Among the birds that breed in Eliza Howell Park and “winter” in or near Central America, I selected four and reviewed my records on first sighting and last sighting in the park each year from 2010 to 2018 (9 years). The dates indicate clearly that they are only short-term residents here, coming to breed, and longer-term residents elsewhere.
Note: All photos by Margaret Weber
I do not get to the park every day and, of course, I miss some birds when I am present. Nevertheless, the record is quite consistent. Based on this experience, I expect to see the first Baltimore Orioles of the year the first week of May and will probably not see them after the first week of September.
Baltimore Oriole 2010 – 2018
First seen: 5/6 5/8 5/2 5/5 5/6 5/6 5/7 5/1 5/4
Last seen: 9/3 8/25 9/5 8/22 9/7 9/7 9/11 9/4 9/3
By the end of May, I start finding Baltimore Oriole nests every year in the large trees, often near the road, and find a total of five in a typical year.
Barn Swallows also nest in the park every year, at least one pair under a shelter and several under the Fenkell Avenue bridge over the Rouge River.
Barn Swallow 2010 – 2018
Fist seen: 4/24 4/23 4/19 5/1 4/17 4/26 4/22 4/29 4/25
Last seen: 9/2 8/28 8/24 8/22 8/24 8/23 8/20 9/9 8/31
The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher arrival date (more exact, first sighting date) is spread over a three week period, not as consistent as with the Baltimore Oriole. The last-sighting date covers a shorter range of time. By the end of the second week of September, they have started their trip back to Central America (some to Florida) for a longer stay.
A couple pairs of gnatcatchers always nest in Eliza Howell and I have been successful most years in locating a nest to point out to participants in the June Detroit Audubon breeding bird field trip.
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2010 – 2018
First seen: 5/3 4/28 4/19 5/1 4/23 4/11 5/1 4/20 4/28
Last seen: 9/6 9/14 9/9 9/2 9/7 9/7 9/11 9/4 9/5
There are always a small number of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that spend four month at Eliza Howell, but I have found an actual nest only once over these years. I am quite sure they nest here every year, however, based on the behavior of adults and on the slight increase in numbers by late summer. They spend the non-breeding months in Central America.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 2010 – 2018
First seen: 5/12 5/8 5/10 5/14 5/10 5/15 5/13 5/11 5/4
Last seen: 9/6 9/5 9/9 9/14 9/14 9/13 9/16 9/9 9/22
These four species are not the only birds that nest in the park and leave after breeding season, but these records may be sufficient for now.
There are several points to be made based on the above records.
- Birds that migrate are amazingly consistent from year to year. It is often possible to predict when (within a week or so) a particular species will show up again.
- If someone wants to see any of these four species in October, don’t come to Eliza Howell.
- This information, along with the annual fly-through of the warblers, helps to explain why many bird watchers in this part of the country go a little crazy as May approaches. By then, it will have been a long time that some favorites have been gone.