Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Migration outlook April 11-15

Wednesday, April 10:  Last Saturday night, conditions were ideal for migration, and Sunday morning produced a major influx of early migrants.  Golden-crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrushes, Fox Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Field Sparrows, and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers all arrived in numbers, along with other typical birds of early April. The high numbers of birds have continued through the last three days, with even more birds apparently slipping in despite the unsettled weather.  By this morning, birding the Magee Marsh boardwalk, Greg Links found additional arrivals including 2 Pine Warblers, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and major increases in Golden-crowned Kinglets (110), Ruby-crowned Kinglets (11), and Fox Sparrows (135!).  (The Lake Erie shoreline in n.w. Ohio is one of the best places in the world to see concentrations of Fox Sparrows in migration, and this is the peak of their passage here.) Other sites in the area, even several miles away from the lake shore, also held good numbers of migrants such as kinglets and several species of sparrows.  

With a lot of rain and northeasterly winds forecast for the next 36 hours, the birds are likely to be still around on Thursday and Friday, the 11th and 12th. The rain is supposed to move out by Friday morning, with winds switching around to the west or southwest. If the winds are southwesterly, we could see a decent hawk flight developing. The combination of held over migrants from today, plus daytime migrants moving, could make Friday a fine day to be out.  

On Saturday, April 13, they're forecasting a chance of snow flurries(!), with west winds and temperatures barely reaching the low 40s. But sometime Saturday night or Sunday, things will start to warm up, with a strong flow of air coming all the way up from the Gulf of Mexico, between a high-pressure area to the east and an approaching low-pressure area just to the west. The exact timing is a little uncertain, so it's hard to say whether we'll see a lot of new birds on Sunday or if Monday will be a much bigger day. At the moment, I'm afraid that Monday looks more likely, and it could be a really big day, with a lot of first-of-the-season arrivals.  Still, the whole weekend could be very good birding if you go out prepared for the weather!  

In regard to waterbirds: Shorebirds have started to show up in area wetlands, such as the Boss Unit of Ottawa NWR (Benton-Carroll Road just south of Route 2, just east of BSBO). Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpiper, and many Wilson's Snipes are in the area. On the 8th, Tiffanie Hayes photographed three American White Pelicans in flight over Fremont, just about 20 miles south of Magee Marsh, and these birds could still be somewhere in the general area. A single Black-necked Stilt has been seen a few times northeast of Fremont, mostly on private land, but it's worth watching for this species at any shallow wetland in the area. Forster's Terns and Caspian Terns are now back along Lake Erie, including at sites like Maumee Bay State Park. 

Summary: Lots of migrants are in the area now, and the birding should be very good from here on out. Based on current weather forecasts, Friday the 12th and Monday the 15th might be particularly good days.  

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