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Weather and Songbird Migration: March 4, 2015
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Dear Journey North,

The first migrants of 2015 have arrived! While we are still in the grip of winter, a few days of southerly winds have allowed a few migrants to trickle in. In Texas, Purple Martins and Tree Swallows were seen. Tree Swallows also showed up in southern Georgia, while a birder in Louisiana saw the first Ruby-throated Hummingbird. A few migrants also showed up out West, with Black-chinned Hummingbird, Lucy’s Warbler, and Bullock’s Oriole all being reported in Arizona.

About Harsh Weather and Fallouts
Many birds cross the Gulf of Mexico during migration. The crossing is a 1,500 mile, 18-hour non-stop flight. When these birds reach the Gulf Coast, they are already exhausted. If they encounter rain or headwinds, it makes flying even more difficult, so they quickly land in very large numbers—hence the term “fallout.”

Birders always look for fallouts because they can see large numbers of a wide variety of species. Watching the weather map helps you know whether a fallout might be coming. What's in store?

 

 

Dr. David Aborn, ornithologist
Photo: David Aborn
Dr. David Aborn
 
Photo: Laura Erickson
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
 

 

Weather Map: This Week's Outlook
What does this week's weather map indicate about what's ahead for migrating songbirds?
Weather map for Feb. 25, 2014
  • Those migrants in the East had better hunker down and bundle up! If you look at the weather map, you’ll see that a very large storm system is covering about two-thirds of the country. Rain, snow, and strong north winds are all associated with a cold front, with a large area of high pressure behind it. That means those birds in the southern US won’t be going anywhere for a few days, and any birds trying to arrive will have to face some harsh conditions. If this was happening in, say, mid-April, it could result in a fallout.
  • Out West, skies are clear and winds are southerly, so that will allow more birds to arrive from the tropics and make progress northward.

This is just the beginning; more and more birds will be sighted in the weeks to come. Take the opportunity to sharpen your weather map skills and dust off your binoculars before it really gets busy!

Take care.

David Aborn
North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy
Chattanooga, TN


Next Update: March 11, 2014