March was full of mystery — the mystery of migration, the mystery of a lost tombstone and a mysterious woodpecker.
Winter’s grip did not want to let go, so birding was again somewhat limited by the weather.
We also were camping in Florida the last two weeks of the month, so I added only six new species, bringing my total to 95 species for the year so far. April and May will swell that number considerably with many new birds migrating through our area.
Scientists know some things about migration, but much remains a mystery. And for me, that’s OK — I don’t think we’re supposed to know everything.
But what is it that tells a bird it’s time to migrate?
The experts say the length of daylight triggers a bird’s instinct to migrate. They have a sense of urgency to head north to breed and raise their young.
The fall migration is a lot more drawn out and the birds don’t seem to be in any hurry. Weather is a determining factor, of course, causing a bird to linger in one spot or hurry to the next. Weather is also the key to knowing the best time to see the migrants.
The heaviest migration occurs when we have southwest winds and highpressure systems following cold fronts.
While birding at the mouth of Cold Creek one day, I was searching for a lost tombstone that was reported by another birder. Sure enough, across the creek along with a pile of rocks and slabs of concrete, I spotted it.
With my binoculars I could read the name of August Wagner, who died in 1926. After a little more research, I discovered he was buried at Oakland Cemetery in Sandusky.
So how did his tombstone end up on the banks of Cold Creek? Perhaps it was printed incorrectly and was discarded to reinforce the shore?
A very mysterious sighting indeed.
I received a call from a woman on Bardshar Road who told me she had a bird at her feeder she had never seen in the 30 years she has lived there. She said she looked it up on the Internet, and she was sure it was a Three-toed Woodpecker.
Now that would be a very rare sighting for Erie County. I told her I would love to come over and see it, although I was 99 percent sure she did not have a Three-toed Woodpecker.
A yellow-bellied sapsucker would be more likely, and that was a species I did not have on my list yet.
Well, the mystery woodpecker did not show up while I was there, even though she had a great feeding station and grand, old trees. I asked her to call if she saw the bird again, but I have not heard back.
As predicted in my last column, I did hear the “peenting” of the American Woodcock and saw an explosion of ducks in March.
I also looked twice for a fox sparrow that was reported at Old Woman Creek and a Rufus sided Towhee at a friend’s house — but struck out on both.
I spent a few hours at the Huron City Boat Ramp with a friend who is doing a hawkwatch there. Besides the Woodcock, I added Wood Duck, Green-winged Teal, a Great Egret — early for this one — a Turkey Vulture and Rusty Blackbird.
I expect to be out in the field a lot during April, as the migrant birds begin to arrive, including my favorite group of birds, the Warblers.
I hope you’ll take the time to get out and enjoy the spectacle of the spring migration in one of Erie County’s green spaces or in your own backyard.
Thanks this month to Paul, Mary, Glen and Dave.
Until next month: Happy Birding!
Contact Mary Warren at firstname.lastname@example.org