Monday, May 15, 2017

Migration Update: May 16-21

Yellow-billed Cuckoo: a typical - yet hard to find - migrant in mid-May.
Monday, May 15: The end of the "pressure system clog" is nigh, and the birds are telling us that they are ready to arrive. Over the past week the lake shore region has seen a great diversity of incoming migrants, pushing against northerly winds to get to their breeding grounds. Because of persistent northerly winds Tuesday through Friday, birds weren't in a great abundance in the marshes, and seemed to be spread across the Midwest rather than being driven to Lake Erie. However, with calm to southerly winds leading into Saturday and Sunday, the region began to see some of the numbers and the diversity we would expect at this time in May, especially on Sunday, May 14th.

American Redstart, Black-and-white, Nashville, Magnolia, and Tennessee Warbler all increased in abundance over the weekend, and multiple Blackpoll and Wilson's Warblers were seen at key lake shore sites. An increase in flycatchers was apparent, with Willow Flycatchers beginning to populate their local breeding areas, and more sightings of Least, Great Crested, and Eastern Kingbird. Along with these more "common" migrants, there were plenty of notable finds throughout the region including Prairie, Connecticut, and Canada Warbler on the Magee Marsh boardwalk, a handful of Mournings scattered across the lake shore marshes, and Golden-wingeds seen at Black Swamp Bird Observatory, Maumee Bay SP, and Oak Openings MP. On Sunday, a Connecticut Warbler was singing south of the boardwalk at Maumee Bay State Park, and two males were singing (and a female was seen) along the Wood Thrush trail at Pearson Park. The woodlot at the end of Metzger Marsh - which may be small, but can be a great migrant trap and is worth checking when other areas seem "slow" - produced over a dozen warbler species, and has been hosting a very vocal Least Bittern just past the woodlot on the outer dike.

Rain and northerly winds pushing Lake Erie into the marshy shoreline, have over saturated many typical shorebird habitats. The platform at Ottawa NWR's Stange Prairie has benefited from this deluge and has seen both yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, American Pipit, and a female Wilson's Phalarope (although the waters there are rapidly drying up). While not holding as much as some of the other flooded fields, parts of the Magee Marsh causeway have been drawn down and have seen Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitchers, and Snowy Egret utilizing the exposed marsh.  

It's worth noting that, while many are excited for incoming birds, there are other migrants dwindling down and can be expected to disappear within the next few days. Hermit Thrush are virtually gone and are being replaced by Swainson's, Veery, and soon enough, Gray-cheeked. Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher have dropped down to only a handful of individuals. And White-throated Sparrow - although still somewhat abundant - will depart the region any day.

Looking ahead: Even though we've seen a less than typical movement of second-wave birds, things are about to change! Winds and temperatures are shifting, and by Tuesday afternoon, the region is expected to see an 80 degree day. While there will be some movement Monday night with a southerly wind, the real wave of birds looks like it will arrive Wednesday, May 17. This is right around the time when a second pulse of the second wave usually arrives, bringing high diversity and high volume. Combined with this time frame is a perfect setup of winds and warm fronts. Shifting mid-day Tuesday, winds will be coming from the southwest, and will be driving up tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico. If the birds don't overshoot the marshes, this could be a massive day of migrants, bringing in more warblers, vireos, thrushes, cuckoos, and flycatchers. Because temps will be in the upper 80's, the best birding will be in the cooler morning and evening hours. With great birds and high heat, it can be easy to over-exert yourself and risk heat exhaustion. Take breaks often and bring along extra water. 

These southwest winds will continue into Thursday, and will produce some turnover of arrivals and departures. Despite how many birds take advantage of these winds and warm front, and depart the marshes overnight, there will still be great diversity and numbers by Friday and Saturday, when winds shift to the north and bring cooler temperatures for a more comfortable day of birding. As Sunday rolls in, winds are predicted to shift back to the southwest. It's unclear of the timing of this shift, but we can expect it to still be a good day, with many birds most likely departing Sunday night into Monday.  


Unknown said...

Thanks for your predictions, Kenn. Helps me to plan my trip to Lake Erie each spring. I tell anyone new to Magee to check out your blog!

essay best said...

Thank you for making predictions about the area. This would help me to plan my trip during the spring season and enjoy the beauty of nature.

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