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!

Spring Migration, Part One

This post is the first part of what to anticipate during migration this spring here in northern Ohio. Everything presented is based on data that I acquired from the Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO), and later on I’ll be presenting specific species to watch for, based on their peak banding counts by BSBO for last spring.

Part One covers what we have already observed over the past two weeks or so, and what to expect during the first half of April. Part Two will cover the second half of April, which comprises the first of three major migration waves expected to hit northern Ohio. Part Three will cover the month of May, when the second and third migratory waves are anticipated, and what to expect when, broken down by weeks and dates. I hope that you find this information useful, and remember, these are guidelines, not absolutes!

So, here we are at the end of March, and birds are moving. Meadowlarks, Grackles, Red-wing and Rusty Blackbirds, Tree Swallows, Eastern Phoebes, Kinglets, and other birds have rushed in. We are in the middle of waterfowl migration, likely at its peak right about now, with Loons showing up everywhere, Red-breasted Mergansers too numerous to count, and rarities like Long-tailed Ducks and Red-throated Loons making appearances. Blue-winged Teal are starting to pop everywhere, and Bonaparte’s Gulls have been showing up at many reservoirs and lakes.

Pre-breeding migration for Blue-winged Teal ~ Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Shorebirds like Pectoral Sandpipers, and Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs are popping in certain marshy areas. Coots have been reported in great numbers at many hotspots, and raptors are starting their migration as well. The coming week or so should see good movement of Red-shoulder Hawks, Bald Eagles, and the continued increased presence of Turkey Vultures.

Next Week ~ April
The first half of April promises to be busy, as migration ramps up toward its climax in mid-May. Waterfowl movement will remain heavy, gradually declining throughout April. The raptor migration will continue, as Red-shoulder and Rough-legged Hawks continue their movement north. Sadly, Hawk Mountain is closed to visitors due to COVID-19, but look toward the skies in other places and you might see Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks, perhaps even a Golden Eagle.

Early shorebird migration will continue and begin to ramp up as well, with American Golden Plovers on the move. Expect an influx of Flickers, Hermit Thrushes, Winter Wrens, Fox Sparrows, and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Pine Warblers are also beginning to appear in the lower to mid-half of Ohio.

Duck Duck Go…

Several reports came in to Ohio Chase Birds on Facebook about the appearance of Long-tailed Ducks, including LaDue Reservoir, SIppo Lake, and Alum Creek. I managed to tick five individuals, including the male above, at Sippo Lake in Stark County. This on the heels of great numbers of Red-breasted Mergansers observed yesterday, appearing almost everywhere. Spring waterfowl migration is in motion.