Thursday, September 15, 2011

Weekend Outlook, Sept. 15-18

Thursday, September 15: It looks like we’ve gotten very lucky with the weather for the Midwest Birding Symposium (MBS). For the next four days there is very little chance of rain, and a big arrival of migrants has just moved in with the north winds, so there should be a lot of birds to watch under pleasant conditions between now and Monday.

We had strong winds out of the south through much of Tuesday, but winds shifted around toward the north that night, and in the time since, many warblers and other migrants have moved into the area. I made a quick check of Meadowbrook Marsh on Wednesday afternoon, and found several small groups of migrants moving along the woodland edge. This site, and all the other MBS birding sites, should offer fine birding from now through Sunday. Reports from this morning indicate that warblers are numerous at the Magee Marsh boardwalk right now. I expect a fair amount of turnover for the next couple of days, and then Saturday night the winds will shift more toward east and southeast, so whatever is around on Saturday will probably stay through Sunday also.

For people who are driving in to Lakeside for the MBS, and coming from the east or west, here are a couple of spots to consider that are NOT official MBS birding sites. They might be worth hitting on the way to or from Lakeside. From east to west, they are:

1. Sheldon Marsh. This state natural area east of Sandusky is often a very good warbler trap in fall. During the first Lakeside MBS in 1997, I led field trips there, and it turned out to be an excellent spot for talking about warbler ID because we were getting good looks at so many. It’s not one of the official sites this time, but if you want to stop there on your own, Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) has a birding map for the area.

2. Resthaven Wildlife Area. This site south of Sandusky Bay has a mix of ponds and woods, and it often holds a lot of songbird migrants in spring and fall. Mark Shieldcastle, BSBO’s Research Director, suggested that the winds of the last couple of days were likely to make this a very productive spot right now. A map and some information can be found at this link.

3. Metzger Marsh. Another area administered by Ohio’s Division of Wildlife, this site lies just west of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. BSBO has a birding map of the area, available through the website. Many waterbirds are often visible along the causeway on the drive in. At the end of the road, the small woodlot often has concentrations of songbird migrants. The beach and the concrete fishing pier may have interesting gulls, terns, or shorebirds if there aren’t too many people around.

4. Maumee Bay State Park. Farther west on the way to Toledo, this park on the Lake Erie shoreline is reached by following Curtice Road 2.5 miles north from State Route 2 (and it’s well marked by road signs). Once inside the park, follow the signs for the beach. At the end of the road there is both a Lake Erie beach and an inland beach, and either or both may have many gulls and terns and a scattering of odd shorebirds. This is one of the more consistent sites in n.w. Ohio for Red Knot, and other species seen there recently include Baird’s Sandpiper and Buff-breasted Sandpiper. Maumee Bay also has a fine wooded areas for songbird migrants; follow the signs for the Nature Center to get to one good spot. Brian Zwiebel reports that the park had excellent numbers and variety of warblers this morning, including Hooded Warbler, rare here in fall. 

5. Finally, farther afield in southeast Michigan, the Detroit River Hawk Watch is the best area nearby to witness the fall migration of birds of prey. On days with northwest winds, hundreds or even thousands of hawks may be seen passing overhead at Lake Erie Metropark and other nearby sites. For more information, go to their website. From Lakeside this would be at least a two-hour drive, so if you go during the Symposium you should plan to miss the rest of the day’s activities. But you could stop there on the way to or from Lakeside if your travels take you in that general direction. At this point, it looks like today, tomorrow, and Saturday should all have decent potential for hawk flights, while Sunday’s southeast winds probably won’t make for good hawk viewing there. But if the weather prediction for Sunday changes, keep this in mind.

And if you'd like to see a long list of other birding sites in northwestern and north-central Ohio, go to the BSBO birding pages and scroll way down the page that is at this link.

Meanwhile, back at the sites closer to Lakeside – the birding should be great for the next four days! We’ll hope to see many of you out in the field, or at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory / Kaufman Field Guides booth at the vendor hall.

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