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Weather and Songbird Migration: Mar. 13, 2013
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Dear Journey North,

Spring bird migration is really getting underway, and there is a lot to report, so let’s get to it!

Lots of Landings!
Last week, I talked about a front that was moving across the country and that would bring rain for a day or so, but not much cold—and that is just what happened. As the front moved into the central US, areas saw about one day of rain, which was enough to force some migrants to land. Birders along the Texas coast reported the first Nashville Warblers, Northern Parulas, White-eyed Vireos, and Orchard Orioles of the season. They also saw the first Golden-cheeked Warbler of the year, which is a species you can only find breeding in Texas. Louisiana recorded its first Barn Swallows and Yellow-throated Vireos, while folks in Alabama saw Red-eyed Vireos, White-eyed Vireos, Yellow-throated Warblers, Prothonotary Warblers, and Chimney Swifts.

Traveling Birders
I just got back from a trip to the South Carolina coast with my Ornithology class. I always like taking them there because they get to see birds you can’t find here in Tennessee, especially seabirds, shorebirds, and wading birds. There are many great places along the SC coast for birding, but we went to Huntington Beach State Park, Santee Coastal Reserve, and Hobcaw Barony. Since we were ahead of that weather front, winds were from the south, allowing a lot of migrants to make it there and beyond. We saw our first Tree Swallows, Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Barn Swallows, Yellow-throated Warblers, Black-and-white-warblers, Common Yellowthroats, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. In total, we saw 84 species of birds for the whole trip; not bad for 3.5 days! Those southerly winds ahead of the front allowed some birds to make it even farther north than South Carolina, with Purple Martins arriving in Missouri and Washington, DC, and Tree Swallows being seen in New Jersey.

Migrants Out West
The western US wasn’t as busy, but some migrants were arriving there as well. Lucy’s Warblers, Yellow-throated Warblers, Bullock’s Orioles, and Broad-billed Hummingbirds are being seen in Arizona. Violet-green Swallows continue arriving in California.

Dr. David Aborn, ornithologist
Photo: David Aborn
Dr. David Aborn
 
Prothonotary Warbler
Photo: Laura Erickson
Prothonotary Warbler
 
White-eyed Vireo
Photo: Laura Erickson
White-eyed Vireo
 
Nashville Warbler
Photo: Laura Erickson
Nashville Warbler
Weather Map: This Week's Outlook
So can we expect this week to be just as busy? Let’s take a look at the weather map:
Weather map 3/13/13
  • Most of the US is being dominated by high pressure. To the east of those areas, winds are from the north, which means any migrants that were forced down by that cold front will be grounded for a day or so. It is cool and windy today in Chattanooga, but it will be warmer and calmer tomorrow, and new arrivals will be forced to land. That means people along the Gulf Coast should have some good birding for another couple of days. By the end of the week, those birds should be able to head north again, so I expect to receive more reports of arrivals from the Midwest and mid-Atlantic.
  • Out West, winds have already shifted to the south; this will allow another influx of migrants from the tropics, and they should be able to make some progress. I expect I may receive reports of migrants from central and northern California, as well as Nevada.

Migration is only going to get better for the next few weeks, so keep practicing your birding and weather map reading skills; you will be putting them to good use!

Take care.

David Aborn
North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy
Chattanooga, TN

 

The next Weather and Songbird Migration Update will be posted on March 20.
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