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Weather Forecast for the Birds
May 18, 2000

Dear Students:

Contributed by Dr. David Aborn

For some of you (myself included) migration is ending, but for others it is getting exciting. Saturday (5/13) was International Migratory Bird Day, and I participated in the National migratory Bird Count. Numbers were down from past years, partly because there haven't been any cold fronts recently to force the birds to land. The key word during the count here was HOT (90degrees)! I did manage to find a Cape May Warbler, and another member of the group found 2 Connecticut Warblers, a rare species for these parts. It was also slow in places like Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama. Farther north was a different story. Birders in Ohio and Illinois both have been reporting large numbers of migrants, including lots of orioles, 10 species of warblers, Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, several species of flycatchers, and Indigo Buntings. Numbers were not as high, but New Jersey and Pennsylvania also reported a good diversity of migrants.

May 14
Click map to enlarge

Naturally, a cold front came through on Sunday (5/14) and at my study site I had a few Blackpoll Warblers and Swainson's Thrushes. These are probably the last of the migrants around here until the fall. But, as I mentioned before, migration still has a few more weeks to go up north. A pair of cold fronts are moving through the Rockies and Great Plains. Even if they make it across the Gulf coast, there won't be many (if any) migrants coming in from the tropics to be forced down. The plains states, midwest, and mid-Atlantic states, on the other hand, should have another couple of good birding days by week's end. You folks should keep looking at the weather maps for another couple of weeks, as any cold fronts will bring migrants with them. Students in New England, Canada, and Alaska will see migration into June. Before you know it, it will be time to look for fall migration!

I hope you have learned some things about the wonders of migration and how complex it is. However, you don't have to wait for migration to enjoy birds. I hope you will get out and do some bird watching this summer; It can be very interesting to watch the behavior of species like mockingbirds and blue jays. Have a safe and enjoyable summer!

Take care,

Dr. David Aborn
Ornithologist, Dept. of Biological and Environmental Sciences
University of Tennesse at Chattanooga


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