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Weather and Songbird Migration: April 16, 2014
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Dear Journey North,

I am reporting to you this week from southern Louisiana, and it turned out to be the perfect time to be here! For most of the past week, conditions have been great for migrants. As I talked about in my last report, clear skies and southerly winds have meant birds were able to make a lot of progress northward.

In the East and Midwest
In addition to the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, birders in our nation's capital have been enjoying a nice assortment of birds, including Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Scarlet Tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Eastern Kingbirds, Great-crested Flycatchers, Baltimore Orioles, Wood thrushes, Veerys, and a variety of warblers. Up into Massachusetts, Blue-headed Vireos, Blue-grey Gnatcatchers, Scarlet Tanagers, and Gray Catbirds have settled in, and the first migrants have reached all the way up into Maine; Scarlet Tanager and Gray Catbird!

It has been a similar story in the Midwest, with Ovenbirds, Hooded Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Northern Parulas, and White-eyed Vireos being common sights in Indiana, and Scarlet Tanagers showing up in Michigan.

Cold Front Slams Door on Migration
But then, things changed dramatically in the eastern part of the US the past couple of days. A very strong cold front moved across the country, bringing lots of storms ahead of it and very strong north winds behind it. That slammed the door shut on migration! That brings me back to what I said at the beginning of the report about being in Louisiana at the right time. With 25-30 mph winds, migrants have been unable to go anywhere, and you know what that means: Fallout! All along the Gulf Coast, from Texas to Florida, large numbers of birds are being seen. Indigo Buntings have probably been the most numerous species; they are everywhere! Red-eyed Vireos are probably a close second, along with Scarlet Tanagers, Summer Tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and 12 different warblers. Even farther inland, the strong winds have forced birds to land. People in Oklahoma have reported hundreds of swallows around, and good numbers of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, White-eyed Vireos, Warbling Vireos, and Common Yellowthroats. I hope some of you in these areas have gotten out there to see for yourselves!

In the Southwest
It has not been nearly as exciting. Winds this past weeks have been southerly, and there hasn't been any rain, so many of the migrants I mentioned in my last report have continued to steadily move in. The winds have helped some of those birds make it into the Northwest, with Violet-green Swallows and Orange-crowned Warblers reaching Oregon and Washington, and Violet-green, Barn, Tree, and Northern Rough-winged Swallows all showing up in Idaho.

Dr. David Aborn, ornithologist
Photo: David Aborn
Dr. David Aborn
 
Scarlet Tanager
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Scarlet Tanager
 
White-eyed Vireo
Photo: Laura Erickson
White-eyed Vireo
Weather Map: This Week's Outlook
We have seen two weeks in a row with fallouts; will this week make three? Unfortunately, it doesn't look like it:

Weather map for Feb. 25, 2014
  • The northerly winds will die down over the next couple of days and swing around to the south. That will allow birds to take off again and make their way north. .

  • Another front is moving in from the Rockies, but it is not as strong as the last one. It may slow birds down a little, but I do not expect it will force birds to land in big numbers. The western US still looks the same, which means a continued steady arrival of birds over the next week

Just when you think spring has arrived for good, Mother Nature hits us with a surprise. That is what makes spring migration so exciting!

Take care,

David Aborn
North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy
Chattanooga, TN


Next Update: April 23, 2014
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