If you see unusual numbers of red-shouldered and red-tailed hawks this weekend, don't be surprised. The Big Push should be on.
The warm southwest winds since midweek have sprung the winter trap for these birds of prey, and many of them will be moving toward summer breeding grounds in Michigan, Ontario, and other points north.
“We should have a really good hawk movement this weekend,” said Julie Shieldcastle, executive director of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory in Oak Harbor. “Those birds have been holed up for a long time. They are trying to go north.”
Last Monday, for example, Shieldcastle said, more than 40 migrating bald eagles were seen from the observation tower at the Sportsmen's Migratory Bird Center. The center is in Magee Marsh State Wildlife Area on State Rt. 2 in Ottawa County.
Note that the migrant eagles seen this week at Magee are not the same ones as the resident bald eagles of Ohio, which generally remain in the state year-round and may only migrate short distances for a short time to avoid extremely cold winter weather. Eagles from Ontario and even northern Michigan may winter in these latitudes or farther south, then return north as spring moves northward.
In addition to the resident and migrant birds, Ohio also is home to a nonbreeding population of eagles, generally younger or immature birds that have not yet paired and remain at large. These Ohio immatures may migrate south for the winter and return to these latitudes in the spring.
The bird observatory annually conducts a spring hawk migration count and one of its watch-sites is the tower at Magee. It is a prime site for the public to visit as well for watching spring hawk movements, Shieldcastle said. Observatory volunteer watchers will be on hand at the tower from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today.
Another prime site along western Lake Erie is the sledding hill at Maumee Bay State Park.
Shieldcastle said she also expects some of the accipiters, such as sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks, and American kestrels as well in the current movement. “Maybe even a peregrine falcon or two.”
Tree swallows also should be moving into these latitudes in number, Shieldcastle said, along with more fox sparrows. Bluebirds are more active as well.
A lot of waterfowl that had lingered locally may be on the wing now or in a few days, the birder added.
“This may be the last good chance [this spring] to see a diversity of waterfowl.”
As waterfowl move out, more of the colonial wading birds, such as great egrets and great blue herons, are making their way into wetlands and stream corridors in the region.
At least 11 pairs of peregrine falcons are scattered around major cities in the state, including Toledo, and at least two pairs have begun incubating eggs, the Ohio Division of Wildlife said.
The active nests are at the Cleveland Clinic Building in Cleveland and the Miami Fort Power Plant near Cincinnati.
In addition to the pairs of mates, single birds have been noted in downtown Columbus and near Lorain.
The Toledo pair, the same birds that nested here a year ago, are exhibiting pre-incubation behavior and are focusing on the artificial nesting box atop the former Commodore Perry Motor Inn downtown.
The Commodore was the site of Ohio's first modern peregrine falcon nest in 1988, and the great birds have nested there every year since.
Bill Roshak, a biologist with Ohio Wildlife District 2, maintains a regular watch on the region's falcons. He said a pair of birds are trading between two sites in Lima as well, and are expected to nest this year.
In addition to the active nesters in Cleveland and near Cincinnati, and the Toledo and Lima birds, other falcon pairs have been confirmed in Akron, Canton, Cleveland (three sites), Ironton, and Lakewood.
Although removed from the federal endangered-species list in 1999, peregrines remain on the Ohio endangered list.
In 2003, 13 pairs of falcons produced eggs with 12 pairs successfully hatching and fledging 31 young falcons.
The state wildlife division maintains a peregrine Web site at www.ohiodnr.com.
The seventh annual Great Backyard Bird Count, conducted continentwide Feb. 13 to 16, produced some 43,000 checklists from participating observers, who reported 555 species of birds totaling more than four million individuals.
That is the word from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, which sponsor the count to create a snapshot of winter bird populations and distribution.
Reports were filed from all 50 states and all Canadian provinces except Nunavut in the northeast arctic.
For other details, visit www.birdsource.org.