Saturday, May 25, 2013

Next migrant wave: May 28-29

Willow Flycatcher at Magee Marsh, late May 2013. Willow and Alder flycatchers are almost identical in appearance, and individual variation in both makes it dangerous to try to identify them by sight.  However, their callnotes are distinctly different: a dry "whit" from Willow, a liquid "kep" from Alder Flycatcher.  Fortunately, this Willow Flycatcher was calling  a lot, and even sang a couple of times.
Saturday, May 25:  An excellent movement of birds during the early part of this last week was pretty much shut down when winds shifted around to the north on Thursday.  By that time, however, the woodlots near Lake Erie had filled up with migrants typical of the third wave.  Flycatchers were abundant, Red-eyed Vireos and American Redstarts had become numerous, and the predominant warblers were late-season birds like Blackpoll, Canada, Wilson's, and Mourning warblers.  The prized find among late species, Connecticut Warbler, proved elusive; one or two were heard or seen along the Magee Marsh boardwalk on some days, but most people have missed the species so far this spring.

After the wind shifted to the north, most of the birds that had been around earlier in the week seemed to be pinned down where they were, so that birding continued to be good on Friday and today.  As often happens with north winds, some of the birds filtered southward away from the Lake Erie shoreline, so that there were many in the woods near BSBO, for example.

At this point on Saturday evening, with winds still out of the northeast, it appears that we won't see much new arrival on Sunday or Monday.  But by Monday night, a high-pressure area to the east of us and a low-pressure center to the west should create a strong flow of air all the way up from the Gulf of Mexico, and this will increase during Tuesday and Tuesday night, along with temperatures getting much warmer again.  So we should see a big turnover on Tuesday May 28 and probably even more on Wednesday morning, May 29.  

After Wednesday, the current forecast shows southerly or southwesterly winds persisting through the latter part of the week, right up to Sunday morning, June 2nd.  Along the Lake Erie shoreline, it's usually possible to find a lot of lingering migrants through the first week of June.  However, these favorable winds are likely to sweep a lot of the migrants on toward their destinations, so things may be getting a little thin by the weekend.  If you are still determined to find that Connecticut Warbler, or to practice on Empidonax flycatchers, you may have better luck if you can get out on the 28th or especially the 29th, rather than waiting for the weekend.  

Of course, even after the songbird migration winds down, we'll still have shorebird passage up through the second week of June... and the first southbound shorebirds of the "fall" will show up before the first of July.  So in reality, in this corner of the world, migration is happening most of the time!  And regardless of the weather conditions, every day holds the potential for exciting discoveries, so it's never a bad day to go birding.


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