Wednesday, May 1, 2019

May 1 Migrant Update and Outlook

Baltimore Orioles were among the migrants flooding into the region today. Photo: Matt Sanders

Wednesday May 1, 2019: Ryan Jacob writes: Well, migration really feels like it has finally kicked off in the marshes of northwest Ohio. For what seems like weeks, the area has been blasted by northerly cold winds, allowing for very minor bird movement. However today, May 1, winds in the morning shifted just enough to the south to allow for some great bird movement. Many new warblers entered the area including more Yellow Warblers, Black-throated Green, Nashville, and Prothonotary, and southern overshoots such as Hooded and Prairie. Also accompanying the “stars of migration,” Baltimore Orioles and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks invaded the area, with lesser appearances by Veery, Swainson’s Thrush, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and Gray Catbird.

But most spectacular of all, Blue Jays were on the move today in great numbers. Being diurnal migrants, Blue Jays are hesitant to cross Lake Erie, making a decision to travel either west or east along its shoreline, and allowing for easy views of migration in process (something we don’t get to observe from nocturnal migrants). Just from Black Swamp Bird Observatory’s Navarre Marsh Banding Station, an estimated 2,000 jays were recorded traversing the lakeshore from 8am until noon. 

Another group of diurnal migrants on the move today were Broad-winged Hawks. Again, as with other migrants this season, we have not seen the biggest raptor push through the area due to northerly winds. Along with scant numbers of Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawk, Broad-wings were observed heading northwest near the lakeshore. The next shift to southerly winds could still see some excellent raptor movement near the lake, and it will be worth keeping an on the sky between occasional looks for warblers.

If you haven’t been to northwest Ohio recently, then you might be surprised to learn (or maybe not) that the region has experienced a massive amount of flooding. This is good and bad. Good for shorebirds searching for shallow fields to forage in. Bad for birders hoping for views of said shorebirds. Flooded fields throughout the area have provided many opportunities for migrating shorebirds, reducing the concentration of birds when local water levels are lower. However, already living up to its inaugural reputation, Howard Marsh Metropark has provided some accessible mudflats for shorebirds and has recently hosted Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Dunlin, and even the occasional Yellow-headed Blackbird.

Along with the birds that have come in, the marshes are seeing some of the last “winter birds.” Golden-crowned Kinglet are very few and far between, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets are now making their last push through the region with mainly females being seen. Fox Sparrows have not been spotted for a couple of weeks or so, and White-throated Sparrow and Hermit Thrush seem to be making their last push.

Looking ahead: A few days ago, it appeared that tomorrow, Thursday May 2, would be the first really good day for migration. However, forecasts have changed and winds are expected to come from the west to northwest. Low pressure systems are developing in the central US which should be great for warm air and birds traveling into northern regions. But this unclear weather direction along the lakeshore could make for some great birding tomorrow, or keep recently arrived birds along the lakeshore. Either way, tomorrow should be a good day for birding. Woodlots along the lakeshore will be worth checking, especially Magee Marsh Wildlife Area and the woodlot at Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area (which can hold quite a variety of migrants in the right conditions). If winds are coming from the north, areas such as Pearson Metropark and the woods surrounding Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge’s visitor center could be good alternate birding locations.

As these pressure systems make their way to the east, cold northern air is expected to hit the region on Friday and Saturday, May 3 and 4. While a jacket may be necessary for outdoor excursions, this can be an excellent opportunity to see birds foraging lower than normal, following the insect activity closer to the ground. Combined with bouts of rain, birds in this weather should be right near eye-level while in areas such as the Magee Marsh Boardwalk.

While predicting anything past a couple of days is difficult (even for the professional meteorologists), it currently appears that our next wave of migration could come in Tuesday May 7, when winds again shift to the south and warm air infiltrates overnight. This lines right up with the second wave of migration, when the biggest push of neotropical migrants descend upon the region. Again, the timing of this push won’t be clear until we head farther into the week.


Paul Cary said...

Thank you for this!

wade said...

Thank you Kenn! I look forward to continuing to follow this :)

This is the day said...

Thank you Ryan for your excellent information. It always keeps us motivated to make the trip.

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