Birder’s Almanac – March

In March, northbound waves of ardent waterfowl continue, now including tenderer species like teals and woodies, and winter-resident geese and swans join them. Spring hawk migration enters its prime, with increased traffic as red-shouldered and red-tailed hawks, accipiters, vultures, and falcons join in a sweep north, many of them dividing into eastward and westward streams near the mid-point of our Lake Erie shore. Herons and egrets, grebes, coots, and cormorants increase in numbers statewide, some arriving to breed, others passing to the north. Species present in small numbers during the colder months, like towhees, flickers, sapsuckers, sparrows like fox and field, etc., abruptly seem much more common as arriving migrants augment their numbers.

Other shorebirds join woodcocks and killdeers, with snipes appearing in wet fields, greater yellowlegs in deeper water, and by month’s end the first flocks of breeding-plumaged pectoral sandpipers gathering in wet fields and mudflats. Another faithful promise of spring is the appearance of small insect-eating birds like phoebes and pine warblers. The first risk-taking scouts of the swallow tribe appear, tree swallows first, then perhaps a rough-winged or a barn swallow. The sparser wintering companies of golden-crowned kinglets swell to migrant hordes, just as the first ruby-crowneds appear late in the month, and creepers are suddenly everywhere. Alert observes can find innumerable winter wrens darting about ground cover later in the month. Blackbirds, including the first big flocks of rusties, dominate wetland sites.

By mid-month, boreal birds like snow buntings, redpolls, and northern shrikes are beginning to disappear, as are the larids of the north like Thayer’s, Iceland, and glaucous gulls; dainty Bonaparte’s gulls, however, now appear at reservoirs, then to the north as shifting flocks along Lake Erie, their black caps molting in. Migrant pipits and longspurs can suddenly be numerous, calling in agricultural fields. By the end of the month, change is no longer the exception, but the universal situation.

—Bill Whan

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