Thursday, May 3, 2012

Update May 3, Outlook May 4-7

May 3: This was an excellent day for migration watchers in n.w. Ohio, a fine setup for The Biggest Week In American Birding, starting tomorrow!  The total number of migrants that had arrived overnight was still not huge, but the diversity was remarkably good for the early date.  Between Magee Marsh and Metzger Marsh I heard reports of at least 27 species of warblers, and I may have missed some.  These included some that are locally scarce, such as Cerulean and Kentucky warblers, and some that usually arrive later in May, such as Mourning, Wilson's, and Canada warblers.  Other migrants included both Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos, all six expected species of vireos, and at least one Summer Tanager.  Thrushes seemed relatively scarce, and only a few flycatcher species were found, as expected.  Most of the migrants were in woods very close to the lake, with fewer in areas just a mile or two to the south.

During the first few hours after sunrise, many diurnal migrants were flying along the lake shore. At Metzger Marsh early on I had Bobolinks, blackbirds, American Pipits, American Goldfinches, a couple of Red-headed Woodpeckers, and others flying west, while Baltimore Orioles and hundreds of Blue Jays were flying east; later the Blue Jays were mostly flying west, and thousands came over in a couple of hours. This early morning flight is another reason why I prefer to bird out in the open at first, such as the edge of the parking lot at Magee, rather than diving into the woods along the boardwalk at first light. 

By late afternoon the temperature was up to the high 80s, with strong southwest winds.  The winds are expected to continue overnight, with only a few scattered thunderstorms to hinder the movement of birds.  I expect that Friday morning, May 4, will see another good arrival of birds, probably with some turnover and a different mix of species.  Later on Friday the winds are supposed to shift to northwest, and then stay more or less northerly through Sunday, May 6.  Many of the birds that are arriving now (Wednesday through Friday) probably will stay in this immediate area through the weekend, providing good birding.  Some of them may relocate a little south of the lake shore, so that woodlots slightly inland (such as around BSBO or at Ottawa NWR) may become more productive.  On Monday, May 7, the winds may go to the southwest again as a small low-pressure area approaches, but I don't expect this to bring in a lot of new birds.

At Ottawa NWR, the Auto Tour will be open this weekend, May 5 and 6, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.  This should be good for a variety of waterfowl and shorebirds.  Yellow-headed Blackbirds are back in the area, and the Auto Tour is the most likely place to see them.  A Black-necked Stilt was seen a few days ago on MS 4, and it might still be in the area. 

Instant updates: If you have a smartphone that can run Twitter, you can get updates about birds being seen throughout the area by following BiggestWeek on Twitter. Also check for tweets from others marked with the hashtag #biggestweek.

Summary: Lots of new birds arrived today, more should come in Friday May 4, and then most of the birds present should stick around through the weekend and through Monday, May 7.  There are close to 200 species present in the area right now, so we have plenty to keep us busy!

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