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A long-tailed jaeger delights birders at Findlay Reservoir

There are three jaeger species, and it is always a rare treat to see any of them in Ohio or Indiana. Birders scan the open water of Lake Erie and Lake Michigan each fall, hoping for a glimpse of one of these rare visitors. Over the years I have been fortunate to see a number of parasitic and pomarene jaegers, but never had I seen a long-tailed in this part of the world.
Long-tailed jaegers are early migrants, passing through the Great Lakes already in late August or September. I have often searched for jaegers in September along Lake Erie, including a wonderful trip with Jen Brumfield on one of her pelagic trips, but alas, no long-tailed jaeger.
In 2011 my wife Helen and I spent three months traveling to and enjoying Alaska. One of my favorite birding memories from that trip was observing a pair of nesting long-tailed jaegers in the mountains not far from the great mountain Denali. Still, I wanted to see one closer to home.
Last week lake watchers at Huron, Ohio and Miller Beach, Indiana, had an amazing day. At least 16 jaegers were seen from Miller Beach and 15 or more from the Huron lighthouse area. In both places, at least one long-tailed jaeger was satisfactorily identified. Jaegers are notoriously difficult to identify, especially if they are flying far offshore. I realized the next day that I should have been out there but had just returned from two weeks in Idaho.
Over Labor Day weekend we had two all-day family gatherings here in Goshen. There was no time to think about birds; however, several friends contacted me on Monday, saying that a long-tailed jaeger had been found at Findlay Reservoir and that amazingly it was still being seen on day four. I immediately made plans to head to Findlay on Tuesday.
I arrived at the reservoir around 10 a.m., and it took me awhile to figure out how to best search this large body of water. Actually there are two reservoirs separated by a dike. Fortunately the reservoir is set up for people to walk, jog or run along the dikes. I started at the east end of the large reservoir and could not find much at all in the way of birds.
Driving around to the south side, I met several other birders who said the jaeger had been seen within the last 15 minutes. There was a strong wind, making it hard to scan the water, and eventually I walked around to the middle of the two reservoirs.
Not long after that we saw the bird in flight briefly, but it disappeared, and we couldn’t relocate it for another 15 minutes. Then we found it off to the east and watched as it flew along the shore, giving us good looks at the bird in flight. It again landed on the water, where we watched it for another 20 minutes or so. It would have been nice to get closer, but I was still very happy to see this really rare bird. I doubt that it will happen again.
Good birding.
Reach Bruce Glick at birderbruce@yahoo.com">birderbruce@yahoo.com or 330-317-7798.

Published: September 11, 2017
New Article ID: 2017170909978