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Oriole Migration Update: May 7, 1998

Today's Report Includes:

Today's Migration News and Data
This very moment--while sitting down to write today's report--the first oriole arrived & is singing outside the Journey North office window! Within hours, 3 other arrivals were reported in our town. Back from Honduras maybe--or Guatemala or Costa Rica. Have your orioles arrived home
for the summer?

Students at Mid Valley Elementary in Throop, PA are ready: "We have hung our oriole bird feeder and are waiting for our first customer," they reported on Monday. (moskelr@ns.neiu.k12.pa.us)

Today's migration data is provided below. Compared to last week's 14 Baltimore Oriole sightings, there are 46 this week. Is this the peak week--or will next week bring even more? Be sure to let us know when you see your FIRST oriole of the season.

Winter and Breeding Range
Map by
Macalester College

Latest Migration Map
As of May 7, 1998

Witnessing the Arrival
Last week, from high on an offshore platform above the Gulf of Mexico, naturalist John Arvin witnessed the passage of thousands upon thousands of songbirds flooding toward shore. "I suspect that very few people on this planet have seen what I have seen in the last 12 hours. It is a spell-binding feeling I will carry to my grave," he wrote at dawn the next morning.

Dr. Robert Russell of Louisiana State University is the lead scientist: "Our current project is especially exciting, because the trans-Gulf migration of birds is truly one of the great wildlife events of the world."

Here is John Arvin's first-hand account:

Wednesday, April 29
"Up nearly all night marveling. The river of birds continued unabated, ranging from 30-50 birds passing my position per second in the illuminated air space I could see (that extends maybe 100 m. out from the platform from within a few feet of the water up to about 200 m.) Birds higher than that I could not see, but there seemed to be far fewer very far overhead.

"I was on a deck about 80 feet off the water. Winds remained light N (15 kts.) all night and birds seemed to be having no problem. By 05:00 the rate had fallen off to about 10-15 birds/second. On my 05:00 round I found the well bay full of birds (at least 50 individuals) but due to lots of milling around it was difficult to get accurate numbers of identified birds. Relatively few birds were seen elsewhere on the platform though several Blackpoll Warblers were hopping around on the decks foraging under the lights well before it began to get daylight.

"In addition to the species I mentioned last night as being dominant add catbirds and Eastern Kingbird. The sheer numbers of Catharus thrushes was staggering. I could clearly identifly Veeries flying by and the calls of Gray-cheekeds were constant all night. Relatively few Swainson's were heard.

"It is now just daylight and the flow seems to have stopped or to have gained enough altitude that I can no longer see them with the unaided eye though there are birds flying around the platform in random directions that had evidently put down during the night and now are being stirred up by human activity. I could see many tails of sleeping birds sticking out from the beams of the ceilings on the 05:00 round that I could not see enough of to identify. I figure I'll get them in daylight if they stick around.

"This has been the ornithological spectacle of my entire life.
Intellectually I knew that this sort of thing had to happen, at least occasionally, but to actually stand in one place for hour after hour and watch a steady flow pass just a few feet from you is like watching a major river. And attempting to quantify the flow is about like trying to count water in a river. I'm a little rocky from no sleep but I have never been
remotely struck by any other ornithological event like I have been by this. I suspect that very few people on this planet have seen what I have seen in the last 12 hours. It is a spell- binding feeling I will carry to my grave."

Unpave the Way for Wildlife
Migratory birds travel great distances across land and sea each season. What can you do to help? Watch for suggestions in each migration update.

Invisible Killer at the Window
This sounds like a nightmare! And for birds, windows are invisible and deadly:

"When I was at the North American Ornithological Conference a few weeks ago, there were 2 papers that suggest that window collisions pose the greatest threat to bird populations," said David Aborn. "Daniel Klem, from Muhlenberg College in PA, has estimated that windows may kill up to 100 million birds per year.

This upper figure represents about 5 percent of the 20 billion birds found in the United States, according to publication by Ruthe Smith and Joe Schaefer of the Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, Gainesville.

David Aborn continued: "The height of the building makes no difference--nor does time of year. Because many people put feeders close to windows, collisions during winter are as common as those that occur during migration.

"Whether the glass is clear, opaque, or reflective makes no difference. The only solution Daniel Klem had, for now, was placing stickers on the outside of windows (they need not be raptor silhouettes) every few inches. Objects placed on the inside of the windows doesn't work for some reason. It was
quite eye opening."

A Small World...(With Lots of Windows)
There's nothing like a personal story to put statistics in perspective:

Last month, Journey North's Laura Erickson traveled to Nebraska from her home in Minnesota. She went to visit Whooping Crane specialist, Wally Jobman. While in his office she spotted a stuffed peregrine falcon. Wally explained that the falcon had died the previous spring by flying into a glass door on a home near Grand Island, Nebraska.

Amazingly, Laura already knew this falcon! The falcon was banded and she was able put together its story. The falcon was a female that was born in 1986 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, making it 11 years old. She had raised babies every year from 1988 through 1996 just a few miles from Laura's home in Duluth, MN. Laura had watched the bird at her nest on Palisade Head on Lake Superior. One window, 731 miles from home, end the life of this spectacular bird.

How You Can Help
Re-Decorate With Bird-friendly Window Treatments
At any local hardware store, purchase metallic-looking mylar tape and put on windows as David Aborn suggests.

Learn more about this hazard on the WWW at these sites:

The Next Oriole Update Will be Posted on May 21, 1998.