February 23, 2011
Dr. David Aborn, ornithologist
Dr. David Aborn

Dear Students:

After a snowy winter here in Tennessee it is finally warming up and signs of spring have been showing up recently. Crocuses and forsythias are blooming, and I heard the first robins singing here on February 16th. The bluebirds have paired up and are busily checking out nest sites and a pair of House Sparrows actually built a nest 3 weeks ago (they never laid any eggs)! Best of all, it won't be long before migrants start arriving from their wintering grounds in the tropics!

There are still a few weeks before things really get busy, so you have time to practice predicting migratory activity from looking at a weather map. Be sure to read my tutorial on how to read a weather map and how weather affects bird migration so you can prepare for my reports.

What to Expect This Week
What does this week’s weather mean for migration? Let's take a look at the weather map:

  • If we look at this week's map, we see a stationary front across the southern US. It is a weak front, but if it was stronger there would be rain and northerly winds that would keep birds grounded along the Gulf Coast, and would force any new birds arriving to land. That would mean good birding for people in that part of the country.
  • Farther west we see there is an area of low pressure developing in the middle of the country, and it is bringing rain to Missouri and Arkansas. There is also a cold front coming down from Canada. As these systems move east, rain and northerly winds will reach the Midwest by tomorrow, and the southern US by Friday, and the east by Saturday. Again, this would force birds to land.
  • Once the front passes and the high-pressure area behind it moves east, winds will shift to the south, allowing birds to resume their migration.

Watch For Early Migrants!
It is still too early for large numbers of migrants to be arriving, but a few early arrivals are starting to trickle in. I have received reports of a Tree Swallow and a Purple Martin from west Tennessee. In addition to swallows and martins, other early arriving species to look for include Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Yellow-throated Warblers, Louisiana Waterthrushes, and Black-and-white Warblers.

While migration may be slow for now, it won't be long before we are all up
to our necks in migrants, so dust off your binoculars!

Take Care.

David Aborn
North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy
Chattanooga, TN