Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easter weekend: Current birds, migration forecast, birding sites

Fox Sparrows are moving through northwest Ohio in good numbers now, concentrating near the Lake Erie shoreline. Photo by Kenn Kaufman.
April 5, 2012: During the last couple of days, with northeasterly winds, no obvious push of new migrants has occurred. Songbird migrants in the woodlots near Lake Erie have diminished in numbers, perhaps moving slightly inland, but there are still decent numbers of typical early migrants. Fox Sparrows are near peak numbers, and there are fair numbers of both kinglet species, Hermit Thrushes, Winter Wrens, Brown Creepers, and others. Rusty Blackbird numbers have dropped from highs a week or two ago, but small flocks are still present in most swampy woods, and Yellow-rumped Warblers are starting to appear in the migrant traps. A few Pine Warblers and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers have been present. Purple Martins began arriving 9 days ago, and males are now scouting around areas with nest boxes (Sportsmen’s Center at Magee, Ottawa NWR visitors’ center, Maumee Bay State Park nature center). Brown Thrashers first appeared almost 2 weeks ago, and are now singing at several spots.

Several migrants have appeared on the early side of normal dates. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Common Yellowthroat, Marsh Wren, Virginia Rail, and Sora are among the examples, but these all will become easier to find in coming weeks.

Among the waterfowl, many of the wintering and migrant ducks have departed already, seemingly ahead of their usual schedule, but large numbers of Lesser Scaup and Ruddy Ducks are gathering just offshore on Lake Erie. Early shorebirds such as Pectoral Sandpiper, Wilson’s Snipe, and Lesser Yellowlegs are now numerous in patches of good habitat.

Migration forecast: at the moment, predictions are for the northeasterly winds to continue through Friday night, April 6, before shifting to the southwest sometime on Saturday. If this prediction holds, we won’t see any big influx of new migrants until Sunday, but the birds present now should continue through Saturday at least. If the southwest winds materialize as predicted and continue through Saturday night, Sunday should see better numbers of the early migrants mentioned above. Yellow-rumped Warblers should increase, one or two other warblers could show up, and this would be a prime time to look for Louisiana Waterthrush, a typically early “overflight” species.


Magee Marsh Boardwalk: Kinglets, Brown Creepers, and Yellow-rumped Warblers are near the west end. Fox Sparrows and Winter Wrens are there in fair numbers, and some of them are singing – these are both great songsters, and this is the best time of year to hear them here.

Sportsmen’s Migratory Bird Center: The building is temporarily closed for repairs. The walking trail to the east of the parking lot is closed to protect a nesting pair of Bald Eagles, but the trail back behind the visitors’ center is open and offers good birding.

Black Swamp Bird Observatory: Good numbers of birds outside the window on wildlife. Purple Finches and Fox Sparrows have been there recently. If you’re in the area, please stop by and let us know what you’ve seen.

Benton-Carroll Road: This section of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge has had good numbers of shorebirds recently. To reach this spot, go east on Route 2 from the entrance to Magee Marsh Wildlife Area for just under half a mile, and turn south on Benton-Carroll Road. Go south less than a quarter mile to a point where there are two gravel pulloffs on the right, next to an old barn. PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE’S ROOM FOR ONLY TWO OR THREE VEHICLES TO PARK HERE AT ONCE, AND PLEASE DO NOT ATTEMPT TO PARK ON THE ROAD OR THE ROAD EDGE! If the parking spaces are filled, please go on to another spot and check back later. But if you CAN park, the shallow flooded area and damp field to the west have held Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpiper, Dunlin, and other shorebirds recently. Ethan Kistler points out that this spot had more shorebird numbers and diversity in late March, surprisingly early in the season. But with daily turnover, numbers are changing constantly.

Stange Road: This area on the southwest edge of Ottawa NWR is always worth checking. The refuge did a controlled burn of part of the Stange Prairie recently, and the resulting open area should provide very good birding this spring; this is often a good habitat for migrating American Golden-Plovers. A Short-eared Owl was seen hunting over the edges of the burn area at dusk on some recent nights. From the observation platform at Stange and Krause roads, you can see into one of the refuge impoundments (a scope is very helpful here), and this impoundment has had a good variety of ducks and a few shorebirds recently. A Yellow-headed Blackbird was seen along Krause Road on March 31.

Metzger Marsh: The birds might disperse if there are many anglers out in their boats here, but as recently as April 3, the marsh still held a good variety of ducks (plus thousands of coots). Watch for Sandhill Crane along the drive in.

Maumee Bay State Park: The lake beach and the inland beach still have fair numbers of gulls, and would be worth checking for strays of other species. Forster’s and Common terns should show up any day. Wooded areas of the park, especially on the west side, have good numbers of Fox Sparrows, Hermit Thrushes, and other migrants, and the area around the nature center is always worth checking.

Hope to see you out there! Much of the information here is from Ethan Kistler, with additional points from John Sawvel, Kimberly Kaufman, and Ryan Lesniewicz.

Summary: Good numbers of typical early-season migrants around. This weekend, Sunday may have more birds than Saturday.

1 comment:

Kenn Kaufman said...

Update: Easter morning, April 8, the boardwalk at Magee Marsh produced a moderate number of new migrants. Yellow-rumped Warblers increased from a few individuals to a few dozen, and other migrants seen included Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Towhee, Pine Warbler, and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

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