Tuesday, April 25, 2017

First Wave Coming Soon: April 26 - May 1

Black-throated Green Warbler, one of the typical migrants of the first major wave.
Photo by Kenn Kaufman.
Tuesday, April 25: With a good push of warm, southerly winds earlier this month, the lake shore region has seen quite a bit of species diversity from short-distance and long-distance migrants (albeit "one of this" and "one of that" sightings). With mostly calm winds over the earlier part of last week, and a shift to North and East winds leading up to today, we have seen a fair number of migrants move in and quickly move out of the marshes. Yellow-rumped Warbler, Palm, Pine, Eastern Towhee, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet were quite common only a few days ago, and have now all but disappeared from the lake shore.   

Despite this somewhat lack of songbirds over the past few days, there have been other great sightings throughout the area. Black-necked Stilts are being seen consistently at Pickerel Creek, moving between the marsh units. American Golden-Plover, Dunlin, Pectoral Sandpiper, and both Yellowlegs can be found foraging in the Boss Unit of Ottawa NWR and in the surrounding saturated fields. And all across the lake shore, American White Pelicans are being spotted overhead and in various open waters.

At this point in April, we are well past waterfowl migration and many of the familiar winter birds are becoming harder and harder to find. Dark-eyed Junco, American Tree and Fox Sparrow, and Brown Creeper seem to have completely pulled from the area; while Golden-crowned Kinglet and Rusty Blackbird are steadily decreasing to single bird sightings.    

Looking ahead: Predicting bird movement can be tough. Through years of research from Black Swamp Bird Observatory, we have a general idea of which birds will be arriving and when. However, predicting the weather that migrating birds utilize for travel...that's where things can get a little tricky. Looking at forecast maps and general weather predictions, it appears that we should see some movement tonight into Wednesday, the 26th, with lows approaching from the west, driving up southerly winds. But with a steady shift to the south and rain (a sure sign of a low pressure system) it looks like Thursday, the 27th, could be the day we really start to see the first wave of migrants. These couple days of southerly winds don't appear to be coming from the tropics like we would hope to see for a big push of birds, but nonetheless, beginning Wednesday, we will start to see a new movement of birds entering the region.

Assuming this prediction is correct, over the next couple of days expect new arrivals of dominant first-wave species such as Hermit Thrush, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, White-throated Sparrow, and Yellow-rumped Warbler, with lesser numbers of Nashville, Black-throated Green, and Black-and-white. We can also expect to see a few individuals of other warbler species and potentially "overflight" species like Hooded, Prairie, Kentucky, and Worm-eating. These "overflight" species generally nest farther south, but can be picked up by southerly winds and overshoot their destination, landing along the Lake Erie shoreline. 

With this new set of winds, we can also expect to see more signs of Baltimore Oriole, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Scarlet Tanager, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and an increase in shorebird numbers and diversity. Sometimes overlooked once songbird migration begins, this can also be a good time to see movements of Broad-winged Hawk and other raptors, and flocks of Blue Jays diurnally moving along the lake shore. 

Summary: If you've been itching to get out and bird...do it! It's difficult to say what's going to happen over the weekend and into next week, but anytime you can get out from Wednesday, the 26th, to Monday, May 1st, will surely produce a great birding experience as we ramp up for the birds to come.     


liza said...

nice post

Unknown said...

I assume you will be updating this again soon to let us know what is showing up? I usually go during the second week of May, but might go next week depending on if there is a big wave of migrants that come in. Thanks!

Lewis Clark said...

The scorching heat of sun seems to be killing us all and everyone wants to escape it. Waiting anxiously for the rain to lower the temperature a bit. loved the content!

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