Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mysteries of the Next Wave

Tuesday night, May 10: I’ve been putting off posting another prediction because the weather has been so confusing. A few days ago, it had appeared that weather conditions would be set up for a big arrival of migrants today (Tuesday) or tomorrow (Wednesday May 11). Those weather conditions fizzled, but a lot of birds arrived today anyway. It’s hard to interpret what’s going on.

Winds have been mostly from the east, not from the south, but on Tuesday May 10 there was a big uptick in the numbers of Magnolia Warblers and American Redstarts – birds typical of the second wave – as well as a good handful of Canada Warblers, Blackpoll Warblers, and Wilson’s Warblers, all birds associated with later in May. Andy Jones reported that there was also a big arrival of migrants on South Bass Island, out in Lake Erie, so clearly a lot of birds were moving, even if it didn’t appear that conditions were favorable.

So the migration at this point doesn’t seem to fit with the weather, making it hard to predict what will happen next. I had a brief note from Mark Shieldcastle, who has been studying weather and migration in this area for years, and he agreed that conditions were confusing. He suggested that all these birds must have been just a little to the south of us before Monday night, so they didn’t have to come far to arrive here Tuesday. It still seems odd to me that they would come in without a tailwind.

My guess – and it IS mostly a guess – is that bird numbers will continue to be very good for the next couple of days, despite the prevailing easterly winds, making for decent birding on Wednesday May 11 and Thursday May 12. Then on Thursday evening, winds may shift to more southerly, and we may see a big (but not huge) arrival on Friday, May 13. Take this with a grain of salt, though, because it may turn out differently.

Notes about local spots: Metzger Marsh continues to host a Tricolored Heron, and Black Terns and Least Bitterns have been found there as well. The best local shorebirding at the moment is on Ottawa-Lucas Road, a dead-end road that runs east from Route 2 about a mile north of the big curve (between Krause Road and Veler Road – see our Ottawa NWR map). Randy Kreager checked this out on Monday and found several species of shorebirds in the flooded fields before the turnaround at the end of the road, including Semipalmated Plovers, Dunlins, Ruddy Turnstones, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, and others. Cliff Swallows have returned within the last few days and can be seen locally near water; one good spot is the east end of the parking lot at Porky’s Pizza Trof on Route 2, about 5 miles east of BSBO. Common Nighthawks have also returned; they're most easily heard at night over some nearby towns, including Port Clinton and Oak Harbor.

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