Monday, May 5, 2014

Biggest Week begins: Migration forecast for May 6 - 10

Although the weather forecast isn't black and white, it's virtually certain that we will have a big arrival of migrants (like this Black-and-white Warbler) during the middle to latter part of this week.
Monday, May 5, 2014: After a big pickup in numbers and variety last Wednesday, locally favorable winds continued to bring new birds into the area through the first part of the weekend. Despite the cool temperatures and occasional rain, stopover habitats near the lakeshore produced higher numbers and diversity of migrants than expected on Saturday and Sunday. These impressions from field observers were borne out by the standardized data from Black Swamp Bird Observatory's main banding station, at the Navarre unit of Ottawa NWR (a few miles east of Magee Marsh, a refuge unit closed to the public). More than 20 species of warblers were found in the general area over the weekend, including Prairie Warbler at the Magee boardwalk and on the estuary trail to the west. Orange-crowned and Golden-winged warblers and Summer Tanagers were among the other crowd-pleasers at Magee.

While the birding is very good right now, everyone is waiting for the next really big wave, which will bump the diversity and numbers up to the levels that make this region famous. Looking at the weather forecasts, it appears we won't have to wait too long. A stationary front that's parked just south of Ohio right now will turn into a warm front and move this direction, probably passing through NW Ohio sometime Wednesday. Some birds may be pushed ahead of the front and may arrive Wednesday morning. Based on current weather forecasts, though, I think the best bet is Thursday morning, May 8. The warm front will have gone through, we should have a good flow of wind from the south all night Wednesday night, and many new arrivals should be along the Lake Erie shoreline on Thursday morning. 

Right now it appears that the good southerly flow will continue Thursday night, bringing turnover and new birds Friday, and then temperatures will cool off in time for Saturday. Bird numbers on Saturday, May 10th - to be officially celebrated as the first Bird Ohio Day - may not be quite as high as on Thursday, but the variety should be outstanding and it should make for a memorable weekend!

With the beginning of The Biggest Week In American Birding tomorrow, many birders are scouring the area, and updates on notable sightings will be available via Twitter. For a few things to look for in the area: a Tricolored Heron, undoubtedly the same one seen earlier at Ottawa NWR, has been at Metzger Marsh for the last couple of days, seen near the second bend and from the second pulloff on the long straightaway (see map of Metzger at this link). Upland Sandpipers have been seen along Krause and Stange Roads, just west of the main part of Ottawa NWR (see map at this link). Along the auto tour in the refuge, Black Terns have been seen, and there was a report of a dark ibis identified as a Glossy Ibis. 

Summary: Lots of birds are in the area right now, and a warm front arriving on Wednesday should bring many more. The timing of the movement of this front will dictate which day of this week is the best one. There may be a "bubble" of migrants ahead of the front on Wednesday morning, but the most likely scenario is that Thursday May 8 will bring the biggest push, with another arrival and turnover on Friday May 9, and big numbers and variety staying around for the weekend of the 10th and 11th. 

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