Oriole Migration Update: May 4, 1999
Today's Unscheduled Report Includes:
David Aborn's May 4 Report
The late season migrants are coming through, including orioles!
This past week, a strong cold front moved across the country, and made for some excellent birdwatching in many
areas. As the front passed across the midwest on the 26th and 27th, poor flying conditions forced a good variety
of migrants to land in places like Illinois and Missouri.
The real action came when the front reached the Gulf states on the 28th and 29th. Birds that
had been flying for 18 hours non-stop crossing the Gulf of Mexico encountered those north winds, and landed. Mississippi
counted over 15 species of migrants, especially late season migrants. These included Swainson's Thrushes, Veerys,
Bay-breasted Warblers, and Blackpoll Warblers. I hope some of you were out with your binoculars. The front was
strong enough so that even south Florida had very strong north winds, which is very unusual for this late in the
(See my Journey North Weather Primer.)
Over the weekend, the east coast of Florida hit the jackpot. In just one park, over 300 Blackpoll Warblers were
seen, along with 200 Bobolinks and 13 cuckoos!!! Here in central Florida, I did not see that many, but I did see
Blackpoll Warblers, as well as more American Redstarts. Last weekend was also the time of the Kennesaw Mountains
Warbler Count in Georgia. Good timing, because they saw 20 warbler species and 12 Baltimore Orioles! By this time,
the winds had shifted to the south in the midwest and Gulf states, so many of the birds that landed earlier in
the week took off for their breeding grounds.
Last week was probably the last big week for places in the south. Migration is coming to an end. Farther north,
migration is starting to peak, as birds start to finish their long journey north. Another front is moving across
the country, the same front that brought those terrible storms to Oklahoma and Kansas. As it moves east, it is
expected to weaken, and is not expected to reach places like Florida. For places west of Louisiana or Mississippi,
the winds and rain will probably be strong enough to force migrants to land by the middle of the week. In the east
and southeast, conditions won't be as bad, but it would still be worth looking around this weekend.
In my last report, I asked you to think about why birds fly across the Gulf of Mexico instead of going around it.
The answer is that it is shorter, therefore birds can reach their breeding grounds quickly and get the best territory.
It can take migrants 18-24 hours to cross the Gulf, and since
there is no place for them to land, they must cross it non-stop. Many of them don't make it. Despite the danger,
it offers the best chance for them to reproduce.
David A. Aborn
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