Thursday, May 3, 2018

Update: Current Conditions and Looking Ahead through May 7

This Kentucky Warbler entertained birders at the west entrance to the Magee Marsh boardwalk for hours on May 2nd. Photo by Kenn Kaufman.

Thursday, May 3, 2018: As predicted, after a very slow migration through the end of April, the floodgates opened this week. Numbers and variety of migrants in sites along Lake Erie increased dramatically on Tuesday May 1 and increased even more on Wednesday May 2. The number of warbler species in the area jumped from about six to more than 25. Between rain showers today (Thursday) the birding was still outstanding, with most of Wednesday's prizes still around. As The Biggest Week in American Birding launches tomorrow, we can be certain that there will be plenty of birds around each day, even though the flow of migration will vary from day to day.

A notable feature Wednesday was the arrival of some "overflight" species: birds that mostly nest farther south than this, evidently overshooting their intended destination. Such birds tend to be early spring migrants, and are most likely here at the end of April. Kentucky, Worm-eating, and Hooded Warblers are examples. All three were seen Wednesday and again Thursday at Magee Marsh.

Thunderstorms moved through the area on Wednesday night. When this happens, we can predict that migrants will be more widespread the next day, not just concentrated on the lake shore, because they stop wherever they are when they run into rain. So as expected, today (Thursday) birds like Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Baltimore Orioles were widespread, even in woods several miles from the lake. This can make for excellent birding at sites like Pearson Metropark and Oak Openings. 

Looking ahead, tonight (Thursday May 3) we're supposed to have continued southwest winds, with scattered thunderstorms moving through between midnight and dawn. So we may get more migrants arriving, but again they should be well dispersed through all good local habitats, and many of today's specialties are likely to stick around. With more variable winds over the weekend, we should continue to see some turnover through Saturday, but then new arrivals are likely to be fewer on Sunday May 6 and Monday May 7 after northerly winds set in.  

In that weather pattern you can still have great birding, but it takes a different strategy. Instead of just scouring one hotspot (like the Magee boardwalk or the Metzger Marsh woodlot), it works better to visit a variety of spots. There are many good migrant spots in northwestern Ohio, from Erie County sites like Sheldon Marsh and Pipe Creek to state parks like East Harbor and Maumee Bay and many of the Toledo Metroparks. See this link for more ideas about places to visit. 

The wildlife drive at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, always an outstanding route for birding, will be open every day from May 4 through 20. This provides access to some of the best waterbird habitat in Ohio. The woodlots at Ottawa, accessible from the visitors' center or from the parking lot straight north from the entrance, are also wonderful places for warblers and other migrants. 

And if you want to explore, check out the brand-new Howard Marsh Metropark -- on Howard Road just north of State Route 2, just west of the entrance to Metzger Marsh near the village of Bono. Howard Marsh has only been open to the public for about a week, and it has already produced sightings of American Avocet, Willet, and American Golden-Plover, among other species.

A couple of safety notes: The boardwalk at Magee Marsh can be extremely slippery after rains! Please step carefully if it's at all wet. Also, please do not stop on any of the area roads to look at birds. If you think you've spotted something outstanding, find a safe place to pull completely off the pavement. Thank you!

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