Saturday, September 10, 2011

East Harbor State Park hotspots and migrants, Sept. 10

Although this photo was taken in spring, the male Black-throated Blue Warbler looks pretty much the same at all seasons, an encouraging point for birders who are apprehensive about "confusing fall warblers." On September 10 I saw at least ten Black-throated Blues at East Harbor. photo by Kenn Kaufman.
Saturday September 10: This afternoon I made a brief check of East Harbor State Park, another of the field trip sites for the Midwest Birding Symposium (MBS), and found very good numbers and variety of migrants. East Harbor SP is on the edge of Lake Erie in Ottawa County, east of Port Clinton and west of Lakeside.

The entrance to East Harbor is on the east side of State Route 269, about a mile north of State Route 163. After entering the park, in a couple of hundred yards, the first left turn will take you to the parking area for the Lockwood picnic shelter. I have always had good luck with migrants in this general area – either in the thickets to the east of the pond and Frisbee-golf course (east of the parking lot), in the woods at the beginning of the Meadow Trail (just west of the parking lot), or in the woods around and to the south of the picnic shelter. This evening the latter area held a concentration of at least 70 small birds. Chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches were the nucleus of the flock, but the majority of the birds (more than 50) were migrants. American Redstart and Magnolia Warbler were the most numerous, and the flock also contained multiples of Cape May, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Black-throated Blue, Black-and-white, and other warblers, plus at least three Philadelphia Vireos and several Warbling and Red-eyed vireos. This flock was moving fast and doubling back through the area, and with the heavy overcast of it was a challenge to keep up with the birds and see them well.
(NOTE: According to current plans, the parking lot for Lockwood picnic shelter is one of the spots where the guides will meet participants on Friday and Saturday mornings, Sept. 16 and 17, during the MBS.)

(Incidentally, it was in this area – first part of the southern end of the Meadow Trail – where the Kirtland’s Warbler was found during the Midwest Birding Symposium two years ago. I don’t expect lightning to strike twice here, but I did make a pass through and look at the spot for tradition’s sake.)

To reach the other area where I’ve consistently had good luck with migrants, go in the park entrance and follow the signs straight ahead for the Beach, about a mile to the east. It’s not much of a beach at the moment, but if you turn right and go to the south end of the parking lot, you’ll come to a nice paved path that leads south into the woods paralleling the edge of the lake. The woods here often have flocks of warblers, as they did this afternoon, with multiples of Blackburnian, Wilson’s, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, and others. Heavily fruiting dogwoods along the path also produced Gray-cheeked and Swainson’s thrushes, several Warbling and Red-eyed vireos, and at least one Philadelphia Vireo. Yellow-bellied and Least flycatchers were in this area also. NOTE: According to current plans, this is the other spot where guides will meet participants on Friday and Saturday mornings, Sept. 16 and 17, during the MBS.

Finally, if you turn left instead of right when you reach the beach and go to the northernmost parking lot, you reach the best vantage point in the park for terns and gulls. A series of four rocky “islands” offshore offer resting spots for birds when people scare them off the beach. Today this area had about 380 Common Terns, 16 Forster’s Terns, 5 Caspian Terns, 82 Bonaparte’s Gulls, 30 Herring Gulls, and 85 Ring-billed Gulls. No unusual species were with them today, but in other years I’ve seen Lesser Black-backed Gull here in September.

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