Sunday, May 12, 2013

Spotted Redshank--Argh!!!; Magee Marsh Salve

It has taken me a few days to finally be ready to relate my spotted redshank saga.  The redshank had been seen again on Sunday the 5th, and I knew that I was going to be driving to Ohio later in the week to spend some time enjoying the spring bird migration at Magee Marsh on the edge of Lake Erie.  I thought about getting up at 5 AM Monday the 6th in order to reach Goose Pond wildlife refuge near Linton, IN before dark.  In the end I decided to wait to see if the bird was reported again.  When it was posted about 11 AM on Monday on NARBA as being seen, I left at 12:30 PM to make the 10 hour drive to Linton.  I stopped in Jasper, IN about 10:30 PM to spend the night.  I checked NARBA again to find that the redshank had spent all afternoon until dusk in the same Field E it had mostly been found in. 

I was at Field E by 7 AM to find several other birders already present.  I met Lee Sterrenberg who is a volunteer at Goose Pond, and has seen the redshank the most between it first being found in late March, and then refound in late April.  Kevin, a birder from Johnston, PA was also a distant visitor like myself who was back for a second try for the bird. There were also several Indiana birders plus a Michigan based birder.  It was a cool but sunny morning.  As the day wore on without the bird coming into Field E to feed, a few birders departed, but others arrived including a couple from FL, and Larry Peavler and a friend of his from Indianapolis.

Lee kept returning to check on whether the redshank had finally come in only to find that it had not.  About 6 PM Dottie, a woman from FL, arrived after driving 800 miles for a second time to try to see the redshank.  About 8 PM I finally gave up the vigil, leaving Dottie and Kevin to watch the sunset, and checked into the local motel.

I was back at Field E at 7 AM on Wednesday with some hope that just maybe the redshank would still be around.  Kevin and Dottie were also back, and Lee stopped in to say hi.  While waiting around, I did walk along the road and enjoyed seeing some other birds including a Bell's vireo, several orchard orioles and a dickcissel. At 10:30 I finally threw in the towel, and began the 5 hour drive up to Magee Marsh.

I was looking forward to my luck changing once I got to Magee, but when I started walking the boardwalk about 4:30 I found that the wave of birds that had arrived a few days earlier had taken wing, and the prevailing winds had kept new birds from coming in to replace them.  The result was absolutely the fewest number of birds I have ever seen at Magee Marsh during spring migration.  On a normal day in early to mid May here you will see 15-25 warbler species, but on Wednesday I saw only 3!

I called my friend Dan who had already been in the area for a few days, and was doing the Ottawa NWR auto tour with our friend Laura because there were no birds on the boardwalk.  We met up, said our good byes to Laura who had to return home, and went to our motel.  As I was sitting in the lobby, Bert Filemyr walked in the door.  I had met Bert during my big year in 2010, and then saw him last spring at Magee.  He was back with his friend Mike, having driven over from the Philadelphia area in his van with a siskin license plate.

Thursday morning Dan and I were up and out by 7:30 and visited a Toledo area metropark called Oak Openings.  We ran into Bert and Mike there, and birded together for awhile.  We found some nice birds to start the day including grasshopper and lark sparrow, and blue-winged warbler.  We looked for hooded warbler and blue grosbeak, but came up empty.  We then drove back to Oregon where our motel is, stopping at Pearson Park to see if we could find the cerulean warbler that had been reported being seen there earlier in the day.  We did find a late female purple finch but not the cerulean.  More importantly we ran into Greg Miller, a birder we know who is now somewhat famous after the movie the Big Year came out chronicling his and 2 other birders (Sandy Komito, and Al Levantan) efforts in 1998 to set a new big year record.

Next stop was the boardwalk at Magee Marsh where there were definitely more birds than on Wednesday, but still it was very slow compared to a normal May day.  I did finish the afternoon with 16 warblers including the black-throated green just below (click on any photo to enlarge).

Friday morning Dan and I were out again by 7:30, and went to the boardwalk first thing to see if more birds had arrived.  It was definitely more birdy with the highlight being a few black-billed cuckoos.  Doreene, Dan's partner arrived about 3 PM.  We spent a bit of time walking the estuary trail after showing Doreene the clay-colored sparrow that had been a marquee bird along the beach.  We found an early arriving yellow-bellied flycatcher, and then decided to drive over to a place near Cedar Point called Pipe Creek to look for 3 Connecticut warblers that a birder we know had found earlier in the day.  CT warbler is one of the very rarest of the warblers that you can see at Magee during migration, so we figured we should try to find these.  We did see a good number of warblers that seemed to have come down when an afternoon storm blew thru just before we got to Pipe Creek, but no Connecticut's graced us with their presence.

Saturday morning found all three of us on the boardwalk early in hopes of a build up of new birds.  It was definitely much better than it had been, but about 9:30 we heard from a birding friend that a CT warbler had been heard calling again at Pipe Creek.  Dan and Doreene do a big year in Ohio every year, and it is important to see rare birds like the CT warbler.  So we made the drive over to Pipe Creek again, and found 4 cattle egrets which was another new bird for their Ohio big year.

At Pipe Creek we saw lots of warblers but again came up short on the CT.  We also could not locate a prairie warbler that had been heard there on Sat. We did see lots of swallows feeding over the marsh including northern roughwing, bank, cliff, tree and barn.

After a lunch break we returned to Magee, and drove the auto tour at Ottawa NWR which abuts Magee.  Nothing special showed up, so we continued onto Metzger Marsh which abuts Ottawa in hopes of seeing a black tern that had been reported from there by Greg Miller.  Black terns migrate thru the area in the spring with usually a few being seen in the general area.  No black tern was visible when we arrived, so we decided to call it a day and head back to have a birthday dinner for Dan before calling it a night.

This morning we knew it was going to be quite chilly because the winds were shifting from the south to the northwest overnight.  As a result, we did not even leave our motel until 8 AM.  When we arrived under sunny skies there were lots of birders scanning the trees at the west end of the boardwalk.  The trees were full of warblers.  As we worked our way along the boardwalk, we found that the cold weather (high of 54 for the day) had the warblers that were there already, or may have stopped after flying north the day before, very hungry and largely oblivious of the all the birders and photographers.  The day proved to be one of the best ever because there were so many beautiful warblers at eye height or even lower working hard to find food.  Above is a chestnut-sided and below is a Wilson's.

A very hungry woodcock was also feeding near the boardwalk.

Early in the afternoon we heard that 9 black terns had been seen along the auto tour route, so we jumped in my car to see if they were still around.  As we came up to the part of the marsh where they had been seen, we realized that there were many more than 9.  We counted them to find more than 30 were flying over the marsh looking for food to eat.  This was the most at one time that Dan and Doreene had ever seen in Ohio.

We returned to the boardwalk for another hour of birding before driving the auto route a second time to look for a Wilson's phalarope only to come up short.  By then the black terns also were no where to be found.  Often successful birding is very much tied to good timing as my miss of the spotted redshank painfully demonstrated, and the joy of 30+ black terns did as well.  I will be birding at Magee Marsh for at least one more day, and possibly up to 3 depending on the prevailing winds.  Stay tuned!

No comments:

Post a Comment