please consider stopping by BSBO to let us know what you've seen.

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