Saturday, April 28, 2018

April 30 to May 4: First Big Wave Coming

Black-throated Green Warbler, one of the migrant species that should show up in good numbers during the next few days. Photo by Kenn Kaufman.
Saturday, April 28, 2018: As of today migration still seems delayed. The warblers and other stars of The Biggest Week In American Birding - which begins in six days - haven't arrived in big numbers yet. Fortunately, at this season, migration is not a gradual thing: big pulses of movement happen when conditions are right. Conditions should be right in a couple of days. With many migrants undoubtedly dammed up to the south of us, we should have a major arrival of variety and numbers starting around Tuesday, May 1, and continuing through the week.

This last week in woods near Lake Erie, the selection of species seemed more typical of early April, featuring Golden-crowned Kinglets, Winter Wrens, and other early birds. On Thursday, April 26, a modest influx brought in many White-throated Sparrows and Yellow-rumped Warblers, plus a few other early warblers such as Palm, Pine, and Orange-crowned. But northerly winds and some overnight rains stopped the flow again by Friday night. 

For birding in northwest Ohio this weekend, April 28-29, diversity of migrants from the tropics is likely to remain low, but there are fair numbers of early species. Leaves on the trees are just budding out, so birds are easier to see (and photograph) than they will be later in the season after full leaf-out. Area marshes are still holding a fair variety of ducks and other water birds. Some low-water spots along the Magee Marsh causeway are attracting shorebirds; two Willets were there on Friday, the 27th. 

A high-pressure area will slide gradually eastward over us this weekend, with light or northerly winds, and nighttime temperatures down near freezing. But by sometime Monday, as the high moves on east and a low approaches from the west, winds should switch around strongly to the southwest, with daytime temperatures up to the high 60s on Monday and the 70s on following days. The sustained southwesterly air flow should bring large numbers and greatly increased variety of migrants. The number of warbler species along the Magee Marsh boardwalk, for example, should jump from the current 3 or 4 up to something like 10 to 20, along with an arrival of orioles, Scarlet Tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and others. We're overdue for a big daytime flight of Broad-winged Hawks, and that could happen as early as Monday, if the wind shifts early enough.

When will be the best birding this week? It's hard to pick a favorite because Tuesday May 1 through Friday May 4 all appear to have great potential. Based on current weather forecasts I expect each of those days to produce new birds that have arrived overnight. Thunderstorm activity beginning Wednesday afternoon may have the effect of putting more migrants down, depending on exactly when and where those storms move through. Anyway, regardless of questions about exact timing, migration is just about to kick into high gear. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Update: Weekend of April 14-15

Numbers of Purple Finches arrived in northwestern Ohio this week. Photo by Kenn Kaufman.

Friday, April 13, 2018:
At the time of our last post, the extended weather forecast made it sound as if this weekend could offer very good birding. Unfortunately, the forecast has changed considerably since then. The southerly winds of the last couple of days are ending tonight. Winds will shift around to the northeast, temperatures will drop, and we're predicted to get a lot of rain over the weekend in northwestern Ohio. 

The middle of this week did see a good arrival of early migrants, as predicted. Daytime flights brought a push of Sharp-shinned Hawks and some other raptors. Among the nocturnal migrants that appeared or increased this week were Yellow-rumped Warbler, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Chipping Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Hermit Thrush, Purple Finch, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. With the arrival of northerly winds and cooler temperatures, these birds are likely to stick around. So if you can get out between rain showers this weekend, and check the sheltered, downwind, edges of the woods, you may still find good birding. 

Looking ahead, we may have southerly winds and the chance for a good daytime flight on Wednesday, April 18. But overall the pattern looks like a return to cooler temperatures and winds mostly from the north, holding down the migration. 

While this weather forecast may seem a little discouraging, it's important to remember that some migrants will continue to filter into the region even if conditions aren't favorable. And when the weather does shift to bring warmer temps and southerly winds, there will be a huge backlog of migrants still south of us, waiting to move in this direction. We will keep an eye on the forecasts and try to update as soon as we have potential good news. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

April 11 to 15: More Migrants Incoming

The first major wave of Yellow-rumped Warblers should arrive in woodlots of northwestern Ohio within the next few days. Photo by Kenn Kaufman.

April 8, 2018: After a month of cool temperatures and relatively few days with south winds, some aspects of spring migration seem a little behind schedule in northwestern Ohio. As a result, large numbers of migrants are probably held up to the south of us, so we can expect to see substantial movements of birds whenever conditions improve. For example, winds shifted to the south and southwest on March 31, and a huge flight of Turkey Vultures moved through the region that day. 

Waterfowl migration peaked in March as expected. The thousands of Tundra Swans that passed through are now mostly gone, and numbers of most ducks are decreasing now, although a good variety of species will be around for another couple of weeks. Good numbers of Tree Swallows, Great Egrets, and American Coots have returned to area marshes.

In the woodlots near Lake Erie, we're seeing the songbird migrants expected at the beginning of April: Golden-crowned Kinglet, Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush, Brown Creeper, Fox Sparrow, Rusty Blackbird, and others. They're around in modest numbers so far, but things are likely to pick up soon. 

If current weather forecasts don't change too much, we should see a major arrival of migrants beginning Wednesday or Thursday. There's some uncertainty caused by a small low-pressure area that may move either north of here or right through here on Thursday, but overall, we're predicted to have warmer temperatures and southerly winds from Wednesday April 11 through Sunday April 15. If I had to guess right now I would say that Wednesday and Friday might have the best daytime movements (of Turkey Vultures, raptors, and others) while Thursday and Saturday may be better for numbers of nocturnal migrant songbirds that have arrived overnight. Of course, weather predictions at this season are notoriously changeable. But any time during the latter half of the week should offer a chance to see early migrants.

So far, only a few Yellow-rumped Warblers have arrived. There should be many more by late this week, along with Palm Warbler, and possibly a few others like Black-and-white Warbler and Pine Warbler. This is a good time to look for southern species "overshooting" their ranges, so Louisiana Waterthrush and Yellow-throated Warbler may show up at hotspots near the lake. 

Speaking of hotspots - many visiting birders gravitate to the boardwalk at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, and of course that's a wonderful place, but it's just one of many superb birding sites in the region. Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, right next door to Magee, can be spectacularly good, and the same is true for other spots such as Maumee Bay State Park, Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area, East Harbor State Park, Sheldon Marsh State Nature Reserve, and others. For ideas and directions on local birding, see this link on the Black Swamp Bird Observatory website. 

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