Spring Migration, Part Two

Welcome April… one step closer to that big time of year, the full-on neo-tropic migration north, when our shorelines will be flooded (hopefully) with warblers, vireos, thrushes, flycatchers, and everything else we’ve dreamed about over the past several months. Sadly, our most desired destinations will not be opened to us, but there are plenty of places along the Lake Erie shoreline to view the hoped-for onslaught.

Since I’m stuck at home for the most part, on COVID-19 lockdown like the rest of us, I thought I would post Part Two of my Spring Migration series. Today’s post will focus on the second half of April, the beginnings of big neo-tropical movement, marked by the first arrival for many migratory birds – warblers, vireos, orioles, herons, egrets, rails. Sharp-shinned and Broad-winged Hawks are moving, as well as Osprey, which actually are showing up everywhere now. Part of my theory, going on a tangent here, is that I truly believe that peak migratory periods will be about ten days to two weeks earlier than anticipated. Yes, this is likely due to Global Warming. And I think that we are all seeing this play out in the fields right now.

Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) data points to a series of three waves of migratory birds hitting our Lake Erie shores. According to BSBO, the first wave is anticipated around the 24th of the month, though I believe the first wave will likely hit sometime around the 14th of April. BSBO banding data for 2019 shows peak banding counts for the following: Eastern Phoebe on the 18th, Blue-gray Gnathatcher and Orange-crowned Warbler both on the 21st.

Eastern Phoebes right now are appearing in good numbers almost everywhere; I went out today to Mentor Marsh and observed four in a roughly quarter-mile radius. Ten were observed at Sandy Ridge Reservation and seven at Chagrin River Park this week, as reported by individual birders’ sessions on eBird. Though not in great numbers, Blue-gray Gnathatchers and Orange-crowned Warblers are starting to show up regularly in southern Ohio. And Great Egrets are now popping up in many marshes in northern Ohio.

Although we are all on “stay-in-place” per Governor DeWine, most of the best parks remain open and many of us are getting out to bird. Some of my friends are practicing “butt-birding,” or birding from the car without getting out. AS for me, I am still hitting up eBird Hotspots, though not as frequently, typically about two or three outings per week. But, if people continue to flock – pun intended – to parks on the weekends and gather en masse, it will doubtless not be long before the Governor is forced to close all public parks. For this reason, I will not bird on the weekends, at all.

Please be careful out there, please be safe and observe the social distancing rules. Enjoy the birds, they are a-coming! I will have my final installment of Spring Migration up shortly, and I hope that you enjoyed this. Please do leave comments for improvement or whatnot, and thank you!

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